The doctor placed his hand on your shoulder.
"__________, we have to go," he said checking his watch. "The barometer's dropping. There will be a cold fluctuation in the temperature soon."
You didn't move. You only remained kneeling by the place where Ludwig and Gilbert laid beside each other. Gilbird remained perched atop his old master's gravestone. He was always a smart little bird.
"Gilbert…" you murmured. "The last thing I said to you was that I hated you. I didn't mean that. I've always loved it when you…When you…That's funny. I can't remember. I can remember your voice. You were always so loud, and yet I don't remember the things we did together. And Ludwig…I know you were always there for me. I loved you—no—I still love you, and no matter what, I promise I won't forget that."
A chill wind blew through the yard. Sensing the doctor's urgency, you placed your hands onto the brother's graves and bowed your head.
"Thank you," you whispered. "You've done so much for me. Thank you both."
"___________, we really have to go now," you heard the doctor say.
"I understand," you said and stood up without any help. Then, after taking a final look at the graves, you called Gilbird onto your head and walked back to the car.
During the car ride back to the hospital, the doctor took the liberty of explaining more things in detail.
"It's been, what, at least a century since you were last put to sleep." He chuckled. "A lot has happened. Let me tell you, in the last—actually, I think politics are the last things on your mind, aren't they?"
You didn't say anything.
The doctor sighed. "I'm sorry you've had to go through with all of this, __________," he apologized. "The Beilschmidts have apologized over and over again for what they've done to you, but they truly did this to you for what they believed to be in your best interests. Ludwig couldn't bear to lose you. Gilbert…when he turned the two of you in, he had hoped to save you. He, as well as Ludwig, knew that your body was incomplete, and without the proper attention, your everlasting life would not have made it this far. It took this long for us to fix your body, for technology to catch up with their research."
He took a moment to pause for you to take everything in.
"That being said, I never had the fortune of meeting the Beilschmidts, myself. It was my grandfather who knew them when he had been the head director, and he had passed the story onto my late father. After everything's sorted out and you get used to your new body, we can talk about what the Beilschmidts left you."
You remained silent, only moving to blink and stroke Gilbird.
After a few weeks of rehabilitation and checkups, the doctor gave you permission to leave—except you would have to be wary of the temperature in your given environment. That was something the bioengineers and doctors also couldn't fix.
"Before passing on, both of them wrote memoirs about their time with you," he said while helping you gather your few possessions. "The memoirs have been published and have been considered some of the highest documentation in scientific feats known to humankind.
"You get to keep their house along with all the profits they would have made through the breakthroughs and awards. They thought it was best that they give you as much of a future as possible. Copies of their books are also waiting in Ludwig's office.
"Your digestive system now has the ability to digest any type of food. No more lukewarm water or weak soup. Also, you may have noticed that your mobility has greatly improved, courtesy of the company and the evolution of science and engineering. All of your organs have been perfectly replicated to the cell so there should no longer be any rejections. However, since your memory is still not recovered, you might experience some migraines. Be sure to contact us if you have any problems." He handed you a small card with the name of the bioengineering company and a few numbers printed on its face.
"Is there anything you wish to ask before I take you to your house?" the doctor finally asked.
You shook your head. "I'll try to manage on my own for a while."
"As per requested by Ludwig," the doctor added, "everything in the house is fully functioning and taken care of. He also told me to send you daily groceries to your house when you woke up again."
You couldn't help but smile. While Ludwig had been cold, he had always been thoughtful.
A few goodbyes and last words later, you bid the doctor farewell and headed into the house you had spent so much time in many decades ago.
This time, the drapes were pulled back allowing the sun to pour in like liquid gold bathing the house in light. The old smell of potatoes and wurst had completely faded, yet the bars remained installed into the walls.
"Gilbird, doesn't this feel familiar?" you asked your pet as you explored each room hoping to regain some of your fuzzy memories. When you came to your room, you saw the shelves of dolls still sitting in place, untouched. There wasn't a speck of dust to be seen in the house as no one had taken up permanent residence for such a long time. After setting your old doll back on the shelf, you stepped back to admire each and every one. It was funny how Ludwig and Gilbert had named their project after your hobby. Even to the day you had woken up again, they hadn't forgotten that.
Next came Ludwig's office. You didn't have too many memories of being inside this particular room since the place had usually been off limits. On the desk, there was a small stack of hardcover novels with the title "The Weight of Porcelain." The covers were all white save for the title and the names of the authors, the people who had been your friends and family when you had none.
You turned to Gilbird. "Fancy a little bit of reading?" you asked him.
After sitting down in Ludwig's chair, you were about to open up the first book when you noticed something glistening in the sunlight. Upon closer inspection, you remembered the name of the object from something that Gilbert might have told you: a ring.
You smiled a bittersweet smile. Had you not been in the accident, you would have aged along with Ludwig and Gilbert. Somewhere along your life, Ludwig would have proposed to you at the right time, and you would have all grown old together with Gilbert telling your children about all of the times he had been awesome. Alas, such a life never happened. You could only look towards the future as an entity trapped inside a never-aging body.
Taking a deep breath, you flipped past the first blank pages and began to read of the detailed passages that Ludwig and Gilbert had tediously put together in account to your life's existence. All the while, you felt a small lump resting on your shoulder. Gilbird was looking at the pages from above as if he could read, too. You wouldn't be surprised if, at his age, he could.
"How bad is it?"
"It didn't turn out as well as I expected. I didn't think it would, but I didn't think it would be this incomplete. Her motor skills are out of sync, and her nerves aren't accepting all of the organs."
"We did the best we could."
"It's not enough. She's going to be in a lot of pain when she wakes up."
"You knew that there could have been far worse things that could have happened when you agreed to do this. Did you really think about what she might think of this when or even if she gains consciousness?"
"As long as she lives, that's all that matters."
"You're not the one going through the pain."
"I know that."
"This is why love is so unawesome."
"Stop lying. You love her, too."
"…Not in the same way you do. At least I have my boundaries."
"Whatever happens, I'll be with her. Even if she doesn't remember me, I'll stay with her until the end."
"You do realize what might happen if this is successful, right?"
"…Yes, but I still want to give her a future."
"That future could be forever."
"___________, if you can hear me—and I doubt you can—but I want you to know that no matter when you wake up, know that I still love you. I always have, and that fact will remain true long after I pass. It's too late for us to do the operation, and I don't think you'd want to spend the rest of your life with an old man.
"I've made some mistakes along the way, but know that I did it all for you. When you awake, Gilbert and I might not be here. Gilbird will be the only one left from your past. Keep him close to you. And since we won't be around, know that I'm sorry. I'm sorry for putting you through all of that pain for so long. I'm sorry you'll have to live in a world where time has moved forward, but you have not. And…I'm sorry for being selfish. Maybe you didn't want this kind of life. You will have to see many people pass on before you, yet you will also build up many more memories when they fix you.
"___________...Know that no matter the time or the place, we will always keep you in our hearts. The future we have given you will be our final gift to you. Use it well, and try to be happy.
"...Goodbye...and sweet dreams."
Thank you so much for reading~