In some corners of the universe, a lost love does not necessarily have to be permanent.
His heart tick-tocked to the beat of the grandfather clock down the hall. It was nearly the end of his workday and he was anxious to finish. As the only clock smith for miles, he had been working on his watches and clocks for the whole of his adult life. But his latest project didn't really involve clocks at all. It was a secret project. The like of which he had never before endeavored. And now that it was close to the end of his regular workday, he found himself hardly able to concentrate on his regular work.
He was a shy man. A backward man, not given to social interaction or to public display. He was also the kind of man who found peace and serenity in focused detail work. His father, who had made his trade as a taxidermist, often chided him on his backward way. "You ought to get out more," he would often say. But it just wasn't in his nature. He preferred the solitude of whatever work was directly in front of him. It gave him a particular pleasure to put things together just so and make them look so well and work for as long as was technically possible.
For many years he had thought to take over his father's business. He had studied the tanning craft under his father's tutelage all of his young life. His house, which he had inherited from his parents, was full of the results of his and his father's work. It was work of a particular high quality, due to his father's special techniques using very old-fashioned methods to make the most realistic and life-like models. And he had learned those techniques, as well. But when the old man had passed away, he had decided instead to follow his own dream and had opened a clock and watch craft and repair business. His wife, who had passed away in the fall two years before, often used to call him her clockwork man. He smiled to himself as he enjoyed the memory of her. She had been his whole world.
He had met her at the annual Art-of-Movement convention. It was put on each year by the local Chamber of Commerce to showcase art in its many forms; most particularly as it relates to movement. They always managed to put on a big spread and employ the local orchestra to play for the crowd, dance being the epitome of artistic movement. As he does most every year, he had entered a display to showcase his clock smith work. And just as usual, it was perhaps the least visited booth in the convention. But he didn't mind. He liked to watch the people, even if he had difficulty socializing with them. It was actually the highlight of his year.
That particular year, he had caught the eye of a red-headed woman with large, wide-set gray eyes in a long, flowing green dress, across the room. It had been as though time itself had stood still. Her eyes never left his as she picked him out from the crowd and maintained her contact with him. And he had found himself transfixed, unable to tear away his eyes. Slowly, she had moved across the room and, as if by magic, the waves of people between them had parted in order for her to come in a straight line directly to him. The nostrils of her delicate nose had flared slightly and she had spoken to him from plump, red lips as though they had known each other the whole of their lives.
"Are you going to just sit there, or are you going to ask me to dance?"
And of course, like a marionette on strings, he had sprung to his feet unable to do else-wise. The room had spun and the music and the wine he had been sipping while sitting in the corner had filled his head as he lost himself to the moment. Never before had he allowed himself to be so free in public. He had become completely bewitched by this beauty and after a short but utterly intoxicating courtship, they were wed before the Justice of the Peace in the county courthouse.
For ten blissful years, they had made a life together, each year marked by the annual festival, at which they had met. And just like the clocks which filled his workshop, and the busts he and his father had painstakingly created, they had dedicated themselves to celebrating his particular form of art. Under her guidance, his booth had become one of the most often visited and his business had grown in leaps and bounds. But even the finest timepiece winds down or stops completely and one cold night in November, two years past, his world fell apart.
Awakened by a noise from the bathroom, he had found her there, lying on the floor. When the ambulance came, it was already too late and the EMT's had taken her out on a gurney, the sheet covering her head. The ride to the hospital for the official pronouncement had been deathly quiet and somber. The doctor had explained that she had had an aneurysm in her brain which had ruptured and killed her instantly. "She never suffered," he had said, as though that somehow would be a comfort. The love of his life, lost in a horrible instant, but it's okay, she had not suffered. But he would suffer. His life, as he had known it, the life he had shared with this amazing and wonderful woman, was over.
The funeral had been quick and quiet. Many people came and offered their condolences, but he hardly paid any attention to them. Already, he was beginning to withdraw back into his solitary world of introversion. As a result of their combined efforts, he had money, so the costs were of no consequence. Therefore, rather than being laid in the earth, he had bought a mausoleum and had her interred there. And for well over a month, he had visited her crypt to daily sit at her side. And then, three to four times a week after that. It was enough that he had become a fixture around the cemetery. No one had even bothered to notice or mark his comings and goings anymore. And no one noticed when one particularly gloomy night, he had left the crypt carrying a large bag.
His workday ended at precisely four o'clock in the afternoon with a cacophony of cuckoos, chimes and bells. Taking a package from a cabinet in the room, he exited his office and stepped out into the hallway. Locking it, as he did every day at this time, he turned and headed down the hall to the basement door. Selecting another key, he unlocked it and proceeded down the stairs. His excitement grew as he realized that he was nearly finished. All it would take now was the power pack he had procured yesterday. He walked over to his project and opened up the curtain to expose the massive clockworks inside. Cogs and wheels were set in a framework ready to be brought to life by the object in his hand.
He took the unit out of its box and seated it in the cradle he had built specifically for this purpose. Taking the leads, one-by-one he fastened them to the terminals of the power pack. Then, very carefully, he closed the odd-looking leather fabric he had carefully tanned, to cover the clockwork innards. He had spent many weeks carefully preparing and tanning the leather to make it as life-like as any living creature. He opened the curtains all of the way and flipped the little hidden switch to turn on his project. Then, he waited as it stood, like a marionette on invisible strings, its cogs and wheels whirring to the beat of his tick-tocking heart and slowly, an auburn-haired head turned toward him regarding him with large, wide-set gray eyes. The nostrils of its delicate nose flared slightly and it spoke to him from plump, red lips in the voice of his dead wife.
"Are you going to just sit there, or are you going to ask me to dance?"