“What ever does we haves here? Me likes it… me thinks me does.” a withered looking creature scuttled lonesome across the sharp ground of a damp-lit Modular Control Room. There were wires splaying from the sockets in the walls, screens fuzzing green and black and grey, hanging barely by a thread, an endless humming rose up from the throat of a battered old generator that puffed smoke in clouds around the ceiling. The remains of an air conditioning unit lolled from the failing grip of rigid, metal duct work. And in the corner, void of life and light, there lay a body with rusted limbs and stark blackened sockets, staring outward into nowhere.
“What is it? Me woulds like to know.” the creature bounded about the room on its hands and its knees, sharp teeth grinning out of its lip-less mouth. It wore a cloth sack for a shirt, and dragged beside it some forgotten, blunted instrument.
“You won’t hurt it now, will you?” a second voice echoed through the daunting mouth of the room, a door that had been stripped from its hinges, leaving behind a patchwork veil of deep shadow.
“Me wouldn’t do such a thing! Me promises.” the creature smiled, and a blackened tongue fell half lazily from out its gums. Upon the creature’s back sprouted mushrooms and moss of a poisoned colour.
“Then you can go and play. I’ll be back soon enough.” the voice seemed to disappear, then in a sudden calling that sent the creature jumping up in fright it returned to say, ” Grendell, you will be good now. Won’t you?”
“Me will. Me promises.” the creature said, somewhat more shakily than before. And then the voice was gone, the creature left alone.
Not alone, oh no no no. Me has me friend in the Can-Man. Me likes it very much! Can-Can, Can-Man. Tinny to his friends. I calls him Tinny. Tinny Can-Man. The creature Grednell seemed so pleased with its ramblings, and with the nick name it had conjured for the rusted bucket of a body that lay at rest in the corner of the Modular Control Room.
There were tall cabinets that dressed the walls of the room, each one flooded with paper reports. Grendell gave them an uninterested glance, he couldn’t read, despite the large, greenish eyes in his head he can barely see at all. Grendell had asked about glasses – humans talks about glasses, eye glasses, good glasses – but its master had refused, explaining how ridiculous the creature would look…
You’re meant to scare the crowds away – Grendell’s master had said – not attract more attention.
Grendell was in the service of a Seeker, a treasure hunter of sorts. Seeker’s were hired by those that knew where treasure hid, but hadn’t the first idea on how to go about retrieving it. All too often the Seeker would steal the prized treasure for themselves. Bad manors, but not bad practice. So frequent this had become that few, if any, dared employ a Seeker into their own service. But this had been a different sort of job, one Grendell’s master might well have refused had he not be seven months without a contract.
Climbing up onto a chair, one with wheels and a cushioned back, Grendell sat itself down and eyed the Can-Man carefully. “What’s it doings?” his sluggish tongue flicked hungrily from without his mouth, “Is it watchings? Me would likes to talks with it.” Grendell waved a webbed hand. “Hello Tinny. Hello strangers.”
The Can-Man gave no response.
Irritated by this Can-Man’s sense of rudeness – cat’s got its tongue, me thinks it does – Grendell took out a penny from his pocket and threw it wildly at the Can-Man’s head.
Tinny’s frowning claptrap of a mouth slid ever-so-slightly open, its entire rusted head bobbed forth and, whilst its eyes remained dark and solemn, the shattered bulb atop its head lit up. Without a glass casing the filament gleamed a dull unsightly orange, the wires warped in a way that made them look almost like a heart.
“Does it hears me? Woulds it like to play?” Grendell slipped down from its cushioned pillar and scurried itself over to meet the Can-Man face to face. “Hello strangers.” Grendell said again, this time wrapping a webbed fist against the Can-Man’s head. Knocks, knocks. Anyone’s home?
But still there came no response, no sign of activity beyond the lighting of the Can-Man’sbulb.
“What’s wrongs? Why wonts it talks to me?” Grendell hammered with his fists at the side of the Can-man’s head, loosing a guttural scream from his belly, a scream that sounded so oddly wet within his throat. “Talks to me! Talks to me! Talks to me!” he spat rapidly.
Then something moved overhead, a sudden fluttering of wings. Grendell dove beneath a desk – don’t likes birds, me don’t, they tries to eats me they does! – and holding his arms overhead he curled himself into a ball. The flight bound attacker gave a hoot, rearing talons that could be seen beneath the flickering light of the many static screens. “Please leaves me and my friends alone!” Grendell’s bulbous, green eyes began to fill with tears. Tears that would soon fade into a new found grin.
The Can-Man was rising up, a shadow against the Modular Control Room walls. A deep thrum and continual whirring echoed from the hollow of the Can-man’s chest, and yet still its eyes remained dull; the only light this child of technology bore was that of the bub above its head, and the two buttons (red over green) that flashed within its chest.
The winged pursuer looked unsteadily upon the machine, then almost visibly shrugging and baring its claws the aviator dove (though what hope of a meal from a Tin Can it had seen was unclear). The Can-man reached up with a lone extendable limb, its joints raising an ear aching squeak as it did, and throttled the bird mid-flight. It had been an Owl, that bird, and now the owl fell heavy in a shower of its very own feathers. It landed with a thud, kicking free from the last tangles of life.
“Yes! Thanks you. Thanks you very much me does.” Grendell crawled out from under the desk, smiling broadly at his friend, “Me is Grendell.” he place one hand upon his chest, and offered the machine his other, “And you is?”
The machine looked puzzled, in so much as the features of a metal face are capable of looking puzzled. Then with a serious effort it lumbered itself over to a low hanging screen, drew out a wire from its side, and attached one to the other. The screen stilled for a moment, the static clearing, there were several beeping sounds, and then came colour, picture, sound.
Ahem. “Yes, is this thing on? Quite. Let us begin then, shall we?” the man on the screen wore googles that held back his matted, grey hair. He had a slender form, high cheekbones and low, drooling neck. A waistcoat was the only clothing visible clothing the once white (now incredibly stained) lab coat that adorned him.
There was a pen and a pad of paper – me doesn’t likes paper – tucked in the pocket of the man’s waistcoat. “My name is… my name is Dr J Frederick Swansworthy. You may refer to me as Fred, or as whatever takes your fancy. Your watching this leaves me feeling somewhat… indifferent.” there was a long pause, then another cough, ahem, “Your watching this most likely means I’m dead. But that is not my reason for recording, you must forgive me… somewhere here… just where… where did I leave it… aha, yes!” he held up to the screen a photograph of the very Can-Man Grendell now called his friend, only in the photo the Can-Man was a boy, and this boy was considerably smaller than the machine now in residence…
“No doubt my Constance will be taller, by now, fuller and broader too, I hope! Confused? Perhaps you should be.” the man that called himself Fred scratched at the stubble of his neck, “There is much to tell you of Constance, of why I built him,” him not it, “and of why he should be growing. Strange! To think this might actually work. One can only pray, I suppose. But then as a man of science… I digress.
“Constance is a prototype, his success is a means to more advanced applications. With my being dead,” the man coughed, he seemed to be sweating, “there is likely to be many out looking for him… perhaps not just for him exactly, but for the very thing that makes all this possible.” Fred leaned in closer to the screen, calling Grendell (or indeed whoever might have been watching) forward with a finger, “you can’t afford to place trust in any who seek my Constance, not one. Liars, is what they are. They’ll say they want him for research, they want it for research. But they don’t, of course they don’t! Yet I ramble on… again… an old mind grows loose and at times seems to wander… please forgive me. Forgive me, but listen, this is of the upmost importance…”
“Grendell, it’s time we were leaving.” Grendell’s master, the Seeker, called out from the shadows. Their footsteps fast approaching.
Grendell flung himself from the screen, scrambling to switch it off, and not a moment too soon. He looked long and hard into Constance’s dull sockets – What is you really? Cans you be trusted? Cans! Can-Man cans, always. Who don’t we trusts then? Him? A shadow formed in the doorway of the Modular Control Room, one hand could be seen gripping at a small sack, a small yet bountiful sack.
“What’s this?” the Seeker stepped into the light, he was a man made of scars who wore leather enough to hide that very fact. His eyes were feline in appearance, his head bald beneath its cap. The hand not holding a thing was metal in appearance, cast from iron or silver, rigid and mostly immobile. Covering the lower half of the Seeker’s face was a grate, behind which a burnt chin and singed cheeks looked out.
“Nothing, justs a friend is all.”
“Your friend is awake then?” the Seeker crouched down, Grendell flinched away from the outstretched metal hand. “Come now Grendell, don’t be rude, why don’t you introduce me.”
Me shouldn’t. Me shouldn’t trusts anyone with Constance. Shoulds me?
“Grendell.” the Seeker’s flat voice rang out with annoyance.
Grendell’s eyes searched the close horizons wihtin their reach. Me hates paper. But pipe? He licked his lip-less jaw and one webbed hand tiptoed outwards.
“Grendell!” the Seeker cried, sending chills down Grendell’s very spine.
“Me’s sorry, master. It’s the mans… in the screens,”Grendell pointed with an accusing finger, “he tolds me not to trusts you.”
The Seeker smiled, a sickly thing to look at through the grate, “Perhaps the man was right.”
Copyright © K R Perry 2019