Building a Windmill


The parts for the windmill had been scavenged from cities that had been abandoned after the first nuclear attack. A few of us were lucky to survive. We were on subways, protected in shelters or the basements of our homes. The blast wiped out millions leaving the rest of us wondering who had it worse. We struggled for food, clothes, materials to rebuild. They were all items we took for granted in the old world.

Julius showed up in a steam-powered hunk of metal resembling a car when the sun was at its peak, struggling to blister us with heat and failing. The clouds were too thick now with debris from the fallout that refused to disappear. His hat was pulled forward, covering his eyes and he walked with hunched determination. It didn’t look good.

He greeted me with grim determination and I waited for him to claim what he couldn’t have. What I refused to give up.

“The windmills are almost done.” He spit into the dirt as if anticipating the foul thing he was going to say next. “We just need the central pivot.”

My hand clenched into a fist.

“She’s not yours to take Julius.”

“We’ve looked everywhere to find what we need.” He took his hat off and wiped his brow. “We need her parts to complete the windmills.”

Sara peeped out of the house. Mousy brown hair flopped into her eyes as she walked out. I wanted to yell at her. Tell her to get back in the house. But, I knew there was no point. I’d lost already.

Julius nodded to Sara.

“You need me, don’t you?” she asked. Her voice flat. Or was that fear I detected?

Julius ducked his head. It was hard to look into the eyes of a girl and tell her that life was over. Even if the girl was a robot.

“Yes, ma’am. We need you.”

She turned toward me. It was my decision. After my children died in the time before, I’d made her look like my own Sara and gave her the same name. She was parts that I’d put together. A machine and nothing more. And yet, she was the center of my world.

“No. You can’t have her.”

“You know we need her parts to finish the pivots of the windmills. We haven’t got anything else.”

“That’s not true. There’s something else you can use.” I responded.

Julius looked confused. He didn’t know. I’d never told him.

“Sara, help me with this.” She knew what I wanted to do.

“But momma, are you sure?”

I sat on the edge of the porch and slid my pants off. Julius looked away, embarrassed and confused. From my legs, small lights and burnished metal whirred and clicked with the power I needed to walk.

I detached the metallic legs and pulled them away from my body. I’d have to create something new. But, I could live another day without my legs. But without my daughter, I was nothing.

Julius took my offering and left while Sara sat next to me on the porch.

This is my first try at writing steampunk with a central concept of “pivot”. Check out the other stories at the link above and vote for your favorites.


5 thoughts on “Building a Windmill

  1. Both Julius and the narrator were really vividly portrayed. We’re fully aware of their motivations, and we’re invested in their fortunes. Sara was a little harder to read (perhaps because she’s a robot?). She lacked the agency of the other characters (again, perhaps because she’s a robot), which I found hard to reconcile with how attached the narrator was to her.


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