This is an excerpt from my third novel, Infernal Inventions.
Copyright © 2012 by Christopher Stocking
Infernal Inventions is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Ryker sat behind his iron desk in the corner of his laboratory. The smell of sulfur burned his nostrils, but he loved it. He leaned backward and the old chair gave a loud squeak. He laced his fingers behind his head and groaned; his muscles stretching as he looked at the revolver in front of him.
He smiled and picked it up. The handle fit perfectly in his hand. It had carved grooves in the front for extra comfort and engraved along the side of the silver barrel in swirling script read the name “Celia.”
The click of a clock sounded quietly in his head. He looked at his right palm. Staring back at him was the face of a pocket watch embedded into his hand. The second hand jerked forward as time progressed.
The black stitching around the edge of the clock was rough, but held firm. He’d been obsessed with time, even as a child. The idea of time occurring and passing, how as soon as time passed, it was frozen in place, forever to be logged in the history books. Whether someone made time worth their while was up to them, and Ryker wasn’t a person to waste too much time.
But at this particular moment, Ryker was content to sit as his desk. He looked out the dirty window. The clock tower next to his lab chimed loudly as the massive hands struck midnight. He smiled, “Happy birthday to me.”
Ryker stood. He opened his desk drawer and removed a small knife. He looked at the blade for a moment, and then etched a notch into the wall, crossing four other notches. There were twenty-five notches in all.
He returned the knife to the drawer and stared out the window at the streets below. A prostitute waited on the corner as an elegant, black car slowed to a stop. A plume of black smoke erupted from a pipe over the front engine. She leaned in the passenger window and spoke the clever words to persuade yet another client to enjoy a night with her.
Ryker took a moment to observe her slender body, and smirked as she opened the door and climbed in. He could only imagine what excuse the poor fellow would use when his wife walked into her home only to hear the screams of his husband pleasuring another woman. Or was the prostitute pleasuring him? Perhaps she got pleasure out of knowing she wrecked another marriage. Why else would one choose to be a harlot?
He looked into the sky. A massive dark-green blimp with a spring-propelled fan on the back slowly sailed through the darkness.
The blimp was controlled by a man in a large steel basket. Ryker watched as the man pulled a lever that directed the fan. A large spotlight was mounted on the front of the basket. The pilot, also the head of the City Watch, scanned the streets with the light, looking for any sort of crime.
Ryker looked at his reflection in the window. His red eyes gleamed brightly. He buttoned the top button of his black vest, adjusted his red and black striped tie, and then looked back down upon the streets of London.
The tap of boot heels downstairs rang up to the second floor of the lab. Ryker raised an eyebrow and glanced at his palm watch. Wendell isn’t supposed to be here for another hour, he thought. He felt the cool touch of his pistol as his hand slid over it. He always loved the sound it made as it slid out of the holster.
He neared the top of the stairs and looked down them. A shadow slithered up the wall at the bottom of the stairs as it drew closer, and then stopped.
Ryker slowly stepped down the stairs. He held up his pistol and kept his back against the wall, being careful to make as little noise as possible.
The intruder grumbled, revealing a hoarse, male voice. It sounded familiar, but was too quiet to recognize.
Ryker reached the bottom step. He took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and then swung out into the room. He aimed his pistol at the intruder, looking directly down the sights. A headshot would be perfect. Right between the eyes, he thought. His finger itched, ready to squeeze the trigger and blast the surprisingly short intruder to the other side of the room.
“What in the blazes are you doing?” a voice called out frantically. The figure dove to the floor and covered his head.
Ryker lowered his pistol and smiled. “You’re early, Wendell,” he said as he approached the gnome. He grabbed the gnome by the back of the shirt and lifted him to his feet.
Wendell brushed off his black jacket. “I just thought I’d surprise you,” he said. “I brought you a birthday present.” He shoved his hands deep into several pockets before removing a small package about the size and shape of an eyeball, wrapped in black and gold paper.
“What is it?” Ryker asked as he snatched it out of Wendell’s open palm.
“Like I’d tell you,” Wendell answered with a smile. Ryker studied the package for a moment. “Just open it,” Wendell snapped excitedly.
Ryker ripped the paper from the package and carelessly tossed it behind him. He held the present up. “A mechanical eye,” he said contently.
“For those specks you’ve been working on,” Wendell said. “Capable of both X-ray and thermal vision, just like you wanted.”
“Thanks, old friend,” Ryker said. He messed up Wendell’s spiky black hair and began walking up the stairs. “Come on. We’ll share a birthday drink and finish those glasses.”
Wendell rubbed his hands together and smiled as he followed Ryker up the wooden stairs. “I’ve got another surprise for you,” he said. “But that will come later.”
Ryker grinned and shook his head. Another “lady of the night,” as Wendell liked to call them. Ryker opened a metal cupboard and removed a dark-brown glass bottle labeled “Scotch,” and then grabbed two small glasses. He filled each glass halfway, gave one to Wendell, and they clinked them together. They chugged the amber liquid and it burned Ryker’s throat on the way down. He exhaled contently and set the glass on his desk.
His experimental glasses were kept locked in a small, bomb-proof safe mounted on his wall. Even if his laboratory came crumbling down, no one would be able to access his latest experiment.
He spun the safe dial around. 16, 29, 54, he thought. He loved how smoothly the dial turned, and how it clicked quietly as it passed each notch. He turned the handle and swung open the door, revealing a pair of steel glasses. There was only one lens, and a band of rubber an inch thick that attached to both sides of the frame. He took out the specks and set them on his desk, along with the mechanical eye.
Wendell poured himself another glass of scotch and sat on the desk next to the glasses while Ryker grabbed his soldering tool, along with a few others.
Within moments, the mechanical eye was installed in the open space on the glasses, and Ryker had them on his head.
Wendell shook his head and smirked. “You always were a whizz with mechanics,”
Ryker pressed a small button on the side of the frame and the mechanical eye spun open. The center of the eye glowed red and Ryker could see the temperature of everything in the room. The hotter the item, the redder it was, the colder, the bluer. The room was more red than blue, He noted that his main power generator was a tad warmer than he cared for. He pushed the button again. The mechanical eye closed and opened, revealing a green light this time. Ryker smiled as he looked into the contents of his desk drawers. He flicked his eyes to Wendell and observed his bones, his smile widening to a grin.
“Just what is so funny?” Wendell asked. He put his hands on his hips, which only made Ryker laugh. “Alright, alright, you’ve had your fun. Your next present should be here any—”
Someone pounded on the door downstairs. “Minute,” he finished with a smile. His short legs carried him downstairs, and within moments a beautiful women returned. The giggles of another woman could be heard on the first floor with Wendell.
Ryker pulled off his glasses and stared at the woman in front of him. Her black corset hugged her body, and was laced up the front, revealing a straight line of tanned flesh from the center of her waist up to her neck. She walked forward and her short black skirt flowed swiftly around her waist and upper-thigh. Her tall black boots tapped loudly against the wooden floor as she pressed her chest to Ryker and kissed him. Her lips were… familiar. “It’s been a while, Celia,” he said softly with a half-smile.
She pressed a soft finger to his lips. “It’s been too long,” she answered slyly. Her voice was smooth and quiet. She pushed him back so he sat on his desk and climbed on top of him. His flesh crawled as she unbuttoned his vest and shirt and kissed down his chest. She leaned back and she skillfully, almost too skillfully, unbuckled his belt.
The loud cries of pleasure resonated from downstairs, followed by the cries of Celia as she expertly performed her craft of lust upon Ryker.
Upon finishing, their exhales of pleasure and content hung in the air for a moment, and then dissipated. Celia climbed off the desk and waited for Ryker to get dressed. As she watched him, she looked at a black cog tattoo on the bottom side of his right forearm. “Tell me again, what does your tattoo mean?” she asked. She approached him and slid her fingers across the smooth black ink.
Ryker looked at the tattoo a moment. “It represents my love for the machine. My love for inventing and creating. It also represents life itself. After all, are we not all but cogs in a machine?”
She smiled. “How very… profound,” she said wryly.
Ryker playfully pushed her away and finished buttoning his black shirt and vest. He walked over to the window and adjusted his tie, and styled his messy black hair in the reflection.
Celia peered down the stairs. “Sounds like the party downstairs has ended, too,” she commented.
“Will you be staying tonight?” Ryker asked.
Celia smiled, but her eyes dropped. “You know I wish that I could,” she answered.
Ryker sighed. “You always were so professional about your job,” he said with a smile. “I trust you’ve been paid?”
“This one’s on me,” she said, winking. She approached him and kissed him one last time.
Ryker watched as she walked away. Her slender, curved body swayed gently. When she disappeared down the stairs, Ryker poured himself another glass of scotch and leaned against the desk.
“Leaving so soon?” Ryker heard Wendell ask. Celia’s response was barely audible. “Oh, alright then,” Wendell answered. “Well I hope you made his birthday special!”
Ryker smiled and sipped at his scotch. He heard the giggles of the other woman downstairs, followed by footsteps, and then the door opening and slamming shut.
Wendell rushed up the stairs and stood at the top, grinning.
“Did you have a good time?” Ryker asked sarcastically.
Wendell nodded and picked up the scotch to pour himself another glass. He held the near-empty bottle up to the light and chugged the rest.