Monday, February 8, 2010

Steampunk: A Glimpse at a Work in Progress...

Well, I've written an outline of the Steampunk story and the first four pages. I haven't come up with a good title yet, but I think I will once I'm finished. Since I did promise a writing excerpt from it, I'm going to go ahead and put the first few pages on this blog and maybe I'll put a more exciting sample up later. I think that the first few pages give a good feel for the setting, and I tried very hard to make the writing better than usual. Judging from the outline, I'm guessing this story is going to be novella length. I don't have many novella length stories, if any, so at least this will give me something to submit as a novella eventually. In the meantime, it's just been very fun to write. I think after I'm done with short stories (probably around July), I'll start a new novel, but I'm going to take another break from Cyberpunk. Who knows, maybe I'll come up with an idea for a Steampunk novel. We'll see. Well, I hope you like it. Let me know what you think.

Emily heard the hiss of steam, like the hiss of a great dragon releasing a breath of hot air in front of her. She watched through the crack in the door as steam billowed through the air like a cumulous cloud, rushing under the door and through the crack, enveloping her even though she wasn’t in the room. She nearly panicked and ran for the house, as though the steam itself would reveal her presence, but she wanted to see what her Father was working on. This was the first time he told her she wasn’t allowed to come into the workshop, and something about that made the temptation to peek impossible to resist.

She didn’t know what the machine was, and wondered why he had hidden it from her in the first place. All she could see was a very big boiler. It wasn’t attached to any pulleys yet, so there really wasn’t a machine to see. Her Father’s friends were shouting urgently that the pressure was too high and were rushing for the wheels to release the steam, but the wheel her Father was trying to turn seemed to be stuck.

They called, “Let it go, Reginald! Run! It’s going to blow!”

Her father strained against the wheel, “I almost have it.”

Emily’s Father, Reginald, put his boot against the side of the crate next to him pushing against it while pulling and twisting the wheel, trying to get the leverage to make it turn, but it wasn’t moving. She heard the groan of metal as the boiler began to strain and warp. She wanted to scream a warning to him, or at least to rush forward to stop him. If he saw her, her safety would come first and he would grab her and rush out the door and the unthinkable wouldn’t happen, not again. But, as always, she was rooted to the spot, watching helplessly, wishing she could speak but unable to make a sound, and wishing that she was older so she would know what to do.

Reginald’s wheel squeaked loudly as he finally managed to turn it, but it wasn’t enough and it wasn’t fast enough, either. The bolts of the boiler broke free, pelting the group with shrapnel, sounding like bullets plinking from the gun of a soldier. One of them went through Reginald’s arm, and he released the wheel instinctively to stop the gushing blood, and that’s when the boiler exploded. The sound was deafening, a pop like a zeppelin bursting but the sound of the steam and water rushing out muffled it with more terrifying noise. Her Father screamed in agony, but she could barely hear it for the hissing. Then, in an instant, it was over.

Emily rushed inside, “Dad?”

The steam was starting to clear the moment she opened the door. His prone figure was on the ground, his skin pink and raw like that of a newborn pig, but it was already blistering before her eyes.

He muttered, “The watch, Emily,” and then he died.

That was all that she got to see, but it was an image that would haunt her forever. Her Father’s best friend, Benjamin was picking her up and carrying her away she screamed for her Father over and over again, but she was getting farther away by the second.

Emily woke up and shrieked, “DAD!”

The empty flat just echoed the word back to her.

Emily sighed and muttered, “It’s been fifteen years. Does it ever end?”

Even as she said it, she knew it never would. Emily groaned and wiped the tears she unconsciously shed from her eyes. Sun was streaming in through the window. At least that meant she wasn’t awoken by the nightmares in the middle of the night. She ran her hands through her shoulder-length auburn hair and pulled on a fresh set of knickers, then changed into a button up shirt and vest. Then she added the finishing touches, her goggles, her trusty, but broken, pocket-watch in the lower vest pocket, and a fresh set of cigars in her top vest pocket. The earthy, sweet smell of tobacco tempted her, but it was too early for a smoke.

Emily walked outside towards her shop. She was glad that she was able to get a machine shop so close to her flat. Since it was within walking distance, she didn’t have to own a horse, though she wished she had the money to afford her own steam carriage. White flecks were falling around her, but she knew it wasn’t quite cold enough for snow. Ash was falling from the industrial smokestacks, swirling delicately like playful snowflakes. The air was hazy with smoke and steam, and as usual the grime in the air coated her like a second layer of skin.

Victor’s words echoed in her mind, “Haven’t you noticed, Emily? The city has a rhythm. It has music of its own, and it’s where I find my inspiration. Listen to the steam, the voices, the gentle clopping of horseshoes, the sound of human footsteps. Close your eyes and listen.

How long had it been since she thought about Victor? The nightmare had brought his countenance back into her mind like an apparition, there one moment and then fading away like steam. There were so many memories for her in London, that the streets were populated with ghosts of her past.

Emily mouthed, “And what is the city trying to say to me today?”

She closed her eyes and listened.

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