The sword sits on the mantle and remembers.
It remembers the blows of the blacksmith’s hammer, itself enchanted, a lob made impervious through the weaving of spells and the depth of its own hardening history. The sword is a masochist– just like a muscleman, it knows the pain will make it stronger.
It remembers the hand of its first master Arianne, a soft grip that could tighten into a whirling eye of action when necessary, tilting the balance of the blade through flesh, biting even into bone. The sword remembers this as a dance of weight and weightlessness.
The sword remembers long slapping journeys on the master’s back across the plains of Arnath, the leather of the scabbard wicking dangerous sweat across the blade, the creeping terror of oxidation. But always the master’s oiled cloth to soothe this fear. Always this dedication and care as cousin to violence.
The sword remembers a moment deep inside Mount Skey’s dark caves when the master’s skin went cold. There was a rotten magnetism in the air, and the master trembled toward the wall.
But something in the sword stirred, something that felt to the sword like joy, and a light washed the cavern ceiling. Something broke, and the master cried out in gratitude and sank to his knees cradling the sword, and the sword was delighted but confused and a little frightened, knowing not from whence the light and power came.
The sword remembers a decade at the bottom of a closet.
The sword remembers the dust of the marketplace, the shouting, the lover’s leap of being lifted by a customer– no, “too old” they would say, “too ornate,” and the sword wanted to scream, you don’t know, you don’t know, every time.
The sword remembers the old woman. She was not a warrior, or not the usual kind. She was wrapped in beads and headscarves tucked with charms. She used the oil cloth. She cared and hemmed and assessed and fondled. She seemed to hear things, to see things.
The sword remembers the moment you walked into the old woman’s hovel, weak and dusty from the road, and saw it on the mantle. The sword has something to tell you.
I wanted you to know sooner.
I knew that night that I touched the control surfaces, the gleaming reactive panels that coated the entire interface, that the augmentation would be much more than a simple mechanical procedure for me. I knew it would change me, the arc of my life bending toward this moment, a kind of romance I never anticipated, a meshing of nanoparticles and tissue.
I didn’t know I’d love a machine more than I loved you. There was no way to see it coming.
But you see now, Jamie. This isn’t just about us. I can hear the last eddies of the boardroom conversation through my newly enhanced ears, the delicate bionic cilia spreading through my cochlear cavity like a time-lapse rainforest. I know what they’re planning to do, and I know the course of our evolution depends entirely on me, and I’m falling for this. I’m falling for my place in the scheme of things like I once fell for you.
You did nothing wrong, and I’ll miss you. And I’ll miss your restaurant and those rough wooden benches and those long conversations with the twilight clover in our noses. It’s a postcard I’ll keep in my pocket. But it is a postcard. It’s not my future. It’s rough and now everything is smooth. It’s paper but now everything is plastic.
I love how clean this new reality is, and I can feel the cocaine-high of that perfection running through my veins as my fascias sprout an invincible durafilm web. My muscles are charged as if by caffeine, but I know this is something much stronger, and deeper, and it will last forever.
I hear the railguns sweep through the building, clearing out concrete and glass, flesh and bone. Dante’s hell is dropping floor-by-floor through the office park, the screams and freight-train roar getting closer every minute. Their Gaontech connections have made them so efficient, so confident. This isn’t a police action anymore. This is slaughter. Everything is going according to their plan. The conversation in the boardroom closes, unhurried; chairs are pushed back.
Everything is going according to their plan except for me. As the metal tendrils reach my heart I get one last flash of the restaurant: you setting a hot omelette on the counter after a long night together. I never appreciated your omelettes enough.
I have a new love now, and she fills me with a euphoria you never did. But perhaps I’ll earn your forgiveness through violence. Perhaps together, she and I can save us all.
“Get off my porch, yer a waste of flesh and of space, too!”
“What do I care about yer name? What in twenny hells does yer name matter to me? How in…”
“...Gimme that, you rat. Let me see that. What’s that yer holding up in front of my face? I don’t got my reading spectacles now do I, shoving it at me ain’t helping.”
“So you knew my Caroline. So you knew ‘er. But what does that matter to me? I barely got enough soup and bread for my own darned mouth.”
“So you want to see the family album? And I known you all of five minutes now, and you wanna be pawing through the goods. How’s that help me make an honest day of things? How’s that help me?”
“Ye can’t bring her back, fool. Nobody can bring her back. She’s good and dead. Now I don’t like sayin’ it so don’t make me say it again. I dunno why you road boys torment me like this.”
“Only if you pay. You stay here one night, and only if you pay extra. And only cuz you knew my Caroline. And you can look at the album but that’s all. That’s all and then you gotta go.”
“Here’s yer breakfast. Made French toast fer meself, might as well make it fer two. Why not. Have some gitdammned French toast why don’t ya.”
“What do you mean, worm-hole? We only got one kinda worm-hole ‘round here and that kind keeps the grass growin’. What’s this got to do with my Caroline?”
“I dun seen him in the picture before, never did like the look of him. Never did.”
“Yer tellin me she got off to somewhere else? Somewhere not in this world? Hell’s whiskers, sir. I just don’t know what to make of you. I ain’t got no money for you to scam. What do ye want from me?”
“I suppose it can’t hurt. Take the locket and take the album too and be off with you. I can’t spend no more time in the company of ghosts.”