10. A Tale of Mechanical Dolls

With Hermes in need of a tune-up and a new speedometer, Kino plans to stop and get him checked out at the next village- that is, if she can find her way out of the forest they are in. Continuing onwards, however, Kino and Hermes almost run into an old woman walking along the road, and as they come to a halt, the old woman introduces herself- she works as a maid for a family that lives here in the forest.

When ‘Nanny’ tells them that there is no village nearby, Kino and Hermes accept her invitation to return to her home and rest there. Once there, Nanny goes off to do her chores, telling Kino and Hermes to take a rest in the back room. Whilst searching for the correct room, however, they stumble upon a far stranger place- a laboratory filled with mechanical robotic parts! Finding them there, Nanny explains that this is the place where she was created- for Nanny herself is a mechanical doll.

That evening, the family (mother, father and young son) returns home, and Nanny prepares dinner for everyone. Whilst Nanny goes off to ‘recharge’, Kino sits down to eat with the family, only to discover that they seem to be a little odd. Not only are their answers to her casual questions vague and formulaic, but, while Kino eagerly eats the meal, they leave their plates untouched- finally getting up at the end of the meal to scrape it all into a waste chute! However, when Nanny returns to ask them how the meal was, they compliment her on it as if they had eaten every bite.

Later that night, Kino and Hermes ponder the odd behaviour of the family and their lifelike mechanical doll- at least until Kino decides to take advantage of her first chance in a while to get some rest in a proper bed. Yet the next morning it becomes clear that their actions weren’t just a one-off, for whilst Kino eats her breakfast, the family once again throw their food into the waste chute without touching a bite.

Whilst the family heads off to work and school, Kino tries to find out more about Nanny, but she claims to have no knowledge of who created her; all she knows is how to fulfil her purpose of taking care of the family. Changing the subject, Nanny promises to take Kino out for a picnic lunch, for there is something that she would like to show the traveller.

Leading Kino and Hermes through the forest, Nanny takes them to a cliff overhanging a beautiful blue lake- but it is not just the lake she wants them to see. For, in the depths of the lake there lies the ruins of an old country, but whilst Nanny claims that it is the remains of an ancient civilisation, to Kino and Hermes, it looks far more recent- most likely, the very country they were looking for in the first place.

Back at the house, Kino and Hermes contemplate what they have seen, whilst Kino takes the opportunity to fix the motorrad as best she can. Unfortunately, she cannot do anything with the speedometer, but to her surprise, Nanny is able to fix it, claiming that machines have to be able to look out for each other. When she is finished, however, Nanny collapses, claiming that she is running low on oil.

That evening, Kino once again eats dinner with the family, and once again, they throw their untouched meals into the waste. Nanny, however, does not appear to be doing so well, and later that evening, Kino finds her collapsed on the floor. Coming downstairs, the family help put Nanny into bad, but she only has time to exchange her final few words with them before ceasing to function.

Later, Kino and Hermes can only stand and watch as the family dig a grave for Nanny on the cliff above the lake, burying her with two other skulls- those of her husband and son. Despite her claims, Nanny was indeed a human, and now that she is gone, the family explains the truth. Many years ago, the country in the lake was inhabited by two races, and tensions between them were high. At the time, Nanny was a brilliant young scientist, and her goal was to create mechanical dolls that could carry out menial tasks, thus freeing the populace to work on overcoming their differences.

Day after day, Nanny would toil in her laboratory in her efforts to create the perfect mechanical doll, finally creating three models- the family that Kino has been staying with. To celebrate her success, she invited her husband and son to come and have a party with the dolls, but even as she greeted her family in the street, a terrorist bomb claimed their lives. And, when Nanny rushed over to check on their bodies, a nearby building collapsed on top of her.

It was the mechanical dolls who rescued Nanny and nursed her back to health, even building a recreation of her house in the forest, and flooding the now destroyed country so that Nanny would never be able to go back and relive her painful memories. By the time she recovered, however, Nanny seemed to have no memory of her past life- in her mind, she believed she was the mechanical doll, created to serve the family that now lived with her. Nanny had never been able to spend as much time as she wanted with her real family, and so the real mechanical dolls accepted the lie so that she could finally live the life she had always wanted.

Now, some fifty-four years later, Nanny is gone, and that means that the mechanical dolls can no longer fulfil the purpose they once had. Instead, they turn to Kino, offering to be her family instead- they can take the role of parents, siblings, children, friends- anything she wishes. Despite their insistence that humans need others, Kino declines their offer. Accepting her words, the family walks away, hand in hand, only to step off the edge of the cliff and fall into the lake below. With no purpose, there is no longer any need for them to exist. And, as they sink to the bottom, all Kino and Hermes can do is move on…