Marsh Creek Grievers

by April DeOliveira
(this is part IV. Read Marsh Creek Grievers from the beginning.)

After Automata

The early Michigan fall began to roll over summer, displacing the warm, humid air and deep green trees with its crisp chill and colorful leaves, some trees already bearing sparse branches.

Change shrouded me as I lay in bed—as I had every day for the past three months—listening. Listening to the world outside my window, to the people routinely entering and exiting the building, to the people talking and laughing as they walked in pairs down the street to and from Marsh Creek’s waterfront, to the people driving their cars and going about their lives. Listening to the emptiness of my apartment, an emptiness that would not be filled by the ticking of my and Gregory’s beloved mechanical figurines—the automata we had spent much of our lives building.

When he’d moved out this summer, Gregory had left his automata behind, abandoning not only me but his creations.

I tucked my hand beneath the hem of my T-shirt and traced my hip bone. It protruded like never before.

I swung my rusty legs over the side of the bed and stood. I brushed my overgrown, knotted hair off my neck and straightened my shirt and sweatpants. Rigidly, I walked out of my bedroom and into the hallway. Until now, the only time I’d left my room was to use the bathroom and occasionally get food. Not to wander. Otherwise, I’d spent most of my time in bed, even as I worked seven to three every day with my laptop on my stomach.

I paused, staring across the hallway into what had once been Gregory’s room, where the automata geared on in their operations as if Gregory were coming right back.

I knew he wasn’t.

I forced my legs to motor me down the hallway and into the living room, then the dining room, then the kitchen, then back down the hallway and into Gregory’s room.

The emptiness followed me.

Something else needed to change.

I had an idea.


I put the finishing touches on my first-ever life-size automata—Gregory and Christina 2.0—and then booted them up. Apart from this project, I’d given up on all other automata-related pursuits. Something in me had shifted.

Once Gregory and Christina 2.0 were fully conscious, I introduced myself and informed them I was leaving.

“I’m going to need you to man the fort,” I said to Christina 2.0, whose webby, hardwired eyes watched me analytically. “I’m sorry to leave so soon upon meeting, but I have to go. I’ve left you with a friend, though,” I gestured toward Gregory 2.0., who looked at Christina 2.0 like he’d known and loved her for years. I grabbed my suitcase and scanned the place for the last time, admiring the automata Gregory and I had communally built.

“Will you be back?” Gregory 2.0 asked.

“No.” I headed toward the door. As I grabbed the knob and readied myself to abandon everything I’d built and step into a new world—one I didn’t know like clockwork—I turned again to my counterparts. “Look after the automata.”

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