by Cody Leet, 2016
The glow of the screen cast a bluish hue on his face, contrasting it against the warm tones around him, and his eyes constricted in response to the brightness. The walls, display cases, workbenches – all exposed surfaces – were covered in mechanical clocks of every shape, size, and design. In this world of electronic ubiquity, the Clock Shoppe was a bastion of the past, one of the last remaining holdouts to the way things used to be.
Aris stared at the monitor with complete focus, pondering his next program. A chip in his head connected wirelessly with the terminal and a set of gears, of varying sizes, began to appear. Next to these formed a large spiral of coiled metal. Then a casing appeared: shallow, round, and hollow along with a thin and barely perceptible sliver of crystal. Other small parts appeared including a face, hands, and a moon phase dial. Scattered before him on the screen were all the components of a vintage luxury watch.
He began to feel the tingle of data flowing between him and the computer. He thought about how a watch would go together and, on the screen, the spring moved into place inside the body. Then the large gear, followed by a couple of other gears. These didn’t quite fit right, so they swapped positions until the teeth meshed perfectly.
Sound overwhelmed him as all the clocks in the shop began to toll together. The cuckoo clocks revealed their birds as they cooed out the hour, large grandfather clocks sang with brass bells, and a dancing ballerina spun to her musical tune. One thing could be said for Aris, his products all kept perfect time, considering the primitive methods they used. No quartz, transistors, or decaying particles were found here, just old fashioned tensioned metal.
Aris waited for the chimes to pass, counting each to himself. The distraction caused him to lose his place, so he restarted the program, and observed as the watch assembled itself in high speed. The gears, of course, they were the hard part.
Next came the face: fancy, blue, metallic and shiny. This would be an attractive status symbol to anyone wanting to stand out in a crowd. The big and little hands attached to the central post, one hollowed cylinder inside the other so they could rotate independently. Very precise work would be required here. Finally, the glass disc was fitted over everything to keep curious fingers or unintentional bumps from breaking the delicate mechanism.
There, on the screen, sat a perfect classic timepiece. Aris soaked in the finished design, admiring the perfection in its arrangement. If anyone else were in the little shop, they would have sworn he cracked a smile, although that was quite impossible.
Aris nodded subtly in understanding and the screen went blank. As the servos in his legs lifted him from the chair, the whirring drowned out the ticking around him, and he walked over to the workbench. There, bins of parts had already been arranged neatly for him to work with. He reached toward them with pneumatic precision and gently assembled the watch as he had been instructed.
The result was magnificent. He was programmed to perfection.