Barely visible in the cold dark before sunrise, rain fell softly onto the streets as dawn threatened to break on this abandoned neighborhood. The burnt-out streetlights once shone brightly in this place once full of families and friends, but only vermin and those who are regarded poorer than the vermin reside here now. In this bleak hour between day and night, a pale man staggered into a nearby building, a ratty tarp loosely hung over his thin frame as protection from the storm. To the casual observer, it would look as nothing more than a homeless vagrant stopping for a place to rest (or perhaps engage in less savory activities, depending on the observer's cynicism). But this building was not chosen at random. This stranger had purpose.
The heavy wooden door creaked loudly as the man entered and slumped to the ground, completely exhausted from his journey. He lifted his head and surveyed his environment. This decrepit old building was once a library, a proud institution of learning for all. But time and vandals had taken their toll on this place: books were scattered all over, torn to pieces; shelves were knocked over and walls either spray-painted or destroyed. A faint flickering glow illuminated a room to the back of the building, the only sign of civility in this otherwise emaciated husk of society. The man sighed a sigh of relief as he shakily stood up and cast off his makeshift coat, revealing a body near starved of care. Unkempt black hair fell wildly onto a gaunt, unshaven face, and his wire-thin body clothed only in a wife-beater tank top and dirty jeans appeared weak and feeble with the exception of his right arm, which appeared to be a richly intricate mechanism of gears and cogs made to resemble an arm that extended just beyond the shoulder. Steadying himself, the man slowly made his way to the back room and entered.
Unlike the rest of the building, this room was clean, if a bit wet from cracks in the ceiling. Candles nestled in each of the corners provided light for this building (the city had disconnected power from this area years ago), and shelves once used for books had been broken down to create makeshift beds for weary travelers, upon which one man more impoverished than the stranger lay resting. In the center of the room lay a now empty brass bowl on a pedestal adorned with images of hammers and gears. At the far left corner of the room, an elderly gentleman sat reading a book at a librarian's desk, the only original piece of furniture well looked after. Not wishing to disturb the sleeper in the opposite corner, the stranger weakly called out, "F-father Williams…?"
The old man snapped his head up from his book and looked above his half-frame glasses to see who had called his name. With a warm smile, he beckoned the stranger to his desk and replied, "Alex! Come in, have a seat! You're always welcome here!". As Alex made his way to his desk, Father Williams noted that Alex's eyes were puffy and red, as though he had just been crying. Internally, Father Williams sighed sadly. He felt he knew what Alex had come to him for.
Alex pulled up a chair on the opposite side of Father Williams' desk and sat down. "Father, I…I…" was all he was able to mutter before breaking down into tears and sobbing. Father Williams waited patiently for Alex to finish, but inwardly he was not surprised. Alex had come to them at a low point in his life: no friends, no family, no home and near death. Father Williams remembered the day Alex was brought into their makeshift church, how his curiosity and fear fell away when he was enlightened by the scriptures of their Broken Lord. Father Williams knew Alex's spirit was strong, but even the most hardened souls are crippled by the Rebuilding, and even months later Alex's mind was still recovering from his baptism.
Alex sniffed and composed himself, wiping his eyes with his hands. He took a deep breath before attempting to speak again. "Father Williams, I need to talk to you. I have transgressed against our Lord, and I have had heretical thoughts that I don't want to have anymore. Please help me."
Father Williams paused for a moment, then spoke. "Alex, you are one of the most faithful parishioners I have ever come to know in my time as a priest for our Lord. Forgive my disbelief, but I find it unlikely that you have done anything to offend Him."
"I-I know, Father, and more than anything do I want to believe that. It's just…I…these thoughts…I…"
Father Williams extended his hand to calmly interrupt the young man's stammers. "I understand, Alex. Please, tell me what troubles you."
Alex took a deep breath. "Father, I have felt more at home in this church than I have anywhere in my entire life. The thought that our Lord loves me is a comfort unlike anything I've ever felt before. Our Lord God has done so much for me…" Alex trailed off and looked down in shame. Before Father Williams could reply, Alex spoke up again. "That is why I come to you now, Father. I know the texts say that He loves me, but…but why? Why would He love me? I am just some worthless bum who couldn't even handle the Rebuilding, so why…" Alex's voice trailed off into a whisper, "…why would He ever want me?".
After a moment of silence, Father Williams knew how he could convince Alex once and for all. "Show me your arm, Alex." Father Williams said warmly, extending his hand to take Alex's arm. Confused, Alex extended his right arm. Father Williams smiled as he said, "No, Alex. Your other arm."
Alex gently laid his clockwork arm onto the desk, and Father Williams carefully examined the brass limb. A beautifully constructed testament to the Lord, it was easy to forget that this was once a diseased, barely functioning appendage used only to imbibe toxic chemicals in a futile attempt to seek comfort from daily living. Alex was unclean, he needed to purify himself, and this arm had been the gateway to sin. Even now, the divine oil used to Rebuild Alex's arm (as well as the septic appendages for the other devout) was kept safely hidden in Father Williams' desk, ready to flow into the sacred basin in the center of the church to cleanse sickness.
Father Williams carefully considered the arm for a moment, then carefully removed one of the outermost gears. "There. Please try to move your arm, Alex."
The cogwheels in the upper arm moved as they always did, but the gears below the elbow stayed perfectly still, and the arm refused to move. Alex began to panic as he desperately tried to lift his arm, the gears spinning madly in an attempt to produce an effect.
"Please, Alex, calm yourself." Father Williams said soothingly. Alex looked back to see Father Williams staring at the removed gear. "It is interesting, isn't it? How something so small can affect so much?"
Father Williams turned his attention back to Alex. "When we give our praises to our Lord, we are not simply worshiping a mindless machine that knows or cares nothing about us, despite what the heretics may think. Our souls, that which make us what we are, this is what we give to our God. He is not called 'The Broken God' because He is some robot that needs physical repair. He is called 'The Broken God' because each of us, our souls, are a missing piece of Him."
"And that, Alex, is why you should not fear to lose our Lord's favor, because just as you need him, He needs you. He loves you because you and He are the same in spirit. Just like He needs me, and He needs every one of us. You will never lose our Lord's love, because much like this gear and your arm, He cannot be without you. So when you are alone and fearing that you have nothing to give to our Lord, remember one thing:" Father Williams looked down and replaced the missing gear back into its socket, then looked back up at Alex. "That even something small is needed to make the whole complete."
Alex tried once again to lift his arm, and this time it moved as though nothing had happened to it. Alex looked at Father Williams for a moment, then smiled. "Thank you, Father. I feel much better now." Alex stood up, shook Father Williams hand and left, this time with a newfound spring in his step. Father Williams chuckled as he turned his attention back to his book, a text from an archaic religion that nevertheless had many good selections that evoked thoughts of his own Lord. That young man reminded Father Williams of himself when he was younger. Perhaps next time Alex comes to visit, he should bring up the possibility of joining their Church's clergy. In his book the old man found his favorite passage, which he murmured aloud to himself.
"Humble yourselves, therefore, under Gods mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, for he cares for you."