Clearly inspiration strikes when deadlines are lacking. This week, you’ll be seeing quite a few pieces of short story, most particularly from the Which Witch storyline. We last left Agata in a big field with a strange machine, in Roc. You can also read more of her story by going to the Fiction Tab at the top of the page, and scrolling down to ‘Which Witch’. The nice thing about this (for me) is that it isn’t a prompt response… which means I can write it as long as I’d like to write it, which is sometimes a nice thing to do, however succinct a 300-400 word max can make a story. I wrote this (very roughly) during Nano, and have since gone through and tried to smooth out the rough edges without losing the entertainment I found in writing it.
I’m also posting a random gratuitous picture of my puppy, because he’s just so CUTE. Enjoy, and let me know what you think of the piece!
“You want to do what with that machine?”
The man grinned. “Fly, of course!”
“As in ‘sinks like a-‘?”
“Giant mythical bird – it’s a homonym, but spelled different too.”
“huh.” Agata stared at the machine.
“Want to go for a ride?” the man was rolling down the sleeves of his grubby coveralls with equally grimy hands, an adventurous glint in his eye.
Agata held her broom in front of her like a warding.
The man squinted owlishly at her through a set of spectacles built into a leather hat that flattened the wild tangle of black hair on his head, leaving a fringe around his collar. “We can probably hold off on sweeping it out for now, Miss…?”
“Agata, and it’s not for sweeping.”
“So it just looks like a broom.”
Agata hesitated. “Yes.”
“Shall we carry on the experiment, then?”
“Only if I can take my broom too.” Inside, Agata cringed. The man’s eyes glinted with laughter. “Shut it,” she snapped.
The man only smiled, looking slightly bemused.
“My name. Yours is Agata. I thought you might want to know.”
“Are we going to go flying in your contraption, or not?”
Samuel grinned. “you take this wing, I’ll get the other.”
“Where are we taking them?”
“Of the shed?”
“I suspect I’ll need my coat, but thank you for the offer.”
“No, I call it a hangar.”
“Do you hang the plane up?”
“hang tools in it. Hang out in it. Will eventually have hangers-on to order about in it?”
“Hmm. You take that wing, then.”
After a great deal of effort on both their parts, the devilishly heavy contraption was out and facing in, according to Samuel, the optimal direction.
“Hop in,” he said brightly, rubbing his hands together in delight. He headed around to the pointy end and she followed. He seemed surprised to turn to face the plane and find her in front of him instead.
“You’re not going to try and send me up there by myself, are you?”
“I’ve just got to get it started.”
Agata crossed her arms and scowled, letting her boot tap out her impatience. “Well, then.”
He looked about helplessly for a moment, and said, “We’ll need to get in quickly after I get it started, to get it moving.”
He then fiddled with the large wind-catching blades at the front, and soon produced a roar of noise, along with such motion to the blades that Agata’s hair was instantly whipped into a rats-nest around her head, and she could no longer see the actual blades causing the wind.
“Are you sure this is a good idea?” she yelled over the noise as he hustled her back to the door of the machine. The noise dimmed only slightly once they were inside.
Agata gripped her broom tightly as the machine started to rumble forward. Samuel glanced warily back at the wooden shaft poking threateningly over his shoulder.
“Wouldn’t a club be more effective?”
“you know, ‘you twit, can’t you get anything right, leave and never come back, thwap thwap thwap!’”
“The sound of a broom striking a man about the shoulders when he comes home with ‘magic beans’ instead of money in exchange for the cow? Presages divorce?”
Agata decided to file this under ‘unresolved parental issues’ and leave it at that for now. While operating heavy machinery didn’t seem like the ideal time to rehash childhood traumas.
“Ah. Well, a club would make more of a ‘thock thock’ noise. And the… broom… isn’t for hitting you. If you’ve gotten it wrong, we’ll likely both end up meeting a very violent end – why would I ease your passing by knocking you senseless with a tool for household tidiness? Aaah!” she gasped, as, at that moment, the machine ceased rumbling along the ground as it bounced once, then twice, and then abandoned terra firma entirely and took, wobbling, to the sky.
Samuel let out a whoop of delight, punching the air once with his fist and causing the entire machine to lurch before desperately clawing at the instruments in front of him to stabilize it. “Sorry!”
Agata hardly heard him, the words whipping out of his mouth and past her ears, pushed by the powerful wind. Her hair slapped madly at her face as she tried to pull it back, one-handed. She began to wonder if it had been his first test of the machine that had left his hair so bushy.
It seemed hardly any time at all before they were turning, wobbling, and losing elevation. Quickly. Very quickly.
Agata rapped sharply at Samuel’s leather-clad head to catch his attention.
“Are we trying to land?”
“Not trying, succeeding!” He didn’t sound convinced.
“Not at this angle of descent,” she replied, confirming his fears. “Have you landed before?”
“Not with this model!”
“Hardly any parts of the wreckage are salvageable – it’s basically built new every time.”
Agata half-stood in her tiny slot in the machine shoving her broom handle roughly at Samuel, with a barked, “Hold this!”
Leaning awkwardly over his shoulder, arms on either side of him, she snatched the controls, to his alarmed shout of “HEY!”
She assessed the situation as quickly as possible. Yes, she thought. I definitely don’t know how to use these controls.
He snatched them back as quickly as she released them and they continued to wobble too quickly, and too steeply, towards earth.
“That’s only an alternative as long as we’ve got fuel!”
“Not all the way up… just even out a bit. It’ll slow us down!”
He did as he was told, and the Roc coasted more gradually towards the ground, finally dipping down to judder and kiss the runway once, twice, three times, before wobbling to the side with a screech of tearing metal and ripping sail-cloth as a wing was torn asunder, then coasting to a stop near the border of the open field, neatly turned 90 degrees from its original direction of landing.
“HAH!” Samuel exclaimed, whipping off his spectacle-cap and jumping up. “HAAAAH!”
Agata stiffly rose from the hunched over position she’d maintained for the duration of the landing, fingers stiff on the handle of her broom. The Roc had lost its wing. They were both alive, but the machine had lost its wing!
She hopped down to the ground from within the listing machine, only to be swept up and danced enthusiastically around in a jig whose pace could not be matched by any fiddler in existence.
“Aaa-Ah!” she exclaimed, on principle.
“You did it!” he cried, a broad grin wreathing his oil-smudged face. “You! Did! It! HAAAH! Smoothest landing ever!”
“If the machine isn’t whole at the end, it isn’t a landing.” Agata stepped away from the capering inventor and seriously considered giving him a good thwap! She settled for scowling, arms crossed, strangely unwilling to make him upset.
“First ground-arrival ever in which I have an actual machine to modify for next time,” he replied brightly, unfazed.
“Were you trying to get me killed?”
“Every technological advancement has to start somewhere!”
“Like in a lab?”
“Won’t fit in a lab.”
He had her there.
“Shouldn’t you have some kind of safety measure in place?”
Samuel stared at her and then shifted his gaze to the machine, before returning to her. Arms out in a pantomime, he said, “It’s a flying machine. Flying. Machine. What would you suggest? Perhaps a broom?”
Agata hastily snatched her broom from where it had fallen, glaring at him.
“Anything that would prevent, or at least reduce the possibility of death and destruction.”
“Your point is moot. It’s a flying machine, I invented it, but, frankly, having it fall out of the sky is just something that could happen, and then you really just have to pray to whatever god gives you the best chance of adapting to flight rapidly and hope for the best.”
“You could hire a witch to test it with you.”
The man barked a laugh. “Don’t be ridiculous. Witches aren’t real.”
Agata smiled sweetly. “Oh don’t they? Here, I’ve got a great idea for getting out of your flying death machine unscathed. Be A Duck!”