THE CLEANING GOLEM • by S. Cameron David

“Tell me,” said Anthony, spitting out the words through gritted teeth. He had just returned from a night of carousing to find his workroom immaculately clean, free of all the accumulated stains and spillage, with every book and scrap of parchment neatly sorted and packed away. “Tell me what you see.”

And standing before him was a great automaton of copper and steel, welded into a vaguely humanoid shape, albeit one of extraordinary girth and size. Its lack of eyes did not prevent it from scanning the room, swivelling on whatever manner of contraption might have passed for its great neck. Likewise, its lack of a mouth did not keep it from speaking. A great voice roared from within the giant.

“I… see… the workroom.”

“Yes,” said Anthony. Walking past the piles of parchment stacked neatly atop the table, he made his way to the bookcase, where the books were aligned in perfect rows. All was tidy and in perfect order, with none of the general chaos that so often characterizes a wizard’s abode.

“All… is… clean,” the golem said.

Anthony took a single book from off the shelf. It was an ancient book, thousands of years old, the only copy of its kind to be found in all the world. He paged through it with a look of vague distress, then set it back in its proper place.

“I… fulfill my… function.”

Slow and plodding, Anthony pulled out one of the chairs that came neatly slotted beneath the table, set at an angle of precisely ninety degrees. He fell into it with all the grace of a marionette released from its strings. Rueful laughter escaped from his lips as he recalled the warnings of his peers.

Always be careful when constructing golems — when designing the routines, subroutines and various algorithms that would dictate their behavior — for they will always adhere to their designer’s commands, and with flawless precision at that.

Anthony looked over towards the first golem he had ever enchanted, a mechanical titan built not to wage war or to defend his mansion, nor to dedicate itself to any particularly complicated task. He looked over at his firstborn creation, at his Cleaning Golem, designed only to keep his lodgings tidy. He had believed such a project would prove simple enough. That there would be no unpleasant surprises.

He’d been overconfident, perhaps.

When he had left in the morning, his working notes had flooded across this tabletop, flooded across it in a disordered sprawl of half-finished scribbles and calculations, and yet now, when he looked upon it, all he could see was clean, unwritten parchment neatly stacked in place. With an absent gesture, he set one of those neatly ordered stacks aflame. Immediately the golem raised its arms and unleashed a stream of water, strangling the fire before it could leave unsightly ash stains upon the wood.

And with a blast of hot air, the scraps were dry, as if they had never been soaked to begin with.

Anthony had not been watching. His eyes instead turned back towards his bookcase, remembering the book he had paged through earlier, a book which now contained nothing but hundreds of pristine white pages, free of the ink stains that should have covered its leaflet sheets. And he had little doubt that, were he to inspect every book in his collection, he’d find them all in the same condition.

So much time and effort compiling all those incalculably rare and priceless tomes — some which had survived for hundreds of years, survived earthquakes and fires and wars. But then there came the Cleaning Golem…

He laughed abruptly. It was the kind of laugh that came tinged with self-reproach.

He should have seen this coming.

“You have something to say for yourself?” he called out to the golem.

“All is… spotless.” Its voice carried in itself an inflection much like satisfaction. Satisfaction in a job well done.

Another piece of advice rolled back into his mind. How exactly did it go?

The failure of a golem is not the fault of the machine, but rather of the one who built it.

He reclined lazily in his chair, looking across at the fruit of his labors, and ruefully shook his head.

“Yes,” he replied. “I suppose it is.”

S. Cameron David has had a fascination for myth, folklore and fantasy for perhaps as long as he can remember. He loves stories in general, whether they be real or imagined, and has an unfortunate tendency to get lost sometimes in his own head.

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