The heavy bell was sounding ten o'clock in the evening and I stood in the basement of the clock tower yet again, a smoking pistol (nicely wrought) dangling from fingers gone half-limp, a sheaf of papers falling gradually from my other hand. The others were arrayed around me in hideous repose, victims or martyrs depending on whom you asked. The soles of my neatly buckled boots were stained with their blood. There was the gnarled agglomeration of pumps and pipes and gears and cranks and siphons on the wall behind me. I could still remember when the mass of it wasn't even connected to the main lines, when my altar of bolts and washers was so much unused machinery. Before this place was mine. There was my workbench to the side, eleven phials neatly labeled, some thin tubes, needle and thread. Just the essentials. I never could abide clutter. There were the plans for my project, so carefully assembled for nearly one third of my ever-dwindling lifetime. And there was the heavy-handled ornamented knife, almost dull from long use, poorly maintained at best, stained with bile and spinal fluid and the Engine knew what else. That knife was not my own. It was currently projecting from between my ribs, nestled within a small damp rip in my elegantly laced shirt. And she, the blur of lips and lace before me, only smiled, one bare foot (its sole, I noticed even now, stained a delicate rose color) dangling over the edge of my altar.


Two Cowering Clay Statues