“Eric, don’t go that close to the machines. You know better.”
Eric scowled. It hadn’t been the first time his father had warned him to stay away from the shop’s sharp machinery. It wasn’t his fault. The intricate way the machines worked was just too fascinating to resist. He had to know how they worked. Even though he was only nine years old, Eric had a knack for mechanics. His father sometimes let him come into the shop on weekends to see what he was working on. Eric would sometimes make suggestions, but his father seemed to always get annoyed. Eric thought maybe he didn’t like getting shown up by a kid.
“I was just looking, Dad,” Eric whined. He hated how childish he sounded, but it seemed the only way to get what he wanted. But it never worked on Dad.
“Remember the last time you were ‘just looking’?” Dad reminded him. “Almost had your hand sliced off with a chainsaw. Your mother just about had a panic attack when I told her.”
“Well maybe you should’ve kept your mouth shut,” Eric muttered under his breath, making sure Dad didn’t hear him.
Dad went back to work on a piece of metal he was melding. Steel, Eric thought. His dad had always been such a craftsman. He often made abstract art with the scraps leftover from other projects. It was magical watching him work. The way his fingers danced against the metal, feeling for any flaws on the surface. The way he held tools like an extension of himself.
Eric leaned against something nearby, sighing in enjoyment. He heard a click. His father looked up, eyes widening. Eric spun around and realized he had turned a grinding machine on. It would’ve been fine. If his jacket hadn’t been caught in it. Or if the lever hadn’t been jammed after Eric had switched it. The machine kept grinding at his jacket, slowly pulling him in. Panicking, Eric tried to take it off, but it seemed to be sticking to him like glue. His dad came running around his work table, terror in his eyes. He reached for the pieces of the jacket closest to the grinding blades, but had to retreat to save his fingers. He pulled at Eric himself, but the jacket would not relent, nor the grinder. Cursing, Dad ran over to the other side of Eric to grab some scissors, but lost his footing. And then there was screaming. And blood. So much blood. Eric wanted to look away from his father who had tripped into the machine, but he was frozen, petrified, with horror. The machine came to a stop as it was jammed with Eric’s father’s body.
Later in life, Eric recalled what had made his heart so cold. What had made him have the strange attributes he had later after the accident. It was anger. At himself. For being a slontze. For not listening to his father. He vowed never again to stand by. He wished he could’ve controlled the steel that tore his father to shreds. And so now he could. He had the power, and the ability to control what he could not before, when it was too late. But still blinded by anger, and the hatred of himself, Eric turned cold. Empty. He had now had a Steelheart.