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A Machine Called Earth

By Aaron Thorne All Rights Reserved ©

Fantasy / Scifi

Chapter 1- A Proposition

‘What am I doing here?’ This was the thought that went through Hector’s mind as he found himself wading through a field of head-high, tall grass. It was deep into the night and the moon was full and bright, so large, one might be forgiven for thinking that the moon was on a collision course for Earth. Hector could not see the ground on which he tread, for the grass was very thick and bowed at his chest. Over in the distance, towards the direction Hector was rushing, was the unmistakable roof of the Tammerville train station. It had a large angled roof, and a great watchtower protruding from it.

Hector knew this was the destination he was reaching for, though he could not remember why. As he pressed forward, through the grass, as it did it’s upmost to stop him, he began to feel the ground beneath his feet, shake. As he turned his head behind him, seeing the trail which he left, there seemed to be shadows which concealed most of what he could see. Fear filled his heart, and he began to tread through the tall, thick grass, at an even greater pace.

The distant sound of a whistle, echoed through the vast emptiness of the night. There was a train approaching. As it got closer, the sound of the steam powered locomotive, bellowed forward, louder and louder. The ground shaking more and more. Hector was rattled at the great sound of the furious machine, however his determination to reach the station was greater than ever.

As the train came into view as it approached the station, Hector knew he had to reach it, however he could not. The thick grass, grew more and more impenetrable the closer he went to the station.

As the great locomotive, reached Hector’s sight, its shadowy figure, which in most cases, would be completely disguised within the darkness of the night, was not. In fact it was very much visible, for it was engulfed in flames. The great fiery ghost it did not look as if it were going to stop at the station. It kept moving. It was not traveling fast, but it wasn’t going to come to a stop. The field in which Hector tread, became enveloped in a thick layer of smoke, as it blanketed down over the grassland. The distinct cloud made from burning coal, filled Hector’s lungs. He began to panic. His heart-rate spiked, and nervousness covered him.

As the flaming locomotive rolled by, he could hear shouts from those within. “Help us, Help us!” They shouted.

Hector knew he had to get to the train, to help them. But his feet trembled, he was afraid of the train, but he didn’t know why. Nevertheless, he pushed on, to no effect. He became tangled in the long grass. He was stuck. Once more, more loudly than before, the shouts was heard, “HELP US!” they cried. With that Hector shouted, “I CAN’T!” Then he woke up.

Hector, in a cold sweat, got out of his bed, and went down the narrow staircase of him and his sister’s home. He heard talking, and a knock at the door was what caused him to wake. As he reached the bottom floor, he saw the front door open.

Standing in the doorway, was a large, bearded man, with a top hat and coat. The one who answered the door, was also standing at the door, facing this man.

“Jane! I thought I told you to never answer the door, unless I was with you.”

“But I thought it was mother.”

“You think that, every time someone knocks at the door. Please try to be more cautious.”

The little girl then stormed off, up the stairs, with a rather unhappy look, as she sneered at her brother.

“Ah hello, Master Edgehill. Hector if I may?” Said the man at the door.

Hector stared with an unfriendly yet nervous look, for never has someone of such standing ever come to the door. “Yes Hector will be fine. What is it that you want?”

“Yes, I am Mayor Johnston, as you perhaps know. But you can call me Saul, if you wish.”

“Very well.” Said Hector, still confused.

“Ah yes, may I come in?” Mayor Johnston asked, motioning with his hand, into the interior of the house. But he pressed on, into the house, before he got an answer.

“Yes, I have something to discuss with you, a proposition if you will. Hardly something worth addressing, standing on the street like a blasted salesman.”

He then went on, into the living room, taking a seat. A great plum of dust exploded from the chair that the Mayor sat on. For it was Hector and Jane’s father’s seat, and hadn't been sat on since his death.

Hector followed him into the living room, intrigued as to why the Mayor was in his home. Hector stood opposite the mayor, who was coughing and swiping at the air to do away with the dust. Hector asked, “So, what is it that you want?” He said with slight annoyance in his tone.

Hector was tired, and had just woken up, however his slumber had seldom been peaceful. Nightmares had become a regular occurrence during the night and his sleep deprivation had made him quite short tempered and seemingly rude at times. But Mayor Johnston was also sitting in the armchair of Hector’s father, an offense that Mayor Johnston was unaware of.

Mayor Johnston, shuffled in the chair, as he sensed he was not entirely welcome. However he was desperate, welcome or not, he had matters to address. “Ah yes, Hector, please, take a seat.” In which he did. “How is your mother? If I may ask.”

“She’s been gone for months. Jane keeps thinking that she will return, but somehow, I don’t think so.”

“Gone you say?” The mayor said. “Interesting. There has been more than a few, who have gone missing as of late. Perhaps there is a connection.”

Hector snickered at the idea that his mother’s leaving had been connected to other disappearances. He was bent on the idea that his mother had left, leaving him and his sister, as if they were burdens to be rid of. “So you came here to ask of my mother?” Hector asked, knowing the mayor’s question was just a feeble attempt to create small-talk before addressing his main concern.

“No, my apologies, like I said, I have a proposition for you. I have some work for you, if you’d be willing.” He looked around the room, observing the state in which it was, “Some extra money, would seem, quite useful, as it would seem.”

Hector, with his arms now crossed, said, “I thought you no longer needed our services. The Blackcoats are no more, disbanded, thanks to you.”

“Yes I am aware of the situation, but what you may not be aware of, is that there is a situation, that, without swift intervention, may snowball into the uncontrollable.”

“Well, what is this, situation which you speak?”

“I’d scarcely know where to begin, or how to explain it. But, as you see, there is something, how should I say, disturbing, going on, which I can’t seem to explain. Like I said, there had been several people who have gone missing. Just vanished, gone without a trace, never turned up at work, and all that. But that is hardly at the top of my concerns, for there have been sightings, of something mysterious.”

“So you want me to help hunt, something?”

“Well yes, we have reasonable evidence to believe, such a thing, exists. But we haven’t been able to capture one. I shan't go into detail, but your skills, may deem useful. I’d hardly want panic to surface on the streets.”

“What kind of evidence do you have, exactly?” Hector asked. “What is it, that you want me to find?”

“Well, there has been, some kind of outbreak. Physical mutations, and such. Rumors mostly, we haven’t found any conclusive evidence, however, there has also been a string of gruesome murders. My men are working to find any connections between the two. They are currently questioning the workers of the Mabel Hill saw mill, a terrible case involving a worker known as James, who allegedly murdered his supervisor and decapitated him. He has now gone missing. Will you help? I pray we can get this under wraps, before it gets too serious. Otherwise I’d have no choice but call a town meeting. The people aren't too fond of me, and I’d hardly want an insurrection on my hands.”

“But that just sounds like a normal murder.” Hector stated. “I’m sure your Syrien law keepers will have no problem catching the man. What do you need with a Blackcoat? An inexperienced one at that.”

“Hector, you may think I am detached to the going-ons of this town but I am very aware of many things, including the type of teacher Valimir was to you, and I know he has taught you a great many things, and in his leave, I believe you are the next suitable solution. And this is far from a ‘normal murder’ as you put it, the head of the deceased, it seems was removed not with any tools, but it seems it was, well, I don’t know how else to put it, bitten off.”

Hector sat silently for a moment. For he began to question his ability to perform such a task. Hunting the unknown. He did have many skills taught by Valimir, the reason he was approached by Mayor Johnston. But he lacked the experience that Valimir had. Hector was only young, and experience is something that is can commonly be overlooked. It is a fool, who relies solely on their skills, unfazed by their inexperience. For there is no skill, to prepare for the unknown, the unpredictable, and Hector was no fool. But mostly he was afraid and shocked at hearing the saw mill’s supervisor’s head was ‘bitten’ off.

“I’m sorry to disappoint you Mister Johnston, but I must decline your request. However, might I suggest, asking Valimir. He is someone quite capable for such a task. Though as you probably know, if he wishes not to be found, then found he will not be.”

“Ah, I won’t lie, I am quite troubled with your refusal. And I have been looking for Valimir, but I’ve not had any luck finding him. I had hoped, you knew of his whereabouts.”

“I’m afraid not. I have not seen him in some time.” At that, Hector began to think, that perhaps Valimir, was another of the missing persons, but he quickly dismissed that idea.

“Well, I’m afraid I cannot help you, I’d appreciate it if you could leave.” Hector then stood up, and motioned for the door.

“Yes, very well. If you do change your mind, please feel free to contact me.” Mayor Johnston then stood up, and walked out the door.

Hector sat silently once more, thinking to himself. ‘What exactly is this, that’s going on? And how serious will this become?’ But soon, those thoughts left his mind, for, in the coming days, there was no talk on missing persons, murders, or mutations. Life seemed to just go on as normal.

Today the strangest thing happened. The mayor showed up at my door. To my shock, he was in need of my services. Though what do I have to offer? Yes indeed I’ve learnt many things under the mentorship of Valimir, and have experienced much in my time as a Blackcoat city guard, but I am barely a man, am I the only one that Tammerville can call on in its time of need?

I’ve never been much for journals, but I feel somewhat compelled to write this down. The Mayor was searching for something. Some sort of murderous beast. Worst of all, these beasts are said to be of human origin. However I can hardly believe that such a thing exists. Nevertheless, I can’t seem to get over this nervousness. Could such a beast really exist?
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