I loved the book, but I have mixed feelings about the movie - although I did like the depth added to the Station Inspector's character. I was sitting in the theater, and for some reason I expected this scene below to occur. I was pretty disappointed when it didn't. :(
Therefore, I created the scene myself~
He'd get that rat. That scrawny-legged rat. The thief, the beggar, the boy with the blue eyes.
There had been a moment when the boy had turned, as he ran, and the Station Inspector had been sure that he was laughing. The boy's face hadn't given anything away. But if the Station Inspector had been the boy, he would have laughed. In fact, maybe he once had, but it was all fog now, enshrouding the path he would never again walk along.
He couldn't catch a damn street rat, and it shamed him.
The others were not as clever. In the forgotten spaces under benches and behind pillars, he found them scrounging through paper bags, unwashed hair hanging at their shoulders, those miserable little boys. Every so often he caught the slip of dirty fingers in the corner of his vision, and there would be one of them – already racing across the station, darting into the flow of people. He'd take a step to follow. And sometimes, he'd stop. He'd take a step, stop, turn and pretend he hadn't seen.
This boy really shouldn't be different from the rest. But he was. Maybe it was the eyes?
The boy had evaded him for so long. Too long. He couldn't even remember when he'd first seen him – perhaps a scrap of brown hair dodging between tables, a slim hand slipping a pastry into a pocket – but he knew him now: the blue-eyed boy was the one who got away, time after time.
As he ran swiftly away and the Station Inspector lumbered behind, as the boy turned and his blue eyes seemed to laugh even though tears of fear crept out of the corners, the Station Inspector had the sudden feeling that the boy was there for a reason. He didn't know what. But he was running towards something. The other boys – they ran away, willy-nilly through the crowds, Maximilian at their heels and screams in their throats. They had no homes. They slept on the filthy ground. They had no door to shut behind them, and so had to be running, always running or the Station Inspector would find them and catch them and give them homes.
There were boys who ran towards and there were boys who ran away.
That's why the blue-eyed boy was so intriguing. He stole, he lied, he ran, and yet he couldn't be an orphan; because no orphan had a sense of purpose. A place to go home to. The Station Inspector knew that well.
For once his mind wandered from his occupation, and to the flower-seller. Lisette. Somehow, whenever his mind wandered, it stumbled upon her.
They'd spoken, once, now. One time, and it was certainly less than glorious. He'd behaved immaturely and awkwardly, and the worst had struck as he leaned to smell the purple lilacs – the crack of his mechanical brace as it locked into place. He caught Lisette looking away in shame for him. The shame he felt was contagious, and rightly so. He was repulsive.
He had snapped at her about the war and said his goodbye.
She called back to him, about her brother. About the war. But what did anyone know about it? What did she know, she especially? He thought it bitterly, in a way that made him more ashamed once he realized that he had thought it.
The brace was more painful than he let on. At times it felt as if that terrible bullet was slicing its way through his knee once again. But he chased and chased, except for the times when he pretended not to see them stealing.
He'd never pretend with the blue-eyed boy. One day, he'd catch him. And then he'd ask him where he was going. He wondered if the boy would cry or not. As much as he'd not like to admit it, the Station Inspector had cried when they'd caught him. He'd sobbed until he had no strength to do so. But that was before he learned he didn't need people. It was funny; he was surrounded by them, and yet he felt so alone. Because he didn't need anyone. That's what made him strong.
The phone had rung a day ago. They'd found the Claude, the clock man, in the Seine.
He'd been dead for months. But – the clocks? They hadn't stopped running. They'd been perfectly on time, by the second. He checked every morning with his stopwatch. Another second of his life gone by. Another second wasted.
He climbed the stairs to the apartment where Claude lived. He'd find the answers there. If there was a man running the clocks for Claude, he wanted to know who. And why. Why run the clocks without a salary? Why spend every day turning wheels of cogs for a job that doesn't belong to you?
The stairs made his leg brace dig into his leg, and click with every step. He grit his teeth and continued on. If Lisette could see him at times like this, not when he made jokes in bad taste of a dead man. Not when he put the dirty street rats in the cage, as they sobbed, and she looked at him as if he were a monster. It was his job, didn't she see? Didn't they all see? These boys couldn't live alone in the station. They could live alone in the orphanage. They'd learn to need no one, as he had. Here they lived on scraps of pastries. They lived on false dreams born from puffs of steam and smoke.
His hand shook a bit as he did the master key into the lock of the small apartment, but only with the memory of things long past. Perhaps gears were shifting into place in the back of his mind.
The door clicked open and he dragged his dead leg inside with him. Maxmilian whined and stayed at the door. The Station Inspector whistled, but the dog did not come. Instead, it turned and clambered down the stairs in the hall.
The Station Inspector hesitated. Then he turned back towards the room. It was dusty and smelled of metal. It was also bare. Only a few blue cobwebs and creaking boards. Claude had not lived here for a long. And the man who now turned the clocks did not live here.
He pushed into the next room. It was a bit more furnished. Slats of light fell in from the ceiling and lit a dusty armchair, and a moth-eaten blanket on the ground. Bottles glinted. He kicked a few over and they clinked against each other melodically, but it was an eerie sound in the lifeless room.
As he wrapped his hand around the doorknob of the next room, he prepared himself for another room of emptiness, another surge of disappointment.
He opened the door and saw a cold, patchwork home, but nonetheless a home. Someone lived here. A small bed was in the corner, and tables were piled with scrap and melted candles. Hundreds of gears, tiny and lost, littered the floor, sparkling like diamonds. The Station Inspector made his way through the room without his leg paining him once. Cogs lay across dreamy surfaces of floor, bathed in blue light. He stooped to pick one up and examined it, running his fingers along the wide spokes.
A tatty bag hung on a hook near the bed, and he opened it. Inside were a nibble of a pastry and a bottle of milk. There were scraps of paper and a worn copy of Robin Hood. He'd never read Robin Hood because he hadn't learned to read until he was too grown-up to believe in stories. But who…?
He closed his eyes. He knew it then. He knew who turned the clocks.
When he opened his eyes, he made a slow circle of the room. There were hammers and tools lying on the ground and in dark corners, gears the size of his pinky nail in cups, and cogs as big as his head around propped against the wall. How much effort had it taken the boy to carry those up from wherever he had found them?
A flickering light caught his eye. Near a dying orange candle was an object covered in a burlap cloth. He limped towards it and thoughtfully fingered the material, deciding upon his next action in his mind. The orphan boy he had once been decided for him. He tugged the cover away slowly, and he saw a man. The man was of silver and cogs as bright as the sun. The Station Inspector felt something fall into place deep in his stomach.
The man's black eyes stared into the air before him. His hand held a silver pen and beneath it was a blank slate of paper. The Station Inspector leaned close and peered into the man's mechanics. There were infinitely tiny details: spokes the width of a hair interlaced, flat wires holding together parts like tendons holding muscles, curves of silver that had been hammered with a tiny hammer. A small heart-shaped keyhole. He could imagine the boy here, sitting before the automaton with that same determined look in his blue eyes. Holding a small screw between his teeth, determined to fix the only person left in his world.
He could imagine the boy pumping the clocks daily because he was afraid of being alone, of being sent to the orphanage.
The Station Inspector knew why the boy was different; he had a purpose. He had somewhere to fit in, like a tiny gear in the machine, doing his part. He could come home to this little room, light his candles, sit before the automaton and pretend that he wasn't alone.
He'd been like one of the other boys, when he'd been here, a lifetime ago. He'd scavenged the corners through paper bags and slept under benches. He'd always run away. In the winter he'd cried from the cold, but would not knock on any door for shelter, because he was afraid of the orphanage, where boys went to learn how to hate and forget the things that mattered (like the taste of an orange found in the snow). He didn't want to live in just another place where he could be entirely alone while surrounded by people. He slept under benches in the night, and he sobbed when they finally caught him, because he knew that he was a spare part. He knew that'd he'd never fit.
The silver automaton, sitting before him, reminded him again that he'd lived his life with no purpose. Chasing street rats through the station on his rusting crutch of a leg. Could a man make a life out of that? Not surely.
He felt a cold wind hit his side and heard a soft gasp. Before he turned towards the door, he knew who would stand there. The boy. The boy who was always there, and now he realized the boy had never been laughing, though he damn well should have been. To laugh at the others for grinding their lives away without thought.
The Station Inspector stood in the boy's room with a burlap sheet in his hands and tears streaking his cheeks. He looked at the boy, who stood in the doorway. Neither moved.
"I just need my automaton," whispered the boy. He took a slow step towards the Station Inspector, his heel landing flat on the floor, reading to turn on the knob and dash away. But his blue eyes were hard. "You can't take me to the orphanage. I don't belong there."
"Do you belong here?" The Station Inspector gestured around the room, the flickering candle, the tiny gears, the ticking clocks, the metal man with black eyes.
The boy shrugged and moved slowly, making a circle around the Station Inspector to evade the arms that could reach and snatch. The Station Inspector swiveled slowly and watched the boy.
"It's not even a real person," he laughed, cruelly.
"But I'm not lonely anymore," said the boy. He reached out gently picked up the metal man, cradling it like a baby.
"Who? The doll? No, the toy-seller, and his granddaughter?" the Station Inspector spat. "You don't need them."
"I need them," the boy said.
"You don't! You'll be stronger if you don't!"
The boy scurried into the shadows, and his voice quavered. "Don't you love anybody?"
"No." The Station Inspector shook his head as Lisette's slight, pretty face shivered in his mind. "I don't."
"Why are you so angry?" whispered the boy. He took a step backwards.
The Station Inspector wanted to ask the boy how? or why? but in the end, he said only one word: "Run."
The boy stood for a second more, his blue eyes imploring, before he understood. He turned, hugging the metal doll to his chest, and ran. He ran.
In the empty room, the Station Inspector let his mind wander for a moment and went where it always went. Then he took a step towards the door. His leg brace clapped and the sound echoed, and he dropped his head. He took another step, and then another, slowly limping towards the door. In a moment he would start running.
Then they'd be running again; towards, away, purposeful, purposeless.