The Creator’s Clock – a flash steampunk story

Clock over city with airship

In the beginning was the Great Clock, hanging over the city like a slowly ticking sun. For as long as stories had been told, we had lived in its shadow, our lives dancing to the rhythm of its hands. I could not remember a time when its whirs and clicks had not sounded in my ears, as much a part of me as my own pulse. The Great Clock was our world, its secrets our greatest spur to science.

The ticking grew louder as we rose above the rooftops, the hot air of our balloon carrying us toward that ancient and intimidating dial.

“What if we’re wrong?” Hassana asked as she crossed and uncrossed her arms. “What if all our calculations are incorrect? The evidence inside could ruin our careers!”

“Worse, what if we’re right?” I asked. “Can you imagine anything more tedious than discovering that we have understood our entire world? No more mysteries to pursue then.”

Winds buffeted us. The currents up here were strange and varied, thanks to the movements of the gears and of the clock’s hands. A gust threatened to snatch us away. I tugged on a rope, a motor sputtered into life and spurts of steam directed our course, pushing us toward what astronomers called the Seven O’Clock Hatch.

As we approached the Hatch, I watched the second hand swivel around the dial like a great scythe. It swept between us and our target, the wind of its passage almost blowing us away.

“Quick!” Hassana shouted.

She flung the grappling hook she had been practicing with for months. It caught on the edge of the hatch and she pulled us close, while the second hand kept moving, up the clock face and then back around. Smears of old blood showed where past scholars had failed this test.

I smashed the hatch open with a sledgehammer, leapt through, and turned to catch Hassana as she followed. A moment later, the second hand crashed into our craft, ripping the balloon open like a knife through the guts. The balloon dropped away, torn cloth and battered basket becoming little more than dots, a broken toy falling toward a miniature city.

“Isioma had better come for us,” Hassana said.

I pulled a compact lantern from one of my belt pouches, drew out the wick and lit it. The smell of burning oil joined those of dust and old metal. Its light illuminated a narrow tunnel that ran steeply up to the heart of the Great Clock, exactly as we had predicted. It was full of the sound of gears, the clatter and thud of a gloriously vast machine. I laughed out loud in excitement.

No more mysteries after this, perhaps, but could there still be wonder?

We walked up the corridor to another hatch. This one was as tall as we were and closed with a sturdy lock.

Hassana took the torch. I sank to my knees and pulled out the roll of oiled cloth holding my lock picks. To think that other scholars had called me mad to learn this art. How else would the Great Creator guard his clock if not with elaborate mechanisms?

I inserted the picks and manoeuvred them carefully, feeling for the points of tension, the places to push and those to release. At last there was a click, a twist, and the bolt slid back.

I rose to my feet and took the door handle.

“Ready?” I asked.

My heart was pounding in my chest, louder even than the clack of gears around us.

“Ready,” Hassana said with a huge grin.

I flung the door open and looked inside. My eyes went wide and I gasped at the magnificence of what the Creator had made.

No, not the Creator. The Creators. That much was abundantly clear.

“It’s so much more than I ever imagined,” Hassana said.

“Not just it,” I responded. “We are so much more.”

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Dirk Dynamo is used to adventure. He’s chased villainous masterminds across the mountains of Europe, stalked gangsters through the streets of Chicago, and faced the terrible battlefields of the Civil War. But now he’s on a mission that will really shake his world.

For centuries, the Great Library of Alexandria was thought lost. Now a set of clues has been discovered that could lead to its hiding place. With the learned adventurers of the Epiphany Club, Dirk sets out to gather the clues, track down the Library, and reveal its secrets to the world.

Roaming from the jungles of West Africa to the sewers beneath London, The Epiphany Club is a modern pulp adventure, a story of action, adventure, and romance set against the dark underbelly of the Victorian age.

Available in all good ebook stores and as a print edition via Amazon.

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