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The Device

Inspired by a Last/First line by Lani Gerbi, for the Flash Fiction Challenge


Being mindful not to spill my tea, I eased into the tartan embrace of Endolyn Muirden’s least offensive armchair, and settled back to watch him die.

The chair Muirden himself occupied was an abomination of furniture.  Antique green upholstery erupted all over with mechanical augmentation: levers and wheels for movement, both lateral and vertical; gears and pulleys for lifting and reaching; all manner of apparatus and gadgetry to assist him in his aberrant work. It was almost beautiful in its functionality, but offensive in design; unnatural.  And there was concealed, amongst all the chrome and cogs, an arsenal of clever weapons.

I concentrated, for the moment, on my ghastly tea, and grimaced.  Though his posture was stiff and his visage stern, this lingering shell of a man had neither the strength nor the will to press any of those buttons.

Besides, the engine was silent; in all likelihood dead. The worrisome rumbling in fact emanated from the beast that loomed over Muirden.  Taller even than the glinting exhaust stacks of his chair, bleak and sooty, it drooled grease onto his rigid shoulders.

I forced another sip of the tea, bitter with the restorative.  Awful stuff, but I felt better, if only temporarily.

“Where’s the Device, Muirden?”

“It’s long gone.  I don’t have it.” The voice was little more than the rasp of air from a dusty bellows.

“I know that’s not true.”

His skeletal fingers dug into the stuffing of the armrest.  “It has been destroyed.”

“Your life’s work? I hardly think so.  And if they took it – well they may preach and condemn and deny – but they would not let a prize like that pass.  They’d study it, use it, turn it – and there’s no way that you would allow that to happen.  No, Muirden, you still have it.”

His goggles continued to stare blankly ahead.  I could see myself repeated in each glass circle.

“Isn’t that what the – ” I gestured at the fearsome contrivance behind him “ – guard dog is all about?  It’s still here, somewhere.”

Gears whirred as Muirden leaned forward. “It will not bring you power, or immortality, or whatever you believe you are hear for, boy. Ha!” He coughed; it lingered with a tinny ringing echo, and he eased back again. “It could not save me.”

“I’m not here to save myself, Muirden.”  Carefully placing the teacup down, I rolled up my sleeve and attempted to stretch the stiffness from my arm.  Almost as good as new.  He observed, silent.

I drew a key from under the torn photograph in the back of my pocket watch, and opened up my forearm access panel.  From under the pneumatics and wires I gently unfurled a single yellowed page.  She had hidden it there when she fixed me. Rolled it around the bones that she had so carefully etched and polished; all that was left of my forearm after what happened.  All that was left of her.

The paper was creased and soft; the schematics she had pencilled on it barely showed.

Muirden’s neck creaked; it was a nod. “Very well.”

No part of his posture changed, he did not slump and there was no whine of servos as they powered down, but I felt Endolyn Muirden’s soul depart.  The beast huffed and vanished; retracted down into an ornate brass box.  I let out a breath.

Clicking my arm closed again, I heaved myself up from the admittedly comfortable chair, and approached Muirden.  My limbs were stiff but operational, the near-constant pain staved off for the moment.

I peered into his goggles but I could not see past the reflective glass, and I could not bring myself to remove them.  With one hand on his artificial shoulder, I spared a moment to bow my head for the man who knew too many dark secrets, and was forced to keep them  too close to his clockwork heart.

Then I plucked a screwdriver from my pocket, and began to pull Endolyn Muirden apart.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 19, 2013 7:09 pm

    That was a fun piece of steampunk flash. I like where you took it.



  1. Screaming Nonsense into the Storm | I Should Be Writing

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