Steampunk writing competition : Beholder Robot Short Story Contest
Thank you to all for you participation , i received 27 entries of which i had to choose only 3 .
I choose 3 stories that are very different from each other , i took in consideration so many factors , originality , choice of words and stories that "hooks" the reader's attention !!
I will announce a new writing contest shortly !
Here's the 3rd place winner's story :
The Beholder by Darren Cheng
One hundred years ago, in the quiet outskirts of an industrial town, peculiar things were taking place beneath the noses of everyday citizens. Tucked away in an old barn, away from prying eyes, a very small group of engineers worked away in secrecy. They were constructing what they believed would be the most revolutionary machine of their generation and many more generations to come.
Spending many years building their contraption, one by one, members of their secret society began to slip away from existence. When, the last of the group had finally passed away, the device was left to the mercy of its surroundings.
Then one fateful day, while a pair of mischievous run-aways made there way through the nearby thicket, they stumbled upon the hidden barn. Curious, like most children, they decided to investigate. Wandering into the worn-down structure, they tried to turn on some lamps, an attempt to shed some light on their new environment. Incidentally, the very old wiring in the building had long ago become frayed at parts, and sparked a surge of electricity. This surge kick-started an electrical generator in the machine and so it awoke.
Unaware of what they had done, the children continued on their expedition, until they heard a loud crash from above. It sounded like splintering wood and bending metal beams.
The machine was far from finished; the engineers had merely installed the most important procedures it needed before they died. It's curiosity to learn and discover quickly took over. Confused by the dim light pouring through the cracks of the old barn, the machine broke through the weathered wood out into the open sunlight.
The children quickly climbed up the iron staircase to the ground floor to see what had caused that tremendous noise. And that's when they saw it, a machine of gears and steam pumps, moving on its own without a driver. They were awestruck, petrified, unable to move.
The machine very basic, unable to detect even the loudest of noises, it made its decisions based upon what it saw. The sun was setting, and taking with it the light that filled the clear blue sky. The machine knew its vision would be useless after the afternoon melts into night. Its mind quickly came to a crossroad and it needed to make a decision.
The two kids slowly crawled over the broken wood and bent metal to see the great machine as it slowly clanked towards the thicket. They decide to follow, hoping they would catch a glimpse of the great machine's creator.
Finding a safe place to spend the night wasn't a simple task for the 20 foot tall metallic creature. Just getting through the thick plant growth was a loud and strenuous chore for the steam powered giant. It left a path of broken trees and crushed foliage, not hiding any evidence of its current whereabouts.
Slowly creeping through the undergrowth, the children followed the machine deep into the forest, wondering what it was planning to do. They finally caught up to the beast in a clearing; it was bent over a clear blue lake. It was completely still.
The sky was darkening quickly, but the machine still noticed an image slowly moving across the water. It leaned in to see what was there. It saw shiny, angular shapes, a glowing yellow sphere surrounded by outcrops of metallic limbs. The machine wondered, so it reached out a heavy, clawed arm and touched the surface of the water. It sent a ripple through the calm surface, disturbing the still image.
It stretched out a clawed arm towards the lake's surface as the children watched in anticipation. They wondered if it was going to try to catch some fish with its clawed hands or shoot a bird with the strange gun attached to its back. Then, it moved backwards.
Taken aback by the shivering reflection, the metal giant reacted with a small retreat. It was preparing to defend itself when the slick sand underfoot slid from beneath. It fell with a crash into the pristine lake.
The splash was much smaller than expected from such a large mass. The children gasped as the monster fell with a screech of metal on stone and they watched as it tried to claw its way back onto shore.
The steel parts of the machine left no area unprotected, but it wasn't built for treading water. The creature sank deeper and deeper unable to swim against the sheer weight of itself. Its mind slowly slipped into a state of unconsciousness, an emergency procedure set to deactivate the machine's conscious mind. In a way, it fell asleep.
The kids watched as the ripples slowly faded from the flat water, they waited for a sudden outburst of mist and fire, a fantasy created by the fear nipping at the back of their minds, but nothing happened. They waited for over an hour, hoping the giant would resurface.
The machine's sleep was put in place to protect it from the dangerous surroundings that threatened it. It didn't awake for over two hundred years; long after the forest around its sleeping place had been cut down, replaced with new, modern buildings. Then one fine day, a decade or so after the lake had dried up. The machine opened its eye.
Inspired by the unworldly site they had seen, the two children set out to build a machine to outmatch the one they had discovered. They spent the rest of their lives invented and building, until they gave birth to a new way of life. A life of steam powered robots, built to serve and protect. A world that would evolve to what it is today.
It rose from its dirty grave and looked up to the blue sky above. It expected green trees and blue birds, but instead it beheld a new world it had never seen before, a world filled with giant metal machines much larger than itself, pumping out steam and turning massive gears. A world that was no longer its own.
Here's the 2nd place winner's story :
The Looking Beast in the Garden by Melisse Aires
"Mama, Mama, wake. Wake up!"
Bess pried her eyes open."Did you have a bad dream Johnnie?" Her four year old son's eye were wide with shock.
Oh no, was he ill, too? She'd spent most of the night up with his sister Liza. She clapped a hand on his forehead. which thankfully felt normal.
"Itth Emma. She'th in the garden, Mama, a beatht crashed in the garden,"
"Emma is in the garden?" It was not even dawn.
"Yeth. Come on! It hath thnakey armth." He waved his arms wildly.
"Snakes?" She grabbed her wrapper and slippers. and followed Johnie out to the garden,
In the grey morning light she saw Emma sitting in the strawberry patch by a pile of machinery. In her lap she held a glowing red globe which she stroked.
Bess approached slowly. It was a construct made of snakelike arms, glowing balls and what might be weaponry.
How had she not heard the crash? The construct had broken through two of the apple trees. Weapons. Panic set her heart to pounding and she heard her blood rush in her ears for a dizzy, sickening moment.
"Emma", she called softly. "Emma, come to Mama."
Emma looked at her, then looked back at the glowing ball in her lap. "See, it will be all right now. My Mama will know what to do. There there, now." Emma patted it like it was one of her baby dolls.
"Emma, you need to come to me,"
"Mama, he was in a storm. Remember we heard the thunder, but it was out to sea? And the wind tossed him up into the cold and then there was ice. And then he came down and hit our trees. There was a big light. And he is hurt."
"I see. Emma. I'd really like you to come to me now."
"Mama, you must come feel his globe. He needs our help.
"Johnie, I need you to go upstairs and sit with Liza."
God above, if it used one of its weapons...
"Mama," he protested.
Johnie trotted to the house, scowling.
Bess walked slowly to Emma. Emma's eyes were full of tears. "Mama, can you help? His name is Shumshum."
Elizabeth slid her arms around Emma's shoulders, preparing to wrest her from the beast.
"How do you know his name,Emma?"
"He told me. He isn't very old, Mama. It was his first lift off. And then there was the storm."
"I see. Does he talk?"
"Yes, but he doesn't have no mouth. So he talks into my ears. I don't know how."
"Now he is all alone! His flyer broke and he got lost." Bess saw a severed appendage with a dimly glowing golden globe under limbs of her apple tree.
"If you touch him he can talk to you."
Gingerly Bess placed her hand on the globe.
"Please assist." A voice whispered in her mind. "My lifting beam has been severed. I have lost Precious Fluid."
"How can I help?"
"With the Great Heat Stick, meld me back together."
Bess licked her dry lips."I do not have the equipment to meld you. I must go for assistance."
"You cannot fix me?"
"No. I'm sorry. I do not know how and I don't have the equipment."
"I do not like to be alone," the beast quavered.
"I am sorry, we must go for help."
Grabbing Emma she ran to the house. Johnie and Liza were in the nursery. Quickly she dressed herself and the children.
"We must hitch Buttercup and we must be very fast,"
"Yes," Emma agreed. "Shumshum needs help."
Bess hitched her fat pony to the small cart and headed down the lane to Lord Nightwood's estate. Her cottage was on the edge of the estate, closer to Nightwood than to the village. She set the pony to a trot, which was unheard of. Buttercup's golden ears swiveled back in annoyance. Bess clucked her tongue in encouragement.
The gate house was dark but the ironwork gate was not locked. The sun, just rising showed the estate to be magnificently manicured, a state it hadn't been in until the new Lord Nightwood had taken residence.
She prayed her would know what to do. Rumors in the village said he was a man of science. And his leg...He was a clanking man with a construct leg, from Kingstown. He would surely know more about the beast, know what to do. She pulled Buttercup to a stop at the main door.
"Come along." She grabbed Liza, who scowled and began to cry. Bess sighed. Finally, the baby slept and then this happened.
She rapped the heavy knocker on the grand oak door. The door finally opened revealing a young footman with mussed hair.
"I must speak to Lord Nightwood, immediately. This is a huge emergency."
The butler rushed into the foyer.
"Miss, what is going on here?"
"We have a huge emergency at Applewood Cottage. I am Mrs. Elisabeth Lowdon .
"There'th a beatht in the garden," Johnie said solemnly.
"I require Lord Nightwood's assistance right now."
The butler turned and ran, leaving them in the foyer. There was a highly polished bench so they sat to wait. Liza began to whimper again.
A maid, local girl, Annie Plumb, appeared."Here Miss Bess. The little one might like a cookie. Cook always has a jar of cookies."
Liza did want the cookie, as did Johnie and Emma. Crumbs were dripping to Lord Nightwood's spotless floor when she heard the metallic clank of his constructed leg.
He was dressed in breeches and a shirt with no collar. Lord Nightwood was younger than she expected, close to her own mid twenties. He had a shock of golden curls not yet styled for the day with pomade, and round wire rimmed spectacles. Average height, with a slim, wiry build. His features were even and almost delicate for a man.
"Mrs. Lowdon, am I correct? Cousin Ward's widow?"
"Yes. I'm sorry to disturb your household, but there is a an emergency. In my garden,"
"It felled from the thky," Johnie explained.
"It's name is Shumshum," Emma added,
He raised an eyebrow in inquiry.
" My children Emma, Johnie, Liza, A construct of some kind, with snake like appendages and globes and what I think are weapons crashed through my apple orchard and landed in the garden,"
"I see. Crane, have a large cart brought round, and two yardmen." They followed him outside.
Buttercup was still in the drive.
"Crane, have the pony stabled. Mrs. Lowdon, your children can stay here, Crane, alert the cook, and Annie, take the children to the nursery,"
"Oh, Mama please can I go with you? I know Shumshum wants to see me," Emma said.
Bess caught Lord Nightwood's eye. He nodded.
"Johnie, you and Liza will stay here with Annie. I'm sure cook will feed you another cookie."
They arrived at her garden in short order, Lord Nightwood's horses being far faster than Buttercup.
The construct was still sprawled all over her garden. The severed arm's globe was now dark. Emma ran to the large red globe, which lit bright when she reached it. "I told you, Shumshum, We are back with help!"
"Well, I'm certainly glad you alerted me to this," Lord Nightwood said as he walked with her toward the construct. "Hessland war department work."
Emma again had the globe in her lap and was stroking it.
"It's lost, Mama. Can I keep it?"
Lord Nightwood answered before she could. "We can't leave it out in the garden, Miss Emma. I think we should take it back to the manor. It will fit quite well into my conservatory for now,"
"I think, ma'am, you should pack a few necessities and stay at the manor for a few days. I don't wish to alarm, but this is a spying construct. I fear Hessland may be planning an invasion. I suspect it and its cohorts were heading toward Kingstown."
The idea of being alone with the children during an invasion, especially of strange Hessland constructs, was frightening. "Yes. I will do so. I wouldn't want to be alone here."
"Certainly not. And my elderly aunts are now in residence so we need not worry about the proprieties."
Later the children had an early lunch in Nightwood's fine nursery and now all three were napping with Annie in attendance. Bess joined Lord Nightwood for tea in his library, a large room with books up to the high ceiling.
"What do you think it is? What does it do?"
"I will know more later, but I believe it is a member of a group, something like a pack animal, like a dog or wolf. The globes collect information. A spy machine."
"Johnie and Emma call it a Looking Beast."
"A good description."
"How do they fly without wings?"
"Not actual flight. I suspect there is a flying machine that they swing from, in a way, using the arm that was severed. Magnetics, I believe. That is also how they keep in contact with each other. When this one lost its arm, it lost its flying ability and its connection."
She helped herself to a shaved beef sandwich.
"It seems intelligent, at least when I talked to it this morning. Though I am not sure how it speaks."
"Yes. I believe it has a form of consciousness. It seems to want company."
"Will the others come looking for it?"
"Undoubtedly. which is why I intend to keep it very quiet. The servants have been told this is a security issue, and to not mention it in the village. It is in my conservatory, which is quite overgrown with vines. Handy, that. I've sent a coded telegraph message to Lord Merton about the situation. He will have men here shortly."
"You must know a lot about constructs--" Bess gulped. Perhaps talking about his leg was rude.
"I served under Lord Merton, in the Skylighters air infantry. So I have had some experience with constructs. When I lost my leg, it seemed like the best remedy. Though my leg is nothing fancy, like the Looking Beast. Just a leg,"
He leaned back in his chair and observed her."You were married to Ward? Really? Wasn't he quite a bit older than you?"
She was surprised at the change of subject. "Well, yes, He was a friend of my father's. Papa is the vicar in Beddington."
"Ah. The vicar with the five daughters."
"Of which I am the eldest. Ward was very kind to my sisters and a good father."
He nodded. "I think your stay should be extended indefinitely. There may be perilous times ahead for Britland."
Hessland was just across the sea. "After seeing that beast I am more than ready to take you upon your hospitality. But are we safe? It had weapons. And keeping Emma away will be a nightmare."
"While you were settling your children I communicated with the beast. Shumshum. It seemed quite docile and disarmed voluntarily when I explained that the children are impulsive and could accidentally set something off. I don't think it will harm the children."
"Still, I don't want them alone with it."
"Of course. Several of my staff were under my command in the infantry. I will station two in there at all times,armed. And soon Lord Merton's men will be here." He smiled. "We will soon know all about Hessland's latest creations."
Bess took a sip of her hot sweet tea. "It sounds like the beast crashing in my garden was an advantageous occurrence."
"Indeed it was, Mrs. Lowdon."
"Bess. And please call me Daniel. After we are finished, please join me for a stroll through the conservatory."
She smiled, feeling like a girl asked on a walk round the village square. "I would be delighted to visit the Looking Beast with you, Daniel.
Check out the 1st place winner : [link]