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Re: [Jan 2018] - Rebirth/Renewal - Submission Thread My first entry!

The Brass Machine

1499 words

Twitter: @isaacgrisham

Spoiler for Hiden:
I am not the only traveler. The most prolific, certainly. At least in my universe.

Being a traveler is lonely. Two, maybe three individuals are sent out on any given mission. Usually, it is just one weathered explorer like myself. The energy it takes to propel someone into another existence is incredible, and to send more than necessary would be to tap into the precious resources our world cannot afford to lose.

Not that it matters anymore.

“You ready, Richard?” comes a weary voice from my earpiece.

I step onto the catapulting platform. It’s not called that. There’s an official name, but it’s boring and forgetful. I’m not a technical man. Just a traveler. “Aye, I’m ready.”

“Your team?”

The platform has been modified to accommodate the group and their equipment. Nearly a hundred people, by far the most to utilize the brass machine to enter another universe. This would not be a lonely mission for me, though the world we were leaving soon would be.

Earth was dying, and with the energy required to send us, it would soon be a barren wasteland.

“Aye,” I say, though I haven’t given the team another glance. Donned in black armor and with weapons close at hand, they better be ready. There could be a battle at the other end of this journey.

“We are initiating the startup sequence for the silver machine.”

I chuckle to myself, but it is humorless. Looking up, I can see the inner bowels of the silver machine: great metallic piping running into and out of each wall. Some run into mechanical boxes, others into larger pipes. It looks a convoluted mess, something only an engineer could understand. It exists only to assist in the movement between worlds when travelers reach for the brass machine. Only the hubris of man would name their own shallow imitation after a precious metal.

As if anything could be more valuable. Everything was the brass machine.

Even before the world was recognized to be dying, devastated by our own disrespect and ignorance, people realized the existence of the brass machine. Religious types were the first, claiming they had encountered their god and—for the briefest moment—had been endowed with an understanding of everything. Drug users, especially those taking LSD, reported an ability to brush aside the curtain of reality to see what lay underneath. They drew incredible insights, but those perceptions often led them into fits of despair.

Religious experiences were explained by brain chemicals and drug users were, well, drug users. Being such, they were considered a less credible source than the spiritual. It wasn’t until others—stable, atheistic, clean people—began to report similar experiences that anyone took serious interest.

Sounds of turning gears and rushing, heated air reaches my ears, and I know the silver machine is almost ready. It is quieter than its counterpart. To be fair, it doesn’t have nearly as much to do. I begin to ready myself, tapping into my emotions.

Once the brass machine was acknowledged, scientists and governments hurriedly recruited those who could tap into it. Much like the space race or the pursuit of nuclear supremacy, it was thought that whoever uncovered the secrets of our universe would be in a position of power. I submitted my own application after my initial experience, which occurred one day while I was driving home from work. I was upset—my boyfriend had left me quite two weeks beforehand—and my mind was in turmoil. Speeding along as I held back sobs, the area in front of my vehicle suddenly rippled and shimmered. I thought at first my eyes were filled with tears, but after wiping them dry, I saw it… the brass machine.

It looks like the silver machine. It has winding pipes, gauges, and levers. No walls contain them, though, but mountains of steam obscure just how immense the apparatus is. It’s noisy, too, clanking and banging in such a fashion that you would think it broken. It’s not, though. It’s in perfect condition. Anyone who lays eyes on it knows this because as soon as they do, they understand absolutely everything there is to know. At least until the connection is broken and the machine disappears from view. Once it’s gone, all that knowledge begins to seep away like a hazy dream.

Those precious moments before all is forgotten has given way to some of humankind’s most magnificent discoveries. Two of these were the existence of other universes and the means to travel to them. At first, there was little practical application to traveling, but then it was determined that no amount of knowledge was going to divert Earth’s doomed destiny.

A plan was hatched to save our species. We would send a small group to a world in another universe. The idea had its caveats: a larger group of people required more energy, and the number of places I would be able to reach was limited. Trying to fit so many through the cracks of the universe was like trying to fit a large square block through a small circular hole. The cracks that were large enough, or the pipes of the brass machine that could accommodate us, only led to worlds already inhabited. The natives might not be welcoming.

Hence the armor and weaponry.

“Richard!” comes the voice in my earpiece. She sounds exasperated. I would be too if I were about to die. “Do you copy?”

“Aye, I copy,” I respond, letting an apologetic tone creep into my voice. It’s the least I can do.

“The silver machine is operational. You are cleared to jump.”

Staring down at the grating of the catapulting platform, I let down the mental walls that hold back overbearing emotions and memories. Like a river overrunning a dam, I am immediately crushed under the weight. My world was dying. Everything and everyone I ever cared about would soon be burning. Proof of humankind’s history and achievements will disappear. It was now my responsibility to save the species, and that should have been enough to make anyone cry out in distress.

The air ripples in front of me like a curtain in an open window, and I reach out and push it aside. The brass machine is revealed amid mounds of mist, clanking away at a furious pace. Upon seeing it, I understand everything.

“Earth has been dead a long time,” I say. There’s a response in my earpiece, but I’m no longer listening. My mind expands, looking for our destination. I see it just steps away, an orange world full of violent creatures, and I slip away from my universe. With the aid of the silver machine, I drag another hundred souls with me. We are in the space between everything, surrounded by the giant mechanism that birthed us. This close, I feel its thrumming course violently through my body. Its noises thrash against my ears.

I gently guide us through, reaching out again to brush aside another curtain. We’ll be able to step foot on our new home in a—

With a sudden earsplitting screech and eruption of hot steam, the brass machine rotates and bends, turning toward me. The sight is disorienting, like watching something precariously bulky move with deft and grace.

The urge to vomit overwhelms me, and my heart feels as though it has torn free of my arteries and dropped straight into my stomach. My mouth drops open and I scream. The shrieks meld with all of the others’ as we collectively realize that the brass machine is alive. The whole multiverse was a living entity. It was a god—the god—and we were in its alien, spiderlike sight.

No one should ever desire to be the sole focus of a god.

One of its metallic tendrils breaks free from its fastenings and careens towards us. What had appeared to be an insignificant pipe turns out to be hundreds of feet in diameter. The interior looks impossibly black, and there’s a sucking sound as it draws in air.

We fall to our knees in terror as it hovers above us like a UFO, unsure what its intentions are. They can’t be good, because it begins to lower itself upon us, enveloping us within its dark interior. We are soon blind, and its suction of air makes it hard to breath and hear. I know I am on the verge of passing out from either fright or a lack of oxygen when—

—we find ourselves standing in a hilly green meadow. There’s no sign of the machine. Just stretches of untouched forests and grasslands under a sunny sky. I hear the unmistakable chirping of insects, and I see several foxlike creatures leap away from us.

As my heartrate returns to normal, I know this virgin land will become our new home. It will give humankind a second chance. This was it, for I was never going to travel again. It was what the brass machine wanted.

January 31, 2018, 09:53:43 PM
Re: [Jan 2018] - Rebirth/Renewal - Discussion Thread Just made my first entry! I hope you enjoy it - I've loved the stories I've read so far for this month!
January 31, 2018, 09:57:22 PM
Re: [Jan 2018] - Rebirth/Renewal - Discussion Thread
I am very impressed with the entries this time. Some very well-written tales and just solid stuff.

I agree! The previous batch of short stories I read was Stephen King's Bazaar of Bad Dreams, and I couldn't tell you the last time I wrote a short story. It's really quite amazing how much story, depth, and characterization one can fit into 1500 words. These were no exception, and some of them will be stuck in my brain for a while. I can't wait to ready February's stories!

February 23, 2018, 09:15:47 PM
The King's Sun by Isaac Grisham I am thrilled to reveal the cover for my first novel, The King's Sun, which will be released on May 1st. Thanks to The Gem Cutter and JMack for their input on the blurb - much appreciated! The short story I wrote for the contest back in January takes place in the same universe, though long before the events in the book. Completely different writing style, point of view, and characters. I'm so proud of the work that went into it, including the editor and cover designer, and so happy to share it with you all!

Prince Kitsune trained all his life to become a leader in the king’s wars for supremacy, but the fearsome monarch dashes those dreams and banishes his devoted son. Not all is lost—to reclaim his birthright, Kitsune must kill the son of his father's rival. A son possessed by fiery magic.

Outside of the capital walls for the first time, Kitsune struggles to survive accursed wilderness and political intrigue while executing his mission. He meets the enigmatic, dark-haired Myobu and discovers magical Yokai spirits, dark family secrets, and strange new feelings for his companion.

As the two men forge a path through the region, an unrealized and dangerous magic blossoms within Kitsune. It is the mysterious power of the Yokai spirits, capable of unspeakable destruction, and it grows stronger with each passing day. Could he use this gift to slay his target, or would it destroy all that he loves?

You can find it here on Amazon in ebook form. The paperback and hardcover proofs are en route to me for approval! I'll update when they're available.

March 28, 2018, 09:19:17 PM
Re: The King's Sun by Isaac Grisham Thanks! I take full credit (for paying someone else to design it for me)!  ;D
April 02, 2018, 04:51:25 AM
Re: How Long Are Your Novel Outlines? I did not use an outline for my first book. I knew how I wanted it to end and enjoyed the journey as the characters moved about to get there. However, as many might tell you, taking this approach can really lengthen the writing process.

For my second one, I decided to create an outline. Again, I know how I want the book to end, but now I know what will happen along the way ahead of time. It's not very detailed - a breakdown of planned chapters, the characters that will be in them, and the major events/revelations that will occur. There's still plenty of room for discovery along the way, which keeps me interested, and I flesh out the outline a bit more at the completion of each chapter with any new bits of information. For some people, a more detailed outline would be preferable.

I learned this second time around that an outline can highlight flaws, weaknesses, or gaps in the story. For example, I noticed immediately that I had focused on the two main characters so much that there were no prominent female characters. For me, that unacceptable and boring! In reworking the story and outline, I've introduced new characters and plot points that I believe will make the book stronger overall.

April 27, 2018, 03:53:14 PM
Re: Swearing in Writing I don't mind the occasional swearing in fantasy so long as it fits the character, his development, or the situation she finds herself in. For example, one might expect a soldier to curse before a prince. However, I would be surprised if even a princess didn't curse if she fell off a wall and broke both her legs! "Well now I am in a pickle! I sure hope some well-mannered and couth soldier comes around and finds me!"

I would not stop reading a story, blog, or website if it had the occasional swearing (especially if it is used comically), but I get turned off by nonstop cursing in rants.

May 02, 2018, 03:40:16 PM
Re: Swearing in Writing
I think phrases like "Hood's balls" are much more effective for world building than conventional cussing.

I agree with this. Like "frack" from Battlestar Galactica or "storm it" from the Stormlight Archive series.

May 02, 2018, 04:44:16 PM
Re: What are you currently reading? Picked up the quick read The Slow Regard of Silent Things.
June 04, 2018, 12:39:26 PM
Re: What are you currently reading? After hearing good things, I started reading Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi.

I am also listening to Traitor's Moon, the third book in Lynn Flewelling's Nightrunner series. I can't say I'm a big fan of the series, but that may the narrator.

January 14, 2019, 05:23:42 PM