The HJP Club: The Time Keeper
The horizon lay black against the burning orange sky. The sun had disappeared in a blaze of glory behind the silhouette of the mountain range way beyond. Yellow streaks broke up the orange here and there; the smoke drifting from the black earth marred its perfection. The lone cottage at the brink of the creek, that gave the sand its only moisture, was lit by a single torch, its simple wood held captive in a steel grove that protruded from the earth just enough to prevent fire. Above the torch a black urn bubbled, steam hissing from its lid to the square faceless time catcher above it. The air trembled with each quiet click of the fifty gears encased within the wood and gold frame that was propelled by the steam rising beneath it.
The Time Keeper stared off into the distance at the ebony form of an unidentifiable rider flitting from the landscape before him. He pulled his subatomic disintegrator pistol out from under the cuff of his pants, and held its vial over the steam just long enough to fill it before replacing it at the edge of the gun. It was highly uncommon for anyone to approach the time house, and the few who had died shortly after their tour. It was not for man to know how time worked, lest they manipulate it for their own selfish reasons. From this distance he was unable to tell if the rider were man, beast, or machine; perhaps a combination of the above.
The rider stopped and dismounted, still 50 feet out from the torch, hovering in the shadows without approaching.
“Show yourself, lest you be vaporized,” the Time Keeper’s wooden voice was carried along the wind.
“That would be an ill-advised move. I mean you no harm; only wish passage through the portal. I bring magnets and a trinket for you in payment.” The baritone edged on the brink of bass, resonating in the earth, sending a slight tremor through the torch, almost dislodging it. Metallic clatter and the hushed whirls of small gears met the Time Keeper’s ears. A small robot appeared in the torchlight, its head void of traditional facial expressions, its body a transparent cover to its metal guts inside. The gears within the robot turned effortlessly, without steam, a testament to the advancement of the visage before him.
“I am merely the Keeper. I do not control the portal. The train rides on its own schedule.” A flash of light bounced in the air. The stranger took note of the warning and flashed his own blade in return.
“Ah, but you know the exact hour when the train will ride, and when the portal will open. I am not afraid to duel with you, but when you are dead, who will keep time then?”
“Time needs no keeper, man does. But, I will humor your folly. Come into the light and prepare to meet your destiny.”
The stranger stepped in to the light, the fire bouncing over the metal of his fleshless cheek. His eyes were human enough, though, and that was all the Time Keeper needed to know as their blades connected. Muscle against steel, the long sleeves of the stranger’s overcoat slipping over hands, hiding their movement, thrust to match each parry. The footprints in the dirt revealed each new lead as the blades continued slicing through the air, a macabre dance of sparks, the only rhythm coming from the sliding of the gears in both the clock and the robot. The Time Keeper slipped in, using his pistol to block, ready to deliver a fatal blow, when the stranger reached into his pocket, producing a magnet. A slice of his blade through the air sent the magnet flying into the clock. A loud chugging, a hiss of steam, and the stranger disappeared in a flash of steel.
This week we were given the prompt to step out of our comfort zone and in 600 words or less write something different (I went just a little over the word count, but it couldn’t be helped). This is my first venture into the unknown world of the Steampunk genre and also in a YA setting. I’m incredibly nervous as this is the 3rd part of a continuing series that began here and continued here. It also has its own page now also.
What do you think? (please note that I am having format issues, so apologies that the indentions are not correct).