Posted By Punkettes on October 26, 2015
The clockwork screams, the cogs groan,
No tick-tocks, no hands roam,
Blood stained innards upon the grounds lie,
In the place where MURDERERS go when they die…
Cain stood back and looked over Gnomon, a machine of immense proportions, large enough to fill Grand Central Station, twice—or so he was told. It was his design, his life’s work of extraordinary purpose. When complete, Gnomon would change everything. So far, only one Gloom could pass through unharmed. And that wouldn’t do. Cain had legions of Glooms needing the machine.
He clutched the metallic frog atop his walking stick and did the Lindy Hop dance step toward a rusted clock arm. He leaned against it, his black coat tails dusting the ground. Littered around him were spare metal chronograph parts of various shapes and sizes, anything they could salvage. To onlookers it would appear a mash-up of clock innards. To Cain it was the most glorious sight to behold. It was as if these recycled time divisions held their purpose in Gnomon all along. Perhaps they had.
His eyes trailed to the capsulator, seated high above the machine, lifted on stilts of ruble, things of no use—broken springs, little metal numbers, glass. The capsulator swelled and contracted like a lung filling with air. It was the heart of Gnomon, the way in. It wasn’t supposed to act this way. Something was wrong, terribly wrong.
At the base of the behemoth machine, the Contractor worked, humming to himself as tufts of grey hair swayed with the bobbing of the man’s bulbous head. He was an unusual man, the Contractor. A cripple, hunched at the back and bent at the waist from years of work, his left arm absent flesh to his elbow. He bore a scar from ear to ear, cutting his nose in half and giving him the look of a perplexed pig. Like all Glooms, he was fated to live eternity with the scars he bestowed on others while alive. Cain made a mental note to ask the man about them sometime.
All curiosity aside, his looks didn’t concern Cain. It was the man’s extraordinary talent that he sought. The Contractor was a genius. He spoke to metal as though it lived and breathed. He could build anything with his hands—well, hand and clockwork hand—that’s what Cain was counting on. Besides, if unusual looks were reason for alarm, then Cain should never take in his own reflection. He too was a Gloom, and half of his perfect face was missing—a small reminder of what he had done. In its stead was a mechanical mastery, perhaps the most fantastical clockwork anyone had seen. He wore his face with pride, each click of his metal nostril reminding him of his accomplishment of merged flesh and machine.
Cain cringed as the Contractor wrapped a loose chain from the pulley component around his skeletal arm. It had taken him far too long to come up with a system that would give the hunchback use of the damaged limb. But he had, and it was a work of art. Even from this angle you could scarcely see the metal screws twisting into ligaments that allow the Contractor to move his fingers like a puppet master. It would be a pity for that to be ruined.
Cain adjusted his weight onto the balls of his feet and turned when he felt a tug on his sleeve. It was his body servant Napoleon.
“Sir, we best be on our way.” The squat man shifted his stance and his pointy mouse-like nose wiggled as he sniffed.
“Not yet, I need to be sure the Gatherers can re-enter the capsulator.”
“I’m sure they will, sir.”
Cain waved his walking stick in a circle. “It’s the sanitarium harvest. It would be a shame if we lost our chance to take those lifetimes. The sick are ripe for plunder.” He leaned against his stick, looking down on his servant. “We’re on a tight schedule you know. We need to double our crown-wheel supply.”
“Yes, sir. I know, sir.”
Cain took a step forward in time to see the hunchback’s fingers slip. The Contractor clung to the chain and called to his assistants, “Get to the thrunge-plate before she blows.” He snapped his bulbous head toward Napoleon. “Get Father Cain away from here!”
Before anyone could move, a small child, a coggling, slithered out from under a large copper-pieced boiler. Whether boy or girl they could not tell, for he/she/it was covered in sludge.
“Oy, Sir, there be a problem at Gnomon’s heart.” The child raised their goggles revealing two white circles in which little eyes blinked.
“Didn’t you hear what I said?”
“Nevermind,” the Contractor grumbled. “Just get to the capsulator, find the thrunge-plate and shut it down.” As if it was not obvious from his size compared to the tiny child’s, he added, “I can’t fit back there.”
Before the child could leave, boiling droplets rained down on them, followed by a reverberating hiss as steam sliced through one of the twelve chimney tourniquets. They looked up in time to see another coggling, smaller than the first, slide down the rafter and apply pressure to the fissure with an old rag. Bolts loosened and flew past the child, creating a shower of metal as it ricocheted off Gnomon.
“I can’t hold it, sir!”
“Get down from there,” the Contractor yelled, “she’s gonna blow!”
From between the piles of clock parts, a coggling appeared carrying a large metal pendulum. He raised it above his head and ran towards a patchwork gong suspended between two hollowed grandfather clock bodies. The momentum of the collision set forth a long resounding hum that thundered through Gnomon. It startled Cain and he stepped back on his toes.
The child dragged the pendulum behind him and backed away. Then, once again, lifted it above his head and ran. Cain listened as matching sounds echoed off Gnomon. Soon he could distinguish at least five—five coggling’s, somewhere in Gnomon, sounding an alarm.
“Sir, please, it’s not safe here,” Napoleon repeated, his buckteeth clattering.
Cain tugged on his freshly ironed white collar and waved him away. “Go prepare the Elephantorius for return. Don’t forget to have the men wind it this time.”
He watched as his body servant nodded and shuffled off, then turned his attention back to Gnomon.
A spray of steam blew Cain’s dark candlestick curls whipping about his face. He sheltered his true eye and watched the capsulator shift off its stilts and descend. A slow roar of whirling metal headed down atop the copper-pieced boiler, atop the small coggling. He slid forward, coat tails flapping, and extended his arms, his furthest reach, toward the child.
But the capsulator continued to fall and the behemoth Gnomon inhaled, sucking the coggling deeper into the machine—away from Cain.
“No!” he cried as Gnomon collapsed in a metal crunching spectacle, sending a thick grey steam-cloud in its wake, burying the child in a graveyard of hope, twisted metal, and time.
I’m so excited to share this bonus chapter from my latest work with you. A LIFETIME… is an Urban Clockpunk novel available to read for free online.
xo- Rebecca Sky, the Clockpunkette