Day 3

Or maybe I should count this as Day 2? I didn’t get anything done yesterday due to a sudden respiratory infection. I have the necessary narcotics now, so I was able to churn out a little work.

Enjoy this little bit of steampunk! About 730 words.

Steam and Clang

Jayden slid the last gear into place. It stuck a little at first, but he applied a little oil and everything was perfect. He reached to the end of the gears and gave the drive belt a tug. The belt started a chain reaction in the gears, shifting them all a single tooth. Jayden grinned up at his sister, who looked down at him from bay opening in the floor of the workshop.

“It’s complete!” Jayden declared. He clambered up the ladder.

“That’s great,” his sister, Aille, said, though she looked unimpressed.

“Silly girl,” Jayden said. He pulled a lever, and with a groan the floor of the bay ascended to floor level. His contraption, a tangled mass of gears and pulleys with a seat mounted precariously at the top, looked nothing less than magnificent. At least to Jayden.

“It’s obviously a…” he trailed off, realizing he hadn’t thought of a name for it yet. “…a work of genius! It’ll make us rich!”

“Like your sandwich press made us rich?”

“That was an accident,” Jayden sniffed. “I turn the pressure up too high once, and I never hear the end of it.”

“I hear they found that sandwich somewhere in China.”

Jayden had a clever retort coming, but didn’t get a chance, as the nearby communications tube suddenly vibrated with their mother’s voice. “Jayden? Is Aille out there with you? Come inside, your father’s home. It’s time for dinner.”

The siblings raced to get back to the house, rounding the corner of Jayden’s workshop at breakneck speed. His father’s factory, a massive dark structure dominating the hill at the end of the road, billowed thick smoke into the sky. Jayden knew he’d be in charge of that factory one day, and dreamed every night of the wonders he’d construct there. As he always did, the boy slowed to stare, and his sister got the better of him, slipping ahead and slamming the back door behind her.

“One day,” he said. He looked to the front yard, where his father’s motorized cart still puffed small clouds of exhaust. Jayden frowned. He’d reassembled the engine twice already trying to fix that. He’d have to try again. After father was asleep, of course. Then he noticed the entire cart still vibrated. The engine had been left on.

Abruptly the back door slammed back open. His father looked relieved. He hadn’t yet cleaned the soot from his face, and blood soaked his sleeve.

“Jayden, thank God,” he said. “Come, quickly, we have to leave. Gather a change of clothes, quickly!”

Jayden stared. “What? But-“

“Move it boy! There’s no time!”

Jayden ran for his father. Across the street, he saw Mr. Moriden, his father’s plant manager, herding his own family into a motorized wagon.

Jayden’s father swept him through the doorway. Jayden’s mother was in tears as she shoved his sister into action. They each grabbed a change of clothes and stuffed them into a large bag. Jayden saw his father retrieving bullets from a box behind the stove and loading his pistol. They all hurried out toward the cart. Jayden’s father hushed their questions, would only mutter something about the “damned Luddites.”

Mr. Moriden waved as he eased his family and motorized wagon onto the street. With a spurt of smoke, the Moriden family took off, heading for the center of the city. Jayden’s father watched them for a moment as his wife loaded up Aille and their luggage, his lips tightening into a firm line. Jayden had seen that look only once before, at his grandfather’s funeral.

“Allen, what on Earth is going on?” Jayden’s mother demanded. Jayden never saw his parents fight before, but his mother looked furious.

Jayden’s father scooped the boy up and placed him on top of the cart, where he would sit beside his father as he drove. The man opened his mouth, then choked and looked away.

“It’s…it’s the Luddites, Martha,” he said. “They don’t know what they’ve done…”

“What could they have done?” she pleaded. “They’re crackpots, nobodies. All they ever do is hang about-“

Jayden looked up the hill to the factory. Tiny figures, his father’s employees, fled from every exit. Jayden’s eyes lifted to the factory’s heavy spires. For a second, he swore he saw one of them move.

“Not this time, Martha,” Jayden’s father said. “They…God help us all. They woke up the machines.”


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