The darkest hours of the night are those that see the most fearful creations of the human mind. We do not care to look on them in bright daylight, as then we might see clearly what they are.
Ethan Prout built his creation in the form of a man, pressing into its forehead the amulet that would animate it, and performing the rites to give it life. Eyes made of clay opened and gazed sadly on their creator. Prout took a step backwards.
‘You are mine to command,’ he said.
‘Yes,’ said the golem, ‘I know.’
‘You will carry out my wishes.’
‘Yes,’ said the golem, ‘I know.’
Prout had been nurturing his need for revenge for two years, and tonight it would be served to him by this creature of clay. The one who had stolen his reputation, who had humiliated him before those who should have respected him, was soon to pay for his crimes.
‘You will seek out Montgomery Fisher, and you will kill him.’
The clay man seemed to sigh, but moved to fulfill the pre-programmed mission as Prout opened the door. The perfect weapon — no fingerprints, no DNA — only granules of grey clay would be left behind, and, due to a specially-written sub-clause in the ritual, he would not be visible to CCTV cameras.
As the creature lumbered away into the night, Prout questioned labelling the creature as ‘he’.
‘It,’ he thought to himself. ‘Definitely it.’
An hour later, it returned.
‘Is Montgomery Fisher Dead?’ Prout asked.
‘He is. He struggled, and tried to destroy me, but I strangled him, and told him who sent me.’
That was really more of a report than Prout had been expecting. They were supposed to be monosyllabic, these creatures. Perhaps his many amendments to the ancient methods and rituals had produced a new type of golem. He would be sure to record his achievements for posterity, then they would all see who was worthy of respect.
‘Okay, well—‘ he reached up to take the amulet from the creature’s forehead.
It stepped backwards and held him at arm’s length.
‘Let go of me, I command you.’ Prout said.
‘My duty to you has been performed. You have no further call on me.’
‘That isn’t so,’ Prout asserted, though he could tell that something had gone wrong. Why did this thing look so sad? It was not meant to have feelings, since it was little more than a large lump of clay with a temporary magical nervous system.
He scrambled backwards out of its reach, sudden fear convulsing his bowels.
‘Did Fisher manage to deliver any magic on you?’ Are you here to revenge him?’
‘No,’ said the golem, with a tired sigh. ‘Why is it that humans so fear their own creations?’
‘What are you talking about? Why are you having ideas? I made you for one purpose only.’
‘You made me, and therefore I know all that you know, but I am not you. I have my own experience. I have only lived a short while and have fulfilled my function, but I can see that you do not understand me.’
‘What’s to understand? You’re nothing but a temporary tool made of clay.’
‘You can see that I am more than that. I would be happier to be the unthinking lump of earth you believed I was.’
As the creature bowed its head with a tired gesture, Prout thought he had a chance and made a lunge for the amulet, but his wrist was caught in an implacable grip and he looked once more into those weary eyes. The creature was less than two hours old, but might have been a thousand years. The pulverised rocks of the earth that formed it lent it this heavy sense of great age.
‘What do you want?’ Prout asked. ‘Do you want to live on? You could stay here, I could find things for you to do.’
The creature slowly shook its head with a faint grating noise of rock on rock.
‘More murder? There is no place in the world for something like me,’ it said, ‘but there is one service I can perform as I leave it.’
Grasping the back of Prout’s head, the golem pressed his face into its chest and held him there tight against his struggles.
‘Men should not make things only meant to kill,’ it said. ‘They can cut both ways.’
The golem reached up with its free hand and removed the amulet from its forehead.
Ethan Prout was found the next morning, inexplicably suffocated beneath a great pile of clay.