A Steam Powered Giraffe Fanfiction by Aoikami Sarah
“In 1933 P. A. Walter’s Steam Man Band was invited to perform at the Chicago World’s Fair.” The Spine turned the pages of the scrapbook forward and pointed to some of the images from that year. One of them was marked “1932” and was torn--only The Spine and The Jon remained. There were crayon drawings surrounding and even over some of the other images and the bottom corner of one page was torn out completely. “It was a happy time, even though the economy wasn’t stellar and technology was changing people’s lives, sometimes not for the better. People came out in droves to see the wonders of the Expo and in the two years it was open nearly 50,000,000 people attended--many of whom watched us play! We had a few of our own songs by then like Captain and Rex Marksley and Rabbit had written a special song just for his “daughter” Melissa. Does anyone know what Melissa means in greek?” he asked his audience of three.
“Oh! I know!” Hatchworth raised his right hand so high he had to support it with his left.
“I know you know, Hatchworth, why don’t you give someone else a try?”
Steve and Michael shrugged and The Spine rolled his eyes. “Yes, Hatchworth?”
“Oh! It means Honey Bee!”
“Ohhhh...” Steve said, rubbing his chin.
“Oh man...” Michael groaned. “So the song is about...”
The Spine nodded and continued. “Just before we left for the World’s Fair, Melissa came down with a stomach bug and couldn’t come with us. We were to play for a month then return to San Diego for tune-ups before the next stint. Rabbit was upset because he wanted her to hear it when it was performed for the first time, but we managed to talk him into having a special performance just for her when we got back.
“Fresh off the train, without bothering to speak to anyone, Rabbit ran in the front door, calling for Melissa. He searched for her all over the manor before The First and I found him and stopped him.”
Rabbit returned to the lobby, panting lightly, steam puffing, having run through much of the manor in search of his daughter. Peter Walter I stood by the door between him and The Spine.
“Rabbit,” his creator breathed his name in such a way that it made Rabbit shudder.
“It’s about Melissa...”
The Spine raised a brow and watched his older brother carefully.
Rabbit lowered his chin and looked into The First’s eyes. “What about her...?” he asked gravely.
“Three weeks ago... was the fourteen-year mark,” he said.
Rabbit’s eyes widened and without another word he pivoted and sprinted to the stairs, Peter Walter shouting behind him, repeating that it was three weeks ago. The Spine didn’t hesitate, he touched his creator’s shoulder as if to say ‘I’ll go to him’ and took off after Rabbit, calling his name, but unable to quite catch him.
Rabbit came to skidding halt before the pad-locked sixth-floor basement room and using all his strength wrenched the door from its hinges, tossing it aside as if it were a playing card. The door clanged and echoed through the corridor and Rabbit stared into the darkened lab. The chalkboard had been wiped of all but the faint words “see you in 588 years” written in Peter Walter’s loose, elegant script in the bottom-left corner. Everything was neat and in place. He stepped through the doorway just as The Spine charged around the corner, but the devastated look on Rabbit’s face slowed his pace. His older brother trudged to a chair and gripped the wooden back to support himself.
“What did I do?” Rabbit asked the stillness. “What didn’t I do?” He turned to The Spine with tears flowing down his copper cheeks. “Why did she go, The Spine? She must have known that she couldn’t return! Half a millenia... Damn it!” Rabbit picked up the chair and threw it half-heartedly against the concrete wall. It clattered but did not break. “I’ll be here, but she’ll be...
“Rabbit...” he began but could not find the words to soothe him.
By this time Peter Walter I had arrived, having taken the elevator. He frowned as he noted the door and chair in disarray and reached into the inside pocket of his lab coat. He retrieved an envelope and held it out toward the stricken robot. “Rabbit, this was left for you.”
He raised a brow and looked from the letter to his creator.
“For what it’s worth, we tried to stop her. She charged in, shoved this into my hand, said she was sorry and...”
With shaking hands, Rabbit snatched it from him, tore the side of the envelope and tapped out the letter which he read to himself. “Dearest Pappy Rabbit. I know you’re probably very upset with me right now. I am very upset with myself as I write you this letter. I can barely keep my pen on the page. I am going to be with my father, Petra and the lady-bots you’ve told me so much about. I’m not sure it’s the right place for me, but I just don’t feel as though I belong in this world. You and Spine and Jon are the only ones who’ve ever really cared for me and I dread having to spend my life under a roof where the heads of house treat me as though I don’t exist. I will never forget you. I’m sorry, but I have to go. Love, Your “Honey Bee”, Melissa.”
Rabbit’s mouth opened and a low moan started to build. This was suddenly cut short as the smallest automaton rushed into the room and threw his arms around his brother. “I just heard!” The Jon cried. “Oh, Rabbit! Oh! It’s just so terrible!” he shrieked. Peter Walter turned away and put a hand to his face. The Spine stepped up and rather than make excuses or try to calm The Jon down, he clapped a hand on Rabbit’s shoulder.
“It is terrible. But we’re here, Rabbit. We’re here for you.”
Rabbit threw his arms around both robots and hugged them tightly. “I know,” he said, burying his head between both of their shoulders. “I know.”
.x. Present Day...
Hatchworth sniffled, pulled The Spine’s handkerchief from his shirt pocket and blew his nose loudly into it. The Spine rolled his eyes and patted Hatchworth on the back.
Steve pushed his chair back and stood, stretching. “Man, that was a seriously sad story, Spine.”
“And it keeps on being sad for Rabbit, like it was earlier.” The Spine nodded and stood as well. “That’s why we try not to mention her name. It tends to set him off.”
“But that doesn’t make any sense,” Michael said. “We play “Honey Bee” at every show! How does that song, as sad as it is, and knowing who it’s about, not set him off?”
The Spine smiled. “Because that song is his therapy. The lyrics he originally wrote for her were upbeat and happy, about how Rabbit felt about her as a child--his child. When she left, she made a very adult decision, so he changed the lyrics to what they are today. Hatchworth, you’ve heard Rabbit talk about this before, I’m sure. He said that he learned from Petra Walter that humans feel both love and loss and that sadness is actually a reminder of happy memories. He learned that you can’t have one without the other. Right now, he’s very sad because the memory of losing Melissa caught him off guard, but he’ll be alright soon.”
“I think I know how we can be a sort of therapeutic aid in this instance,” Hatchworth said brightly. “Would it be alright, The Spine?” he asked. Late-afternoon sun broke through the clouds and struck the chandelier, casting sparkles around the room. The Spine nodded and the three of them followed him out of the dining room.
The basement lab door stood open and Rabbit sat facing the wall. His vest was damp with oil tears and he hiccuped a little with exhaustion. He heard their footsteps approach for several minutes and his senses began to return to him. His eyes focused on his right hand, laying in his lap. Cradled in his palm was a thin, dented, metal calling-card case, opened to reveal a torn photograph of a little girl in a white pinafore. Her black eyes stared back at him. Rabbit closed the case and brought it to his lips before hiding it once more deep in his heart. He wiped his face with his sleeve. Feet shuffled as they came to a stop at the door and a soft, metallic whirr emanated from The Spine’s guitar as he placed his hands on its neck. The first dozen or so notes of the song reverberated in Rabbit’s core and he took a deep breath. Without having so much as to think about it, Rabbit began to sing.
“You didn't have to look my way. Your eyes still haunt me to this day. But you did. Yes, you did. You didn't have to say my name, ignite my circuits and start a flame. But you did... Oh, turpentine erase me whole (cause I) don't want to live my life alone. (Well I) was waiting for you all my life... Oh... Why... Set me free, my... Honey Bee. Honey Bee.”
Rabbit stood and smiled appreciatively. His friends joined in with their harmonies.
“You didn't have to smile at me. Your grin's the sweetest that I've ever seen. But you did. Yes you did. You didn't have to offer your hand - cause since I've kissed it I am at your command. But you did... Oh, Turpentine erase me whole. I don't want to live my life alone. I was waiting for you all my life. Oh... Why... Set me free, my... Honey Bee. Honey Bee.”
On the other side of the rift an old woman sat in a wooden chair next to a blackboard with “see you in 588 years” written in chalk in fine Victorian cursive, faded as to be nearly illegible. A smallish, copper, boy automaton stepped into the room and gently nudged her shoulder.
“Are you sleeping, Miss Melissa?”
“Hm?” the old woman opened her eyes. “Not yet. I’m tired, though. I think it’s time I go see my mom and dad.” She uncurled her gnarled hand in her lap and looked one last time at a torn and faded photograph of a robot in a straw pork pie hat. “And if I’m lucky, maybe, one day, you too, Pappy.”
“Hello Goodbye, twas nice to know you, how I find myself without you, that I'll never know. I let myself go. Hello Goodbye, I'm rather crazy and I never thought I was crazy, but what do I know? Now you have to go.”
"Honeybee" Music & Lyrics by Isabella Bennett