Nine looked around the room. It was his first time opening his eyes but everything still looked familiar. He was surrounded by silence, a silence that he just knew was unnatural. It wasn’t peaceful. It was empty and wanting more. Unfinished. He went to scratch his eyes but his hands hit his eyes with a clang. He blinked a few times, which made tight clicking sounds, and he looked at his hands. It took time for him to register what he was looking at. His hands were made of metal. Little intricate designs kept his fingers nimble and flexible. After registering his hands, he defocused and took note of how the rest of his body was put together.
His arms, legs and torso were made of coarse, brown mesh. He felt his arm with his metal hand. He felt the rough material and took an immediate dislike to it. Nine noticed a zipper on him that stretched from his neck to his lower stomach. It was unzipped and his skin was gaping with the inner mechanisms visible. He blushed.
That’s embarrassing! thought Nine. He zipped it up quickly. Finally he sat up and allowed himself to better take in his surroundings. He was lying on a table and there were tiny tools scattered around him. Little scalpel type things, screw drivers and several different types of magnifying glasses. All of them were dusty.
Nine got up and walked weakly toward the edge of the table. He was amazed by how large the room was. It looked like it was made for someone much bigger than him. When he reached an edge of the table, he looked down. The distance to floor made him feel like he was standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon. He suddenly felt his first sting of loneliness. He wanted help to get down but didn’t know who or what to ask.
The place was a workshop, decorated with diagrams and posters pertaining to the basic scientific teachings of the 20th century. The pictures looked tired. They looked like they were feeling neglected for the last many years and they missed the days when humans needed them.
The walls were brown and dusty. The place had a wooden interior. Off to one side there was a broken window which allowed a harsh wind to flow into the house. There definitely used to be a feeling warmth within this place, Nine noted, but it’s gone. Now the spirit is gone.
Nine was having trouble dealing with the powerful feelings that were coming on; fear, confusion, curiosity. Learning was obviously important to the owner of this house and Nine was feeling the after effects of it.
Walking along the edge of the table, Nine took in his surroundings. Soon he will need to leave this place, he was realizing. He probably won’t be getting many more answers to his questions here. He stopped in front of a mirror that lay flat on the table. He leaned over and looked into it, half excited but half afraid.
Interesting. His head was a light brown circle of mesh with goggles strapped on. He had what looked like large, glass goggles for eyes. Not what he was expecting. He blinked slowly. This explained the clicking sound. Behind the glass he had big, dark brown eyes. Nine wondered if his eyes were being magnified by the glass.
To try and get a glimpse of his back, Nine turned around and twisted his neck to see what was on it. A faded number 9 was drawn on his back with an old permanent marker that, when it was drawn, had almost been out of ink.
He looked up and around more. How was he supposed to get off this table? How is he supposed to leave this house? Or more importantly, is he supposed to leave at all?
What am I supposed to do?
Nine kept moving across the table. Right now, exploring was his mission. He found what could most likely be used as a ladder to get him down to the floor: open drawers. After a few minutes of struggling and panting, he managed to get his feet on the ground.
Nine looked around, interested in this new perspective, but then he gasped in horror. The sight under the desk forced him to deal with a new pummelling of emotions: surprise, nervousness, panic. Under the desk was a dead body. Sprawled and shocked. Years ago humans in this society would never have to see this. Slowly it became a sight that was relentless to all people. Dry, brown blood stained the body and floor. It wore a lab coat and what looked like professional clothing. There was a cracked pair of old fashioned reading glasses near its hand.
What is it? Thought Nine, but then he was surprised when his mechanical brain was able to answer that question for him. It’s a human. There are more of them then there are of us, thought Nine, at least…there used to be. Perhaps this man was Nine’s creator. He was pained at the thought of never being able to ask him any questions, but he put it out of his head. He would have to put the pieces together himself. Nine could feel that he had been asleep for a long time, and he knew that his coming awake now was for a purpose.
He went around the room, seeing if he could notice anything of interest. He had already seen everything he needed. Nine made his way back up to the table, and crawled onto the window sill. He shivered and folded his arms before he reached the broken glass. When he looked out, his goggle eyes widened.
An overwhelming loneliness came over Nine that made him forget the loneliness he was already feeling. In the back of his mind he had been hoping that he wouldn’t just see more of what he had been looking at. But that’s exactly what he saw.
An overcast sky covered a city of knocked over buildings, crashed cars and strewn human carcasses on the streets. A wasteland that quietly wanted more. A story that was cut short before it started. The city – the world – was a place that had suffered a great deal of pain, and still echoed the pain to anyone who would listen. It was windy, all the time windy. It was cold. It was a big, big world, noticed Nine. It was bigger than Nine had imagined. It was too much sadness for Nine to take in in one moment. He looked away, back toward the man under the desk. And back at the city.
What happened? thought Nine. He waited for an answer from his brain but it did not come. He jumped down from the window sill onto the deck. He felt like he definitely shouldn’t be here, that he should run and hide and be somewhere safe.
He walked around this new world, shivering. He saw something that looked interesting tucked away in an alley. It was a bizarre, bowl shaped machine, face down on the ground. Maybe this would help him understand? He went over to it and picked it up. It clunked and clinked as he turned it over in his hands. On the flat surface of the machine, there were three sections. Each one had a different ideogram on it. It has to mean something, he thought. There is meaning in everything, he found himself thinking. He was not sure why he was so sure of this. He tucked the machine under his arm and kept going.
A car was parked near the house. Nine climbed up to have a look in the window. The window was broken. Of course it was. When he peered in he saw a stiff woman sitting in the driver’s seat with her arms and head laying on the wheel. She looked like she had fallen asleep driving. Nine kept going. He observed some wreckage here and there. It was strange how he felt like he had been asleep for an eternity but all this damage looked fairly fresh. There didn’t seem to be any rotting or smell coming from the bodies.
Nine’s thoughts were interrupted by an old man’s voice yelling, “Nine?! Nine! Over here! Is it really you? Wow, Nine! You’re for real!” Startled, Nine turned around and saw another being like himself running toward him with full excitement, like a dog running towards its owner. More emotions pummelled him: Gladness, relief, suspicion.
“Nine! Nine! Nice to meet you, Nine!” yelled the excitable man as he got closer. Unlike Nine, this oldster did not seem to care about the sombreness of the situation. He must have been used to seeing the world like this.
“Hi, hi, hi, do you speak? Some of us couldn’t speak when we were born. I can help with that. Hi. I’m Two. We’ve been waiting for you. Can you speak?”
Nine opened his mouth and to his surprise he could not, in fact, say a word. So he shook his head.
“That’s ok. I got the stuff you need. Come with me.” Two grabbed Nine’s hand and started to pull. The old man had an unnerving energy that Nine was not used to. He followed Two as they bounded through the debris. After awhile Nine was getting tired but Two persevered.
Where are we going? Nine tried to say but then he remembered he couldn’t. The machine he carried bounced to the beat of their foot steps and Nine tightened his arm around it. Two felt the shift and stopped running, causing Nine to slam into him.
“Oh sorry! Sorry!” said Two, sincerely, “Um, yeah. Sometimes I forget about that momentum and stuff. What have you got there, Nine?”
Nine battled with a little bit of suspicion. This man seemed nice, and he was relieved to have a friend who was his own size and alive. He pulled the machine out from under his arm, flipped it over so the symbols were facing up, then handed it to Two.
What if it’s a weapon? Or a bomb? Or a…? Or a…?
“It’s a key!” declared Two.
Nine felt a little disappointed.
“Come on,” said Two, starting to relax a little, “let’s get you one of them voice boxes.”