The Inventor's Daughter - Part 2
The stairs were worse than the hall. Books and gears and metal plates were crowded around the edges, with grease and oil stains discolouring the wood below. They circled round and round, and seemed to go on for miles, reaching the blue sky outside. I remembered the odd turret sticking out of the side of his house. That would be his studio, then. I side-stepped a pile of thick books and glanced at the wall. It was covered in maps and pictures, stuck to the wall with nails and glue and an assortment of other things I couldn’t name. There were dragons and monsters and islands and journeys and metal men, clad in tin suits, and lions and elves. Every inch of the wall was covered in pictures that shone gold in the flickering light of the lamp. Only one of the pictures was different. it was of a little girl. She was wearing a dress and her hair was in ringlets. Her cheeks were puffed up and dotted with freckles. She was adorable.
“My muse.” Dr Goodwin gestured to the wall. “Helps me think.”
I nodded, my mouth firmly closed. I had been taught not to speak if I could help it. However, one question burst through my lips. “What am I to do, Dr?”
Dr Goodwin kept walking, and in the light I could see a door above us. “I need you to try out a new
machine. Don’t worry, nothing dangerous. Though I may need you to return if it doesn’t work today.”
“No problem, Sir.”
“There’s a good girl. Now, we’re just in here...”
Dr Goodwin walked forward onto a landing, and pushed open the door I had seen on the way up. It swung open and he stepped inside. “Stand over there. I’ll deal with you in a second.” He sat the lamp down on the table and waved at the other end of the room. “I’ll be a few moments.” He smiled at me, a wide beam, and then busied himself with sketches on the table.
I stepped inside and a gasp caught in my throat. To the left of Dr Goodwin, where he had told me to stand was a huge machine. It was made of cooped and thin, trailing wires ran down from it to a generator. Bulbs and buttons flashed and shone and the metal glinted in the light. It took me a moment to figure out what it was. It was a chair. It was small and tight, just big enough to fit a child like myself. Wires ran down over the golden seat, and embedded into the back was a stand that carried what looked like a mask. It was the oddest thing I had ever seen, and yet it was beautiful. The copper and gold and steel shone in the light and the whole machine was gleaming. No dust or rust was to be seen. Dr Goodwin obviously used it a lot - tinkering with it, trying to make it work. I turned and glanced at him. “Here, Sir?”
Dr Goodwin didn’t turn round, instead turning over sheets of paper and chucking them onto the floor with a flourish. “Yes. Sit down. I just need to find my...Here it is!” He swivelled round and beamed, his hand tight round a bit of paper. “I’m ready! Just sit down!”
I nodded and squeezed myself into the chair. The arm rests pressed against my shoulders and I could feel my organs being bunch together into a mesh. Dr Goodwin hopped forward and glanced at his bit of paper. “This should work...” He leaned down towards the generator and powered it up, his thin arms working furiously to wind it up. The chair grumbled and a warm tingle of electricity ran down my back. It felt nice.
Dr Goodwin looked at me and smiled. “Can you feel it?” I nodded and Dr Goodwin smiled. His eyes glinted in the light, and for the first time I saw a spark of mania in them. A spark of morbid curiosity. “Good. Now, get comfortable. This might...eh...tickle.” He grinned and moved to the machine. His hands skimmed the buttons and slowly, he flicked a switch. The machine growled and I felt something touch my kneecap.
“W-what exactly does this do?” Fear was creeping into my heart and the thought of the two pounds was gone. I wanted to run. To get out this house and to escape this chair.
“Oh, eh, it just...” Dr Goodwin but his lip and his eyes skimmed over the buttons. “Where is it...” he mumbled. His fingers played with the paper in his hand. I glanced at it. It was the picture from down the stairs. The tin man, clad in a suit of metal. My eyes widened. The stories. They were just stories. Weren’t they? Rumours? Morbid tales? Please? Please no, no, no, no...”
“Sir. Can-can I go?” My voice wavered as I spoke and I swallowed. “I told my mum I’d be back soon.”
“Nonsense. This will only take a moment. Don’t worry! All is safe and well.” He was still looking at the machine, his slender fingers tracing the lines of buttons. He stopped at one and he smiled. “Here it is! Are you ready? Good! Three, two, one...”
A jolt of electricity raced down my back and I jerked upwards. A metal pad caught me and I felt clamps press it into the shape of my back. Plates of copper fell over my arms and were sealed in place by flickering flames that shot out from the side. Everything hurt and burned and sizzled. My legs were encased in iron, my arms in copper, my chest in chrome. I couldn’t move. I was trapped. A scream escaped my mouth and Dr Goodwin gently placed a hand over my lips. “Shush. It’s fine. Don’t worry.”
I tried to shout, but the noise stopped in my throat. Dr Goodwin stroked my long hair with his spare hand and he smiled. “Don’t worry. You’ll be fine. Ok? I’ve had a little girl before. I know how to look after you. I just need you to be co-operative, that’s all.” His hand moved from my hair and he pressed a button. The stand behind me whirred and buzzed and I could feel it moving upwards. The mask.
Tears streamed down my cheeks as the helmet moved higher and higher. Dr Goodwin pressed another button and it moved closer to my face. It was smooth and rounded with puffed cheeks and dimples. The picture on the stairs, the one of his little girl. His daughter. The mask was modelled on his daughter. He wanted her back. A sob bounced in my throat and I tried to flail my arms. No use. They metal was heavy, far too heavy for me to lift. I would need to build up my muscles if I was to ever move again. Or maybe there were magnets in the chair that held the metal to it. I didn’t know, and I didn’t care. All I knew was that I was trapped. The stories weren’t just stories.
Dr Goodwin smiled at me. His eyes were soft and gentle and I could see my terrified face reflected in them.
“It’s ok, Mary. You’ll be fine.” He smiled again. And pulling his hand off my mouth, he did it.
He pressed the final button.