The clockwork gears in Brother Diagram's head ached.
Yes, they ached. It was nothing like the slow, dysfunctional grinding of a poorly calibrated Cognition Engine. Besides, he had just had his parts fully serviced that afternoon. Every cog in his body was ticking at full capacity.
Yet his gears continued to ache. They ached, throbbed even, with a perfectly organic and (he shuddered at the thought) fleshly sort of pain.
It was worse than rusting over or corroding.
It was downright UNMECHANIZED.
Brother Diagram looked at himself in the bathroom mirror, which was almost all he ever used the bathroom for since he had his digestive tract refitted. Through the glass lenses of his eyes, he could see the dull weariness that had glazed over them.
What was he doing wrong? Over forty percent of his body had been Standardized. Devout he was to the rebuilding of MEKHANE. He even had a part in the restoration of one of the Sacred Components. Yet he felt no peace from the Broken One. No amount of meditation could remove the knot he perpetually felt in his brass stomach.
He hadn't felt one bit whole since the dream invaded his system six weeks ago.
Dreams are, by definition, irregular to the Standardized mind. At best, they are inefficient and unproductive constructs, meaningless to the realm of reality. At worst, they can clutter the mind with disorder and heretical thought. This was common knowledge to anyone who had read The Schema of the Patriarchs, and Brother Diagram had it memorized down to the very last iota.
It was for this very reason that Brother Diagram had gotten himself retrofitted with the newest Cognition Engine in production. Up until six weeks ago, dreams and other idle wanderings of the organic brain had been fully eradicated from his mind.
Yet this dream lingered. This impure, heretical product of the unholy Flesh continued to pervade his thoughts, entangling itself in the cog-work of his otherwise perfect psycho-mechanical faculties. He often had to excuse himself from morning prayers and daily rituals, which his fellow Brothers in the monastery frowned strongly upon. Light chores wore him out. Even the ticking of his very own mechanisms were beginning to get him — well, ticked.
As he pondered over this, Brother Diagram began to feel every piece of metal in his body heat up. The teeth of the gears in his head began to creak and groan. He knew exactly what was going to come next, and — there it was — without further warning, the dream projected itself directly upon his eye lenses, try as he might to repress it.
He was standing on the roof of the Cathedral, surrounded by a vast sea of stars. The ticking sound that had followed him ever since his conversion — the ticking he had always taken such comfort in — was absent from the complete silence around him. Yet he was filled with an odd and overpowering sense of familiarity, as if he had been there his entire life.
And as silently as the night surrounding them, MEKHANE descended down from the stars above, His ceaseless mechanisms bathed in their dim white glow. The awe of seeing the Almighty in His whole and glorious form froze Brother Diagram into place.
"Oh Lord, if I am pleasing in Your sight, let me be One with You!" he exclaimed. It did not matter how many times this dream was replayed in Brother Diagram's mind; his conversation with this simulacrum of the Broken One was always identical.
MEKHANE looked down upon him, and, in ways indescribable, motioned for him to come closer. Brother Diagram approached slowly and reverently. The Lord beckoned him even closer. And when Brother Diagram and the Lord were only a few inches apart, He spoke:
"Who are you to say that I am not whole?"
His voice was nothing like Brother Diagram had ever imagined. Although the words shook him to his alloy core, they were soft and gentle, like a moonbeam diffusing through a canopy of leaves.
"…I do not understand, Lord. I beg of you, help me to understand your Mind and your Will, so that I may be whole!" Brother Diagram pleaded.
"You will come to understand. You will understand, and you will know how brokenness is whole."
"What does this mean, O Lord?"
"You are now whole, as I was once whole. And yet you are empty, as I was once empty. I was one of the first to understand, although many were told. I was broken, as you will be broken. And now I am full, as you will be full."
The words of MEKHANE melted in between Brother Diagram's ears like water into desert sands, their meaning showing itself momentarily, only to disappear forever.
"Please, Lord, help me understand. How may I serve you more?" he pleaded once more.
No reply came from the clockwork deity. Diagram noticed that the stars behind MEKHANE were getting brighter — no, rather, the dark was losing its darkness.
"Please Lord!" he pleaded with greater intensity. His eye lenses were filled with tears, although he had had his lacrimal glands removed years ago.
"You have all been told, but they do not understand. I called you to be with Me, as I was called to be among the stars. I was never whole until I was broken, and now I am full. Who are you to say that I am not whole?"
Before Brother Diagram could say anything else, MEKHANE had disappeared; the darkness had likewise faded into complete absence, leaving a field of stars silently dotting a background of not-dark.
With this, the projections ended. Brother Diagram's components returned back to normal, except for the aching of the gears in his head. But it would come back. This was the fifth iteration this week.
The fifth iteration this week.
Fifth. The word seemed to bounce off of the inner walls of his metal skull. It was tearing him apart, breaking him down from the inside.
He had to tell someone.
No, he thought to himself. This is heresy. No Mind can even begin to contemplate the glory of the Broken One in His wholeness. This is a work of the Flesh.
He had to tell Brother Superior.
No. MEKHANE would never make Himself known through an aberration of the organic brain. Even if this were so… He would never tell His people — His clockwork servants — to strive for anything but His rebuilding… right?
He had to tell the Church.
NO! This is an ABOMINATION! An impure corruption of Standardized Thought! It goes against the Writ… his logic processes ceased momentarily. Did it go against the Word? He recalled every passage pertaining to MEKHANE's direct revelation to His followers. Had He ever said He was broken? Had he ever asked for His body to be rebuilt?
A bead of lubricant-laced sweat trickled down his temple. True, MEKHANE had asked His people to join with Him. But what did it mean to join with Him?
I called you to be with Me, as I was called to be among the stars.
Brother Diagram fell to his knees. MEKHANE would be restored. But not in this world. Not with the corroded pieces of metal and alloy He purposely left behind.
Flesh decays. Machines fail. Even darkness will eventually fade.
But the stars…
He would tell Brother Superior.
He would tell the Church.
He would tell the WORLD.
For the first time in six weeks, the gears in Brother Diagram's head stopped aching.
And for the first time he could ever think of, his ticking clockworks ran in continuous — and complete — silence.