(Check out the video for this post right here.)
Thank you so much to those of you who’ve become Scribblepreach Patrons! For some time, I’ve been looking for a forum where I could invite some few of you to help contribute to my fiction work. This would be a place where I could post scenes from my work, one at a time, and you could give me comments, feedback, snide remarks, etc.
I think I’ve found that forum through Patreon.com. As a Patron, you can support my fiction work both financially (even if it’s $1 a month – you still get access) and by giving your own thoughts. You can also ask questions about why and how I’ve done things, and I’ll be happy to answer and engage.
In order to whet your appetite, I’ve decided to post the 1st 1,000 words below. This is they type of “scene” I’ll be posting from time to time on my Patron’s Page (not every week, but regularly). The whole book has been written, and rewritten, and rewritten, and rewritten, etc. starting with my Creative Writing days in Oxford. It’s something I’m happy with as a reader myself – but my perspective only goes so far.
It’s time for me to have some community collaboration.
And to that, I invite you now:
Chapter 1: The Mechanical Man and the Mouse
The day the Mechanical Man arrived, no one roamed the street outside the Hotel Le Ville. Rain skipped off the streets like so many pebbles, and plump slugs were squirming from sidewalk cracks. It was 10 o’clock in the morning. Calypso Locke’s Parents, William and Amie, had left before sunrise on a business trip. They were going to Panama, they told him, and he should be a good boy, and obey his Aunt, Ms. Jacquelyn Hyde. She was in charge in their absence.
It was 10 o’clock in the morning. Calypso remembered that quite clearly.
Now it is true that Calypso lived an unconventional kind of life. He lived in one of Chicago’s most prestigious hotels. His parents had founded the hotel Le Ville a decade before his birth, and by now they were multi-multi-millionaires. His best friends were not schoolmates, but housekeepers and butlers and chefs and maids and bell-boys and VIP guests. He slept in the room adjacent to his parent’s suite, in a suite of his own, which was filled with plush pillows for throwing, hard candies for eating, and some tropical fish for – well he did not know what for, but they made nice festoons.
Calypso’s life was just like this for seven years, forty-two days and three hours. It was just so, until one morning, the grandfather clock in the lobby chimed 10 O’clock:
DIIIING doooooooong diiiiiiing dooooong. Diiiiiing DOOOOONG DIIIING doooong.
Calypso was sitting in Le Ville’s lobby, stoking crackling fire which flickered upon the silver mantelpiece. He was listening to the rhythmic ‘tick-tock’ of the clock, and the rain pelting. He glanced up – as he always did – to watch the cuckoo mechanism of the clock: an old man with a large, wooden spatula swatting at a baby’s bottom. With each swat the baby stood on its head, and the old man missed, falling on his face. They circled round three times, and then it was 10:01.
It was curious to have such a cuckoo mechanism in the lobbyway. If it hadn’t been, Calypso might never have seen – through heavy fog and sideways rain – a large, black shadow creeping up Le Ville’s drive. Calypso set aside the poker, and pressed his fingertips and nose against the lobby window. It was a black, wicker carriage – taller than Calypso if he stood on his own head twice. What was this carriage doing in the middle of Chicago? As far as Calypso remembered, carriages had been out of style for at least a century. He couldn’t imagine the poor man had navigated Chicago traffic in it. And the rain.
Even more curious, thought Calypso, were the creatures drawing the carriage. Two orange, skeletal sea-horses the size of Mastiff hounds hovered, as it seemed, inches above the street. Calypso pinched himself. Perhaps the man was some eccentric out-of-towner. His arm stung, and welted.
Calypso traced the reigns drawing the sea-horses up, until they reached a long, bone-thin man draped by a purple cloak. Gripping the reigns were black, spindly fingers as long as wrenches, glistening with an odd, oily-wet sheen. The man couldn’t have been a local. No one in Chicago wore that sort of thing. Calypso put on his poncho, and took a deep breath. As a rule, the more eccentric the guest, the more fuss.
He stepped out into the rain. The man’s hood turned slowly to face him, revealing only a yawning, black, cavern. Calypso balked, and his chest felt as though it were stuffed full of tightly wadded Kleenexes. The man extended a single finger, and coiled it, beckoning him closer. Calypso shuddered. The rain bit him cold on his cheeks, and he smothered them with his poncho as he hunched toward the creaky black wheeled mechanism. He reached into his pocket, and pulled from it a folded valet ticket.
“Are you here for the night?” Calypso shouted. The man shook his head slowly, the way a swing does when it hangs dead in the air.
“Then are you here for my parents? They’re not here now, they left this morning.” Again, the figure shook his head. Now Calypso felt his stomach churn.
“Where are my parents?” This question floated away from his mouth as naturally as a bubble from a bath, though he could not say why. The man reached two long fingers to his side, and drew forth between them, as one does with a playing card, a blood red piece of cloth. It was then that Calypso saw the hands were not hands at all. Rather they were an intricately wound set of tubes, wires and valves, strung together in the mangled yet precise shape of hands and fingers.
“Is that for me?” The man nodded his head as solemnly as he shook it. Then, Calypso added oddly: “Thank you.” At this the cloaked figure growled, or screamed, or cackled, or some mixture of the three. The hair on Calypso’s neck stiffened at this sound – this creaking, grinding, moaning, horrible sound like no earthly thing he’d ever heard.
Calypso carefully unfolded the cloth. Bleached into its center was the imprint of a white cat’s face. Calypso’s clammy skin bumped up like a plucked chicken, and he shuddered once again. His stomach felt like a ball of twisted rubber bands.
“Who are you?” said Calypso. His voice was trembling now. The man pointed back to the cloth. There, in a blood-red inscription beneath the cat’s face, darker even than that of the scarlet cloth, was a signature. Immediately the figure snapped the reigns, and the two sea-horses jolted into the mist quicker than you could say, “Where’s the funeral?” The carriage, the sea-horses, and the man were swallowed, as it seemed, in the fog.
Calypso returned his gaze to the signature.
It read: “The Mechanical Man.”
Nobody knew what happened to William and Amie Locke that morning. The police found their car parked outside an abandoned Chinese restaurant on Chicago’s South Side. No one had heard of the Mechanical Man. They did not know about a blood-red cloth with a bleached white cat. All they knew was that Calypso Locke, as it stood, was an orphan.
In order to read more scenes, contribute to the book, and become a patron, you can check out my patreon page right here and help me reach my year-end goal of $500 a month. Thanks, as always, for being a reader.