Coalesce – Aarushi Shetty

Alfred Burton jolts and sits upright at eight in the morning. His back is itching as the wet fabric of his pyjama shirt clings to it. He wipes his damp forehead and shivers. He can still feel the cold blade of an axe on his leg from his unpleasant dream. Opal, his cat, climbs onto the bed. Her pale eyes draw him in, her pupils dilate as she purrs sitting next to him.

He can hear a constant reverberation of airships as if a leviathan is flying across the sky. Although Alfred lives further from the city, a much quieter part of London, the clanging metals, hustling of steam engines and cars as well as the airships resonate in the manor. He closes his eyes for a moment thinking about his schedule for the day then looks at a letter on his desk, next to the bed.

To Mister Alfred Burton, Your request for a permanent, aluminium augmented leg has been approved. Doctor Stephen Byron can confirm an appointment with yourself for 14 April 1873. Please be at The Royal Society of Bio-Mechanical Augmentation by noon. Sincerely, Doctor Stephen Byron (M.D.)

The embers in the fireplace, opposite his bed have a low flame. A meek boy, about nine or ten years old, enters the room and pokes the wood with a poker. He stares at the bookshelf next to the fireplace and runs his fingers on the spines of some books.

“Good morning,” says Alfred.

The boy jumps, the poker slipping from his hand crashes on the wooden floor as he turns around.  Opal opens her eyes wide and stares at the boy, she stops purring, her tail swishes as she is annoyed by the disruption in the room.

“I didn’t mean to touch anything, Sir,” says the boy.

“How are you this morning, Peter?”

“Very well, Sir.”

“Good. We have an appointment with Doctor Stephen Byron today.”

“Oh yes, I remember. Your breakfast will be served in an hour.”

Alfred nods then says, “You will have to pass me my leg.”

Peter walks towards the object made from iron which is leaning by the right side of the bed. He sees a steel rod between the circular rim which he must fix under Alfred’s knee. The intricate clockwork arranged on the shin of the prosthetic leg looks like it is made of bronze. Two elastic strings made from leather have thick steel pins attached to them, which protrude from the rim. Peter folds them into a coil. The foot is made of a black leather shoe, which looks freshly polished. The smooth iron feels cold in his hands as he faces the shin away from himself to avoid any damage to the clockwork. The artificial leg feels heavy in his arms, so he takes slow, careful steps back to his guardian. Placing it in front of him, Peter waits. Alfred moves to the edge of the bed to wear the fake limb. Opal jumps and stands next to the mechanical body part, watching it with suspicion. She likes the smell of the leather boots and tries to bite it but Peter shoos her away.  He picks the leg up and brings it closer to the knee. First, he inserts the iron rod into a cavity under the knee, then he inserts the pins into the mass beneath the kneecap. He adjusts the elastic strings to the correct position for the leg to move with ease. The steel rod and strings are covered with a leather belt that he ties around them.

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