by Nick T. Chan
Constance hefted an axe and commanded Oscar to bow and extend his neck. The golem obeyed.
She tightened her grip on the handle. Edward had betrayed her. With Oscar. Each second spent
with the golem was like having a length of barbed wire jerked from her heart. The only way to
stop her pain was to destroy him.
She readied a downwards stroke and the axe trembled. When Edward was away, Oscar protected
her from men. If she'd been pretty, they'd only pass lewd comments. But she wasn't pretty.
She'd been born with hard calcified lumps beneath the skin of her face, leaving all but her mouth
deformed and immobile. Men assumed they could have her and grew violent when she refused.
The blade halted and trembled above the brass hoops and rubber seals connecting Oscar's neck
to his torso.
Beneath Oscar's wooden carapace was a fine network of brass tubes that carried his ink-blood.
His head was roughly sanded into the shape of a human face. Only his mouth was close to
human. He had a tongue made of muscled wet sponge, constantly oiled by some mysterious
lubricant. Fine ivory teeth, rubber lips that were pulled by interior strings, a flexible jaw with
silver hinges. A mouth that could talk. A mouth that could kiss. A mouth that could . . . the world
compressed and for the next few moments her thoughts ran red.
A sudden jet of black ink hard-sprayed across the green tiled walls and his head tumbled to the
floor. The next axe stroke opened his torso, revealing interlinked wooden cogs and the brass
tubes that pumped ink. Constance swung again, slicing through wood and brass. Ink splattered
her from head to toe. When she was finished, Oscar was a pile of splintered wood. Only his head
was intact, lying on its side in the middle of a welling circle of black against the white floor tiles.
As quickly as it had vanished, awareness returned to her. Her rasping breaths echoed off the
tiles. She'd destroyed Oscar. Destroying her husband's property was a sin. Covered in ink, she
knelt and prayed. She prayed for respite from the rage her paralyzed face couldn't show, from
the bitterness, from the heartbroken thoughts that dropped like pebbles down an endless well.
Prayer calmed her.