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On Failures and Phantasms


It crept up on me. For the first time feeling homesick. Here I am, on the eve of establishing myself proper in my new home and profession, and just as fast I want to dump my creations in the canal and hop on the next ship out of here. I open the tiny window to evacuate the acrid smoke and thus clear my burning lungs as well as my aching head. Pouring myself a brandy from the half-empty decanter I survey my messy worktable and the molten mess upon it. Glaring balefully at the now-solidified slag, I accept it as evidence of my ineptitude.

Retrieving my screwdriver from the floor where it had fallen, I prod the amorphous mass experimentally. It’s no use – fused to the wood of the table. Can’t even get a scrap fee let alone further use from my disfigured table. Its a dashed good thing that my inferno supression device actually worked. By the look of the shredded parts and foul chemicals sprayed all over the room, it had been a stroke of luck i was uninjured, though definitely minus my security deposit which I had paid the landlady.

I step over to the looking glass on the dresser and examine myself, raising my goggles to the top of my forehead and pulling back my ghastly new hairstyle. A few minor cuts and a decidedly racooon look are what greeted me in return. A quick wash and some strategic makeup application are definitely in order. After filling the washbasin I begin to reconstruct my former appearance while indulging in a daydream.

I travelled here to start a new life and a new work, against the explicit wishes of my mother. I wanted something real, something concrete (or copper in this case). Back home things are easier, almost too easy. Not so here. New Babbage feels, to one of my kind, like a wet towel has been draped over my head. I discovered this on my very first day, just after acquiring this squalid room and attempted to light the gaslight “the old way”, and received a badly burned hand for my efforts. Were I to return home…

Finished and reasonably presentable, I turn to look at what was formally a rather nice looking table. Its my own fault really. A victim of my own impatience I am. Or was I simply carried away by my own excitement? I had just finished constructing a number of electrical components of my own design, and was too eager to test and calibrate them. Lacking a generator, I decided to make electrcity “the old way” and I did. In great abundance. After a spectacular display of fireworks and a few seconds of total chaos, a week’s worth of painstaking work has become nothing more than an unattractive lump of coppper. Couldn’t even call it modern art.

Maybe I’m just not ready for this. Maybe my mother was right. I could have been well established back home now: a leading position, a husband, children – a quiet life – and I could forget my studies and live a life of ease….

Poppycock. I can’t go back there.  It is a silly place. It represents the path to apathy and laziness, and apathy of the mind is the worst sort there is! Not to mention the prospect of being married to that dull-witted, toffee-nosed, arrogant fop my Mother had picked out like one of her gaudy dresses. Phew! His good looks so marred by that vapid expression he used everytime I used big words. Plain evidence that my Mother’s taste, in life choices as well as attire, leaves much to be desired. Plus I wouldn’t mind winning the argument  – just this once.

I grin broadly at that idea and re-build my former resolve. I came here to learn and by thunder I shall! Spurred into action, and much refreshed after my rudimentary wash, I decide on a course of action.

First thing first. I will remove this offensive evidence of failure from my sight. Oh, and see to a new table in the morning.  Putting my leather gloves back on, I proceed in the attempt to move the table. Half lifting, have dragging it towards the door, I smirk, being all too aware of the most unladylike motion I am making. I make a mental note to hire myself a good strong fellow as an assistant in the future. Reaching the top of the stairs I decide on a strategy of lowering it down before me on the rickety staircase and taking it just like life, one at a time, and hoping my cantankerous landlady doesn’t raise a fuss over the noise. I grunt with each step but make good progress and am half way downstairs when I hear the whispering.

I stop cold. I listen. I can’t make them out. Wait, I’m not hearing them with my ears ….. its in my mind. Oh NO, not again! Blast were is the thing? With the table balanced precariously on a step and my arms straining to hold it in its tipped state, I strain my mental “ears” to discern its direction. I was soon rewarded for my efforts, or rather punished.

An apparition melts through the front door and proceeds at great speed up the stairwell. The voices in my head become a deafening cacophony as the blurry spirit goes straight through my body, delivering a severe chill.  Then, its gone.

Temporarily deafened, it is a moment before I come back to reality, just in time for the table and its new metal finish to crash at the bottom of the stairs, splintering what was left of the wood. I apparently had managed to grab the bannister to avoid a similar fate for myself. 

“Bloody Hell” I swore. I never swear. Shaking the last of the creep out of me I rush down the stairs and step over the carnage in the foyer. I peek into the sitting room to see if my landlady is present.  She is. Sort of. Looking up at the clock and noting the time I realize that she has definitely been into her laudenum bottle by now. Her bulbous form is laying half on the sofa, and her attention definitely embroiled in a medicated dream-land. Stroke of luck that.

As is usual for my temperment, the cool head I felt in a crisis is soon replaced by a wave of anger. I am sick and tired of these blasted apparitions! Indeed, why the undead see fit to terroize me of late is truly beyond my comprehension. In one week I have received harrassement from: zombies, spirits, and even TRIBBLES! ‘Tis the season I suppose. I wonder if this place is too silly as well…

No I’m going to stick with it. New Babbage is has a lot of reason and sanity, somewhere, despite its occasional bouts of supernatural vermin and rogue mad scientists. I will stay. I will make my life here.  I will do everything “the new way” from now on. Probably best for the state of my nascent reputation. I know now what I need: a change of scenery. Perhaps some new rooms would lift my mood and give me the home I am searching for.  Preferably an unhaunted one that is not too flammable… hmmm… sounds capital.

Retrieving a broom from the hall closet, I proceed to sweep up the detritus in the foyer and carry it outside to the alley whilst dreaming of a bright future. Humming as I sweep the last charred bits out the door. I take a breath of cool night air, thick with its now familiar smog.  Smiling broadly, I know I have made the right decision. Shortly thereafter I make a new decision – to go inside before I am further molested by God-knows-what – thus retaining my good humour.

Stopping by the kitchen, I fix myself a pot of tea and carry the tray up to my rooms which, to my delight, are now clear of fumes – though still looking much the worse for wear. Sweeping some unidentified charred bits from my chair I sit back and sip the fragrant steamy tea, feeling its warmth diffuse through me. Almost idly, I take a spool of copper wire from the floor, and begin the long process of carefully winding it around a ferrous core according to the calculations in my head, counting each wind. I laugh to myself. “Most women take up knitting. My I am a strange one!” On thinking some more, I believe I might fit right in. 


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  1. Kristos Sonnerstein Kristos Sonnerstein November 2, 2011

    ((Oh dear, then you had the misfortune to encounter Dr. Cyberfaustus afflicted with a bout of insanity… And then myself. Well, it’s not always this crazy here, sometimes it’s worse. Kidding!))

    • Erica Fairywren Erica Fairywren November 2, 2011

      ((hehe life is more fun with strangeness in heaping portions! It was a pleasure meeting you last night, I wonder when, if or how Kristos and the Dr. will recover … and what befell us … i have some reading to do :) marvellous work all!))

      • Kristos Sonnerstein Kristos Sonnerstein November 3, 2011

        ((It was a treat meeting and interacting with you as well! And worry not, when away from the dark aether fumes long enough, Kristos recovers much of his faculties fairly well.))

        • Erica Fairywren Erica Fairywren November 3, 2011

          (( oh that is good to know! i wouldn’t mind meeting Kristos when his marbles are intact :D, also gives me an excuse to keep my mind in more or less one piece …. for now :) ))

        • Erica Fairywren Erica Fairywren November 3, 2011

          (( and do let me know when i need to lose my mind again, takes very little prodding lol ))

  2. Erica Fairywren Erica Fairywren November 2, 2011

    ((hmm, no way to delete my incorrectly posted comment…i had put it here instead of reply…))

  3. Orpheus Angkarn Orpheus Angkarn November 2, 2011

    Tribbles in New Babbage? Keep away from the grain silos!

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