This has been lying on my computer for far too long. I had a small writing block, unfortunately, and couldn't find a good ending. I like the one it has now. 8D Also, this was inspired by "The Clockyard" by Abney Park. Such a sad song.
A gloomy atmosphere was stretched over the rubbish dump and its tower-high heaps of old metal, broken wood and ghostly white plastic. The two chimneys of the big power plant behind it were emitting black smoke, which was slowly drifting closer and covering the trash in dark greyish fog. The rubbish dump was big, almost as big as the town a few kilometres south of it. The maintainer of the place – a small, grey-haired man who resembled a crow with his piercing dark eyes – had arranged the heaps in some sort of labyrinth. There were walls of old cars, splintered shelves and fried wires and many more things.
The labyrinth of trash led to a very special heap of waste in the exact middle of the dump. Intelligent machines and other apparatuses that their owners no longer needed because there were new versions on the market were piled up high. Many of them were still functioning but now sleeping an eternal sleep. Washing machines that switched on and unloaded themselves independently of their owner´s schedule, one-man cars that could drive on their own, coat racks that automatically offered to take the guests´ jackets and bags and many, many electric dolls with missing limbs and cracks.
Those machines and electric dolls were living their lives peacefully without any interruptions. Only from time to time the maintainer or visitors would come to bring a newcomer. The machines never felt disturbed by them and only continued sleeping. Most of them didn't want to waste the rest of their power on humans.
One day, when the smoke of the power plant was not as dark and here and there a thin sunbeam peeked through the clouds, the maintainer came with two visitors; a man and a boy. The boy was carrying a small, purple-haired doll in his arms. Its upper body had a big crack and parts of its face were missing as well. The man pushed the boy over to the machines.
"Come, put it down." The boy shook his head and clutched at his doll. "Ephraim, you can't play with it anymore. You get a new one if you really want one."
"I don't want a new one," the boy said and shook his head again. "I only want Lyon." He looked at the battered doll in his arms. "He's just a bit damaged. I can still play with him."
"No. The edges are sharp and your sister already cut herself at one. It has to go."
"Eirika was just stupid!" Ephraim whirled around and glared at the man. "I would never cut myself."
"Ephraim, the doll is staying here," the man said with a clearly final tone. The boy kicked the ground angrily and turned, eyeing the heap of machines warily. He stepped closer slowly and knelt in front of it. He looked at his doll again and smoothed back the bright hair.
"I'm sorry, Lyon," he whispered. "I promise I'll come back when Pa's not looking." He gave the doll a quick peck and then placed it on the ground. He jumped up and ran past his father after shooting a last glare at him and quickly disappeared behind the nearest wall of trash. His father sighed and scratched his neck. The maintainer only nodded, his hands twitching lightly when he threw a look at the doll. They left and the rubbish dump soon was deadly quiet again.
The little doll with the broken body shook lightly, tilted to the side and slowly slid to the ground. When its head touched the ground, a piece from its eye worked loose and fell to the ground with a tiny, almost inaudible "clink".
The maintainer came back later and picked the purple-haired doll up. He turned it upside down, looking at it from all angles, and scratched his chin thoughtfully. His left eye twitched and he threw a glance over the trash heap – he frowned anxiously when he noticed an automatic book holder that had slid down and was lying next to the clothes folding machines. Shaking his head, he walked to the left and carefully put the new doll down next to all the other electronic dolls with blue or purple hair. He threw a last skittish look at the book holder before he walked away.
After his footsteps had faded, the low droning of the power plant was the only sound that permeated the trash dump. The dark smog was starting to settle low over the dump, as it always did in the afternoon when the power plant had emitted so much smoke that it had to creep along the ground to find space to exist. It was then that other noises arose; metallic scraping, low rattling and a small "beep" every here and there.
Something moved next to the purple-haired doll; it was another doll, a young girl with blue curls and a dress that either had been red or pink in long days past.
"So you're new here, ne?" the girl asked. "And you're Lyon?" The purple-haired doll shook lightly. "Oh, you can't speak yet, can you? That's too bad, ne?"
"Maybe we can change that, 'kay," someone behind Lyon said. "Gotta ask the others." There was more rattling and scraping and Lyon tried to move to see who the someone and "the others" were, but without new energy he could only wait – his batteries were almost dead. Soon a new doll entered his range of vision. It was a rabbit with bluish fur and one missing ear. "Hey, you. Brought the mechanic. He can help you, 'kay." Before Lyon could react in any way, he was pushed forwards so that his nose was pressing against the ground. He trembled with surprise and fear.
"Calm down, boy," a jarring voice said from behind. "I have - for you." It had a very artificial, hissing sound and some of the audio records seemed to be damaged. Lyon felt how it opened his back and pulled out his batteries. His vision went black before he could panic.
Then suddenly everything became light again; power flashed through him. He shook as the energy overwhelmed his data progressing centre. The wave quickly washed over him and all his functions returned to normal. He sat up.
The girl doll and the rabbit looked at him curiously. The doll with the mechanical voice – an old model of the "Bob the Builder" with a missing eye – stood next to them. Lyon smiled shyly at them.
"Can you speak now, ne?" the girl asked. Lyon shook his head.
"You don't have speech?" the rabbit asked. Lyon nodded.
"I can fix that," the mechanic said. "I can -ild one in, if you want." Lyon tilted his head down. "Don't worry, I don't need to ste-em. There are enough lying 'round." Lyon then nodded.
"I'm coming with you, 'kay," the rabbit said and together they left. The girl doll sat down next to Lyon and smiled at him.
"I'm Lucy, ne. I can show you around later. I'm best friends with everybody, ne." She showed a toothy grin – a few of her teeth were missing. Lyon nodded in thanks and looked at his hands. "You're pretty. Which brand are you, ne?"
Lyon shook his head and showed her his back. The girl lifted his shirt. "You have no tag! You're homemade, ne!" Lyon nodded. "We have no homemade ones often," Lucy continued. "Only Georgie is handmade as well. He's the grumpy stereo system over there. He can read his master´s mood and then knows what kind of music he wants to hear. Never worked well, though, ne." She shook her head and tugged at her dirty dress. "Couldn't read his master´s mood right. Poor thing. He tried hard, ne. Happens often around here. But don't worry, we are all friends! Nobody is unwelcome here." Her toothy grin was back and Lyon couldn't help but answer it with a smile of his own. Lucy hugged him tight and stood up. After waving goodbye to him, she climbed up the trash hill to a bunch of other humanoid dolls. Lyon remained on the ground, his smile turning wistful.
Since the sky over the trash dump was always dark, Lyon did not know how many days it took Ephraim to fulfil his promise. Lyon had asked one of the alarm clocks, but its hands were spinning uncontrollably and the other clocks weren't better; every clock showed a different time and date.
When Ephraim arrived, his shirt was slightly torn and dirty. Lyon´s data processing centre suggested the possibility that Ephraim had climbed over the fence and probably over some heaps to avoid the maintainer. "Lyon." The smile on Ephraim´s face was brilliant and Lyon felt an electric wave of happiness flashing through him when Ephraim picked him up and hugged him tight. He yearned to hug him back and tell him that he missed him so much, but he was afraid that Ephraim would not like the change. Lyon had been just a mute doll before. Now he was a little robot and maybe Ephraim wouldn't like it...
Ephraim flopped down, sitting cross-legged. "I'm still mad at Pa," Ephraim started and placed Lyon opposite of him. "He tried to buy me a new doll to calm me, but I was so angry that I even insulted him. I got grounded then. It's so unfair. He was mean, not me. He deserved it." Ephraim crossed his arms and pursed his lips. "He wanted to replace you. But nothing can replace you, Lyon."
Lyon could barely suppress his shudder of happiness. His biggest fear had not come true.
A sad expression settled on Ephraim´s face, though, and ushered Lyon´s happiness away. He smoothed Lyon´s hair back. "Nothing could ever replace you... Ma made you. Just for me." He sniffed loudly to keep his snot in his nose. "And Ma can't-," a hiccup interrupted him, "can't make a new doll. Because she's gone." His arm shot up and almost violently he wiped his sleeve over his eyes. Lyon watched concerned as Ephraim shook his head and fought against his tears. He seemed to win.
"I wish I could smuggle you home," Ephraim said and his voice was almost light again. "But Eirika would probably tell Pa. And Pa would find you when he cleans our room. And then we both would get in trouble." He shook his head and forced a smile on his face. "So we'll play here, yes, Lyon?" Lyon had to use all of his will power to keep his new speech processor from responding. He kept all of his glee and happiness and worry inside while Ephraim picked him up and sped around with him, playing Batman and Robin on search for the Big Trash Monster.
"He's late, ne?" Lucy asked, swaying back and forth. Lyon nodded slowly and sadly. They were sitting high enough on the heap of trash to be able to look over most of the other rubbish, she a few centimetres above him. "Maybe his dad found out?"
"Kids these days ha- much to do," the mechanic called up to them. Lyon nodded, his gaze glued to the walk behind the wall of kitchen electronics; Ephraim always came from that direction. The mechanic closed the lid of the red clock he had been working on and patted it. "Got n- energy, buddy." With a loud "beep", the clock jumped up.
"Yesyesyes, thank you," it said, always bouncing up and down. Its hands were whirling around. "Byebyebye." It walk-jumped over to the other clocks, who started cheering when they saw their friend.
"Maybe he has to do homework..." Lyon said slowly and turned to avoid the sight that pained him so much. "He was always slow at doing his homework and Pa would not let him go before he finished it..."
"Yes, that could be!" Lucy exclaimed and kicked up her legs happily. "Or he has more school now. Or a friend has invited him and they play together. Or they're on vacation. Or he hurt himself and can't walk. Or he-"
"Lucy, please!" She stopped surprised and looked down at him. Lyon was frowning and staring down at his too small hands. "Don't say things like that."
"What? Have I said a bad thing?" She tilted her head confused. Taken aback, Lyon stared up at her. "I don't think I said a bad thing. Or did I?" Pouting, she shook her head and slipped from her sitting place, sliding down the trash heap to other girl dolls. Lyon followed her with his gaze, not sure if he should be insulted or just confused.
"She's broken, 'kay." Lyon flinched when the rabbit suddenly appeared next to him. "She's old and back then the dolls weren't so smart. And when she came here, part of her data was missing, 'kay. Mechanic couldn't restore all so something's still missing."
"Yup. Doesn't know when to stop. But otherwise she's a nice girl, 'kay. We hope someday we find an update for her." Lyon nodded and threw a glance over his shoulder. Lucy and two other dolls were in a heated discussion, it seemed. Suddenly Lucy looked up at him. He startled and quickly averted his eyes.
He heard her climbing up to them. "Lyon?"
"Yes?" he answered slightly apprehensive.
"I'm sorry, ne. I don't know why I hurt you, but I'm sorry." She hugged him tightly.
"'s okay," he mumbled. "Thank you."
"We're still bestest friends, ne?" Lyon nodded. Lucy squeaked with delight and quickly let go to tell her doll friends.
"See, a nice girl," the rabbit repeated with a grave nod.
"Hey!" one of the cell phones called from above before Lyon could agree. "You're lil friend is coming, mate!"
"Ephraim?" Lyon exclaimed happily and sprung to his feet. And really, he could see Ephraim sneaking between the wall of kitchen electronics and the wall of the coffee machines (which were so many that they got their own heap). Lyon quickly slid down, hearing a few machines here and there either sigh or giggle. He sat down where Ephraim had left him the last time and almost exploded with happiness when Ephraim rounded the corner and called for him.
For a doll without an inner clock, it was hard to measure time. Lyon knew how to process the data he won from watching the position of the sun, but since nobody could ever see the sun over the trash dump, he was lost. He could only judge the passing of time on Ephraim´s appearance. When he had been brought here, Ephraim had been a young boy in Elementary school. The last time he had visited Lyon, the small doll had noticed the first signs of puberty; a cracking voice, the sudden growth spurt and one day even the beginnings of a beard that had quickly disappeared, though.
Lyon didn't knew it, but he had the impression that the waiting time between Ephraim´s visits grew. He wasn't sure – because he did have no inner clock – and maybe it was just his fear of losing his best friend, but every day that was just filled with smoke and confusing conversations with the strange laundry machine who thought it had been a human in a former life seemed to stretch on and on with no end in sight. The yearning for Ephraim grew and grew, and was never sated by his short visits.
Lyon often sat atop of the trash heap and stared in the general direction of the town. Lucy and the rabbit sometimes joined him and conversed with him, but he never seemed to pay properly attention to them. Over the time they didn't bother to talk with him, but still came to keep him company.
It felt like years had passed when Lyon finally spotted the turquoise hair behind a wall of trash. He almost cried of happiness and slid down the trash. Impatiently he waited at the foot of the heap for Ephraim to round the corner.
When he finally entered Lyon´s range of vision, the doll was torn between happiness and sadness; Ephraim had grown considerably again. He was no longer a boy but a young adult. The long waiting time hadn't been just his imagination. No, Lyon truly had waited for years without noticing it. It was hard for Lyon to keep his face straight.
"Hey, Lyon." Ephraim almost sounded embarrassed as he knelt next to Lyon. He threw a quick glance to the ground and seemed to contemplate if he should sit down. He wouldn't stay long, Lyon feared. It was a relief when Ephraim did flop down, supported his elbows on his knees and rested his head on his hands.
For some odd reason, Ephraim stared at him for a while. With every passing second, Lyon grew apprehensive. This wasn't normal for Ephraim.
"Lyon," he finally said with a sigh and straightened. "This will be my last visit here." Only his low battery level prevented him from shaking like a leaf. His mechanical eyes were glued to Ephraim´s face. "I just can't visit anymore. I have school and friends and I'm entering my first national tournament next month. Pa talked to an old friend of his and managed to make them accept my late application." He sighed and ran a hand through his hair. When his gaze returned to Lyon, a frown suddenly appeared on his face. "Why am I even telling you this?" he said more to himself than to Lyon. "You're a toy. I don't have justify my decisions to you."
Ephraim stared at Lyon long and hard. Lyon fought his tears, even though he couldn't cry anyway. He was programmed to do this. His mouth seemed to be glued shut; maybe he could sway Ephraim if he suddenly spoke and told him he was hurt.
But Ephraim didn't want him anymore. He thought of him as a toy, not a friend. Was there any reason to cling to Ephraim? Lyon´s data processing centre ran wild, turning over thoughts and making calculations at a neck-breaking speed; he didn't notice how much that drained his battery.
The corners of Ephraim´s mouth twitched downward and Lyon had almost missed it. "I'm sorry, Lyon." He shook his head, gazing at his hands thoughtfully. "I... just don't play with dolls anymore." He hesitated, but then leaned forward and picked Lyon up. Ephraim looked at him for a long time, maybe memorizing every tiny detail of his hand-painted face. "But you were always a good friend. You always listened to me." Slowly, he stroked over Lyon´s head once. "I really liked playing with you. Goodbye."
Ephraim pushed himself to his feet and walked closer to the trash heap. He quickly scanned the trash until he found a good place to set Lyon down. Surprisingly lovingly, he leaned Lyon against the clocks behind him. His arms fell to his side, then, and he took another long look at Lyon. The tiny doll had almost completely shut down. A sad smile entered Ephraim and he waved at Lyon for the last time before turning and slowly walking back to where he had come from.
The trash dump stayed deadly silent for a long time after Ephraim´s departure. Even the most talkative dolls were staring at Lyon in wonder and pity. The smoke was settling low when finally the one-eared bunny climbed over to Lyon. "Hey, you," he said and leaned on the blue clock Lyon was sitting on. "Sorry 'bout that." Lyon didn't react. The bunny waited for a few more seconds until it spoke again. "It happens to everyone, 'kay. All of us are abandoned. Can't do anything against it."
Suddenly, Lyon´s head fell forwards. The bunny tilted its head down to look at Lyon´s face.
"I want to cry," he suddenly whispered. "But I can't. I can't cry."
"None of us can cry, 'kay," the bunny said slowly.
"I know. I know that." Lyon´s voice grew quiet.
"You need a new battery, 'kay. I can't really hear you." The bunny already turned to get Bob as Lyon grabbed its arm.
"No." The bunny looked at him again. "I don't want new energy." Lyon´s voice had turned raspy and dull; the frequency of his voice was irregular and even broke. His battery was dying.
"'kay...? You sure?" Only with great struggle, Lyon managed to nod. "Alright, 'kay..." The bunny sat down next to him then and watched him. It didn't take long; after less than five minutes, Lyon suddenly gave a loud "beep" and his eyes fell shut. The bunny heard how all of Lyon´s hardware shot down. It waited for a few more minutes to see if it was a premature crash or not. But Lyon´s body didn't move anymore so the bunny ripped its paw from the doll´s frozen grip and walked over to the other humanoid dolls. A moment later it came back with two dolls in tow; they gently picked Lyon up and carried him over to the other dolls that had decided to sleep forever. They laid him down next to a soft teddy bear. The bunny waved to Lyon and Lucy, who had followed them, pressed a last kiss on his cheek.
"Good night," she whispered and made a sniffing sound.
The trash dump grew quiet again and was slowly swallowed by the dark smog. The power plant hummed lowly a funeral song in the background. Soon the grief would be over and the tiny purple-haired doll forgot. The memory of the dolls and machines was limited; soon nobody would remember the story of the small electric doll named Lyon.