“Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
On this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I am challenging myself to work with others. It doesn't matter your skill set, your aptitude, your personality, or your societal stature. We all need each other, and we all need you.
When people suffer through depression, it can be easy to delve into thoughts and grief over uselessness. We need to remind ourselves and each other how important we each are to our cultures and communities. Whether you are a loner, wildly popular, or anywhere in between, the world needs you.
The quote above by Dr. King inspires me to not give up in those moments of powerlessness. I know there are people, the few and the many, who can be helped by my service to them. Even the smallest act can make a big change in our world.
So today I am sharing an excerpt from my steampunk novel, "Waltham Watch," that exhibits a diverse community working together to make their world a better place, even as evil lurks. I hope you enjoy it, and remember that we are stronger together.
Main Street shook with a sudden thump. Lamp-posts glared in ignited storefronts. Panic struck the unprepared crowd. For a silent moment, the people swayed between fear and belief. Sparks and burning sails began to fall into the road. Puffs of flame appeared among the cobblestones. Parasols caught on fire. A howl hovered from the bovine-bearing Waltham Common. Frenzied screams filled the fiery air.
“They’re coming!” a man shrieked. Folks forced their way past abandoned carriages. Oppositional gravity boards darted indiscriminately, without feet to guide them. Scrambling up the lane, in order to clear their way to air without smoke, people bolted in a stampede of dirt and sweat.
Drake posters were everywhere. Red and black, black and red; every storefront had been plastered.
People in watchmaker’s aprons carried injured neighbours to the inn. Neviah looked out from the porch. Shocked, horrified, stunned. She broke her terrorized reverie and called out to her beloved people.
“Walthamites, Subtonians, all take heed! Our blood mixes in the streets; the puddles deepen with our combined lives. We can exist as one, a unified body of many limbs. We shall not be oppressed if we join our breaths together.”
The swarming crowd paused. Their glances mingled, each person seeing a mirror in another’s face.
“Our enemies are the same. They desire to take our homes, our hopes, our hearts. But they will not succeed! They will not take our freedom!” At that, the crowd stirred and roared like a steam locomotive.
Ziracuny’s voice echoed through the sound mirrors along each lamp post. “The dead bodies of fishy servants are squid to fowls of the the seas, the flesh of mutineers to insects of the dirt.”
Lamps started exploding. Methane, hydrogen, and the rotting stench of sulfur filled the air. “The lamps have been sabotaged!” screamed a voice in the crowd.
The militia marched with breastplates of iron. The sound of their scaly armour was like the sound of herds of kine clomping through the city.
The confectioner shouted, “Bring your sling shots, and follow me!” Her friends followed her, confused but willing to cast aside doubt in the light of hope. They disappeared into the cool back rooms of the candy maker’s sugary sweet kitchens. They emerged, rolling large barrels into the street. They set them upright and pulled the covers off. “Come! Cather your ammunition!” they shouted to the baffled shopkeepers and residents. Taffy chews and lemon drops became canon balls thrust from sling shots. The militia with their mechanized battle axes prepared for close combat were caught off guard.
“Keep pelting them! What a benjo, we’ve got em!”
A flash of blue flame struck the barrels. Fire erupted in the lane.
Lizzy’s ice cream shoppe was destroyed in an icy blast reaching the heavens with clouds of sugar and cream.
The crowd retreated further up the street. They looked down and across, and saw their city through veils of burning fumes. Yet they did not desert their design for defense.
“I know how to catch rats!” hollered a baker. She stacked hoverbots beneath a giant churning vat. It spun and spun with propellers in the middle of the street. “I need a large machine! I need weight! I need a giant’s hand! Who has one?”
The automotive mechanic saw and heard. She waved her arms. Further up the street, she called, “Make way!” A huge iron arm sat atop a long platform. The mechanic walked in front of it, a step at a time. With each step, she pulled a lever to release the brake. The geared wheels would move a fraction, before the brake hooked again. It was a slow process, giving the crowd time to cheer.
Drake’s militia had not slowed, and continued to expel their flames wildly.
Finally, the axel lifter met the baker’s vat. “Dump it!” shouted the baker. The crowd realized what was happening and burst into a battle cry.
“Dump it! Dump it! Dump it!” Fists pounded air in the exhilaration of hope.
The mechanic set the brake and rotated the side wheel to raise the arm up over the vat. Then the arm unceremoniously knocked the vat over.
Molasses poured in an ocean of sticky waves. It became a flood down the street. With fizzled blasters and drowned outrage, the militia succumbed to the thick, sticky trap. They were effectively disabled, buried alive in sweetness.
A big cheer of HURRAH spread in the crowd, emotionally strengthened by successful teamwork. They gathered up their injured and brought them to the inn. Alternately, the ones who did not go to the inn remained to ensure freedom in their wake. In front of Goggles, Gloves, and Garters stood a hodge-podge of shop keepers, tailors, dung-removers and soot scrapers. Root farmers joined with chemists. They were soldiers now. Together, they kept watch.
Darkness loomed on the horizon.