Summoning the Clockwork Spider

These NaNoWriMo entries will not be in chronological order.  You are not guaranteed a coherent plot, consistent characterization, nor understandability.  I’m certainly striving for quality within the scope of each post, but at a 1000 plus words a day I’m not holding me feet to the fire over it.

Karen stroked the worn green velvet of the of the Victorian settee. The green was almost black. The worn spots contoured the ridge line where one might rest an arm. They were so sever imagining them as desert continents on a wide ocean came to mind. Out of habit she reversed her perception to make them a string of lakes in an expanse of dark grass.

She waited alone—as she was instructed—for the first hour listening to the ebb and flow of the conversation in the library. First it was polite greetings and invitations to have a drink or a seat. Which naturally evolved into reminiscences and occasional genuine but quiet laughter. The eleven people in the library Karen could not enter knew each other as well as family and as poorly as strangers.

She thought she and Malachi arrived last, so was surprised when a mage entered the sitting room and passed through to the library with only a curt nod; all she could recall of him was that he had dark hair. After his arrival the genial conversation went silent briefly then became aggravated muttering. Karen startled a second time when another mage, a woman who immediately brought to mind a donut maker, passed through the sitting room.

“Hi Karen, Sweetie.” Karen acknowledged the woman with a limp wave and a doubtful smile. She had never seen this woman. Whether it was a glamour of the library or her unreadiness, Karen never saw into the library with either’s entrance.

The conversation recycled after the doughy woman’s entrance but at the extremes: louder and swifter than before. Finally it turned to business. She heard the first lines of a concealment spell being spoken then absolute silence. Easily another hour would pass before she would know what happened inside if she ever did.

Across the room a floor lamp with a poorly made Tiffany shade gave off more light than it should have in this Grandma’s-house of a sitting room. Two chairs flanked the lamp. Both were out of place in this place and they did not match. One was a Southwestern thing with actual cowhide and leather pillows. Its wooden legs were punctuated with brass tacks the showroom salesman no doubt jokingly referred to as Texas-sized. “You know. Like the toast. Ha ha.” The other was a bar stool stolen from a diner in the 50s. Its seat was slick and sparkling and red; its chrome plated legs shone mirror-bright. Karen discovered forty-five minutes ago it swiveled.

Karen fished her pocket watch out to check the time almost exactly an hour had passed in silence. The door to the library irrupted into the sitting room. Karen looked up like an expectant child waiting at the doctor’s office or an assistant babysitting a conference room full of management. Instead of a polite stream of bodies exiting the room a single crashed backward into the room and onto the floor. His head concussed the floor so hard it shook his toupee loose.

A brass-geared clockwork spider the size of a Chihuahua leapt out of the library from about halfway up the door, plopped on the floor between the man’s legs, scuttled up his torso, and bounded to the other door trying to get out. Before Karen could register this oddity, Malachi strode from the library. His manner a veteran surgeon who didn’t expect the surgery to go bad, but is nonetheless prepared when it does. After stepping over the man he fearlessly reached in between the brasswork’s eight legs and turned it off or killed it. Immediately the well-oiled whir of gears wound down to nothing. A click. The opisthosoma tucked under the soma and the legs pinched closed evenly around it. It became and egg-shaped cage protecting the engine and rocked over like a child’s toy.

“Your bag!” Karen had the same idea and was already reaching for her amethyst daypack trying to recall if there was anything in it she didn’t need. She popped the clips, unzipped it, and dumped the contents onto the settee. She had time to think “Tampons, great.” before thrusting the daypack into Malachi’s outstretched hand. With less haste than she expected, he picked up the spider and tucked it into her bag. He seemed more intent on hiding the thing than securing it.


All but a few of the mages had departed. Some said good-bye to the group; some just left. Though Karen knew each of them by name, some rather well, none acknowledged her as they exited. The last mage, the donut maker, attended Jim Creason, the man who had fallen out of the library, on the soft cow chair. He was injured enough to not feel embarrassed yet. Barrett Smith, the dark-haired fellow, and Malachi chatted in the threshold between the library and the sitting room. Her daypack hung from Malachi’s tattooed hand like a titanium briefcase filled with launch codes.

Barrett dipped his head looking for agreement from the other two. Malachi nodded back as if the unspoken question need not have been asked. The dark-haired mage agreed thoughtfully like he’d already moved on to other matters.

Barrett and the other man disappeared deeper into the place through the library. Malachi lit a cigarette practiced negligence and tipped a booklet from one of the shelves. He checked his watch then thumbed through the booklet. He checked his watch again and shelved the booklet. Karen walked up to him in the library.

Malachi blew smoke out the corner of his mouth; he was being polite. That smoke, the smoke that had been steeping his lungs and tainting his blood just moments before, drifted to her left. She turned her head to avoid it but a crisp tendril directly from the Lucky Strike seared her nostrils anyway. As much as she would have preferred to call him father, she was glad he was her lover.

“Karen.” He called her Karen when he didn’t want argument. “I must go. This is not what we were after. Get your things. Margaret will take you back.” Malachi’s voice always pitched higher than she expected and soft like a leather Bible not coarse like bootlegger tires on gravel.

“I’m going with you.”

“You don’t know where I’m going or why. You don’t need to be there and I don’t want you along.” He brushed passed her into the sitting room. “Margaret?”

“Yes. Yes, of course, Mal.” the donut maker agreed without looking up from Jim Creason or even knowing Malachi’s question. “I’ll look after Dorothy and get her back to Kansas and all.”

“Thanks.” He shouldered Karen’s daypack and headed toward the exit.

“Mal? Wait a damn minute would you?” Malachi paused at the door, took a deep drag, and exhaled as he left the place.

“Son of a bitch.”

One Reply to “Summoning the Clockwork Spider”

  1. Except for a couple lines I stole from earlier ramblings this is crap writing. I don’t like that, but I’m not going to dwell on it except in this brief critique.

    I’ve provided no real characterization for Karen. Essentially she’s the author’s pawn describing objects in the room. Nice work there.

    Malachi gets a tiny bit of characterization through Karen’s eyes, but that’s one of the pieces I grafted in on a cheat.

    The totally unexpected Margaret character probably does OK with her’s.

    I copped out on the dialogue between the two. I don’t think it has any sense of two people that know each other having different ideas of what should happen next.

    The library is mysterious in a not good way. The entire action that occurs there–the title action–is never described in a satisfying way.

    I do like the 1000+ word count.

Comments are closed.