She stepped over broken and rusty things as she made her way through the old and forgotten room. She had followed him here, where he had obviously come to lick the wounds they had inflicted on him. The bloody trace of her terrible, cold creation had led her across the world. Now she had finally found him.
The light from the single window fell upon him where he lay in the rubble, almost possible to mistake for part of the rubble himself. For several heartbeats she just looked at him in silence. Though broken, he was still beautiful, just as she had made him. But the beauty was deceiving – she knew that now. His heart was cold as the distant stars, and he had not been the loving remedy for her immortal solitude that she had wished for him to be.
”I did not make you for this”, she said coldly.
The cogs in his head were rusty and chipped, but tried their best to turn. “You’re my mother?” The voice was cracked and discordant; the steel wires in his throat had slackened and worn down.
”There was a time when I would that you be my timeless companion, my sole comfort, my immortal lover. And yes, it was I who once made you. Thus I am your mother.” She knelt beside him and took his once so flawless face between her hands.
His one remaining eye met hers and she almost drowned in it. When he blinked a single, oily tear rolled down his cheek, leaving a black trail in its wake. ”…lover?”, he rasped. It pained her that a voice once made for singing now derided the art with its very sound.
”Yes, lover”, she whispered. ”I have searched for you, followed in your steps, traveled the world in quest for you. But you are broken now, my love, and you have done terrible things. The time has come for you to rest.”
His porcelain face contorted in fear, but there was no strength left in his body. With strong arms she cradled his upper body close to her. He tried to struggle as he saw her removing the chain with the little key from around her neck, but she held him firmly and began singing to him softly the tunes she had once learned from the sky.
”Hush, hush”, she whispered gently. ”I’m sorry for everything. I was just so lonely, drifting through the endless ages with no one by my side. But I know now that stars were never meant to walk the Earth.”
She put the small silver key into the hole in his chest, just as she had done that night so many years ago when she had first brought him to life. As she turned the key the little door in his chest opened, revealing the still pulsing piece of eternity that shone there. Its light illuminated the cluttered room and painted flowing nebulas upon the slanted ceiling.
”Please, don’t do it”, he said. It was barely more than a whisper. ”I’ll be anyone you want me to, just let me keep it. Please.”
Deep in his bottomless eye she could see the galaxies and suns of yore slowly spinning around the black void of his pupil.
”I wanted to love you”, she whispered and closed her hand around his borrowed heart, the heart of a fallen star. He tried to grab her wrist, but she was stronger and pushed his hand away. She never let go of his gaze, her sorrow meeting his fear for the very last time.
When she removed the pulsing star from his chest, all lights of nebulas and novas instantly left his staring eye and the broken chords of his voice silenced. His limp, lifeless body collapsed in her cradling arms and she was again alone in the world.
In her hand the fallen star still pulsed with all its secret life, shifting in its searing light that was too strong for all but another star to look at. She turned it between her fingers, allowed herself to bask in its familiar light one last time. She had been desperate for a companion, but a heart like this was a heart destined to grow cold and cruel. It had been a dream, but now she must wake up.
With tears streaming down her face she lifted the little lump of stardust to her lips and gently blew it out, extinguished it with her breath. Its light went out, its warmth slowly faded in her hand. The room went dark again, no universes painted on the slanted ceiling and no secret life in the eye of the clockwork lover in her arms. Just her, alone, as it had always been. Stars were never meant to walk the Earth, and still she remained.
And outside the small, broken window the distant and unblinking lights looked down at her and continued singing the ageless, soundless tunes of the cold and uncaring sky. She closed her eyes, clutched the dead stone in her hand and silently sang along.