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Though you're dressed in rags (you wear an air of queenly grace)

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His coffee is cold. Again.

It’s maddening, how everything in this place seems to do that. Loop. Echo. Like time itself ricochetting off the walls, distorting in his mind because his brain is pointedly telling him that this has happened once before already.

All of this.

The empty halls, the terror charred into the stone, things created that were never meant to be – evil come to punish evil. And here he is, nut and bolt in making it all repeat.

A right hand helpfully nudges the grimy coffee mug, ceramic rasping against the table wood. It signs if he wants it heated: there will be a burner free soon, when the protein has coagulated fully.

“Thanks, I’m good.” Remarkable, the researcher in him notes. Well after he has abandoned the social protocol of washing, shaving, or changing clothes, he persists in ridiculous conventions like that. I’m good.

He’s not.

He’s been working hours that don’t even exist like some Medieval slave to keep that lunatic demon king happy, doing the work of an entire lab staff alone save for his familiars. Food and rest, what does a demon know of that?

“We can’t all bend time.” He mutters into his cup, swallowing the resentment back down in a mouthful of very cold and very bitter coffee. “Please get to work on the elixir, Mister Neuhaus. Please fashion me a new body, Mister Neuhaus.” All those words of polite entreaty and nothing polite about them, just mock imitations of the genuine thing. Like this godforsaken coffee.

“Mister Neuhaus~” As if on cue, as if truly called upon by speaking of the devil, a chipper voice bounces through the halls.

Igor ponders if he heard it or if he’s tired enough for auditory hallucinations.

“How did I end up here?” His gaze is vacant, idle with the apathy that comes from facing that question over and over in its own timeless loop. The hand knows him, knows this is a rhethorical question, and signs no response. “I wanted to do medical research. I wanted to find cures to diseases and take my wife out to dance on Friday evenings.” He smooths over his forehead, massaging phantom headaches and tangling in the dirty strands of hair. “Even though she knows I dance like a refrigerator.”

“Mister Neuhaus~?”

His aims had been fairly modest, hadn’t they? He had never asked much of life. His mother – rest her soul – had said so, quite frequently, that for a boy of his talent he sure didn’t do much with it. He knew what he had wanted to do with it: help people.

His head sinks into his hand, covering his eye from the nightmarish reality that had sprung from those aims. Help people. Live comfortably with his wife. What warped line of events had seen that bring him into the claws of a megalomaniac demon?

A nudge, rousing him from his pondering. The hand proffers a napkin, god knows where it found the thing. It’s a pointless action – the napkin is grimier than the mug he drank from – but the hand wiggles it again. Nudges it against his fingers. Insists.

It’s pointless, but it is the opposite of cold coffee and empty niceties.

“Thanks.” He accepts the napkin, smudges and all. The hand is still, attentive, waiting expectantly for him to use it. He might have intended to bring it to his face, but intention can get lost along the way when sleep hasn’t been a priority. There is the faintest hint of a softening at the corners of his lips when he speaks: “You know, it really–”

“Mister Neuhaus!” This time, the whole dimension seems to reverberate.

“I’m coming!” He doesn’t wipe his face, but the napkin is still in his fist when he stomps towards the lab.

The right hand watches him go. It jiggles briefly, like a dog shaking its fur free of leaves and dirt, before it hops down from the table. A swift canter carries it along, braving stairs and piles of debris, to join its breathren in the former kitchen now turned storage.

Demons love gossip, never think otherwise.

“Mister Neuhaus, Mister Neuhaus!”
Night and day it’sMister Neuhaus”
The right hand signs a mocking mimicry of the demon’s voice.

Another right hand, one with three nails missing, signs the same exaggerated pitch:
“Make me potions, brew me wonders,
WASH YOUR CLOTHING, I get dizzy…!”

Three left hands share each other’s company, always signing in unison:
“Copy formulas and doses!”
He always keeps him busy!

He takes down annotations
Till his eyelid is a-jerking
Still, He badgers!

“Keep a-working, Mister Neuhaus!”

Yeah, keep him working! The right hand flips an old wine cork in agitation. Rolling, rolling, until it hits a foot. It’s shuffling on the spot, shy thing, unsure what to do among hands; rolls the cork awkwardly under its biggest toe.

You know what? The right hand signs. Master Neuhaus won’t get his anniversary.

Shock. Outrage. The kitchen is a jitter of movement.

He won’t?
What did you say?

The right hand signs again, movements sharp with bitterness:
You’ll see. He’ll stall him.
Work, work, work! He’ll never get his wife done.

The cryo capsule hums in its corner, dustier by the un-day. All the time in the world, but no time for that. There is no time for the badly burnt remains of Mistress Neuhaus.

The foot contributes its stunted, difficult signing:
P-p-poor Master Neuhaus!

Hey! We can do it!

Astonishment. Another leftie, and it bounces down from its seat on a container of formaldehyde. It signs rapidly, excitedly.

We can do it, what’cha sayin’?
He can have his darling dearest
With her custom skin so pretty
There’s plenty here already!

We’ll cut and stitch and fit it
Put some muscle in it
When stumbling into bed
he’ll be once more like newly wed
With the lovely wife we’ll make for Master Neuhaus!

There is movement, all around. The Helpers are assembling. They know this. They know what to do and how to do it.

Hurry, hurry, hurry, hurry
Soak the skin and make it pliant
There’s no time to be abeyant
Turning off the cryo switches

I'll cut it with these scalpels! The right hand is beaming, juggling the scalpel like a drum major baton.

And I can do the stitches! The foot signs with excitement.

The leftie cuts them both short:
Leave the sewing to the adept
You go where the hair’s kept
And we'll make a lovely wife for
Master Neuhaus!

Spirited, they all join in:
We'll make a lovely wife for
Master Neuhaus!

Hands measure her every frost-rimed angle, hands mark the hide for cutting: face and arms and chest all need relining.

A seam is a whish your hand makes
Basic DIY
Suturing closed the heartbreaks
For true love is not meant to die – Oh!
The foot almost cuts the leftie’s own sutures, with its enthusiastic handling of the scissors, and gets scolded vigorously for it.

Have faith and one day you’ll find it
The warmth for which all humans yearn
For while sweet kisses can be had cheap
And beauty runs but skin deep
True love is a fourth degree burn

Helpers climb on top of one another, forming towers to reach up where the new skin is to be pinned in place. The face will be the most demanding part, but one helpful leftie has acquired an old photo of the Mistress. The right hand matches photo with measuring tape, counting off on its fingers the length required to rebuild the vermilion border of the mouth.

Okay! One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight!
A leftie on the floor checks off the centimetres before sending the plump tissue up the swaying tower of hands.

A seam is a whish your hand makes
Basic DIY
Suturing closed the heartbreaks
For true love is not meant to die~

Bundles of long, wavy hair are hauled up via pulley and a synchronised heave-ho, heave-ho!  The lips are sewn in place, the ears are sculpted back with cartilage, and the freshly fitted scalp is being lanced rapidly by pronged needles rerooting it with hair and eyebrows.

Have faith and one day you’ll find it
The warmth for which all humans yearn
For while sweet kisses can be had cheap
And beauty runs but skin deep
True love is a fourth degree burn!