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.
We're a family of few words. The clocks do our
talking for us.
"Have you got the parts?" she asks softly, maybe
"Yes," say I, letting her peer inside the brown
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
This time machine is entirely purple, a soft,
light, silvery purple that reflects the blue clouds billowing around us gently,
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,
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
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
I scramble out of the cockpit. Peering around,
I'm assaulted with a tumbling of memories, memories from the last time we came
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.
The time machine.
"C'mon, Saphi, let's get back to Mom and Sunset
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.