draws and writes stuff....just stuff...and stuff
Clockworks

Chapter 1

 

In a cheap restaurant on the outskirts of the City, a boy and a girl sat waiting for their food to arrive. The boy, a dark-haired college student with high cheekbones and tired eyes, folded his arms and rolled his eyes as he talked about the history homework the two of them had to turn in tomorrow. The girl, whose bespectacled eyes crinkled with amusement apparently at the boy’s exasperation, would periodically attempt to smooth her disobedient hair, which had the rough features of a old reddish-brown mop. Her face was round and sprinkled with freckles, some some of the bigger ones covered up by makeup — but not covered well, as they would still show through, faded.

“It’s almost dawn,” said the boy, eyeing a computer screen he had placed on the table. Images and text floated — illuminated — in the screen.

The girl jumped a bit. She pulled the screen to her end of the table and breathed a sigh of relief. “Still an hour left,” she sighed. “Don’t scare me like that.”

“Sorry,” replied the boy. [more?]

The boy’s name was Skyler. “Skyler” because his mother and father imagined him in a lab coat, or in a tweed shirt and blue tie standing in front of a whiteboard or sitting in an office full of paper and books. “Skyler” because it meant “scholar.” He ended up missing his parents’ expectations, but, by that time, a decade and a half had passed since his birth, and they got used to their son being quite mediocre [extraneous?].

Across the table sat Wilkie, short for Wilkinson. She never liked her name. Just as she never liked her hair.

“Half an hour to eat,” said Wilkie, her eyes looking at the ceiling — a habit of hers when engaged in thought. “And the train ride home is fifteen minutes. Not so bad.”

“Well, if the train were to get stuck…”

“Aren’t you a basketful of happiness tonight! The homework making a grouch out of you again?”

“Sorry.” Skyler hated to be pessimistic, but the train had actually gotten stuck before, and the two of them had to spend the day in a nearby shelter.

Wilkie shook her head and leaned back in her chair. She tilted her head to the ceiling, let her mouth hang open, and clasped it shut. Then, she set her gaze on the window next to the table. Skyler followed suit.

The low hanging lights in the restaurant were lit dimly enough to allow Skyler to see the stars outside the window. Some of the stars were big like glowing spiders, while others were so small that he had to look twice to confirm that he had even seen them at all. They all floated in a dark blue soup. Feeling the need to talk about something other than his homework, Skyler remarked, “I wonder if we can see the satellite.”

“Hmm?”

“The one with the engine trouble or something.”

“Oh, that one!” Wilkie’s eyes widened with interest. “I read that they’re going to shoot it down.”

“Shoot it down? I thought they’d send something up to fix it.”

“They’re afraid it might fall on its own anytime now. But, yeah, they seem to be in a hurry to deal with it.” Wilkie frowned. “Some people think it has to do with whatever’s on the satellite.”

“Well, it’s a research satellite…so maybe it’s got dangerous chemicals on it,” theorized Skyler. As he looked out the window, he thought the sky seemed lighter in color than before. Perhaps the sun was nearing the horizon. In the distance, he could start to make out the silhouettes of the hills and mountains that sat beyond the City line. And among those silhouettes, the sharp edges of a few straggling buildings poked up. Those buildings, too, sat beyond the City line and were off-limits. As a child, Skyler often imagined the buildings to be haunted. He and Wilkie would talk of exploring them, and they would prepare gear for their proposed adventure — backpacks filled with canned soup but no can opener, binoculars that they thought could see through ghosts’ invisibility, flashlights strapped to their belts with duct tape.

“What sort of chemicals, you think?” asked Wilkie.

“Well, dangerous chemicals— Let’s see, how about a new experimental fuel? Could explode.”

“But I just don’t think that explains why they’re in such a hurry. The planet is huge; it’s unlikely to ever fall near the City. The satellite cost billions of dollars to make, so why would they shoot it down on the tiny chance of it striking us?”

“Good point,” agreed Skyler, nodding. He glanced at his computer screen. There was a news article in the screen with the headlines “Satellite to Be Shot Down for the Public’s Safety,” and Skyler suddenly felt suspicious of it.

“I think there’s something else on it,” said Wilkie, her eyes bright. “Something much bigger.”

Skyler grinned. “You sound like a conspiracy theorist.”

Wilkie returned the grin. “Damn right I do. And the conspiracy is happening right now, too.”

“Crab sticks in gravy and crab soup?” said a waiter. He carried a tray with the entrees he mentioned. Steam rose from the food-filled porcelain plate and bowl that sat on the tray. Skyler could smell the crab, and his mouth watered.

 

“Ooh, this is good.”

The steamed crab meat on the table beckoned to Skyler. With fork in hand, he pounced on the red-white meat[?]. Its consistency was like a sort of thick cotton candy, and it would melt as he chewed, its juices flowing down the back of his throat like honey [?].

The two of them ate for a while. Every few minutes, either of them would glance at the time displayed on the computer screen. Meanwhile, the sky slowly shifted to a mix between violet and indigo and seemed less and less populated with stars. Thoughts churned in Skyler’s mind, thoughts about the homework, about Wilkie’s words about the satellite and about his mother’s crab sticks recipe.

A curiosity rose inside Skyler, and he said, “Here’s another conspiracy theory for you, Wilkie: What if this crab actually tastes like chicken?”

“What if it does? No one knows what they taste like.”

“So when they make these clockworks, who controls the taste, the texture, and how long they live?”

“Maybe they have a really old guy or lady who remembers what crab tasted like, and they ask that person every time.” Wilkie winked jokingly.

“Maybe I’ll ask that person one day.”

“Me too. Though, for me, I’d rather find out if crabs really did walk sideways.”

They finished their dinner thirty-two minutes before dawn. They made their way through the chilly air outside the restaurant to the station where they boarded an inbound train. Skyler stole one last look at the off-limit buildings in the distance before stepping through the coach’s sliding doors.

The cityscape whipped past the train windows. The buildings and houses were all dark; people were turning off their lights. A weak light-blue glow spread across the sky. Skyler and Wilkie had gotten off the train when the siren sounded: A wail like a trombone’s recording played back at half speed blared through the sky. Instinctively, both Skyler and Wilkie retrieved a timer from their pockets. Fifteen minutes until dawn, stated the timers. Skyler’s walking pace quickened.

Skyler waved goodbye to Wilkie at her home, then proceeded down the block to a two-story apartment complex. With ten minutes to spare, he entered his apartment — quietly, to not disturb his family, all of whom were probably asleep by now. He stood in front of the living room window and watched the sky glow brighter and brighter.

Then, at the stroke of dawn, like ink being poured into a glass of water, the panes in the window turned black. For a minute, Skyler stood in front of that window, but there was nothing to see.

 

Chapter 2

 

The next night, Skyler and Wilkie spent the hours before dawn, like before, laboring on their homework in that cheap restaurant. This time, they had finished early and fallen into a leisurely pace as they walked back to the train station.

“I don’t get why we have to write two thousand words on ‘romance on the middle ages,’” griped Skyler. “Why does—”

But he never got a chance to finish his complaint, because at that moment a faint “pop” reached his ears from above. It sounded like a stray firework. However, when Skyler looked up, he saw something completely different.

“What in the world—” uttered Wilkie. The look of shock that she wore mirrored what Skyler felt.

Streaks of fire rained down, illuminating the sky and the rooftops of nearby buildings. They all flew along a similar trajectory like bullets fired from a single rifle. Something about their trajectory unnerved Skyler, but he could not deduce why until—

“They’re heading this way!” he heard Wilkie yell. “Come on! We gotta take cover!”

Skyler started for the station. But, it was too far away. He frantically searched for some place — any place with a roof or a wall. His eyes focused on an enclosure, a series of steps leading down into the ground flanked by walls that seemed like a service entrance to a sewer system or a subway. Wilkie was also eyeing the enclosure; she nodded at him, and the two of them rushed to it.

A door stood at the bottom of the steps. Skyler tried turning the doorknob and, to his surprise, the door opened. It opened with a creak, hesitant and loud, but all of that noise soon paled in the face of the roar that came from above. Orange light shone on the outside of the door as Skyler and Wilkie pushed it closed. Breathing heavily, the two of the turned to see what sort of place they had gotten into.

A Little Swim

It was hot. So hot, that I felt my sweat stream down my face like miniscule rivers. My mother, father, sister, and I stood on a the end of a pier extending the width of a football field into the waters of the lake. Buoys strung together by thick rope formed the shape of a square on the water’s surface; I had been told that the square designated a zone that was safe for swimmers.

Safe? I felt differently. As I stared into the lake, a green, gloopy abyss stared back at me. Puddles of algae bobbed with the waves the way oils collected on the surface of water, and weeds — greenish, discolored things — communed with the algae in a soup of decay.

Actually, the water was quite clean. But in my mind I, naturally, exaggerated every detail.

Anyways, back to my horror story: I stared at the soupy soup of decay, turned to my parents, and griped, “There’s no way I’m gonna swim in this.”

“You’re going to swim,” replied Mother.

“But look at the water!” I defiantly pointed at a weed stalk floating on the lake’s surface. “If I get botulism—”

“You get botulism from bad food. Plus, they test the waters regularly.”

“B-but all that algae! It’s gonna infect me!”

Mother looked at me. Her expression, a calm visage with no trace of anger or impatience, relayed to me a message of finality; it was like I had already begun my descent into the abyss, had already fallen from the pier — with nothing to hold on to — gravity pulling me toward the infested waters, waters ready to swallow me like a great white shark swallowing a goldfish.

So I jumped into the lake, swam around for a while, got out, and went home.

I did not get botulism.

“Impact in four minutes,” came a mechanical drone — vaguely styled in a woman’s voice — from somewhere inside the walls of the platform. Skyler froze. Wilkie, Dom, Adelen, and Jez exchanged similar looks of flabbergasted fear. Then, all at once, everyone scrambled for the exit.

“Impact in three minutes and fifteen seconds.” The hallways flashed between a blood red illuminated by the emergency lights and a pitch black. Skyler tripped and felt a hand securely grab his upper arm before being yanked to his feet and then resuming his run. They passed a door, another door, turned left and left and right. Patiently, the mechanical voice continued to count down each quarter of a minute.

And all around them a shriek sheared the air.

“Impact in two minutes and thirty seconds.”

“There!” Skyler heard Wilkie shout. A sign that read “Escape Pod” leered at them from the hallway’s end. An illuminated arrow pointed to a narrow passage. Everyone obeyed the sign and rushed down the passage, which seemed like an opening in the wall lined with an entangled mass of wires and copper pipes. Tiny lightbulbs splashed dim light on off-sides of the wires and pipes, and Skyler strangely recalled that night he spent in Jez’s parent’s garden, staring at that thick growth of ivy crawling up and down the hedges.

“Impact in forty-five seconds.” Adelen hands were a blur over the escape pod’s control interface. Dom shook so much that he could not secure his seat belt; the belt’s clip heads, guided by his unsteady hands, kept on missing each other. He bit his lips and yelled to Wilkie, “Help me!”

Wilkie’s brows furrowed. She began to reach over to Don, paused, and then continued her motion and grabbed Dom’s seat belt. As she jammed the belt clip heads together, a wry smile crossed her face. Her eyes bore into Dom’s.

“Hang on!” shouted Adelen. “We’re launching!”

“Impact in fifteen seconds.” An invisible force — or an invisible an angry elephant — pasted Skyler into his seat as debris zoomed by the pod’s circular windows. The shriek had disappeared. Skyler grinded his teeth and squeezed his eyes shut. Then, he felt the entire pod give a massive lurch as brilliant orange light burned through his eyelids.

When Called to Introduce Myself to the Class…

This is my intro:

It was to be so awesome

But my brain farted.

sketch dump lalalalalalala