They tessellate like stars. Fragments of thought; of orange-leaved trees, of junkyards, of a boy with a gap-toothed smile. If he can fit them together, he will resurrect his mind along with his body. In a shell of ice-bitten iron buried under a desert of ice, he fixes himself, and he waits.
He's searching for something. A name. It flutters away from him when he tries to catch it. He reaches out again, and the memory grazes his metal thumb with a touch soft as a wing.
Rock. Tree. The boy sat far below, holding the stone in his hands, looking fragile. Sunlight spread through the golden dappled trees and cast shadows onto the boy's freckled face. His gears whirl as he tries to fathom the feeling in the pit of his machinery. Longing.
A gap in the snow above is revealed, and his eyes stare dim and empty at the arching black sky. Then the wind whips and wails, and a blanket of snow is swept over his face. He's lost to the bitter darkness again, waiting.
He can't remember the boy's name, but he knows he has to find him. He knows the boy will make him whole again. Now he is just a jumble of iron lying latent under the snow, but when he is with the boy he can fly.
Raise your arms! Like Superman! The boy laughs with ecstasy; high, boyish, rolling laughter. The air rushes past, and on the currents, a missile is fired. Then another. The giant ducks, dodges. These guns won't touch the boy this time, not ever. The giant would let thousands of bullets pierce his iron chest before the boy would even feel the wind.
And then he is spiraling down, smoke pouring from his jets, and curling his body around the boy like a clam. All he can feel is freezing terror, lightning screaming through his bolts, as the ground approaches. The boy- the boy- the-
His descent lands him into darkness. The boy – he must find him. The only thing the giant loves. The only tie to this world.
A rumble starts in his chest cavity, and slowly, his metal heart begins to thaw. He's coming alive. Iron limbs lock into their sockets with movements as smooth as butter.
The boy's giddy laughter echoes around his skull, and suddenly the giant finds the power to push his way out of the icy prison. He splits the frozen ground and rises from the gash, staggering into the windswept land of snow and starlight.
He needs a beacon to guide him to the boy, he needs a homing system, he needs a miracle. A name.
The snow stretches an ocean wide. The jets in his feet are crusted with ice, so he walks. His first step takes him half a mile, and by his second he is running. He's running to the town where the boy lives, though he does not know how to get there. But he will search for it.
As he runs, the boy's voice is whispered to him on the wind.
I love you.
Far below him, the boy stands with tears in his eyes, like glass. The giant doesn't speak. A streak of white straddles the fiery sky, and he raises his head to watch it burn. Then he looks at the boy one last time, so small and frail, watches as the boy's lips form words. I love you.
He'll search the entire earth, if he has to. Rockwell – he'll scour the land and seas until he finds the town. Then he will walk up the main street, past the fields, the lake, the junkyard, the forest, to the little red house. He can see the small boy framed in the doorway of the barn, waiting. He can hear the boy's voice lifting over the void between them, carrying a name and a hope. It's me – Hogarth. Waiting.
He will start here, in the desert of ice, and walk every inch of the world. And then he'll be home.
The old man raises a withered hand and pushes the curtain aside. The wind groans, and black, wild shapes dance in the curling lines of snow. He gazes at them with bleary white eyes.
On the bulletin board near his bed, a photo of his family resides. The man's son visited yesterday, but he didn't stay long. The man lets this thought linger in his weary mind as he watches the snowstorm ride the streets of Rockwell, and then he is thinking of nothing at all, just watching the darkness swirl with the white.
He's waiting for something, isn't he?
He's always been waiting.
"Hogarth?" says the nurse in the doorway. She's lit from behind like a silhouette puppet. "Are you ready to change into your pajamas?"
He lets the curtain fall and turns his gaunt face towards the wall. The pattern is of yellow sparks on a blue background, reminiscent of the walls he once lived between as a child. The tessellating stars.
He'll always be waiting.
Please show your support for the Iron Giant by clicking that prim little gray button at the bottom of the screen. See it? Good! That poor button has Reactive Attachment Disorder, did you know? He'd like it very very much if you clicked him.