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Valentime


by _sunset_phoenix

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I creak open the door and enter, but I already know what I'm going to see inside my neohome. And as soon as the wooden door falls back into my hand, the ticking of a thousand clocks surrounds me.

      Going inside, I lift the bag off of my back, placing it on a spherical table decorated with a small, blue plastic clock. I sweep my hair back from my eyes. The bag spills open, and out come a few wires, clogs, and springs. Looking at them, I know that I'm ready.

     My hand sweeps the little parts back into the soft leather and I pick the bag up, carrying it through the hall. Clocks all around tick softly, loudly, some with the brays of Kaus, some with the gentle song of a faerie, some with the dull, mechanical noise that we all know from our own homes.

     "Icy?" I call, and my voice doesn't echo for long. Upstairs, I hear a creak as Icy, my angelic little Bori, pushes her door open and slips down the stairs.

     "I'm here."

     We're a family of few words. The clocks do our talking for us.

     "Have you got the parts?" she asks softly, maybe sadly.

     "Yes," say I, letting her peer inside the brown bag.

     Icy gently looks at me, closing her hand around a soft yellow star. It's the most important piece in this working. We won't be able to work without it.

     But what exactly are we trying to do, you might be wondering. But my dear reader, that is what the story is all about. Watch. You'll find out.

     We walk side-by-side through the long, long, long corridor. It extends the entire length of the house, with rooms like leaves on a branch, off to either side.

     The last room in the house has a towering ceiling. It extends past the third story of the house. The gleaming walls are soft, made of clouds. Actually, there is a double wall: inside this one is an army of clockwork pets, moving mechanically around and around, piled on top of each other, toys from a long time past.

     And we are building a time machine.

     It is thin, so thin that only one pet will be able to fit inside its fattest room. I'm too tall; my other pets, Sunset and Shadowfire, are too plump. Sunset's a strawberry, scarlet red and tufty around the ears. Shadowfire's Shoyru wings are so large, nowadays, that she can barely furl them behind her back. I'm proud of all of them, but Icy is the only thin girl in the family. And I'm too tall.

     Again I upend the bag, and the parts bounce out. Icy and I scurry around, completing the swirling structures and tiny, chugging motors.

     This time machine is entirely purple, a soft, light, silvery purple that reflects the blue clouds billowing around us gently, sleepily, dreamily.

     Half of an hour, two minutes, and three seconds later, telling by the ticking of the time machine's spherical timepiece, we're done. Icy gives me one last gaze, a wave, and then the door clicks behind her. I hear her inside, humming softly a slow tune. I know the words.

     Someday I'll find you,

      and tell you, remind you

     When you went away,

      didn't see us behind you

     When I take your hand

     You'll come back with me,

     You'll come back to mother

     What delights we shall see

     Together. . .

     * * *

     I'm inside the time machine. Mama waved to me, and then I closed the door.

     I start humming, the tune Remind You still clear in my mind.

     The marshmallow-soft yellow Nova in my hand is completely at peace with the world. She gazes at me beautifully as I lay her in the nest of purple gauze, and glows like a candle in a pine-wood stick. Her magic is potent and can do almost anything. So she is now in a time machine, making it run, making it shoot up into the stars.

     What a way to live, I think. I can't wait until I get back to that day. And then I come back to myself, turning the key in the engine and shooting up, past the cloudy ceiling, into the deep night sky.

     For the next few hours, I see nothing but the endless patchwork of fields and towns beneath me, and I glance at the gauge. Underneath the words, "Sloth & Virtupets Mechanical Firm", the altimeter reads, 5000 feet.

     I'm a mile up in the sky.

     I pass by the Haunted Woods, and the landscape below turns to gnarled trees. Straining to peer below, I see faintly the stalls that make up the Deserted Fairground, and I can almost hear a thock as some poor, swindled pet hits a hammer down onto the Test Your Strength booth.

     I decide that I need a break. Switching the flight to automatic, I lean back in the seat, gazing at the Nova just a little off to my left. And I start to remember.

     * * *

     "Mom, mom, when are we going to get to the shrine?" whined Sunset. "I'm getting all gooey in this sort of heat."

     "Soon, Sunset," replied Mom. "Almost there, but do you want to stop for a milkshake, or Neocola?"

     And then Saphi piped up, and her small, clear, crystalline voice seemed to cool down tempers and nerves; even Sunset's strawberry coat began shining and firm once again. "Do you want to race, Sunset, Icy, Shadowfire?" And then she speeds off, before we can say yes. And then we look at each other, and begin to walk slowly after her, giving her a head start.

     Saphi was the baby of the family, an exquisite, tiny faerie Wocky with a luxurious, creamy pelt; light, light violet with a tinge of pink to it, and a rich furry ruff of vanilla white. She had come to us in the middle of the night, and her coat, reflected bright under the same stars I see right now, was soaked, wet with the tears of an abandoned pet. But when we found her, Mom vowed that she would be never lost again.

     And then she had been, somehow, someway, lost in the endlessly rolling white sea of sand in the Lost Desert. And we knew now, now after so many years, that we are separated by naught but the distance between the Desert and Mystery Island, and the years that we all know.

      * * *

     Something jerked me back to the present. The engine gave a cough, a poof, and exhaled grisly smoke. It began a nose-dive down.

     I jump for the manual controls.

     As the plane veers left, the gold towers and obelisks of the Lost Desert materialize. My breath catches in my throat; I'll be seeing Saphi again.

     Twiddling the dial to my diagonal lower left, I set the coordinates for landing, and settle back again, but this time I peer eagerly out the window. Saphi. I'm coming, I'm here for you.

     The shining silver needle of the machine blows away a puddle of sand as it lands in the squat center of the Sakhmet City marketplace. And I fumble with the safety belt, and I can't wait- can't wait to see Saphi once more.

     I scramble out of the cockpit. Peering around, I'm assaulted with a tumbling of memories, memories from the last time we came here.

     And I set out towards Coltzan's Shrine.

     She's there, we all know she's there.

     It takes me no more than five minutes to see the peak, piercing the sand. Now I can hardly hold myself back from shouting as I run, crying, laughing, all at the same time.

     And then I see her.

     And she sees me.

     "Icy!" she cries, laughing. "You're really slow."

     Of course; I remember. That race that we had.

     I hug her, my eyes brimming.

     "Icy, you've got sand in your eyes! You'll dissolve!"

     As I brush the grains away, they trickle down to the ground, and I'm reminded of an hourglass.

     Time.

     The time machine.

     "C'mon, Saphi, let's get back to Mom and Sunset and Shadowfire."

     "All right."

     And as we set out back home, I'm entirely happy.

     Saphi, my heart, my mother's heart, my family's heart, was back.

     On Valentine's Day.

The End

 
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