He was shiny.
That’s what first drew her notice. Other men were bland and monochrome and hardly worthy of attention. But this one, he gleamed. He tried to hide it under a hat and dark glasses and gloves and other human trappings, keeping his head down and avoiding other human eyes, but she saw. That first glimmer of light drew her to him as the sunlight glinted off his cheek, and as she watched him, his sleeve rode up and exposed shiny brass skin. He was a curiosity, and the elders had always said that she was a dangerously curious thing. So of course she followed him.
He lived in a small cottage at the edge of the wood, well outside of town. The house had a lovely garden, but it was the things inside that held her interest. Through the window she spied even more curiosities and wonders: birds and butterflies and mice and other small, delicate creatures made of the same shiny stuff that the man was made of — at least partly.
For once inside, he stopped hiding, and she could see him truly. He removed his hat and glasses and revealed a head and half a face covered in plates of polished brass. Where his left eye should have been, there was a socket filled with cogs and gears and other parts she had seen on the machines of men. He removed his coat and gloves and rolled up his sleeves, revealing an arm made of polished wood and brass, and a hand with coppery joints that could flex and grasp as well as his pale, fleshy hand.
He went to the table where his brass menagerie lay dormant, picked up something that looked like a spy glass and affixed it to the empty eye socket. Then he took a key from his vest pocket and began winding each small creature, one by one, bringing them to life.
She hovered at the window and watched, delighted and mesmerized by this clever man and his creations, as copper butterfly wings fluttered and brass birds sang and flew and mock mice raced around the surface of the table. The butterfly came near the window, and the wings were a sight to behold, covered with intricate scroll work, gleaming and delicate. A pang of envy shot through her as she glanced back at her own wings, wishing they were even half as splendid.
The butterfly shot away from the window and she found herself pressed up against the glass, gazing after it with longing, wanting only to go inside and have a closer look.
She never saw the cat.