[GRENDEL]

I believe the law all children are familiar with, known simply as Stuff Comes To Life When We're Not Looking, must have always existed in some sense, because as soon as Humanity was gone, that law went MAD with power. In hindsight, perhaps the children who insisted their teddy bears came to life when no one was around may have been on to something.

My machine was no longer the only thing roaming the ruins.

I can't explain these new creatures in scientific terms. The scientific laws I remember wet themselves and fled when the world ended, and their new-world replacements never follow the rules. I could try to explain the 'others' that appeared in the ruins by suggesting that life was destroyed, but not the source where life comes from. I could say that any man-made thing, if left alone for long enough, becomes organic again. I could even say I have no idea where they came from, so don't ask.

They were humanoid. Inorganic, but sapient life forms with metal in the place of bone, cloth in the place of flesh, and eyes formed of aluminum and glass. It was like the force that created human beings was still making life, uninhibited by the fact that there was nothing organic left to make them from. And though their skeletons were metal, these tiny sapient things were not machines. They were alive. That much became clear to me immediately.

At first there were only three or four of them. Then, one by one, more began to appear. And these evolved, inanimate things, they behaved like people. They walked like people. They talked like- actually, no, they didn't talk like people. Truth be told, they didn't make any sound at all, but I'm sure The Big Grand Phoobah In The Sky was working on it. What was important was that they lived and worked together in a creative, benevolent community that was purely human.

I know their behavior because It watched them obsessively.

The instant my machine became aware of them, its broken brain was consumed with them. It kept out of sight and stalked them with a crazed sort of intensity. It stared, without moving, for days on end through blank glass eyes.

These sapient things were infinitely more complex than the animals it was programmed to imitate. But more importantly, it was fundamentally impossible for a machine to replicate the things it was seeing: imagination, compassion- for lack of a better term, the human soul. It rocked on the fringe of its programming but still couldn't fulfill it.

Then, one day, its behavior shifted. Suddenly it wasn't watching the sapients anymore.

At first, I assumed its brain had concluded watching them was futile. It left the area where they lived and creaked away on rusted joints. It appeared to be starting its search over again.

Then It began to find what it was looking for, and I realized it hadn't abandoned its obsession at all.

It was very particular about the bits of metal it was picking up. It only gathered bolts of specific sizes. And the metal bits were always things like forks- long, and sharp.

It had observed the sapients working with metal and electric wire. It imitated those skills to add it itself in dreadful ways. Claws. Spines. A flashlight eye.

They HAD something It didn't, something that made them impossible to replicate, and it was going to rip them open and tear their insides out until it had that something for itself.

The thing that stalked back toward the sapients wasn't Frankencat anymore. It had become something I can only name as Grendel.

I call it that for two reasons. For one, it was, in the end, slain by a copy of the epic poem "Beowulf." Of all the things that died when the world ended, irony most definitely did not.

You'll realize the other reason in just a bit.

The sapients had built a chamber under the earth out of metal and stone. A sapient at the entrance froze, shocked, when he saw It. He had nothing to defend himself with except his own hands and a useless circle of metal dangling from his neck.

It swatted the him aside with one claw. He crumpled into the wall with a crunch of broken metal and went still.

The others froze, staring in alarm at the bony claw-covered thing that loomed in the doorway. With a click, its new eye glared light into the burrow and stared back.

And when It finally attacked, not a one of them got away.

My monster intended to rip out whatever it was that made them so impossible to replicate, and add that to itself. It wasn't enough to imitate them. It intended to be them.

And now you're thinking all that murder must have been pointless, because you can't tear out the human soul.

That, unfortunately, is where you'd be wrong.