After his wife's death, Noah found a new way to pass the time.
Noah Carr leaned in his seat and scanned the ceiling above. The cracks on the smoke-stained surface resembled deep scars. When the shadows dancing along with the crackling fire stretched enough, they grew into wide open gashes. The ribcage of a dying man would have looked less morbid.
"You have shut yourself in this house for too long, dear friend." The raspy voice made Noah turn the gaze back to his companion whose thick grey eyebrows had sunk in a concerned frown. "I'm glad that you got over it. Your wife won't return, but you're still alive."
He didn't answer. The man would preach for the rest of the evening if Noah entertained him. He had known Ernest Morton for fifteen years. He could tell. On the contrary, what Noah needed was for Ernest to go on his way. He was pressed for time, and the man sitting in the armchair by the fireplace was testing his patience.
Scotch helped a little. The burning liquid slid down his raw throat, and for a moment Noah forgot everything but the sensation. Days had passed since he felt such warmth. The coldness was better. The chilled pinch kept him awake long enough to make some excruciatingly slow progress.
Yet, the drink didn't seem to have the same effect on his friend. Ernest cleared his throat and leaned forward, fingertips joined in a steeple. "I saw grease on your sleeve. Are you back to making clocks? They were the best in town. Still are."
"I know cogs. I know how to make them work. Even with my limited knowledge--" Noah shook his head. "It keeps my mind in line."
"I won't keep you awake for long then. You must be tired. But this is a good change. Trust me, my friend, before long, it will get better."
"I know it will."
Satisfied, Ernest stood from his chair, shook Noah's hand, commented on how slim his fingers had become, promised to check up on him the following day and left to the night. Noah didn't stand to see his guest out. Ernest knew the corridors well enough. Instead, he sat by the fire until the scotch in the glass disappeared. He stretched his fingers then balled a fist. 'Slim', Noah almost laughed. The transparent flesh on his bones left a skeleton hand.
It didn't matter. Strength had remained in his grip, and that was all he needed.
The grandfather clock far in the lobby struck hours. One toll after the other, it sent hollow echoes around the empty house. He couldn't afford to idle much longer. Noah stood from his seat and left the room. Darkness enveloped him when he passed the long corridors deeper into the house─to his chambers and beyond, where his beautiful Amelia lay wrapped in the cold. Waiting.
Her amber eyes that once were full of laughter now stayed marble-like. Her cheeks had sunk and skin had paled. He had to bathe and dress her for her hands were too weak to lift. But it didn't matter. She still could be saved from this malady. Even now he could hear her speaking in that soft voice, "We will see this through, my dearest. Don't give up. We will dance again."
They would. The last galvanic experiment left the deceased rat alive for sixteen hours straight. Even with his limited medical knowledge, he was able to go this far, to defy what God had intended. Noah couldn't change the past, but he could change the future; to rise above the God.
It was simple enough to open her cranium. Just like a clock, he could wind her up. Her body had reached the form of decay where he had to use some mechanical parts to enhance the brain and heart so they could keep other organs alive. In a way, wasn't it better? She would be rid of these crude threats and rise above them.
The precise spring-loaded clockwork seemed to work. The rats had responded to stimuli long enough to make him believe she would last as well. Even if he would have to wind her up like a clock every now and then--
"I will, my dearest. You will save me," she said, sensing his waver. "We will talk the night away again."
Oh, how beautiful she was, even more than before. The delicate halo─a band holding her skull─enhanced the perfect form of her head. Her lips, coated with a thin layer of her favourite pink, remained so lustrous. Though, they looked a bit parched. Perhaps the paint was getting old? But it didn't matter. Those lips would part soon, and his angelic woman would laugh again, and the pink would be as full as before.
Just in a minute after he set the last spring, she would do so. Just in a few seconds after he sent a little shock to start her moving. Just a little more.
Noah set the switch down. A torrent of sparks ran down her limbs, making them shake. The pearl coloured nail polish cracked. Or had it been like this before? No. He wasn't that skilled at decor. She liked doing her nails herself. Once she was strong enough to move her fingers, she would fix it all. Just...
"Amelia, why aren't you opening your eyes?"
She didn't answer this time.
"Amelia!" Noah stepped to the woman, frowning at her jests. She always teased him. Oh, no, no... The wind-up...
"I'm sorry, darling. I was hasty."
He bent down and turned a delicate key set in the band around her head. One turn, another. Something rasped. Startled, Noah paused. The sound rang out again. He glanced at Amelia but she lay still waiting. The floor had creaked outside the room. That damn old house was starting to drive him mad. Noah turned the key one more time and set to the switch.
The door creaked.
"Noah, dear friend, I remembered I didn't give you the letter I had come to deliver. Noah? Are you here?"
Ernest stepped through the door, and both men froze. Noah heard the other one make a gurgling sound. A disgusting, wet gulp. Ernest, that damned Ernest Morton... was he laughing? At him? At Amelia?
"What do you want?" His own voice came out strangled, rasp.
"What-- What are you-- Noah, you--" The man gagged. His widening eyes slid down Amelia's frame, discerning her.
"Get out!" Noah lunged at the treacherous one and pushed him out the door to the bedroom of his own. "Get out, you vandal!"
The weight of a far more muscular being made his knees buckle. Ernest had gathered his bearings and even started to resist. He clasped Noah's shoulders and shook him with a force that made the dark room blur.
"Are you insane? What were you doing down there?"
"You! You would never understand. You wouldn't understand, you maggot. How dare you enter my house like that?"
Noah gritted his teeth. He felt the heavy fingers press against his muscles when the brute shook him again. Trying to free from the grasp, he pushed himself back and fell on the ground. Noah stretched his hand, desperately searching for some weapon, a way to protect himself. He grasped something metallic and without any lingering, swung the item at the approaching creature. He heard a crack. Something wet and warm dripped on his clothes but Noah didn't care. He didn't dare to stop in case Amelia would get disturbed again.
Only when the creature stopped moving, did Noah take a breath and stand. A heavy candle holder rolled down the floor. He'd have to clean up in the morning. Now, all that mattered was his sweet Amelia, wound up and waiting for him.
When he stepped through the door, the light, though dim, made him blink hard. As his vision cleared, his wife's peaceful face lit up with a smile.
"Darling?" she asked.
Noah shook his head. "There's nothing to be afraid of anymore."
Her face was still pale, the skin reminded one of a mannequin. Something was missing. In exasperation, Noah brushed his sweat-covered brow but another wetness clung to him. He gathered the sleeve of his shirt to inspect it. And then his eyes brightened with realisation. Of course, he had missed the most important thing. Her heart was working but there wasn't enough of what to work with.
He could share. Their blood was compatible. They would be united by this essence of life that would bring colour to her cheeks.
There wasn't enough time left to play around. Noah gathered the necessary tubes and dug one to his skin. The pain made his vision white. He knelt in front of his wife and gathered her hand in his. Soon she would rise. Soon, they would be together. Just another drop of blood and-- just one more drop and-- and--