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Holiday Microfiction: “The Clockwork Bee” by Kellie Doherty

Happy December everyone! It’s been a long year, but we finally made it to the end of 2020!

To celebrate the holiday season the staff at Fantasy-Faction have prepared a little treat! Every Monday and Friday for the rest of the month, we will feature a piece of microfiction from one of our contributors.

Today, we have Kellie Doherty and “The Clockwork Bee”.

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The Clockwork Bee by incanus_arts (detail)

“The Clockwork Bee”

by Kellie Doherty

Gylvonna sat on her bunk, trying her best to ignore the frost that rimed the porthole next to her and the way her arms trembled even under the thick woolen blanket. Her breath seemed to freeze in air. She rubbed her eyes. Her gaze skipped around her small cabin, only large enough for a bunk and a dresser, and since this was the lowest cabin on the SVS Cherish 507, the metal walls sloped all around her. She stared at the stars glittering in space, winking at her. Calling her to them. She would join them soon—rest nestled among the stars like her ancestors, like some of the crew already had on this drifting spaceship.

The silence deafened her.

As an engineer she knew the sounds of the ship—the quiet ticking of the engine cogs, the thrum of the solar panels, the hum of magic in the arcane gemstone that powered the whole damn ship and had lost its spark a few days back. No one could reignite it.

Not even her. Gylvonna pushed her hands out from the blanket; staring at her fingers, her wrists, the backs of her hands, where the magic was woven into her body like strands of wires coiling on her black skin. Was supposed to be woven anyway.

All the magic vanished when the gem died. The crew couldn’t access the magic spark within their bodies. The ship powered down. Even life support had stopped that morning. The air trapped in the ship was all they had left. From a crew of fourteen, one had already passed from the cold and another took their own life from sheer panic. With communications down it was unlikely anyone would find them. The captain sent them back to their bunks to gather any last trinkets . . . things they wanted to hold on to while they froze.

“I don’t want to die,” she whispered. Tears formed in the corner of Gylvonna’s eyes. She missed the constant noise. Even now she swore she heard a quiet ticking, phantom sounds from a few days prior perhaps.

Collect trinkets, the captain had said. Collect memories. Something to hold onto while everything turned to black. She glanced around again, knowing she rarely collected trinkets or kept personal items. She’d moved ships too often. Now, she wished she had . . . something.

Her gaze drifted to the bottom of her dresser, to the lighter clothes strewn there in favor of heavier layers. A pale blue ribbon caught her eye. Her father’s gift. A present for a holiday long past, from a father recently deceased. She had completely forgotten about it after he had passed. Cold tears dripped onto her lips.

She pulled the box out. “I guess I do have a trinket to take with me,” she chuckled.

Then she heard the noise again—tick, tick, tick. With trembling fingers, she tore off the bright blue wrapping, which matched the colors of her eyes, and opened the plain box within. The ticking got louder, and Gylvonna gasped. Sitting in a bed of shredded sky-blue paper was a clockwork bug as big as her palm—a bee with yellow and black stripes. She loved bees.

“Oh, Father, you made this for me.” She knew his craftwork instantly in the small silver hinges and the wire-like antenna with detailed edges. His passing hurt all the more, a sucking hole in her chest as she clutched the bee tighter. The metal glinted and the gossamer-like wings fluttered once, twice, three times. “It’s still . . . active?”

She leaned over the mechanical bug. The only way it could be active, could be moving at all, was from the arcane gemstone connected to the cogs hidden within the bee’s body. Surely, it can’t still have magic fueling its core. Hope burned in her. She lifted the bee’s metal plating.

There. A tiny golden gemstone hummed, sparking strands of light into the cogs surrounding it. Making them move.

Tick.

Her breath caught. Magic.

As soon as she pushed her fingertip onto the gemstone, her magic awoke. Tore to life within her. The wire-like strands coiling to brightness on her fingers, around her wrists, on the backs of her palms. Heating. Sparking. She clasped the clockwork bee.

With a yelp, Gylvonna leapt from the bunk and spiraled open the hatch, climbing the ladder until she reached the comm station. She rushed inside the cramped, cluttered workspace and pushed her glowing fingers onto the metal panel controlling the communications.

She waited.

Her heart pounded.

Waited.

Her feet grew numb with the cold.

Waited.

Her whole body began to shake.

“Come on,” she muttered.

As if in response, the communication station glowed to life. The cogs beneath the panel whirred, sparked golden, and reignited with magic from Gylvonna—with magic from the mechanical bee. Words caught in her throat, thick with tears and joy, sadness and hope.

 “SVS Cherish 507 reporting. Our arcane gemstone died, and we need immediate help. Is anyone out there?”

A pause, then a rough voice filtered through, “Hang tight, Cherish. Riva 99 is on our way.”

– – –

Thanks to Kellie for sharing this story with us! And thanks to you, reader, for reading it! 🙂

Stay tuned for more microfiction and some other fun surprises later in the month!

Fantasy-Faction is 10! To celebrate we are running a charity drive to help more people discover the joys of reading. If you are interested in helping out, please check out the full article here!

Heart Book with Lights by Theo Crazzolara (with words sm)

Title image by incanus_arts.

Background image by andreyalpha.

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