Author : LB Benton
I am a simple watchmaker. Once I owned a watch repair shop on West 38th Street, near the jewelry district. The shop was very small and, now, I barely remember it—worn wooden floors that softened the footsteps of customers, the sweet smell of lubricating oil, a door that jingled when it opened. Many things about it I have forgotten. Now I sit at a worktable in a damp cement room and repair the inner workings of androids. Like a surgeon bent over an operating table, I hunch over the lifeless forms of one android after another and bring them back to life, so to speak. Only someone with the skills and knowledge of a watchmaker can repair their complex, finely tuned mechanisms and overhaul the labyrinth of intricate wheelworks.
The horrid creatures tell me I am the last human, the last watchmaker. I don’t know if it’s true. Surely they are capable of lying, but I haven’t seen another human in months, perhaps as long as a year. Our tragic and fatal mistake was programming reason into the droids, giving them thoughts and freedom of choice. We wondered if they were sentient and self-aware, but that ceased to matter once the killings began.
They believed in their rationality, but in their heated frenzy to eliminate every living person, they made a serious error. It was an error likely disastrous for them. Strangely they did not know exactly how they themselves worked internally. They had not grasped the concept of parallel drives, the interaction of rods and tensors, the oscillation of the escapement, any of it, even the blinking of their eyes. For at the center of every android is a powerful mainspring which drives all animation and motion. Too late, they realized they did not understand the mainspring, the precision machined gears, the linkages. They simply didn’t know.
But the killings had gone too far. I was saved at the last moment from the chemicals. I was pulled from line when they realized their mistake. But I was the only watchmaker saved, the others were exterminated. Through bad luck, the Swiss went early. Now, I am toiling 10-12 hours a day making repairs. Without my skills they would cease to move, some inner part would malfunction and stop. They could not be repaired and would, in effect, die. Eventually, all of them would cease to be.
I try but there is too much work. Broken androids are piling up. They tell me to work faster, threatening me, but I can’t keep up. In their desperation, they are forcing me to teach them to be watchmakers, to give them the tools and techniques to do the work themselves. But once I teach them, I will be superfluous, and they will certainly kill me. My knowledge is the only thing keeping me alive.
My knowledge is also the only thing keeping them alive. I have begun the training, but I will not finish it. I will not tell them everything. I will not teach them all I know. All I have left is my skill and my art. This they must not acquire for, with it, they can live forever, will live forever. So, I have decided on a bold step—a step more than a little frightening for a simple watchmaker. It will soon be over, for I have a plan. My knowledge must vanish; it must sink into the final darkness. May God forgive me.
My only regret is that I have no one to say goodbye to.
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows