Hugo's father was a gentle soul. He worked in a museum filled with antiques and collectors' items to support himself and Hugo. However, behind those glasses, his brown eyes would much rather scrutinize the inner gears and switches of a broken clock. The little moving skeletons in his clocks would light a spark in him whilst the crumbling bones of old carriages only provided them with an honest meal and clothes, nothing more. When he wasn't needed at the office, Hugo and his father would spend all their time working on clocks. Together, they made them better. Those gold-plated and intricately embellished timekeepers. People would take leave from the other end of Paris simply to have their pocketwatch or even their old grandfather clock fixed - or decorated - by this father-and-son duo. That was where his heart was; with his son and those beautiful clocks.
But one day after ending his shift at the museum, some impulse, call it fate if you wish, made him take the old exit, the exit no one ever used. And that exit caused him to wander past the old basement. Upon passing that old basement, a gleam of magic itself caught his chocolate eye. Through a seemingly ordinary window in an ordinary room rested the most beautiful clock he had ever laid eyes on. The forlorn thing was lying underneath rags, rusted, and most likely broken beyond repair. An automaton. A name that rolled off your tongue and tasted as delicious as the wondrous, most labyrinthine creation looked. And the clockmaker couldn't tear his gaze from it.
Who would leave such a thing here? he thought to himself.
For, broken as it was, there was something about this wind-up figurine. Something about its once-shining framework and hands that were fit enough to hold a quill. Something about its childlike copper features and springs and wheels and extraordinary mechanics. Something beyond anything the clockmaker had ever come across. So he took it home. He bundled it up and took it home and along with Hugo, set about fixing it like so many other clocks before. Mind you, this one was more complex than your everyday wristwatch. As far as the clockmaker could tell, the figure could write and turn its head with perfect control and ease. And he knew that to fix it would require skill and patience and planning, more so than ever before. Thus, he made a notebook solely dedicated to the inner spider-web thin networks and puzzle pieces of the automaton. He made a list of parts that needed replacing and parts that were missing and filled the tiny hand-sized notebook to the brim with labelled diagrams and fantasised drawings of its tiny head turning between the pages as ink.
But this is not a story about a clockmaker, or an automaton for that matter.
No, this is the story of a lost, lonely boy and his mission to find his slot in the world of machines. This is the story of his journey home.