Edition 26: Clockwork Hearts by J.B. Rockwell
Casey has lost the only person who seemed to care since the death of his mother. The unusual man at the duck pond, feeding Mrs. Kuschikin’s ducks, piques Casey’s interest and he has to find out the truth of his appearance. No matter what it costs him.
J.B. Rockwell leads us down the precarious and lively garden path of childhood; the dramatic need to have all the answers. This story looks at the need of another to make a better world for one’s self, and another. SY
They held Mrs. Kuschikin’s funeral in the pickle factory her family had owned and operated for over a hundred years, and a memorial in Wickering Park after. Not your typical send-off, but that’s what Mrs. Kuschikin wanted. She never had been one for fanfare and folderol, after all. Especially when said fanfare and folderol involved herself.
The funeral itself was mercifully short, and it was a fine June day for the memorial—the kind of day that made ten-year-old boys like Casey grateful to be outside—but the official in charge of Mrs. Kuschikin’s memorial just kept droning on and on and on.
Casey wished he’d hurry up already. He hated having all these stranger around him, whispering, staring, throwing pitying glances his way. ‘Look at the poor little broken boy in the wheelchair,’ their eyes said.
But he wasn’t broken. Casey’s legs just didn’t work like theirs.
He balled his hands into fists, pointedly ignoring the mourners’ pitying eyes. The official droned on, oblivious to Casey’s suffering, punctuating his words with handfuls of corn kernels and pickle spices he dug out of a burlap sack and cast into the pond.
The ducks paddled over, nipping up the unexpected bounty, quacking in quarreling as they fought over each kernel. Casey watched them a while, eyes drifting about the pond. Looking past the ducks to Mrs. Kuschikin’s bench—the one she sat on every morning and every evening when she came to feed the ducks—he started in surprise.
A man sat there, hulking and bald-headed, calmly staring back.
Casey shivered, and quickly looked away. “Papa,” he whispered, tugging at his father’s sleeve.
Papa frowned and raised a finger, pressing it to his lips. “Quiet. And stop fidgeting,” he warned.
“Can’t help it,” Casey muttered. “He’s staring.”
Papa’s frown deepened. “Who’s staring?”
“The man,” Casey said, pointing across the pond.
“Don’t point. It’s not polite. And it makes people stare.” Papa nodded meaningfully to the hulking man across the way, folded his arms and fixed Casey with a stern eye until he lowered his arm and folded his hands neatly in his lap. “Better,” he grunted. And then pulled out his pocket watch, consulting its face for the millionth time.
An airship buzzed by, distracting him, purring motor muting the droning official’s words. Papa glanced skyward, stern face softening into a look of sadness as the airship’s bulbous shape passed overhead.
Mama crewed an airship like that, once upon a time. Casey knew all the stories, every last adventure she’d had. But Mama left the skies to marry Papa, trading steam-powered, clockwork engines for a life fixing Mrs. Kuschikin’s pickle processing machines.
And now Mama was gone, and sweet, old Mrs. Kuschikin too.
Tears pricked at Casey’s eyes as the airship disappeared into the distance. His missed Mama terribly, and the time they used spend in her workshop, working through her clockwork projects. Mrs. Kuschikin wasn’t family—not by blood, anyway—but Mama loved her like family, and Mrs. Kuschikin loved her back. Came every evening once the cancer set in, and sat at Mama’s bedside. Right up until the end.
The sound of the airship’s engines receded, as the droning official finally wound down. The mourners mingled for a while, and then quietly retreated, abandoning Wickering Park and its mud-bottomed pond.
The ducks stared after them, climbed from the pond and pecked at the ground.
I wonder who’ll feed them now? Casey thought idly.
He wasn’t quite sure anyone needed to, but the ducks had grown used to Mrs. Kuschikin’s constant presence. Dependent on her over the years.
His eyes drifted across the pond again. To the bench Mrs. Kuschikin always sat on, and the bald-headed stranger who’d claimed its wooden slats.
“Time to go, Casey.” Papa’s voice startled him. Casey glanced around as Papa closed the lid on his pocket watch and stuffed it into his jacket. “Eleven-thirty already. Time I got back to the office.”
The office. Hicklehoffer’s Accountancy. Papa spent pretty much all of his time there these days. For a while, Casey thought Papa stayed away because he hated him, but Mrs. Kuschikin set him straight.
“Home reminds your daddy of your mother, Casey,” she’d told him, as they sat together, feeding the ducks. “And you, my dear,” she added, chucking him fondly under the chin, “remind him of what he’s lost.”
Casey worried about Papa sometimes. But mostly he just wished he was more like the Papa he remembered. Like Papa used to be before Mama passed away.
He slipped his hand into Papa’s palm, looking up at his face. “Can’t we stay? For a little while, at least?”
Papa sighed and shook his head, looking tired of a sudden. “No, Casey. I told the office I’d be in by noon.” He slipped his hand free and pulled out his pocketwatch again, frowning in annoyance when he found yet more time gone. “C’mon, Casey. Time to go.” He flicked his fingers and turned around, heading for a cinder path.
Casey sighed and pushed up his sleeves, making sure the cuffs of his fine, dark jacket stayed clear of his chair’s wheels as he bumped across the grass after him.
The cinder path wandered around the duck pond and out the park’s entrance on the other side—a distance of just a quarter mile, with another two miles from the park to home after it.
Long way to push a wheelchair. Especially when you were ten years old.
Casey rattled to halt on the cinder path, reached inside his shirt and lifted a silver chain over his head.
A key pended from its links: heart shaped like a bow, six-sided blade spotted with square protrusions. Mama gave that key to him—the last gift she ever gave Casey before the cancer took her. It wound everything—all of Mama’s creations—giving them life.
Casey fitted the six-shaped end into a slot on the side of his wheelchair, cranked it twenty-five turns to wind the springs and cogs driving the rudimentary motor hidden under his seat. The motor wouldn’t take him far—a half-mile or so and he’d have to prime the mechanism all over again—but it moved him along quickly. And puttering at clockwork speed was vastly preferably to pushing the heavy chair all the way home.
A last turn and Casey tucked the key safely away, slipping it back inside his shirt. A switch on one side of his seat set the motor running, and a handle on the other released the brake holding it place. Casey flipped the one and squeezed the other, setting off with a chuffing lurch.
Papa fell in beside him, walking stiff-backed beside Casey as he circled around the pond. The wheelchair rattled across the cinders, clockworks clicking and clacking, turning in whirring circles as the springs slowly sprung.
Casey dodged an errant duckling, rounding a bend in the path. He hit the smooth section after, close by the water’s edge, and found that strange man still watching him, feeding dried corn kernels to the ducks as he sat on Mrs. Kuschikin’s bench.
Up close he was bigger—much bigger than he looked from afar—and tad disconcerting. Mostly because of his face: a blank, empty countenance, with black eyes like marbles staring from under a heavy brow.
Tattoo at the center of his forehead. A blue-black symbol that looked like some kind of writing. A dark depression in the center of his chest—a wound that seemed oddly symmetrical and square-edged. And strangest of all, he was bare-chested—no shirt, no jacket, no gentleman’s waistcoat or hat. In fact, other than his boots and trousers, the only thing the man was wearing was a beaded brass necklace with an oversized watch key hanging from its links.
Casey slowed, studying him, realizing he’d never seen this man before. Not here, not anywhere else around.
A stranger, then. Unusual, in a small town like this.
Casey applied the brakes, bringing the chair to a halt, reached over and tugged at Papa’s sleeve again. “Papa. Who is that?”
Papa frowned, checking his watch again. “Who’s who?” he asked, in that ‘I-don’t-really-care-but-I’ll-humor-you’ tone parents so often used.
“The man, Papa.” Casey curled his hands into fists to keep from pointing. “The one sitting on Mrs. Kuschikin’s bench. He’s—He’s naked,” Casey whispered, flushing bright red.
Papa rolled his eyes, sighing heavily as he took a look. “He’s not—good heavens!” he breathed, staring in shock.
He fumbled for the brass-rimmed glasses in his pocket, pulled them out and settled them over his eyes, flicking through no less than three sets of lenses as he peered at the man on the bench.
“Ah,” he said, whipping them back off. “That explains.” Papa tucked the glasses away and looked down at Casey. “He’s Samoan. They don’t wear shirts.”
Casey blinked and frowned, eyes flicking from the man on the bench to Papa beside him.
The bald-headed man stared back at him, nibbling delicately at an orange creamsicle—no other frozen treat Casey knew of came in that bright color—as he tossed corn kernels to the ducks.
He had the coloring of a Samoan—red-brown like old teak—but Casey had read a book on Pacific Islanders just last summer, and he was pretty much positive that man wasn’t one.
“Can’t be. The tattoo’s all wrong.” Casey tapped at his forehead, looking up at his father.
“Really?” Papa said in his ‘this conversation’s over’ voice. He checked his watch again, frowning as he put it away. “Come along, Casey. Time we were going.” He flicked his fingers and moved off, nodding to the man on Mrs. Kuschikin’s bench as he walked past.
Casey hesitated, brimming with questions about this mysterious man.
“Casey!” Papa stopped at the park’s entrance, waving impatiently.
Casey disengaged the wheelchair’s brake and followed after him, sneaking surreptitious glances at the dead-eyed stranger as he rolled by Mrs. Kuschikin’s bench. “Creepy,” he muttered, shivering as their eyes met.
“Coming!” Casey thumbed the wheelchair’s motor open, using the last of its pent-up energy to take him out of the park.
Papa left Casey with Mrs. Dolan before taking off for work. Strictly speaking, Mrs. Dolan was supposed to watch him, and make sure he didn’t get into trouble, but she was an ancient lady—older even than dearly departed Mrs. Kuschikin—and after fixing Casey a grilled cheese, soon fell asleep on the couch.
Casey waited until she started snoring like a cranky old beaver before slipping into the study, settling down in front of a walnut and brass box sitting atop Mama’s dusty desk.
Casey shouldn’t be here—Papa couldn’t bring himself to throw Mama’s things away, but he hated Casey touching them—but he had so many questions. He couldn’t stop thinking about that strange man in the park.
The box in front of him held answers—just about every bit of knowledge he could ever need.
A quick look behind him and Casey pulled a book down from the shelving, plucked a filigreed brass key from its carved-out pages and slotted it into a keyhole on the side of the box.
A keyboard appeared—brass and steel, one circular touch pad for each letter—and a set of goggles Casey slipped over his head.
Papa never learned how to use Mama’s ocular indexer, but Casey spent hours digging through its database, poring over every factoid it held. Most days he just searched randomly, hungry to learn everything Mama never had time to teach him. But today he was looking for just one thing: an image that matched the mark on that strange man’s forehead. A tattoo—if that’s truly what it was—that looked an awful lot like writing.
Casey drilled down to the languages section, searching for hours until he stumbled upon a section on ancient Hebrew. And a string of symbols that looked just about right.
“Truth,” Casey murmured, reading the translation. “Why would he…?”
A data tag appeared, pointing him to one of Mama’s personal files. He followed it and found a story from Jewish folklore, and pictures of a man-shaped thing called Golem: a hulking, dead-eyed, hairless creature with a blue-black mark stamped into its forehead.
“That’s him,” Casey breathed, adjusting the goggles, pressing them tight to his face. The man in the park for sure, a dead ringer if he ever saw one. Except that odd depression in his chest. That seemed to be missing. “Something must’ve happened to him…it…whatever.”
Casey dug deeper into the file and found some notes Mama had jotted down. Most of it seemed technical—measurements and tolerances, calibration equations and such—but Casey spotted the word ‘artificial’, and noted references to mud and clay and magic.
“Magic. Right,” he snorted. “Magic doesn’t exist.”
He scrolled through the rest of the document, reading them all the way to the end. Stopped there and stared at a scanned image: a pen and ink drawing of hex-bladed key with a heart-shaped end. Casey’s own name written below it, with Mama’s heart and keys stamp added.
Casey blinked and stared, wondering what to make of that.
Papa’s keys rattled in the front door, sending Casey scrambling to lock the ocular indexer back up. He pulled out the filigreed key and secreted it away, making sure everything was exactly as he’d found it before sneaking out of the study, and shutting it up tight.
Casey lay awake in the darkness that night, listening to the small sounds of the house at rest: the creak of settling floorboards, the ticking of the kitchen clock. The moon rose outside, shining silver-white through his window, but he didn’t see the moon when he looked at it. All he saw was the Golem in Wickering Park. The mark on its brow. The dent in its chest. The oversized key draped around its neck.
That dent was there for a reason. And the key…
Casey touched at his own key, hanging from its silver chain, thinking of the picture Mama had drawn, his name and her stamp marked below it.
“It’s not magic,” he whispered, sitting up straight. “It’s science. Clockwork. The Golem’s just an oversized wind-up toy.” Mama must’ve made it—why else would she have all that stuff in that file?
“But what’s it doing in Wickering Park?” Casey murmured, hugging his all-but-useless legs to his chest. “And why’s it sitting on Mrs. Kuschikin’s bench?”
He stared out the bedroom window, thinking that over as the moon tracked across the night sky. Morning drew close and Casey gave up on some sleep entirely, traded his pajamas for a pair of pants and a lightweight shirt, clean socks and his battered leather boots before scratching out a note to his sleeping father and slipping into his wheelchair, rolling quietly to the front door.
Cool air puffed across Casey’s cheeks as he snuck outside, navigating the soft, dewy grass of the side yard to his mother’s tiny workshop sitting forgotten in the back. His key opened the lock, and he slipped inside to find clockwork parts lying everywhere—springs and gears mounded in bins, scattered across tables, hanging from the ceiling, lying in stacks on the floor. Pocket watches sat in glass cases, patiently ticking out time. Grandfather clocks thumped serenely, nothing but Casey’s key and constant monitoring keeping them working now that Mama had passed on.
Casey pushed past it all, working his way to the back of the shed, searching for a pair of leg braces sitting half-hidden in the corner.
“There you are,” he murmured, caressing a length of hinged metal with his fingers.
Mama made these, just like his wheelchair. Legs, of a sort. Mechanical legs of chrome and steel, with hinges at the knee and ankle, leather straps to hold them in place. Clockworks and a winding mechanism primed twin, tiny motors, just like the ones in Casey’s chair. Legs that—when properly wound up—helped Casey actually walk again.
Just one problem, though: they were still somewhat…experimental. Incomplete prototypes. Which meant sometimes they worked, and sometimes they didn’t. Most times they started working and then spontaneously quit. Casey’d tried his best to finish them after Mama passed, but he didn’t have Mama’s skill with clockworks just yet. The best he could do was bash the parts back into place until the mechanical legs started working again.
Last time he did that, Papa took them away. Stuffed them way back here in this far corner of the workshop thinking Casey wouldn’t be able to get at them again.
Yeah. Right. Like that was gonna stop him.
Casey pulled the leg braces to him and wrestled them into place. It was two miles from here to the park, and most of it uphill, which absolutely killed the wheelchair’s motor, meaning he’d have to stop every five minutes to wind the darn thing. But Mama’s mechanical legs could carry him to the park no problem. Assuming, of course, they didn’t seize up somewhere along the way.
He yanked on the straps, making sure everything was tight, slotted his key into the mechanisms on either hip and wounded them twenty-five times. A last check, making sure both motors were primed and ready, and Casey twisted a dial, setting the gears at his hips and knees to spinning as he pushed himself to his feet.
Standing felt amazing—enormous after such a long time spent sitting. And when he flipped two switches and actually started walking, Casey felt pretty much like a superhero. Always did when he strapped on Mama’s mechanical legs.
He strode outside and across the yard, throwing a guilty look at Papa’s bedroom window as he walked by.
He’d left a note, but Papa would worry anyway. Despite everything, he still cared for Casey. Deep, deep down, beneath his mourning for Mama.
“Back soon, Papa,” Casey whispered. “Promise.”
A last look at his darkened home and Casey stepped onto the sidewalk, letting the gaslights him as he clickety-clacked down the street.
To his amazement, Casey made it all the way to Wickering Park without anything going wrong with his mechanical legs. Not one gear slipped, not a single spring sprung, no seized up mechanisms or popped-out pistons. In fact, he only had to stop once, and that was to prime the motors’ mechanisms, which had completely wound down.
The sun was just rising as Casey stepped into the park, and the Golem just as Casey had left it: elbow-deep in a burlap sack sitting next to him on Mrs. Kuschikin’s bench, bright white teeth chewing on an orange creamsicle as it tossed corn kernels to the ducks waddling about its feet.
Casey stared at the creature from across the pond—nervous, excited, the tiniest bit afraid.
The Golem was even bigger than Casey remembered. Bigger and scarier in the thin light of a new day.
He slowed and then stopped, mechanical legs ticking softly as the gears and springs unwound.
The Golem bit into its creamsicle, scattered of handful of corn, each movement timed to perfection—regular as clockwork, repeating in perfect patterns.
Casey watched it finish one frozen treat and reach into the sack for another—evidently the Golem kept both corn and creamsicles in there, though how it kept the latter from melting was a mystery, to be sure.
“It’s just a wind-up toy,” he muttered, taking a deep breath. He screwed up his courage and lifted his chin, marched around the pond and introduced himself to the Golem.
“Hi,” Casey said, holding out his hand. “I’m—I’m Casey. Casey Chronomire.”
The Golem blinked its marble eyes, ham-sized hand lifting, presenting the orange creamsicle to its mouth. Ten mastications and it swallowed, reaching into the bag beside it to scatter more dried corn.
The tick-tock of clockworks accompanied each movement, a faint click-click, whir-whir emanating from deep inside the Golem’s chest.
Casey dropped his hand, twisting uncomfortably. “What are—What are you doing here?”
Silence from the Golem. Nothing but those blank, unblinking eyes.
Casey pointed at the fowl pecking at its feet. “I see you like ducks.”
The Golem froze for exactly two seconds, and then creaked back to life, massive hand scooping up corn kernels, casting them across the ground.
Well, that was interesting.
Suspecting he might be on to something, Casey plowed ahead. “I like ducks too. Especially mallards. They sound like grumpy old men when they quack.” Casey laughed nervously as the Golem chewed and swallowed. “I’d—I’d like to feed them. If—If you don’t mind.” He reached for the burlap sack and the Golem froze again, playing statue for a full ten seconds. “O—Or not…”
The Golem surged to its feet, dark eyes burning with a bright spark of anger.
Casey stumbled backward, clockwork legs protesting, seizing up unexpectedly and sending him tumbling to the ground. The Golem loomed above him—a massive, man-shaped edifice constructed of clay.
Run! Casey’s mind screamed, but he didn’t know how. Not with these leg braces. Not with the mechanisms bound up and the clockworks winding down.
The Golem moved closer, massive fist hanging like Thor’s own hammer in the air as a dog started barking—sharp voice strident, insistent—and the ducks took flight, clamoring loudly as they flapped their way to the safety of the pond. Another step and the Golem stood right in front of him, dark eyes lit with fire.
Casey closed his eyes and wrapped his arms around his head, convinced this was the end. To his surprise, nothing happened. No death and destruction. No wrath of the Golem visited upon his head. He cautiously opened one eye and untucked as the Golem stepped over him, twisted and saw it advance upon the barking dog.
Three quick steps and the Golem’s fist descended, pummeling the earth, sending the dog stumbling to one side. A second thump and the dog plunked down on its backside looking scared and confused and surprised.
The Golem’s lips skinned backward, revealing a row of tiny tombstones embedded in its mouth. One look at those teeth and dog took off, yelping pitifully, tail tucked firmly between its legs.
The Golem straightened, turned around and seemed to shiver. It fumbled for the key hanging around its neck, lifted it and slotted the hexagonal end into the hole in its chest. Two sharp turns and the brass key jammed. The Golem pressed hard, trying to move it further but the key stubbornly refused to budge.
The creature looked at Casey lying helplessly on the ground, stumped across the grass and squatted down beside him.
This is it, Casey thought, looking up into that dead-eyed face. I’m done for sure.
The Golem reached for him, sausage-sized fingers grasping at Casey’s waist, flipped him over onto his stomach and started poking at his butt.
“Hey! Wait!” Casey yelled. “What are you—oof!”
The Golem prodded Casey hard in the kidneys, in the tail bone, on the point of each hip, nudging at the gears and pistons of the metal framework reinforcing Casey’s legs.
The clockworks whirred mechanically, ticked a few times and suddenly came unstuck.
The Golem grunted and stood, stumped over to Mrs. Kuschikin’s bench and sat down, wooden slats creaking alarmingly, oversized key sticking out of its chest.
Casey rolled back over, staring in amazement, bent both legs—making sure all the joints worked properly—before winding up the mechanisms and climbing carefully to his feet. “Th—Thanks,” he said, nodding to the Golem.
“What—How—What did you—?” He twisted around, looking at his backside, noting the button near his tailbone, the springs and pistons sitting on each hip. “You fixed it.” He faced around, staring at the Golem in surprise. “How—How did you…?”
Casey trailed off, letting the unfinished question hang in the air.
The Golem shrugged its massive shoulders and reached for the sack of corn.
Faint writing showed on the side of it. Faded black letters spelling out Kuschikin’s Pickle Spices—the ‘K’s bold and blocky, the ‘I’s dotted with yellow smiley faces.
“She put you here, didn’t she?” Casey pointed to the smiley-faced letters stenciled across the burlap sack. “Mrs. Kuschikin loved those ducks like children. ’Least, that’s what Mama always said.” He slid close to the Golem, touched tentatively at its chest. “She always worried about what would happen to them after…after…” Casey trailed off, shrugging uncomfortably. “But I guess that’s why you’re here. To look after them now that Mrs. Kuschikin is gone.”
The Golem blinked, and nodded, clockworks ticking and whirring, slowly winding down. It touched at the key in its chest, pinching it between its fingers and turned it over until it stuck.
“Stop! Stop! Stop!” Casey cried, waving his hands. “You’ll break it!”
He’d watched Mama often enough in her workshop to recognize the signs of a balky clockwork. Torquing on it would only make things worse.
The Golem bowed its head, staring at the oversized key poking from its chest, let go and just sat there blinking until Casey told him to remove the key entirely.
“Now hold still while I take a look,” Casey told it.
He bent down and leaned close, inspecting the hexagonal keyhole carved into the Golem’s chest. Spotted a bit of metal showing at the edges and carefully cleared a patch of clay away.
A seam showed beneath, then a panel, an entire section of the Golem’s brass barrel chassis hiding under the outer covering of clay. A bit more cleaning and Casey found a recessed catch that, when activated, let the Golem’s chest panel swing wide.
A forest of gleaming clockworks waited beneath, cogs and springs and pistons in brass and copper and steel, everything ticking and tocking as the mechanism whirred away. And in the center of it, a maker’s mark. A steel badge of hearts and keys with the letters ‘JC’ stamped in the middle.
JC. Julia Chronomire.
Casey swiped at his face, tears blurring his eyes. “I knew my Mama made you,” he whispered. “I just knew it.”
The Golem blinked and looked down, considering the rapidly slowing clockworks inside its chest.
Something didn’t sound right in there. A faint clicking underscored the mechanism’s regular rhythm. A sharp, irregular noise that meant something was out of balance.
Casey wiped away the last of his tears, chewing at his lip. The mechanism inside the Golem was a work of art—the most complex clockwork creation he’d ever seen. He scratched his head, wondering what to do. Trying to figure out where he should even start.
And then he looked at his legs, remembering the Golem’s poking. How it had known just where to press to slide things back into place.
Casey tilted his head back, staring at the Golem. “I don’t suppose you could…” He waved at the clockworks in front of him, but the Golem just shrugged its shoulders and shook its head, poking ineffectually at a cog. “Can’t quite see, can you? Oh well. Worth a try, I guess.” Casey sighed and started fiddling, winding a cog here, a spring there, cleaning out some lint clogging the mechanism in the hope it might help.
Unfortunately, none of it made any difference. No matter what he did, the clockwork kept winding down. That clicking sound getting louder as the Golem’s mechanism slowed.
“Darn.” Casey sat back, thinking as the Golem slipped its oversized key into place and wound it as far as it would go. “Three turns this time. Well, that’s something anyway.”
But it wouldn’t keep the Golem going. Not forever, anyway. And it didn’t make that odd, off-rhythm clicking go away.
Casey cupped his chin, considering the clockworks, wondering what he should do.
That’s when he noticed a second, smaller keyhole high up on the Golem’s chest.
On a hunch, Casey pulled out his key, slotted it into place and found it a perfect fit. But then they would be. After all, Mama had made them—the key and the lock, both—just as she’d made the Golem to look after the ducks once Mrs. Kuschikin was gone.
“She knew I’d find you.” Casey tilted his head, looking up at the Golem’s face. “She gave me this key so I could take care of you.” And left those notes as clues, knowing curious Casey would eventually find them.
Another half-finished project. Another mechanism that mostly but not quite worked.
“We’re quite the pair, aren’t we?” Casey tapped at the Golem’s clockworks, rapped his knuckles against his balky leg braces. “But I think we can help each other. And eventually I’ll learn how to finish you.
Golem blinked its marble eyes, watching as Casey gripped the key between his fingers and turned it over, winding it twenty-five times.
A second set of clockworks started humming, working away inside its chest. A bit more scraping and Casey uncovered a heart-shaped panel protecting a copper and gold mechanism—cogs keeping time with the larger set beside it, both of them ticking in time.
“There,” Casey said, smiling at the Golem. “Bet you can run all day with both clockworks wound up tight.”
The Golem studied its ticking innards, looked at Casey and nodded just once.
“You’re welcome.” Casey closed both panels and smoothed the clay covering back into place. “So, here’s my offer, big guy: you fix my legs and I fix your heart, and both of us get a friend. Deal?” Casey smiled widely and held out his hand.
The Golem stared at it, and at Casey, stuck out a huge finger and let Casey pump it up and down. And then it shucked over and patted the bench beside it, handing a creamsicle to Casey as the ducks gathered ’round.
J.B. Rockwell is a New Englander, which means she’s stubborn, hard-headed, and frequently snarky. A childhood diet of fairy tales, folklore and mythology augmented with generous helpings of science fiction and fantasy led to a degree in archaeology and dreams of being the next Indian Jones. Unfortunately, that didn’t quite work out, but through a series of twists and turns involving cats, a marriage, and a SCUBA certification, she ended up working in IT for the U.S. Coast Guard. Now she writes the types of books she used to read. Not a bad ending for an Indiana Jones wannabe.
You can find out more about J.B. Rockwell at her website www.jenniferbrockwell.com, on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7845401.J_B_Rockwell and Twitter @Rockwell_JB.
Breakshield, by J B Rockwell (Zharmae Publishing Press, 2014)