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Idle Hands

The shop down below his reading room was nearly empty, save for a few display models and a glitchy old gurney. He’d finished the repairs to Mrs Smithson’s phaeton tomorrow. Loose worm gear, most likely. Nothing much. It would keep dinner on the table.


He’d spent the evening over at the Bucket. You could tell a lot about a culture from how it drank. In Caledon they drank to be seen drinking, usually something fine and obscure. In Steelhead they drink because they often at a party. In Winterfell they drink to forget, though by now they surely have forgotten and are not likely to remember. In New Babbage they drink to get drunk. In a dozen little watering holes across town you cold see them, the stout well built trunks of mechanics, barristers, madmen, and fishwives; sitting huddled around greasy tables through sooty windows, staring seriously into their glasses, pondering the next sip like a chess play.


Spires hated a dull moment. He took out pencil and paper and tried to scribble down a new design. Nothing came to him and his mind seemed to move the pencil to crank out poetry instead. Such bloody awful poetry,


“I wandered lonely as a crab”


He put a stop to the nonsense. We went to bed instead, his thin mattress on pallets inside his boiler house.


The dream occured again. He was grassy plain with an endless horizon. She was there, somewhere. Had to get to her. With no path and yet a definite sense of direction, he moved forward even as the sun retreated quickly. Dark men tending to cattle and horses stood here and there murmurring in a sing song language he did not understand. He realized inherently that if he ever did learn the language, he would be trapped here with them, tending the endless fields.

The sun was gone, now. An ivory cone stood in his path, too geometrically regular to be a tusk. On its face was etched a face in agony, its mouth a rictus of pain. He looked up where it pointed and saw the harvest moon looming over his face. The moon dominated the sky. It rotated upon its acces, filling Spires with sudden vertigo. Suddenly on the moon was his own face. It stared at him, and screamed.

Spires woke up breathing heavily. He looked over at a small, half drunken bottle of laudanum. He hadn’t remembered imbibing, but that was nothing new. It was still alarming though.


He got up, determined not to finish his sleep.

“I shall design a threshing machine.” he said to no one in particular.





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