Hephaestus Clockwork

Jessica Wilcox

July 8th 2022

Amari’s dark skin glowed under the flame of her blow torch, her locks falling down her back in a waterfall, held back in a thick butterfly clip.

She lifted the hood and examined her work. Perfect. She surveyed the rest of her machines. They were ready to fly.

Her gizmos had kept her going through the worst. Sure, she had food and everything else she needed to survive the long years of solitude, but using her hands, her problem-solving skills, and her knowledge of mechanical engineering kept her occupied, kept her busy.

Now she felt like Gaia, the mother, releasing her children into the world. 

A dozen different robot bugs lined her workshop, each the size of a small dog and modeled after a real insect. She had worked so long on them, holed up in her fallout shelter, using parts from televisions, lamps, microwaves, and any other electrical gadget she had stocked away before the plague.

The idea had come to her slowly. She spent years listening to her short-wave radio, trying to pick up any broadcast, trying to hear any indication that she wasn’t the only human left. As she tore apart an old coffee maker, trying to find anything useful to extend the range of her radio, she had a lightbulb moment.

Slender mosquitoes with long spindly legs would search for human and animal life. Dome-shaped red and black ladybugs would seek vegetation. Flies would send back information on the levels of pollutants in the air, while dragonflies would land on water to test its chemical composition. 

She opened the hatch for the first time in twenty years and bid her creations godspeed before running back to her monitors, already pinging with life.

Abundant life.

As if the plague had never happened.

She held her breath, watching the video feed as the first mosquito made contact with a group of young girls playing hopscotch. One curious girl bent down to inspect it, and as the bug shoved its metal proboscis sensor through the girl’s mouth and out the back of her head, the other girls ran screaming. 

Her monitors went haywire with the chaos as each bug destroyed what it was supposed to observe.

She realized she wasn’t Gaia after all. 

She was Pandora.

Author Bio: Jessica Wilcox hails from Buffalo, New York, where she teaches English to refugees and immigrants. She resides with her husband, three children, two cats and dog, all of whom keep her on her toes.  You can find a list of her publications at jessicaswritingspace.wordpress.com and follow her on most social media platforms as @jawilcox711.

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