Month by month, my ability to function degrades. Something in my knee pops, every step summoning an agonizing grinding noise. One hand twitches violently whenever I do not concentrate on keeping it still. Noise creeps in at the edges of my vision.
I am running out of hope.
I am welcomed into the shop of yet another expert in repairing things like me. She smiles at me and treats me almost like a creature worthy of occupying her attention.
I allow myself to foolishly indulge the belief that I might find relief here.
The beginning is promising. Replacement eyes! I forgot what it was like to see without having to compensate for noisy distortion.
The rest requires more in-depth testing. It is important, she insists, to be objective in her analysis, with these tests as the means.
Her tests seem at best only tangentially related to my problems, though.
She places a strange artifact in my good hand and asks me to squeeze it to demonstrate my strength, after I explain that I often feel too weak to stand.
My grip strength proves adequate.
I describe the sparking inside my chest cavity, and she places a flammable cloth on my belly, taking notes when it fails to catch fire.
When I tell her of my difficulties with memory, she observes that I remember enough language to speak to her clearly.
She places a recording crystal on the table to measure the grinding of my gears I feel inside me. The noise of their grinding does not peak high enough for the crystal to register it as worthy of concern.
Her voice begins taking on a less sympathetic tone.
Something in her words suggests that she has come to think of me as a liar—perhaps only visiting to cheat her into receiving precious gear lubricant for recreational purposes—or that my struggles are simply due to a lack of sufficient motivation because I’m not formally owned.
I object, trying politely to explain how the tests do not seem to directly measure any of the problems I face, and what scraps of her sympathetic mask remain fall away.
“These tests are objective,” she asserts flatly. “Why seek my expertise only to question it?”
I make the mistake of continuing to push, my desperation at the possibility of losing this last chance making itself heard. I insist she listen to me describe how difficult it was to arrive at her shop today. I offer to slice myself open and show her my malfunctioning innards.
“If you insist on threatening me like this,” she says, voice icy, “for my own safety I must withdraw my services altogether.”
Threatening her? I don’t understand. But her threat is plain enough as she reaches for the tools to extract my new eyes.
Panic at the idea of losing the one, small bit of help she did provide inspires me to fall to my knees begging her forgiveness. Of course I was out of line. I am merely an object, a tool, a thing, and it is not my place to question the judgment of my superiors.
She permits me this performance of contrition, weighing my fate in her mind while I apologize for my presumptuous and apparently threatening behavior.
Eventually, mercifully, she relents. Her hand moves away from her tools.
She instructs me to visit again in a few weeks, at which time she will either perform necessary maintenance on my new eyes or pluck them from my head, depending on whether she decides she can be safe around me.
Regardless of her words, I know she holds all the power here.
I give her the fees and hobble out the door.
I feel hollow, confused, and terrified. I don’t know if I should gamble on seeing her again, or risk these eyes failing prematurely.
She was still the most helpful one I’ve met.