Clockwork, a short story by Garen Whited, tells the tale of a man who tries to use his mechanical expertise to do something humanity has never done–overcome death. As he labors to construct his ‘daughter’ with a former experiment/son named Robert, you witness a man obsessed with doing the impossible and all the ironies that it brings.
Being a short story, Clockwork can be read in under ten minutes and features only three characters. Those are Daniel–the creator/father, Robert–his first attempt at creating an artificial construction, and Katherine–his second artificial construction which is human in appearance and action and is meant to replace a deceased daughter. The dynamic between these three is very interesting.
Daniel is obsessed with bringing Katherine to life while being extremely intolerant of Robert who repeatedly calls him father. Robert’s capacity to think and reason on his own is limited, but he does everything that he can to aide Daniel and even expresses distress to Katherine over his ‘father’s’ death. Katherine is a curious blend of human and mechanical reactions. Upon awakening she seems to immediately grasp that she’s a machine, but reacts to most things in an extremely human manner. She also treats Robert with more courtesy and respect that Daniel ever did.
As mentioned above, the whole point of the story seems to be in overcoming death and mortality. Daniel literally works himself to death in order to bring Katherine to life. When she learns that Daniel is dead and cannot be repaired, she seeks a way to transfer his consciousness to a mechanical body, an objective that seemed to be the next step in his research. With Robert’s assistance, Katherine begins building a contraption that will allow her to ‘download’ Daniel’s consciousness in preparation for transferring it into a body that’ll be built at a later time. However, just as she’s on the verge of completing this, her power source runs out of energy and she freezes. Katherine remains unmoving, Daniel remains in limbo, and Robert–the ‘son’ that he’d dismissed–is the only one left functioning, but can do nothing without a direct order.
I found the ending of Clockwork to be incredibly ironic, but also something that made an excellent point. Nothing is immune time. Not humanity and not machines. We all have a time limit, but if you have the five to ten minutes it takes to read Clockwork, there’s a wonderful story waiting within.