Bicycle Man

Isaac never could draw a bicycle from memory, but most people couldn’t. Sure, they’d remember its two eponymous wheels, and the handlebars and seat came next, but so many forgot the pedals or the chain, and all too often the brakes. Many saw one on a daily basis, like their fellow humans, and yet… How could something so familiar be so difficult to recreate?

Isaac pondered this apparent paradox as he stared at the body in front of him. Actually, calling it a body at this stage was being generous. It would have been more accurate to call it a mangled heap of physiology—a chaotic assembly of flesh and bone, skin and organs and… and… and other pieces that he didn’t know humans even had, nor what purpose they served. Oh well. He shrugged his gaunt shoulders. Surely he’d figure that part out when he got to it.

Glancing up at the clock on his basement wall, he nearly dropped his hobby knife in surprise. Was it really that late already!? This labor was taking longer than anticipated, and it was still far from complete. It frustrated him how he could clearly see his goal in his mind’s eye, and yet his work looked nothing like it. Spread out across three rickety tables made from sawhorses and plywood covered in plastic sheeting, it was currently little more than a collection of body parts half-assembled by a half-mad visionary.

Yes, Isaac called himself a visionary. Others called him mad. Overall, he had a brain like a car crash: something full of broken bodies and twisted wreckage, but the wheels kept turning, if only from fatal inertia. There were voices too, of course. Sometimes they merely whispered, and other times they spoke in level tones. Sometimes they even shouted, but he always ignored them and carried on with his work anyway. It was his calling. He was following in his father’s footsteps.

Papa had operated a bicycle repair shop. It always impressed young Isaac how the man could completely disassemble a bicycle down to its component parts, then reassemble them not just into a functioning bicycle, but into one which functioned better than before. Isaac failed to see why he couldn’t do the same with a body; he just had to figure out how. Although his father had once explained the fundamental process to Isaac, he remembered the man’s professorial tone more than the exact words. He just wasn’t interested in bicycles.

Isaac first disassembled a stray cat as a teenager. After that, he was hooked. His favorite part was always the teeth: prying each one from its socket, polishing it to a pearly white, and sliding it back into position. Every tooth had its own little place in the jaw. It was so neat, so tidy. Not like the mess in front of him now.

Perhaps it was the skeleton giving him trouble, he mused. People could never draw a bicycle’s frame quite right, and that was the skeleton of the vehicle. Taking a step back, he cocked his head and scrutinized the structure. Did ribs really connect all the way around like that? No, surely not. He broke a few out and reinserted them in a different configuration, then stepped back again to take in the big picture. Yes, that looked better.

Or maybe not. Maybe there were simply too many? It did look a bit cluttered. He began jerking them out one by one until he was content with the overall appearance, then dumped an odd number of bones in the five-gallon bucket in the corner. Somehow, it still didn’t look right. He should have started with something simpler. Something smaller, like a roller skate, or a frog.

As he tugged at his hair in frustration, he gazed longingly at the row of scalps hanging from pegs on the wall. It was the full spectrum of blonde, from platinum white to cinnamon brown. He couldn’t wait to pick out just the right shade. Isaac had always had a thing for blondes. Reaching out, he tenderly stroked the nearest one, but he told himself that adding hair was like attaching tassels to handlebars. It would have to wait.

Why was taking a body apart so much easier than putting one together!? He must have disassembled a dozen of them. Was it really that many? He counted on his fingers, but upon reaching fifteen he put the arm back down on the impromptu table. At least a dozen bodies, he conceded. But no people—that would have been monstrous. It helped to think of them only as bodies. Or bicycles.

He reminded himself to focus on the positives. A bicycle had a seat, and his work had a liver. Wait, was that a liver? Yes, it looked like a liver. A bicycle also had two wheels, just like a human had two legs, and so did his work, even if both ended in left feet. A bicycle had a set of handlebars to direct its motion; a human had a brain for the same reason, and so did he. He had several brains. He was up to his elbows in brains! He looked down at his hands and made a mental note to wash them again later.

Reassured by what he did have, Isaac returned to his work with monomaniacal fervor, plunging headfirst into the vitals and viscera, and disassembling, slicing, sawing, stitching, gluing, reinserting and reassembling into the wee hours of the morning. Only when the crimson light of dawn crept through the basement’s lone, tiny window did he finally pause to examine his handiwork.

It wasn’t a perfect human, but no-body was, he told himself. In all honesty, his creation bore no more resemblance to a natural human than did a child’s drawing of a bicycle to the real thing. But it was good enough for a test run.

He clamped a pair of cables to its exposed nerves, then switched on the power and the thing gave an immediate convulsive shudder. An appendage twitched. The pupil of its blue eye dilated. The tongue writhed in its not-quite-mouth, and Isaac’s own lips twisted into an awful grin. He’d done it. He had demonstrably grasped anatomical theory. All that remained now was the execution. He’d just need one more fresh body…

image: Andrea Stöckel “Clipart Bicycle Vintage Art” under Public Domain license.

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