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Books by Quantum Muse contributors and friends.
Quantum Musings

Raymond Coulombe, Michael Gallant, Timothy O. Goyette
A Felony of Birds

Harris Tobias
CHRONON--Time Travel

Harris Tobias

Clockwork Angels

by Branden Szabo


“Is it true you’ve never cried before, Elayne?”

Elayne looked out at the grand city of Moonlight Station, paying only half attention to her fairy-friend’s rather personal inquiry.  She was hiding below the sill of an open window thirty stories in the air: the perfect spot for a marksman like her.  The twilight breeze rushed over her face like a warm stream, shaking her bangs. 

“Hey!”  The tiny form of Nina the fairy zipped up and down in front of her, “Earth to Elayne – answer me.”

Elayne shooed the troublesome creature away.  “Of course I’ve never cried.  I’m fifteen years old, crying is for little girls.”  She used the scope of her rifle to scan the distant floor of the city.  Just as she suspected the goblins were getting uppity again, walking about like they owned the place.  Moonlight Station was once a peaceful human town until the green hoard graced it with its presence.  Now it was war every day. 

The exception was nightfall.  Surprisingly, the goblin warlord agreed to a civil compromise: No hostilities after dark.  Elayne spared a glance at the clock tower nearby.  It was an opulent work of art decorated with stone angels holding a bronze bell that chimed at dusk.  This bell was the signal for both sides to holster arms until morning. 

The sun receded quickly, the colors of the day rushed to the western horizon turning the sky pink and the clouds black.  If Elayne wanted a kill, it was now or never. 

“Nina, which one should I pick?” she asked.

Fairies, however small, had superior eyesight; humans often enlisted their help in battle as spotters.  The fairies often obliged in exchange for what they thought to be mankind’s greatest gift to the world: pie.

Nina aimed a finger.  “There, the one picking his nose by the water fountain.  He’s totally exposed, you can’t miss.”

Elayne surreptitiously took aim at the foul green skin.  She inhaled and started to squeeze the trigger.

The clock tower bell rang out.  It was a dull, empty ring that echoed far into the distance and resonated throughout the town like a wild river.  Nightfall had arrived. 

Elayne withdrew her rifle.  “Saved by the Clockwork Angels …” she murmured to her lucky prey.

“You know,” Nina began cautiously, “Ever since this war began the greenies have won every battle they’ve fought.  Do they have a crystal ball or something or do you humans just stink at fighting?”

“Talkin’ to the wrong woman, I’m just a grunt.      Elayne crawled out from under the blanket hiding her body and wrapped it up.  “Gotta go now, meet me here again tomorrow.”

“Wait!  Where’s my pie?”

“I’ll bring you one tomorrow.”

“Unacceptable!”  Nina flapped her wings and flailed her limbs, “Pie now.  That’s the deal.”

“I have to meet someone first.”

“Oh, you can’t be serious.  That courier boy what’s-his-face?  Markin?”

Elayne held a fist close to her heart and closed her eyes.  “We’re talking about my first love.  This is a very important part of a young human girl’s life; I have to tell him how I feel.” 

“B-But,” Nina stammered, “You fall in love all the time. Isn’t this like your 12th 1st love?” 

Elayne scampered back to the barracks like a rock skipping over a pond.  A courier’s job was very important; he ran confidential information between friendly regiments both day and night.  Elayne was lucky to even catch sight of Markin let alone catch him, and when she did she told him everything. 

The inevitable silence was filled with nothing but her own doubts.  Would he laugh at her?  Would he ignore her?  Neither occurred.  He patted her on the head and said: “I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel the same way.”

The next morning, Elayne returned to her thirtieth floor nest with a jubilant bounce in her step.  Nina was already there, half-buried in a pie she managed to pilfer from an unsuspecting human.  She popped her head up from the crust.  “What’s with the dopey smile?  You didn’t actually confess your love did you?”

“Of course I did, and he said he loves me too!”

“He said he lov – does he even know your name?  Ugh, why do I even try?” 

The sky was gray most of the day; sunlight struggled to shine through the muscular clouds.  Dusk came upon them fast and even with Nina’s eyes, Elayne failed to spot a single target worth the risk of firing upon.  Goblins weren’t the best marksmen but a single shot was all they needed to uncover her location. 

“… Elayne,” Nina said weakly, like she never intended to speak.  “Look: down by the church.”

Elayne used the scope of her rifle.  What she saw stopped her heart.  Goblins congregated around a single human: Markin.  Far from attacking him, they seemed to be welcoming him.  The girls watched with cold numbness as he revealed the hidden positions of human soldiers, including their own.

“I can’t be …” So many of Elayne’s innocent beliefs disintegrated in front of her, replaced by the heaviness of stupidity.  How could he say he loved her when he was plotting against her this whole time?

The same look of sadness and betrayal overcame Nina’s features but it provided only a little comfort.  “Guess it wasn’t a crystal ball after all.  Nightfall will be here soon.  Shoot him now.”

The words were icy but accurate.  Elayne took aim and framed her face to the task.  She inhaled and secretly hoped that the Clockwork Angels would save him.


They didn’t.  She withdrew from the window and hid herself.  The clock tower bell rang out as the last bit of daylight shriveled over the horizon.  And in the still silence of night, Elayne cried for the first time in her life. 

2016-01-09 07:17:47
Wesson - Thank you!

2016-01-08 06:52:17
The point about this story that I was most impressed with was the ability of the author to select a tiny bit of time from some future person's life and have us care about that person. You can see the loss of innocence even in this flash story - and that's a tough thing to do in less than 1000 words. Very nice!

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Books by Quantum Muse contributors and friends.
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