Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Dark Days in Bright City, Part One

A few days ago, Donna Hole mentioned that I haven't posted any excerpts of my fiction here in quite some time. Since I started focusing this blog more toward becoming a practical literary guide to other writers of Steampunk, I've purposely eschewed putting my own writing up here. It's not that I don't want you all to read my fiction, just that I was slowly moving the brand of the blog away from that. 

However! In the holiday spirit, I have a special surprise for you. Over the next few days, I will posting the short story that was published last month in Fissure Magazine's special Steampunk issue. Since it's only about 2,500 words, my plan is to post between 400 and 500 words each day until the story is done. So, without further ado, I give you Part One of "Dark Days in Bright City:"

By Matthew Delman

Raindrops explode on ground in front of me while cold wind blows through my oilcloth trenchcoat. “Sukkin sin.” I clap hand over mouth and pray no one hears me. This would not be good thing. I huddle in alleyway across from well-lit bar, coat buttoned tight while I spy on entrance to building.

I flick switch on goggles taken from shop. Tiny gears click into place. Front door of bar focuses through rainstorm; door flies open. Singing spills out. I change attention to several men clumped outside bar. Even with better focus on door, men are still unclear through rain. I flick second switch and am able to see men clearly.

Every man is sailor on shore leave. Or ruffians dressed in pea coats common to sailors. Either one is possible in this section of Callarion. One turns toward me as I see flash of flame at mouth. Must be match lighting cigarette. My mouth dries at thought of smooth tobacco. I lick my lips and clench my fists to hold still. Nyet. I stopped smoking because Sonya asked. It would be wrong of me to start again, though she lay dead these past three years.

Bar door opens and sea shanty spills out. Tune sounds familiar, but wind obscures clear hearing. Bells of Saint Michael’s church toll the hour seconds later. Those I can hear fine. I pull fobwatch from pocket. Caleb said last night that Butcher was to meet associate outside this bar one hour ago. Perhaps Caleb’s information was wrong.  But these are dark days in Bright City. I cannot afford to abandon post on hunch.

I hear sea shanty again and wish I could join sailors in bar, forget about mission. But I did not come here for singing — I came to stop Butcher from creating more mechanical creatures for Premier. Lack of mechanical army will make Butcher’s master that much easier to topple.

Thoughts of Butcher’s creations remind me of day I saw Sonya’s face on mechanical monster. I curse Butcher every day for turning my wife into machine. This is why I sit here now, huddled in dark, despite high chance of death at hands of men loyal to Premier.

Possibility of capture is why I have rubber capsule embedded in front tooth. I caress poison pill with tongue; rough edge is comforting despite purpose. Its presence makes me brave, and will allow me to do what I must. I rub hands together. Fingerless gloves good for detail work but not for sitting in cold alleyway. Men in alleyway draw attention again. Would Butcher be meeting one of them? Caleb had no information other than time Butcher would arrive.

It is another hour before skinny figure wearing top hat and black longcoat slick with rain strides toward bar. I click button on goggles. Zoom lenses snap into place as lightning flashes overhead. Hooked nose and scar along cheek could only mean Butcher. Sudden anger burns in me, spurring motion, but I hold back. Plan requires Butcher to first meet with contact. Burly man walks out of bar as skinny man approaches. Perhaps he is man Butcher is to meet.

Tomorrow: Part Two of "Dark Days in Bright City"

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