The tiny dancer twirled in a hypnotic dance, ceramic limbs frozen in retiré devant. To watch her was sweet torture, for she danced to the theme of brighter days- The Love Story theme. It had been my wife’s favorite song and the music box was my gift to her for Valentine’s Day last year. Still, here I sat as the winter nights grew more oppressive, with no company save the tireless music box dancer now that she had gone from my life.

The fire burned low, the room was full of smoke and shadows and the glass of absinthe in my hand grew lighter when a sound at the door interrupted my morbid reveries. I opened it to find a small bird, a thrush, dashed against my door by the wretched wind. I brought the poor thing in, held it to me near the fire and did what I could to restore life to it, but between my two hands it gasped and died.

Such a small end, but it weighed upon me cruelly. All the world seemed to echo of loss, and the tiny bird’s life was but another measure on the scale that tipped toward my inescapable grief. I could not save her. As I sat in such tumultuous reflections, my eyes lit upon my tools and my workbench, long neglected. An idea took hold of my fevered brain, latched itself there, and began to feed. I should rebuild her, this lost little bird. Perhaps I had failed her when first she came to me, but if I could, I would make amends.

Invigorated by new purpose, I set all my skill toward this end. Night after night I worked, without rest, taking only what sustenance I required to keep moving. Sinew and bone are not so easily replaced. Life is even less so. December ebbed, January passed into a rain-sodden February.

Such was my obsession that the music box I once attended by the hour now sat silent for many days. I ransacked my house and possessions to find the proper parts for the bird, my mind hardly knowing what my hands were doing. Piece by piece I put the tiny false avian together, felt her taking form beneath my hands with wings of leather and inner things of gears and clocks and mechanical processes that I knew but could not identify the importance of.

As I created, a nameless unbidden horror began to grow within my breast. My hope had been that in restoring the bird to some semblance of life I could do the same for myself, but as she took form it only served to remind me of what I had lost, what was beyond my ability to restore, and what I could not rebuild. I began to loathe the mechanical bird as though she were some demon come to taunt me in my solitude. Yet I could not cease to build her, my hands fettered to the work by the madness in my mind.

At last the bird was complete, the last screw and spring in place. I held her in my hands, as I had the living bird some months hence, and the mounting dread filled me near to bursting. With a turn of a key the artificial wings unfurled, and the thrush flew to my mantle and there alighted- alighted atop a ruined music box that was shattered and strewn apart. I cried with an oath as the mechanical claws curled around the tiny dancer that I, in my ravings, had unknowingly tossed aside. The thrush, with a whirring of gear-work eyes and a demonic fluttering of her leathery wings began to sing-

Began to sing the cursed theme of Love Story.

About the Author

“I love steampunk because it is, to me, the ultimate blend of elegance and fantasy; science fiction and human strength. Some of my biggest influences are H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, and Albert Samain. I am a costumer, writer, and avid reader.

“I am also terrified of birds.”