Posted by: Caitlynn | January 5, 2010

Genre #1 — Steampunk Fantasy

(For more information on my Genre Self-Challenge, read previous entry here.)

————

“Clockwork”

————

“Take care of the clock, Jayna. Never lose it, and never let it unwind. Understand? This is very, very important.”

I stared at the mirror, paying close attention to the reflection of the watch that hung around my neck. It had been there for as long as I could remember. My father insisted on keeping it that way, and it seemed as though, for an equally long time, he had been warning me to take especially good care of it.

“What an annoyance,” I mumbled to myself. Of course, it’s not as though it was a particularly difficult clock to maintain. In fact, for at least fifteen years, it had never once broken or needed to go to a specialist for even a minor repair. Compared to all the others in the watchtower of our estate, its gears were remarkably high-quality and consistent.

All the same, it was still a source of utter aggravation at that moment.

“Though, not nearly as annoying as this room,” I sneered, looking around my bedroom. More clocks adorned the walls, interspersed between a vast number of bookshelves; my bed, armoire, and desk seemed lost and overshadowed among these. “For fifteen years, I’ve been confined here,” I continued to myself as I walked over to the single window, brushing my fingers against the gilded bars that separated me from the outside. I had always been told that they were there to keep my safe—I was, after all, several thousand feet above the ground, and a drop from here would be fatal—but after a while, they began to feel more like prison bars than anything else. I felt trapped.

But today would be different. I would escape, just as soon as Leopold came for me.

Leo was a young pilot and an acquaintance of my father. He was also the man I fell in love with, and the only friend outside of the family estate whom I had ever had. Shortly after obtaining his piloting license, he had set about constructing his own personal steam-powered flying machine, successfully completing it within the year. This, when matched with his young age, won him a certain notoriety across the countryside. It was only natural, then, that my father would request to meet him. As one of the wealthiest academics in the kingdom, my father had every right to demand such a visit. And what good would such a visit have been without a demonstration?

I sighed presently as I gazed out the window, searching for the familiar aircraft and recalling that first night I had seen it. “How peculiar, I had thought. “A grown man flying about like that in such a small thing. And what use is it? Why, it couldn’t be large enough for more than one or two people to sit in.” But as I continued to watch, I became enraptured. The tiny flying machine was swift and able, turning about rapidly one moment, then coming to a suspended pause in mid-air the next. And when Leo got close enough to my window and saw me staring out of it, he winked, and flew off.

More visits would follow from that. Most were done in secret, as Leo had never obtained permission from my father to speak to me. On the contrary, I believe that he had probably been warned by the estate’s servants to cease his ventures to my window on more than one occasion. Thankfully, he never listened, and my father never discovered us.

One night, however, something changed. “Why do you stay up here like this, Jayna?” Leo had asked. “Don’t you ever get lonely, or bored, or restless?”

Suddenly it was as though all the years of painful isolation burst out of me, and I tearfully expressed a desire for freedom that even I had not previously realized I had.

“Why not ask to leave?” Leo prompted, to which I was forced to explain how strict my father was with me, and how I was rarely even allowed out of my room, let alone out of the estate.

Leo had been deep in thought for quite some time as I revealed the entire truth of the situation to him. When I had finally finished, he sighed, and very quietly said, “I’ll come for you. Tomorrow. I’ll come at the same time, and I’ll get you out of here. And together, we’ll fly away.”

Just as I recalled those words, I heard a familiar hum and pumping of steam approach my window. “Leo!” I said excitedly as he approached. “Have you really come to take me away?”

He nodded as he pulled his craft right up to the window, flipping switches and pulling levers to get it to stay suspended there for a few minutes. “Quickly,” he said, grabbing a key from his pocket and working it into the outside lock of my window. “We must be hasty, before we’re discovered. It wasn’t easy, but I took your father’s key.” The key clicked inside the lock. “But I’m afraid he will discover soon enough that it’s missing.” Then, swinging the bars open, he extended his hand to me. “Come, Jayna. You’ve been cooped up long enough. Let me show you the world.”

I only hesitated for a moment before taking his hand and allowing him to pull me out. “The breeze is surprisingly cool,” I muttered vaguely as he sat me behind him on the flying machine.

He chuckled. “I’m afraid it might get a little cooler before the night is through. But don’t worry, you’ll get used to it.” Securing me in, he finished, “Now, hold on tight to me, okay?”

And just like that, we were off, soaring through the skies. My heart raced in excitement and wonder as the world below us whizzed by and the watchtower of the estate disappeared further and further into the distance. It was magical…and dizzying. Perhaps more dizzying than anything else, even.

I clutched at my chest. Something wasn’t right, and I suddenly felt lightheaded. “The watch,” I whispered, remembering that I had forgotten to wind it before I left. “I…”

The world began spinning even more, and a sudden flash of memories drifted upon me. The faces of a man and woman whom I barely recalled came to mind, and it was as though I could hear them speaking.

“Please, doctor, there must be a way—”

“Sir, madam, I’m afraid we’ve done all we can already.”

“But…but she’s our daughter!”

My world now became cold and black, and I felt my grasp on Leo loosen before I disappeared into darkness. The face of the man I called my father now appeared in my memory.

“Remarkable, simply remarkable.”

“Yes sir, she’s my finest work yet. Poor girl was only four before her heart gave out. But by giving her a new, mechanical heart, she can live on like any other.”

“And you say all it needs to maintain its functions is this little watch around her neck?”

“That’s correct, sir. That watch is directly linked to the heart. When you wind it, you’re actually keeping the heart wound.”

“Simply amazing! This technology…why, it’s beyond anything I’ve ever seen. I must have her. She would make an excellent addition to my collection.”

Before long, even the memories stopped, and all was still. But remarkably enough, the light soon returned to my eyes. I looked up and saw Leo hovering worriedly above me.

“You really had me frightened there!” he exclaimed upon seeing my eyes flutter open. “First you almost fall off, then I nearly couldn’t wake you up. If you hadn’t mumbled something about a watch just before you blacked out, I might’ve lost you.”

“Lost me…?” I whispered, looking around. We had landed somewhere, but we were still safely away from the estate.

“That’s right. You stopped breathing and everything, but as soon as I wound the watch around your neck, it’s like you came alive again,” he smiled. “Just like magic.”

I shook my head and allowed myself to fall into his embrace. “No,” I whispered, scared about the images and voices I had recalled, but happy for my current situation. “No, it’s just clockwork.”

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Responses

  1. AWESOME.

    • Haha…thanks. 🙂 Not sure how “steampunk” it is, but…eh. I think I might like it anyway. 😛

  2. WOW! That’s pretty good! (not that I’m an expert on steampunk fantasy…lol) but good plot twist, especially with the watch theme. I like the fact that what she hated turned out to be what could save her. Really good twist! ^_^

    • Thanks! I’m glad you like it.


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