After an unexpected, unscheduled, and very undesired outage, we are back for our regular programming of Certain Chaos! 😀
What happened? MY LAPTOP EXPLODED! Kind of. The PSU ‘popped’, released a burnt stench into the air, and powered off forevermore.
It was a crap-tastic HP with minimal power and memory and everything. But it was cheap and its sole purpose in my life was to serve as Machine of Story Writing, and it failed at that half the time too. I’ve been suffering with the thing for jussttt over a year. I came to Steem with it. Imagine my disdain when I discovered how it struggled to even load Steemit pages. And don’t get me started on the amount of Steem Monsters battles I automatically forfeited because the dang thing couldn’t think fast enough! Nope. Not an internet problem. A slow computer problem. Ohhh and Discord. You’se all use Discord!!! Do you know how painful it was to use Discord on that old piece of crap machine?
Anyway. All that is over now. This new machine is the glorious machine that should’ve been, and now… I’m using it to write about other, different, ancient machines!!
I worked out that I need to write a minimum of 2100 words a day to catch the heck up. (As opposed to banging out a 10,000 word day, HAHA!)
The prompts in this piece are some prompts I missed due to the aforementioned catastrophe.
Here we go!!
Today’s Wordcount: 2500
Total Wordcount: 11677
The seaside winds brushed through Cassandra’s golden hair —a salty, sticky breeze that threatened to usurp the perpetual tidiness of each strand before they recollected themselves and neatly fell back into place. A gift from Loren. Once a child with unruly ringlets that knotted in thick bunches made of torment, her hair was now free from such agonies forevermore… well, as long as he was around to keep his magic alive at any rate.
There was a minivan beside her, rusted by the ocean air yet still obviously white from days long gone. Somehow, during the turmoil that had happened twenty odd years ago when people realised that the world just would never be the same again, the minivan had found itself lodged atop the old Boat Club. There were no skeletons inside, so they had escaped at least… their survival was another story. Smiling to herself, she gripped the handle and climbed atop the vehicle, enjoying the extended view her newfound height allowed.
Hervey Bay had once been a tourist city known for its beaches and whale-watching. Now it was merely home to Loren and the few thousand people who had survived and thrived over the years. Babies were still being born, adults all worked together to replicate an old-fashioned community, and children were educated under a new system that opted to focus on imparting self-reliance and respect to their Lord Loren, and of course, respect to those that once lived and may yet live again. Their set-up was much more ideal than the wasted potential of Harclyffe. He could have maintained the small city and kept it thriving, instead it seemed he had fallen to madness —a slave to the machine he had found— and the city had fallen into a state of overgrown disrepair.
She peered over her shoulder before returning her gaze out over the ocean. Of course, Loren had a similar machine. Yet, he was not enslaved to it… in fact, if all went well, what was within would ally itself with them instead of staking its claim. She had all faith that Loren held the strength necessary to match the creature.
A burst of aqua flashed across the seas in a kaleidoscopic pattern that spread over the waters and toward the horizon, caressing the similar colours painted across the skies as they met over the distance. Three large, dark shapes jumped out of the water and created an epic splash as they returned to the depths, the individual droplets evident even over the distance. The whales, once the life-blood of this city, had come to visit once more.
Cassandra looked down into the calm brown eyes of an elderly woman, her wisps of white hair framing the deep wrinkles embedded into her worn and tanned face. The woman cleared her throat and bowed her head.
“Milord Loren begs your presence, milady.”
“Of course,” Cassandra smiled and jumped down from atop the minivan.
Inside the building it was as bright and colourful —and as noisy— as it had been before the incident had occurred. Loren had devised a way to create solar panels that could withstand the ferocity of the spectacle outside and was able to save his magic for more important causes. Now the people who lived in the area congregated here of a night to celebrate their day’s work and play various games. The pokies and assorted slot machines were gone and pillaged, their outer bodies as useless as the coins they had once harboured, their cables and wiring now used for things of far more use, but the alcohol flowed, food was served, and there were various card and board-games for the people to enjoy, not to mention the same balcony she had just been standing on where one could gaze out over the peaceful sea. It was perfection.
Down the stairs and into the foyer, then a sharp turn into what had once been the building’s administrative offices. Offices that Loren had claimed for his own. He was standing by the table —an old mahogany construct that had seen better days— his back turned to her as he beheld something in his hand.
“Loren,” she said softly, laying a hand on his shoulder and leaning her head against the monolithic bulb that served as his. ‘Balloon heads,’ Henry had called them. She stiffened. It was so disrespectful.
Loren whipped around and beamed, then she noticed the diamond clutched tight in his hand. The item he had been staring at so intently just a moment ago.
“It’s truly perfect,” he declared, the faint hint of reverence barely hidden behind his excitement. “It’s exactly what we need to complete the machine!”
“You’ve worked out how to use it?” Cassandra asked, narrowing her eyes. If his excitement grew much larger, she would need to put an end to it. She would not have him become as obsessed and deranged as Harclyffe over a simple machine no matter what wonders were held inside.
He snapped his gaze to hers and straightened his posture, an indignant flush spreading over his bulbous head as he steadied it atop his gangly body.
“My dear. That ‘simple machine’ you’re criticising holds the last of a glorious people. We will free it, and you will respect it. All will respect it. It demands respect!”
“I’m not criticising the machine or that which sleeps within it, dear,” she soothed. “I merely worry that you have become… preoccupied with the notion of freeing the unknown.”
“It is not unknown! My family have been studying this people since before the solar majesty transformed our skies. There are questions that must be answered, and with this,” he raised the diamond into the air so that the dying rays of the setting sun shone through the window and pierced the faceted sides, allowing the otherwise plain gem to burst with a full display of spectacular colours. “With this,” he repeated in a whisper, “all will be revealed.”
“I have no doubt.” Cassandra took Loren’s hand in hers and offered him her most reassuring smile. “What have you discovered?”
With that question asked, Loren’s excitement promptly expanded once more and he laughed.
“Cassandra! You know that this is something mere words cannot convey,” he cast a loving eye over the diamond again and his gaze softened. “It can be seen, though. I cannot wait any longer. I need to see.”
Cassandra’s eyes widened. When Loren had previously said that the diamond was exactly what was needed to complete the machine, she had believed the statement to be hyperbolic. With the confidence exuding from the man though, it was evident that he had indeed discovered much from the small gem. Maybe it really was as close to completion as he believed. That would change everything! No longer would children learn of a fabled people that existed before humans did; they would instead experience and worship that people directly. The solar calamity had truly been the greatest blessing.
“I would love to see it.”
Loren’s thin fingers wrapped around her wrist and pulled her towards the bookshelf. Lifting out the crimson book in the very centre, the bookshelf shuddered then separated into two, revealing a flight of stairs descending into darkness breached only by the light of a few candles.
She had only been down here a few times before, preferring to remain in the well-lit Boat Club and allowing Loren the peace and silence he required to conduct his various research and experiments. The faint candlelight illuminated the edges of the stairs though didn’t light up each step appropriately, and she clung to the rail as she navigated her way down to the bottom, guided by the accentuation of her lover’s head.
The stench of rotten fish wafted through the area, though that was not so different from the shores above where each week decaying fish were deposited in piles upon the sand banks, intertwined with thick ropes of kelp and eternal plastic. Though accustomed to it, Cassandra still wrinkled her nose as she followed Loren further into the dark, until they finally reached the machine.
Constructed of what she assumed was copper and gold, the machine boasted many elaborate cranks and dials almost like something out of an old time-travel movie. Perhaps the set designers had once seen one of these machines, she thought. The things did seem to be quite numerous, though as far as she knew, no-one had ever figured them out. She stretched out her fingers, suddenly aware that they had been balled up into fists. Was she really about to see one of these machines come to life in the manner it had always been designed? They humans were so primitive compared to these ancient beings… she took a deep breath, then drew it out slowly. Her faith in Loren was high. He was the only one suitable for this grand opening. If the person inside still lived, Loren was the only one capable of communication. It would all be okay.
“The machine must be moved into position,” Loren murmured, placing tender hands over the metal surface. “Take him and follow.”
Sebastian lay on a wheeled bed beside the machine, trapped within the endless sleep the ‘house special’ had weaved about his mind earlier that week. She had near expected him to die —one dose alone was awfully potent— but he still breathed. The double dose they had given Henry, however, was a definite death-bringer. Ahh, Henry… may he rest in peace, and may his soul be granted the knowledge that his role in this play had been one of the greatest triumphs for all of mankind.
Grasping the metal frame of the bed, she pushed Sebastian after Loren into an alcove rimmed with unintelligible golden runes of no language she had ever seen. The machine was placed into the perfect centre where an indent had been created for it, and when it locked into position three bright lights burst into life and near blinded her.
“Put the host over here,” Loren demanded, pointing to a small rectangular indent carved into the ground beside the machine.
He did not respond to her question and instead began adjusting the random cranks and pulleys, and swallowing down her distaste Cassandra simply did as she was bidden. She pushed Sebastian and his bed into the indent and stepped back, wiping away the beads of cold sweat that had formed over her forehead. ‘Host.’ It didn’t sound right. This was not quite what she was expecting and she didn’t care if Loren sensed that thought or not. She moistened her lips and waited.
Loren pulled Harclyffe’s diamond out from his top pocket and locked it into place in the machine, alongside two other gemstones of similar quality. Now there were three. The number ‘three’ had been sacred in many religions before and it seemed that this ancient race’s beliefs were no different. Divinity. Maybe the more recent religions had taken the ‘three’ from these ancients… who knew anymore —it was a history lost to time.
Two large dials were rotated to the right, two others to the left, then Loren pulled the central lever. The machine hummed a low vibration that trembled the dirt beneath their feet and seemed to pull at the air around them, sucking all the dust particles into a burgeoning vortex that glowed bright with the same sheen Harclyffe’s diamond had held when put up against the sunlight in Loren’s office. Sebastian’s body rose up from the bed and brushed against her as it floated towards the whirling air, and a slight nausea tainted the back of her throat as his head rotated in a slow, painful circle, the crack of his neck audible despite the rising volume of the hum.
When she had said that she’d love to see it… this wasn’t what she had imagined.
Sebastian’s head performed another slow rotation and she was suddenly grateful she had yet to eat anything that day, for it would soon have added to the stench of rotting fish and may have disrupted Loren’s actions. She would not be the cause of any failures. The vibrating hum transformed into a shrill shriek that rose louder than an opera singer’s highest note and Cassandra stood a little taller, refusing to clamp her hands over her ears whilst Loren was so evidently enthralled. Her slightest movement could ruin something, anything, and she would remain steadfast; she would not falter.
Her breath increased in small gasps as the vortex seemed to consume all available oxygen. Loren remained unaffected. She shot him a quick glare, wondering why he wasn’t allowing her the gifts his magic could offer, but all that was offered was a small smile. His eyes shone as white as the diamonds, as the vortex, then all came to a halt. It was as a snapshot frozen in time. The dust, the body, the vortex that whirled no longer yet remained fixed in mid-air hovering before the machine’s three shining diamonds.
The machine shut off instantly. The three bright lights faded. The diamonds stopped shining. Sebastian’s body collapsed to the floor. The vibrational hum-turn-squeal vanished. All that remained were the flickering candles that barely allowed any light to pierce the darkness.
“Sweetie, what just happened?” Cassandra gasped, finally able to breathe once more.
Loren’s voice was low, imperious, and Cassandra stepped back, wildly rubbing at the goosebumps that formed over her arms. A strange rustling sound crept into her ears, followed by a grunt, then the stomps of two heavy feet climbing up from the floor, and she felt the blood rush from her face. Who else could that be but Sebastian? Whose neck should surely be broken!
Thick, garbled mutterings from a tongue she could not understand filled the air, in tones slightly reminiscent of Sebastian’s voice yet not.
Stumbling back further, she didn’t stop until the wall pressed against her back, and then more garbled mutterings, this time reminiscent of Loren’s voice, resounded loud and clear.
The first unfamiliar voice released a deep chuckle that reverberated through the undercroft in a continuous rumble that seemed as though it would not stop, and then, after several minutes passed, it spoke in Sebastian’s voice, but guttural.
“The small one speaks well. The small one will be entertained later. This one hungers.”
That did nothing to allay Cassandra’s sudden fear. Slowly shuffling away from the wall, she clutched Loren’s arm tight.
“Come. Let’s eat, then,” Loren coolly responded.
“Pardon me,” Cassandra whispered, eyeing the faint candlelight that accentuated Sebastian’s twisted body. “What will our… guest be eating?”
Loren raised an eyebrow and rubbed his hands together, his glee ill-concealed as he said, “That which it hosts, of course. He was perfect. You exceeded expectations by delivering him here.”
Cassandra moistened her lips and tightened her grip on Loren’s thin arm.
“You’re welcome,” she whispered.