My name is Aribell. 

A simple enough sentence to pen one should think, but when I look down at my uncouth penmanship I cringe and from more than just the god-awful racket I’m producing.  I can sense Dr. Cogsworth  over my left shoulder trying his best to act a gentleman and not read what I am writing, but I also know that his curiosity will win out.  As well it should one might be presumptuous enough to say because without his assistance I would surely have perished in the dreadful locomotive accident. 

I was pinned beneath an overturned rail car for five hours.

It looks as if the paper so crisp and white is out and out rejecting such an absurd statement as my words drift drunkenly across the page, but it is true.  Minding my own business I started across the Hedgefield crossing on my way to post a letter when I heard the most terrible sound of squealling gears and grinding metal.  The 3 o’clock to Bristol was early and had jumped the track.

My right side was crushed, and it was believed that I would be among the casualties.

A loud hiss startled me knocking my inkwell to the ground and releasing a deluge of India Ink.

“Miss Aribelle,” Cogsworth said with a gentle reprimand in his voice as he began to mop up the mess, “you must acclimate yourself to the pistons my dear.”

“I know,” I consented my head hanging slightly, “of course you are right doctor.  It is just…there is no pattern to the noise, it comes and goes, such anarchy is an assault upon my senses.”

“After the terror you faced with the steam engine it is no wonder that you start at, what you must concede, is a common household sound,” Cogsworth said matter of factly as he set the empty well next to my discarded piece of stationary and fountain pen.  “Even a kettle issues steam Miss Aribelle and it is not frightening.” 

His knowing look is more than I can bare.  The way he pities me mixed with the awe, he can not hide for his handiwork, is stifling.  I take a deep breath and push back from the table, “I do believe I am done with my writing exercises for the day doctor.  If you should need me I will be in my rooms.”

He opens his arms wide inviting me to leave unescorted, but his eyes are on my stationary not my face.  As such he misses the grimace that sets upon my visage as I stand, accompanied by a myriad of grinding sounds, and limp from the room.

With my door secured behind me I force myself to the vanity.  Hands upon the lacquered top I lean in and face my demons of industry.  Contained to my once crushed right-side where smooth plate brass, gears, and clockwork have replaced my marrow and tendon.  I look hard scrutinizing every inch of what I have become.  In my mind I can hear Dr. Cogsworth from that fateful day, “I may yet be able to save her…well partly at least.”  What part of me I wonder was the ‘good’ doctor able to save, my strength of will perhaps.  For that is all I have left as I attempt to survive this steam. 

I am Aribelle, the…automaton.

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