The Steampunk is getting close. I’ve resigned myself to believing that I will never, ever like this part of it, and I’m just going to do the best I can with it, because an aesthetic distaste, not a craft problem.
Anyway, first look, and all, and I’m going to pass this on to my agent. Soon. Maybe later this month? Maybe next? I want to read over it a couple more times, anyway, and keeping poking that one section I don’t like.
This is what I’ve been doing, mostly, with my time, for those that are interested in such things.
1: High Upon the Royal Clocktower at the Heart of Saxonia, Prince Hollownot Lives in Solitude
Light, I can barely stand it. I can’t stop it. If I look away a moment, I will die upon this tower. I must gaze into the light, let it run through my eyes, into my skull, into me, into me, light, merge with it until I am no more and then go beyond that until I find myself again on the other side of my eyes on the other side of the light below where there is no light and the absence of light is also a kind of light.
I came here to run away. I wasn’t planning anything. I thought I would climb up above the gear platforms, beyond the cranks and spindling wires of the tower, up past the pendulums, where the high air is cold and howls and howls enough to sing through the whole kingdom, a banshee in my ears. I thought I would climb because I was angry and I could think of nowhere else to go where I’d be alone but up. I had to escape somehow. I couldn’t stand to be among the world as it was.
My mother was dead. For this, the kingdom had to pause in mourning. If not for this, I’d never make it this high at all. All the gears and pneumatic tubes and springs held still to mourn the queen. Time stopped, for this clock, and for all of us who obeyed it. Light, itself, seemed to pause, hanging in the air and moving to mourn her death, though I did not understand why that happened until I climbed so high to reach the light.
I climbed. Light. I climbed.
My mother was going to remain alive as long as I never saw her body. That is what I believed. I was a child, still. I was a child every day of my life until I reached the light. I would know nothing of her death, when she yanked my wandering sister Sapsorrow, from the path of an oliphaunt. I would not look upon the cold, white root of my mother’s death. I kept the black wig and black robes of mourning, though it tried to catch in the gears and chains I climbed like ladders. I wore them because they were warm.
It was cold. It was so cold that I could see my breath, though it was late summer, and hot. I was higher than I ever had been. Up, where I climbed, the cold was everywhere. My hands steamed upon the gears and chains and tried to slip a little on the humid, damp metals. My bones ached with the cold. I shivered.
I saw it above, where all the lenses of the clockfaces converged. Did we, below, even realize what this machine was built to do? The clocktower did not tell time. Not really. That was only making use of the crystalline façade, like a good clockmaker. The crystals in the face prismatically sliver raw flogistan from the air, itself, and keep it in a perfect bubble without heat or quicksilver. I saw the light. I thought it should be warm if it were a flogistan bubble. These were almost always hot enough to melt clothing. Almost always, I say, because the closer I came to this bubble of light, the colder I became. There is fire of heat warming up from absolute zero and there is fire of cold, as matter pulls away from the point of ice or melt. To minute flecks of matter or flogistan particles, there is a flame in distance from the static point of nature. This is why the ancestor clockmakers built this high up, like this, where it would capture all the
I am not warm, not cold.
The funeral ended below. The gears began again, and the pendulous weights that were once my ladders became my grinding prison. There is no return down unless the machine stops again. I was cold. The light was supposed to be warm. I kept climbing up, stopping to blow on my hands and rub them together. My feet were numb, and my nose and ears. I pushed my hands against my long, black wig to press some warmth down upon my ears. The light was my only hope. I climbed into the bubble, expecting heat.
No heat. No cold.
I have never left, I think, for many years, or maybe not many years, or maybe a hundred years, or maybe only a few years. I eat light, drink it, breathe it. It fills me up. It binds my body whole, flows over me, through me. Color has bled from me, and I see myself and I am bright white. My black wig is white. My black robe is white. All my muscles, follicles, organs and biologies are all burned into a white.
I live, yet. I live on light.
There is a lens. It is at the top of the clocktower of the kingdom of Saxonia. It is a huge lens that burns and bellows and becomes an essence of a soul. Not quite a soul – more protoplasmic than a soul, like the wee beasties at the bottom of the microscope lens – but the essence of one. Stand on the threshold of the soul of all light, see the possibility of a living machine – a truly conscious machine – even if nothing like intelligence could take root inside of the strictly-defined gears and channels. That is what I did. I stood on the threshold of soul.
Light. More than light. All light touches all light. One molecule of light is all molecules of light. I see. I see centuries. I see the shape of centuries. They pour into me like light.
This bubble is every bubble, every photon and mirror molecule. I saw my mother born. I saw her mother born, and all mothers born. I saw the sun being born, in a deep night sky. I saw it burn out. I saw everything in between, and everything that is possible in between.
I have seen too much. The future should remain uncertain. I should not see my own mother’s face a thousand times across the centuries, as women are born, live, and die, who all carry her face, her voice, her beating heart.
I see the teeming masses with an individual grace that belies my distance from them all. Every gesture and tick in the face of light, every tragedy and triumph. Every rotten bone in their dessicated skull.
I was Hollownot, a Prince who would be king of Saxonia, and merge brutally when the crown of the machine would inhabit my own head.
No, this was never to be. Once I fled the palace, my future possibilities upon a throne were lost.
In every future I see, I have no place among the thrones of time.
In every future I see, I remain here, held up in the light, until my soul bleeds into it and it into me and I am no more.
Or, the machine stops. I climb down the tower, no Prince at all, and walk into the hills beyond the Great Clockwork Wall at the edge of the machine.
I shall stop the kingdom forever.
I see it now.
My people serve the flogistan bubble, but it does not serve us. We call it a law. We call it a kingdom. It is alive, though it cannot move much from the gears and wires. There is nothing for it to do but fulfill the systems to which it has no control.
I weep for you, mindmute Light Light Light, living thing, fungal Light pulling up the essence of the world – her minerals and biolologic life – to fuel a Light impulse misunderstood as a life, alive, but alone and unthinking, unfeeling. It is conscious the way a fungus is conscious. It is a wee beastie below the microscope glass writ large upon the world, empty and huge and hungry.
Search, then, through the possible futures.
We serve a machine that does not see us, a flogistan core that does not warm itself in the glow of life. It has no eyes, no ears, no tongue, just teeth and teeth grinding gears through all the minerals and coal formations of the underground, from here at the mainspring and out to the wall and beyond when the diggers find no more to build and burn. More than this, the light pours over all of us, carrying the source of the mindmute consciousness of being that is the light itself embodied in this clocktower cold fire bubble. All light is all light, all dark is all dark. That Light lives means nothing to the geographic space upon a map. Beyond the wall, they are also part of this machine, where the light touches them. The nations of the world are gears moving to a force of hidden light that burns them all slowly, in time, unto the toothgears of the machine that knows only that it must continue to devour, until it is no more. It is a thoughtless thing, with too much time and no love, no breeding.
All possible futures, we become the stomach lining of the machine, and so it must be stopped; lest we become single cells dividing in the noise of the gears, like a slow infection until the machinery grinds us all down to glass prisms of
The machine cannot be permitted to live.
My ancestors began this cathedral of gears to prevent war, and let people live in peace. But this is worse than war, to become mere machine parts made of flesh.