The radiator-dog closed its eyes and hissed steam as its master petted it.
“An abomination!” Prof. Lillipush waved his pipe. A cloud sputtered out of his ears as his internal boilers overexerted themselves. “To separate the mechanical from the humanical race? It should never be done!” He jabbed his pipe toward the man in the overstuffed chair beside the fire. “There is a reason it says, ‘So God created them in his own image, male and female he created them, blood and gears he created them!’ Flesh was never created to sustain itself apart from the mechanical!”
The radiator-dog’s master waved a frail hand. “It sounds horrible, yes, but imagine it, Horace! A world no longer enslaved to the coal barons!” The voice wheezed in little gasps.
“You would undo all creation,” Lillipush muttered.
His pipe chipped in, “Calm down, Horace. Hey, calm down. He’s not actually thinking about doing it. Are ya, Geppetto?”
The smaller mechaniman ran a hand through his thick white mustache. “Can you fathom it, Horace? I could create a real boy! One free to run in the woods without a worry of rusting. His body could regenerate itself. He’d never need repairs!”
The gas lamps flickered. The radiator-dog whined.
“You dabble in diabolical matters, Geppetto,” Prof. Lillipush rumbled. “Mark my words, if you pursue this mad scheme, you will have all of Londinium against you. They will cry monster.”
Geppetto closed his eyes, his hand still stroking the radiator-dog’s back. “I think you should go, Horace. It is cold outside; I would not like to see you crack your boilers.”
The pipe chimed, “He’s right, Horace, old buddy, old pal. Time to be getting home.”
Prof. Lillipush addressed his pipe, “You are a traitor.”
“Your wife designed me to give you some common sense!” The device harrumphed.
The Professor plunged his pipe into his pocket. “Geppetto, abandon this madness.”
“I can’t, Horace. You know that full well.”
The fire crackled.
The professor’s words were soft. “You can’t rebuild him.”
“I know. But no one else should face what I faced.”
The radiator-dog waddled off to the kitchen.
Prof. Lillipush shook his head. “I pray that your madness leaves you.” He turned and plodded from the drawing room, his footsteps heavy on thick carpet.
Geppetto breathed, allowing his fleshly lungs absorb fresh oxygen. Those lungs would never break down. “Are we not men?” he asked the room. “Do we not bleed? Do we not tick and tock and tick again? Yes. But we should not. Not if Adam and Eve had not plucked the fruit from the tree. Had not the Creator said, ‘Ashes to ashes, rust to rust.’” He turned to the empty room. “Oh, Horace. I wish you chose to help me. I wish you had stayed.”
Lightning flashed even through the heavy curtains. The radiator-dog returned, his belly full of fresh coals.
“Well. It is time. Enough playing with the dogs.”
Geppetto stumbled up to the attic, locking the door behind him. The radiator-dog settled at the door.
The room smelled of absynth and copper. Blood and oil coated the floor. The street urchin stirred in his cage. His jaw hinge creaked as if the parts didn’t fit quite right. “Hey! Hey, mister! You gonna let me out, right?” One hand gripped a bar of the prison.
Geppetto nodded. “Of course, of course. But first, I must repair you.”
“Really, mister?” The urchin inched into the light. A gear spun free at his shoulder. No arm hung from the gear.
“I will try.” Geppetto unlocked the door and waved to the workbench in the center of the attic.
The boy obeyed the gesture. As he hauled himself onto its surface, he ventured, “I don’t see no arms anywhere up here, mister.”
“Oh, I have what is needed.” Geppetto smiled through his mustache. He reached into a crate packed with cold, cold absynth and removed a package covered in blood. “Allow me to do my work.”
The night grew long. Thunder shook the attic several times. Geppetto narrowed his eyes. The ticking of his gears sped and slowed with each breath. At last he stepped away from the bench. “Stand. Let me see you.”
The urchin marveled at his new hand. “It’s flesh, ain’t it?”
“That is correct.”
“What, you run out of good parts?”
“No, I have improved you. This arm does not run on coal. Not like your old arm.”
The boy pondered his fingers. “It’s gonna take some getting used to.”
A rapping sounded from the attic door. “Geppetto!”
The old man brightened. “It’s Prof. Lillipush! Come, come. We will show him my work with you. He will see. Yes! He will see!” He clambered down to the door. “Come, come!”
Geppetto unlocked the door and swung it open, motioning with pride to the boy’s new arm.
He froze mid-gesture. The professor stood with two constables. Their eyes fell on the bloody-armed urchin. Burly arms seized Geppetto. “Wait! No! Look, I’ve improved him! Only an arm, but I can do more! I can do so much more!”
The constables dragged him away. Prof. Lillipush followed in their wake, announcing, “It’s for your own good!”
The radiator-dog contemplated the scene with sad, sad eyes.
The urchin frowned. He looked down at the radiator-dog. “What? So he switched gears for flesh. So what? I got an arm, don’t I?”
The radiator-dog blinked. It huffed a bark.
A bark answered it from above. Claws scraped at the stairs as a black form emerged from the door.
The boy exhaled. “What? What are you, boy?” He knelt, his eyes searching along the creature’s body. “You’re… flesh? All flesh? I ain’t never seen nothing like you before.”
The dog licked his face.
“I didn’t think there could be anything made of only flesh!” The boy stood. “Come on. If them coppers see you, you’ll be in a lab forever! I’ll take care of you!”
They rushed out of the house and into the stormy night.