The Automaton’s Heart
Some in the Alchemist Society likened me to a young Da Vinci, my reasoning similar to Descartes and my genius to Einstein. The learned men in their smoking jackets considered me a god.
Josephine LeBlanc considered me a freak.
Josephine, the most desired woman in all of Paris, daughter of a nobleman father and an opera singer mother. Josephine was graceful, refined and seductive. And I loved her.
She was strolling down the Rue de la Barre with fancy parcels from fancy boutiques in her hands. I snuck up behind her and put my handkerchief to her nose, chloroform has worked surprisingly well every time, and her purchases tumbled to the wet cobbled street.
Josephine LeBlanc was tied to a gurney, her wrists and ankles tied down, her naked body covered in lines, etching her skin like a dressmaker’s pattern. The Doctor held a rag soaked in ether to her nose; he didn’t want her to feel any pain.
‘My love, I do hope you are comfortable.’ The Doctor walked to the cabinet where he stored his chemicals and carefully put the dark brown ether bottle back in its place. ‘I am sorry about the restraints, but it is for your own safety.’ With his arms folded behind his back he strode towards Josephine and sat down on a stool beside her. He stroked the side of her face, wiping a loose black curl from her forehead. He bent forward and kissed her neck, her closed eyelids and finally her mouth. He traced the outline of her lips with his gloved fingers and kissed her once more. To Dr. Gregor Frederick, she was the most beautiful woman in the world. ‘Let me start, my love.’
In the corner of the room stood Dr. Frederick’s masterpiece, the object of the Alchemy Society’s envy. Built from steel plates that was fitted over a skeleton of copper, a life-size replica of Josephine LeBlanc, an Automaton. The machine was covered from head to toe with patches of human skin stitched together with surgical precision; a patchwork human quilt. It had human eyes – the irises the same brown as hers, the hair the same shade of black.
At the Doctor’s command the Automaton moved over to the gurney ready to assist the surgery. ‘A human being is nothing more than a complex machine, dearest. The bones, the muscles, joints - all can be replaced with steel rods, a few cogs, pistons and belts.’ A smile lingered on his lips as he placed a hand on the Automaton’s shoulder.
Beside Dr. Frederick stood a tray with an array of shiny metal instruments – scalpels, saws, forceps and chisels in varying sizes. ‘I am sorry that you couldn’t love me, Josephine.’ His scalpel pressed down just below her collarbone, splitting open her ivory skin.
The Automaton moved in closer to staunch the flow of blood with a rag.
‘I asked you to marry me, my love, but you refused. Why?’
The scalpel traced the line down her chest with unmatched accuracy. As the Doctor cut, the Automaton wiped away the blood.
‘I gave you my heart.’ He picked up the saw and started hacking through the breastbone. The Automaton inserted a brace to hold the chest cavity open.
The Doctor reached into her chest, cutting through layers of tissue: muscle, veins, arteries. He pulled his hands out and there, pounding feebly in his hands, was the heart of Josephine LeBlanc.
‘Now you have given me yours.’
Everyone in the Alchemist Society likened me to Da Vinci, my reasoning more advanced than Descartes and my genius surpassing Einstein. The learned men in their smoking jackets called me God.
Josephine LeBlanc’s heart would forever beat inside my Automaton. Forever would she be mine.