Hot

“Cold”

The note was a scrap, torn from a larger page. It was pinned to the inside of the bread cupboard, which was not particularly chilly. The wavy attempt at copperplate screamed Agnes, and thus I presumed some game was on. I opened the pantry door behind me.

“Colder still”

Ah. That game. I turned and walked away from the pantry, peeking behind furniture as I went.

“Not quite so cold” under the dining-table.
“Warm-ish” at the glass-blower.
“Tingly!” attached to Jeeves’s brass back plate. Poor thing, prevented from his polishing duties by my daughter’s games again, his clockwork had wound down while he waited for me at the cellar door.

I was descending the stairs when one of Agnes’s angel automatons zoomed up at me, thrusting a piece of paper – “Toasty!”- into my hands before exhausting its spring and collapsing in an inelegant spiral. I lifted the device gently: Agnes had updated the design, making it more articulate than ever, its filigree wings capable of boosting it into the air in a momentary approximation of flight. Ingenious, if limited – like all of our work – to the power that could be extracted from the spring.

My daughter greeted me, beaming, at the foot of the stairs. The workshop was basked in a golden glow. Agnes’s little hand wrapped around mine as she led me into the laboratory. The light was emitted by a sphere, as tall as a man, suspended in mid air. Dozens of angel automatons hovered around the device. I stared at the spectacle, astounded that not one of them seemed to flag or fall. Instead, their graceful bodies arranged themselves in the air to spell out a single word:

“HOT”

9 thoughts on “Hot”

  1. Ooh, lovely – quirky and fun take on the theme, and an agreeably steampunky setting. I also find the knacky Agnes, her mind-games and amazing tech achievements, just the faintest bit disturbing – is that deliberate?

    I’m a bit confused by your historical register – the voice and vocabulary are contemporary, but clockwork and angels and copperplate say vaguely Victorian to me – is that my preconceptions at work?

    Remind me to give you Jay Lake’s Mainspring for rather fun clockwork fantasy also bizarrely concerned with angels. Clockwork angels are apparently the new black :>.

    1. Ah, Agnes definitely came out a little spooky – a genius inventor child somehow turns out that way in my head.

      I say pshaw! to historical register, as it involves research and suchlike 😉 No, seriously, I did not have this in my head as the Victorian steampunk convention – this is somewhere, somewhen, in a parallel universe not so far away, and so a mixture of modern and victorian language was fine in my head. If anything, I tried to make things sound slightly off to make the place sound slightly different to our reality.

  2. I really enjoyed this. I like the quirkyness of the world; love the idea of a spring-power child genius and a world where spring power is common place.

    The relationship between the the child and parent is lovely and beautifully expressed. Great writing to get a character, a interesting relationship and enough world-building to make the end magical in the prerequisite 250.

    I wanted to see more description of the automatons but in my mind they are beautiful finely wrought brass objects. This sentence ‘Agnes’s little hand wrapped around mine’ jarred me slightly because only big hands wrap around mine but this is a minor quibble.

    Love the first paragraph as an introduction to the game although the sentence containing ‘copperplate’ caused me to reread it a few times; mostly due to my modern disconnect between fonts and writing by hand.

    Lovely world – would be interesting to try this much longer.

    1. Thank you! Yes, I picture the automatons as brass and fine filigree, delicate masterworks.

      How about “wrapped around my fingers” as an alternative? I do really picture the little hand taking the big one, just must find wording to express that.

  3. I thought this was terribly cute. I didn’t think Agnes came across as disturbing at all but then I read a lot of manga that have child genius or some kind of young prodigy in them. Actually, the story reminded me of Full Metal Alchemist. I enjoyed it.

  4. This was a fun piece and I enjoyed it.

    My favourite bit — and what worked best for me — was the introduction of the clockwork mechanisms through poor, wound down Jeeves: for us, the reader, the important point is that Jeeves is clockwork and that clockwork mechanisms exist and are quite versatile; the narrator doesn’t explicitly say any of this, keeps to their point of view, and only states that Jeeves has wound down. Nice.

    The only bits that made me uncomfortable, and this is minor, was that the messages — such as “Cold” and “HOT” — didn’t end with full-stops, but it’s not really a problem at all.

  5. I loved this. It was beautiful – at the same time a magical steampunky kind of vibe and a normal household vignette. I loved the characters: the narrator playing with her (or his, I guess) daughter, the daughter’s cleverness and playfulness (I didn’t find her creepy – I thought she was lovely and mischievous), and Jeeves’ stoicism.

    I also love the descriptions of the space, told through the game (pieces of paper under or in objects), and the automata.

    The story is engrossing and I want to know more about what’s happening downstairs :-)

    I agree with elementalsystems about Agnes’ hand and like your alternative a lot.

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