Open Mic Night

Last weekend I went to the Summer Writing Festival, and there’s always an open mic night. After two sessions of talking about sentences, I enjoyed listening to others. But the problem with knowing I’m going to be up next– I had to mess with my phone to figure out where the thing was I would read. And I hate that, I can’t focus on anything else. But after I read, I could listen better. So many funny, witty writers stood up to share!

Here’s my story, a steampunk flash fiction piece that I had to edit after the workshop.

The New Machine

The gears whirred. Every step drew me closer to the machine. Aether powered the thing, though I couldn’t fathom the purpose. My fingers hovered over the moving parts.

“What do you think, Claire?” His fingers scraped the back of my neck. “It’s for you, you know.”

The entire thing shifted. No big sound changed the product, but suddenly it dumped tiny pieces of pearl rounds, each one drilled with a distinct hole pattern. “Buttons?”

“They’re not just buttons, my dear.” He waved his hands over the displays for his other machines. “They’re for all the new machines. Pearl is the best. It’s lovely and it feels luxurious.”

Willem always focused on decadence. I knew this about him, but I couldn’t look away from the pearl circles in my hands. He took three and placed them over the levers on his other new addition to his collection of machines. “And that one?”

He tipped his top hat at me, then dropped his fingers to the new pearl buttons across the front. “My time machine.”

My stomach floated within my body. I gulped it down, along with my heart. For once I felt glad of the corset restraining both from leaping out of me. “Such a thing must be impossible.”

Willem stood within the machine. “I’ll be back for you, my dear.” The levers shifted under his hands, he turned to take a last look at me, which toppled his hat to the floor, and he disappeared.

His hat rolled to a stop near me, and I cradled it close to me with buttons still clutched in my fingers. I sat, skirts piled around me on the steps, and I waited. He would come back. He said he would. The candle dripped lower in the sconce. Willem always kept his word. The only question was when.

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