The whirring and clanking of the ink machine echoed off the empty walls of the room and down the hall, halting Henry mid-sketch. Was it running already? Surely not; Joey said he wouldn’t even try to work it for another 6 months. Something about prototype designs and complex calibrations… Henry couldn’t see how it would help them animate any faster or better, but he was always game to try something new. And with it being so large and impressive, and using so much ink! It must really do something amazing.
Henry walked down the halls, stretching his arms and hands along the way. They had been working non-stop on their most recent story, “The Dancing Devil”, and still seemed unlikely to meet their deadline in 2 weeks. Still, it wouldn’t do anyone any good to work themselves to injury. Breaks are important for any activity. Though, Sammy might disagree; the reclusive man choosing to stay tucked away in his office most hours of the day and throwing a fit whenever interrupted.
Walking through the wooden doorframe, Henry saw Joey lying on the floor under the machine; some sort of door propped up with a small wooden beam. The large tank at the end of the machine was filled to the brim with ink, and the gears on the side clinking in an uneven and jarring manner. Not wanting to disturb his boss, he skirted the wall in the room; moving to face the large nozzle.
The machine continued for another moment, and finally let loose a large groan; the gears halting in place. A large glob of ink oozed out of the nozzle and hit the floor with a wet thud. Though the wood was a porous material, the ink didn’t seem to absorb in. The contrast was striking. Joey let out a few grumbles, reaching blindly for the large wrench at his side. The black liquid was fascinating to watch; the light reflecting off as a sharp white, and swirling lazily in the airflow. It was strange how the ink appeared thin as water, yet was cohesive enough to hold a few bubbles in shape.
The reflection was so intense, nearly half the bubble seemed white… Henry had to stop himself from imagining the shape of a bowtie between the two largest orbs.
…and eyes. And gloves. Maybe he had been working too hard. He took a deep breath and rubbed his face. When Henry looked down again, those eyes blinked at him. He must be out of his mind. He knelt down for a closer look, and sure enough, another unmistakable blink.
“So, uh… is it normal for the ink to be looking at me, or…?”
A large thunk, followed by several curses. “Henry, you scared the daylights outta me!” The older man scooted out from under the hood, rubbing his graying head. “And whaddaya mean ‘lookin’ at you?”
Henry pointed closer to the black orb, swirling slowly. “This! It… well, it looks like it’s got eyes.”
Joey pulled himself up with the machine, and hobbled over to his employee. “Ha! My boy, it sounds like you need a –“
Henry watched as the bubbles reformed; the smaller moving atop the larger, like a tiny jet black snowman. What had looked like light reflections off the ink were actually staying in place and taking shape – a stark white against the ink. Henry couldn’t believe what he was seeing. It was small. It was 3 dimensional. It was even a little out of proportion. But without a doubt, it was Bendy.
“-break. Oh my god.”
The tiny figure reached his gloved hand out at Henry’s pointing finger, and shook it like he was introducing himself. Henry had to restrain from pulling away from this strange, living thing.
“W-well aren’t you cute?” Nervous laughter escapes his mouth, as the tiny Bendy pulled himself up on Henry’s finger. His little smile peeked out from the overly-large bowtie. Joey was frozen in place, cigarette having dropped from his mouth. A tiny gloved hand pointed upward, gaze unchanging and focused on Henry. Out of instinct, he looked up and did not see anything. He heard a little squeak, as the miniature put his hands on his hips. Clearly, Henry missed the jist, as he motioned a small glove up again, then pointed to himself.
“I- oh. Ok, going up then.” Cupping both his hands, Bendy hopped right on as Henry moved to stand up. He turned to Joey. “Whaaaaat are we looking at here, boss?”
“I… I- I- I was only calibrating the machine, it wasn’t ready, wasn’t supposed to- but, holy cats, it worked!”
Holding him closer, henry got to take a better look at this tiny figure. He could not have been more than 8 inches tall, but had all of the unmistakable features and details; down to the pie-cut eyes. The proportions were off; his bowtie almost comically huge, and his gloves drooping at the fingertips. In an odd way, it was charming. Joey came over and stuck his face down to Bendy’s level, taking a critical look at this surprise creation. “Well, sorta worked. I didn’t think this thing would make ‘em so small.”
The tiny figure crossed his arms, sticking a kitten-sized tongue at the older man. He made a little blowing noise, like that of a party favor. Henry let out an exasperated laugh, sound effects. He came with his own set of sound effects.
It was definitely intelligent, and even had its own personality. That was enough for Henry. He didn’t know how or why, but this tiny thing was alive. At least, it some way.
“I’m sorry, how rude of us! I’m Henry, and this is Joey. We created you, Bendy. Do you understand?”
The small ink bubble turned back to face Henry, attitude forgotten, and tilted his head. Henry could have sworn that his grin drooped a bit. The demon plopped back down in Henry’s palm, and looked and his gloved hands. Then back to the two men.
He assumed the thinkers pose, and tiny ink cogs floated above his head. After a moment of tiny gear clicking sounds, they popped like a balloon. Henry stifled his rising giggles; this really was a cartoon. A cartoon, here in from of him, in the palm of his hands. It was the epitome of animation, the ultimate imitation of life! Or maybe, not an imitation. How deep this went, he could only imagine.
Bendy looked back at Henry slowly, pointing to him, then to himself. The demon was not meant to be a fast thinker. “Uh, if you’re asking what I think you are, then yeah.”
His tiny eyes and smile grew, and he jumped from Henry’s palm to his shirt, giving him a little hug. Henry patted his tiny back, returning the smile. “Heh, you’re welcome little guy.”
Joey held his hands out to Bendy, who turned and hopped right on. “You are amazing! This- This is huge! We have so much to do! I have so many questions. How am I going to explain this to the rest of the crew? How can we start incorporating you into the show? How… how about we start with a tour, yes? This is your home now, after all.”
Joey headed out of the room, Bendy waving goodbye at Henry as Joey started in on the studio’s history. Henry waved back, a smile lifting at the corner of his mouth.
Walking back to his office, he had a hard time believing what he just saw. Their creation, come to life like magic. Were it not for the ink stains on his hands and shirt, he wouldn’t have believed it even happened. He would have to start wearing black to work. Or, at least find a way to wash it out. A small price to pay, for sure.