The Stocking Filler

The mechanic bent over his pride and joy; the zenith of his craft, his masterpiece, the culmination of his talent and the exemplar of his art. He breathed on an imaginary smudge in the red paint and then buffed it with his sleeve until the imaginary smudge was no more. He smiled to himself, straightened and gazed upon his project with a satisfaction previously unknown to mortal man. He straightened the pointy latex ear extension on his left ear and thought that he would reapply it properly later as part of the preparation. The novelty Christmas clock on the wall told him it was half six and so there was plenty of time to prepare and get his full costume on before midnight.

The mechanic turned and went into the room designated ‘the office’ where he kept the plans, papers and, most importantly right at this moment, the kettle. He clicked the kettle on and allowed his imagination to wander through a tableaux of anticipations and expectations. The door to the wardrobe stood open and he smiled and took out the pointed green hat and, in an unusual moment of impulsiveness, he placed it carefully on his head and directed the fall of the pompom so that it hung correctly down the back of his head. Perfect.

In the workshop the project gave out a metallic twang as it settled. It gleamed; the red paint slick over sheets of metal, the glitter of rivets, the smell of oil and hot mechanisms. It had beady black eyes that looked like they were made of coal but were in fact carefully worked dark glass and a round nose and cheeks which blushed with carefully applied red stippling. Below the nose and cheeks sprouted a chaotic beard of white painted springs in which nestled a red slash of mouth curved in a menacing grin like a knife in a bramble bush.

The mechanic stepped back into the workshop with his steaming mug and sighed with satisfaction. He took a gulp of his tea and turned towards his work bench. His hat pompom bobbed. Now that the project was finished the workspace must be cleared. Each tool must be put back into its place and the surfaces must be swept and cleaned.

Behind him the coal eyes of his project began to glow with a deep blue light and another metallic twang issued from somewhere in the rotund torso of the construct.

The mechanic pulled out a drawer and carefully placed three screwdrivers into their allotted spaces as designated by carefully painted white outlines and labels.

The construct raised its mitten clad hands in silence; the mechanic’s work was excellent and every smooth metal edge slid neatly alongside its neighbour, every bearing spun absolutely silently. The mechanic’s curved back bent and straightened, bent and straightened as if he were worshipping at the altar of his bench. His hat bobbed in time with his actions and he hummed ‘Santa Claus is coming to town.’ Tools slid into their places with conclusive clicks and thuds. He swapped from humming to whistling. The last piece of equipment slotted into its niche and the mechanic turned towards the corner where he kept his cleaning equipment. He stopped in surprise, the whistle dying on his lips, and gaped at his project which now stood before him, glowering, with its hands raised in a threatening manner.

‘Oh,’ he said aloud to himself. ‘Well, that’s jolly odd. Maybe I knocked the controller.’

When not in use the controller sat in a carefully constructed recess on the project’s back. The mechanic had been very proud of the design. He felt it was sleek and convenient and well hidden by the sack of coal the construct carried.

‘I’ll just have to get to your controller and see what’s going on,’ he said to the four foot tall robot in front of him. The way the eyes were glowing unnerved him a little and he didn’t know why he spoke aloud to the construct; there was no auditory input channel after all. He began to move round the robot. Snowflake shaped blades extended from the mittens with a ‘snick’.

‘Oh,’ he said again and took a step back. The construction now seemed to be looking at him, although the head had not moved. ‘Well, this is a bit difficult.’

The metallic mouth opened. ‘Ho. Ho. Ho.’ The construct had a tinny voice.

‘Shit,’ said the mechanic. He was not usually one for swearing, not even when he dropped his largest spanner on his toe. His word for such situations was ‘fiddlesticks’ but this seemed a swearing sort of situation and so he restated it to himself, ‘Shit.’

And then after a brief pause in which nothing happened except the mechanic’s pointy ear-tip fell off his left ear, ‘Bugger.’

He considered the situation as the construct stared at him. He was between the construct and the door but he knew his project’s capabilities (even now he could not repress a smidgen of pride at the thought) and was extremely doubtful of escape. He should have considered this possibility; literature and film and so on were positively littered with examples of the created turning upon the creator and he could not, therefore, deny that he had been warned.

‘Ho. Ho. Ho.’ It rolled forward six inches on its carefully designed tracks which could cope with rough ground and even stairs. The rubber treads squeaked on the smooth floor.

Some instinctive part of the mechanic’s brain took over and, hardly knowing what he was doing, he turned and sprinted for the door. Two attractive and very well-made snowflake shaped throwing stars buried themselves in the door with a decisive sound. Thunk. Thunk. He flung it open and ran out into the deep and undisturbed snow.

The construct’s tinny voice came from behind him. It said, ‘You are not a good boy. You are a bad boy. You must have some coal.’

The mechanic put on a spurt of speed hearing this damning judgement and six strides into the cold and sparkling night something dark and round landed in the snow just ahead of him, then something hit him in the middle of his back. He lurched forwards and then he was flying through the air as the world exploded around him. He landed face down in the snow, ash, snow and silver glitter floating down around him. His hat lay a few feet away in the soggy snow.

The construct rolled forward, its glass eyes focussing on the body. The mechanic’s flailing had made a very serviceable snow angel. The construct was satisfied. It looked up at the lights of a distant town and rolled on, clanking slightly in the cold air, to make its delivery of coal to all the naughty boys and girls of the world.

***

Copyright © 2013 Elizabeth Cutts

***

This was written for a seasonal challenge on the Ultimate Write: Tea Urn forum and although I missed the solstice deadline I’ve managed to get it up for Christmas Eve so I’m happy.

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