Curious Keys

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33003558 - shiny mechanical wings, with gears and brass round banner.

The ceiling door was proving to be quite a challenge for Amos.  He was pivoting precariously on top of his stack of boxes that he had arranged into a makeshift scaffold, patiently entering endless number combinations and listening for an internal response from the door.Each of the steam pipes leading into the primary lock required a specific combination of numbers in order to release the clockwork device. If he could solve that puzzle, there was a central locking mechanism with a missing cog that he had not yet figured out -and he was depending on luck or some grand epiphany to do so.

Nym sat on the floor nursing her injured shoulder and waiting. After a long forced silence (kept so that Amos could work), she found her courage and asked, “How did you know Captain Ghostraven?”

Amos stopped spinning dials, wiped his hands with his pocket handkerchief and feeling a dull ache in his neck and shoulders took the opportunity to rest. He climbed carefully from his box tower and sat opposite to her on the floor.

“I didn’t.” Amos said succinctly, “No one did.” Though something about his eyes betrayed him.

“Of course they did!” Nym was exasperated with the idea and looked through her bag for countless recorded personal accounts to share from her notes, “everyone in town has a story…”

“Come on, Peach. You’re a smart girl, ” Amos said looking at her a bit disappointed. “You don’t think those stories are true? Think about it a minute: no one knew anything about him – yet they all have a story to tell.”

“You mean they made up stories with their local hero?” Nym shrugged, “I can’t imagine that’s unusual.”

“Of itself, no. But think past the obvious. Everyone has a story of him, but no one knows anything about him past that one story. Everyone knows that he wasn’t a Doctor, yet no one can recall what he really did. They know that he has a shop, but they never thought to look there for information when he disappeared- and even if they had- the storefront they know isn’t anywhere near to his actual life.”

Nym listened wide eyed. Everything Amos was saying rang true in her heart, as if she had always seen the countless loose threads but had been unable or unwilling to see the larger tapestry.

Nym pursed her lips, “They know he built the Celestial Heliograph but have no idea what is does -and never go near it.”

“Exactly, Peach. I think you’re startin’ to get it. It’s some kind of mind alteration.” Amos tapped his head, “They don’t know -and can’t see anything unusual – just like with time pull -or with the Heliograph.”

Amos stretched out his long legs and stared up at the locks on the ceiling thinking more of his next combination then of the words he was speaking.

“That cog you found, it has the Ghostraven seal on it and- I am certain -some kind of anti-charm. Once someone touches it, maybe, they can see through his veils. Though I don’t know why he would erase himself and hypnotize Meiville. It’s very strange.”

Nym reached into her pocket and extracted the cog. It had been almost vibrating with energy since they arrived at Ghostraven’s Steampunk and Pirates. She meant to inspect it more closely, but the second she opened her hand, the simple brass piece started to buzz violently. Six fine, whip like devices unfurled from its sides and spinning in a spiral like a tiny bird it flew upwards and into the ceiling door.

Nym and Amos watched in disbelief as it secured itself perfectly into the center of the locking mechanism and twisted the central gear clockwise. Spouts of steam respired from the many pipes, the great mechanical pistons creaking on their metal hinges. It was fantastic to watch until abruptly and with a loud clicking,  the perimeter locks opened and fell silent.

Nym’s cog then detached from the machine, and floated back down onto the floor and retracted it’s tiny wings with a soft metal clinking. It rolled like coin in a half circle and fell, ghostraven emblem side up, onto Nym’s skirt.

Nym picked up the metal cog gingerly and softly ran her long index finger over it’s surface. The cog seemed to purr as she touched it and it made Nym smile. She could see along it’s surface countless geometric fractures, glowing with a spectral light, but as she looked more closely, the structure closed becoming again smooth and flat and seemingly solid.

She looked up at Amos with excitement and exclaimed, “it’s a tiny automaton!”

“The Captain was a genius at making stuff,” Amos admitted, “but I will say, that little device is a wonder even for him. I’ve never seen anything like it. Where did you find it, again?”

Nym looked up blankly, her mind racing to remember the events but could not find any memory past standing in the shore with the cog in her hand. A frightened chill crawled up her neck and Amos could see a sudden fear in her eyes.  A pallor set across her face as she struggled to recall anything prior to that memory.

“What is it, Peach? You look like you’ve seen a ghost!”

Before she could answer, the interior clockwork device of the great door began to tick and whir. In awe the two watched as it’s delicate hands began to slowly spin. At 5:55 and with the whimsical chiming of a great alarm the giant blue door sprang open.

Amos turned his eyes to the ceiling and the flung open door. He stood, wiped the dust from his pants and offered Nym his hand, with a concerned smile. Nym, shook off the sensation of fear and dread and accepted the hand up, adjusting her skirts.

Just above them both would be answers. Or more questions.

It was time to find out.

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