Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Something Wicked This Way Comes

Reports of inhuman screams coming from the Deviant asylum drew me to the site - cautiously, of course. Caution is the byword when dealing with lunatics.

The rusted gate was certainly unwelcoming: "Private. No Public Access. Dogs Beware." Dogs? I puzzled over that bit for a moment before pushing the gate open and walking through.

The old water tower showed further signs of neglect. If the inmates were subjected to these conditions, I was not overly surprised at a revolt.

The front porch was a shambles, with planks of wood tossed every which way and the door standing ajar. This was not a good sign. Stepping into the kitchen, I discovered that the signs were to become much, much worse. The floor was slick with blood; a knife, red and dripping, stood embedded in a countertop. The icebox door stood open, revealing...human organs. I gripped my pistol tightly before daring to move through the next set of doors.

The security office had been ransacked, and no sign of the security force was to be found - unless I had already found them in the icebox. I shivered.

Stepping into the bathroom, I noticed a set of bloody handprints on the mirror...handprints that disappeared as quickly as they appeared, then returned once again.

The nurses' station was a scene of total devastation. I thought I heard footsteps approaching and the whisper of voices, so I brought my guns into firing position and looked around, finding no one. Out of the corner of my eye I thought I saw shadows on the wall, shadows of human figures. And then I thought I saw the shadows move...

Clearly, I was on edge. The asylum - really, nothing more than an old house on a hill with some bars added to the windows and wooden doors replaced with steel where the inmates were housed - had obviously been the scene of a slaughter, the inmates overpowering the guards and escaping. I would let the police know. A few sleepless nights for the neighbors later and everyone would be rounded up and sent to a more secure facility. I resolved not to let my nerves get the better of me.

Another chaotic scene awaited me in the dormitory. Iron beds, bolted to the floor, had been tossed as though they were balsa wood. No human being could have such strength. As I sat, collecting my thoughts, I heard voices again, getting louder. They seemed to be chanting something, but the words were just below the level of audibility.

I heard footsteps in the hall. Rather than be trapped in the dormitory, I ventured into the hall and ran in the direction opposite the sound. Every step of mine seemed to bring my pursuers a little closer, and the noise level steadily increased, as though the pack chasing me was growing in number. Still I saw no one.

I started to descend the main staircase when I heard another set of voices - or were they the same ones? Sound echoed through the old hallways at odd angles, and I could not be certain of the direction from which they came. If I tried exiting the way I came, they would have me! The only path of escape appeared to be above me. I squeezed past iron bars that had been twisted out of shape, into a small spiral staircase that rose to the top level of the house. This was clearly a storage area, off limits to the inmates in ordinary times. Would it still be empty, or was someone waiting in ambush for me? Having no real choice in the matter, I charged ahead.

The top level provided access to the roof. My pursuers were close behind. I thought to buy myself a little time by firing two shots down the hallway, slamming the door closed behind me, and pushing several filing cabinets and a discarded sofa against the door to form a temporary barrier. It would not last long.

Pushing aside the door, I strode to the catwalk and looked down - far down. The house was built with a steep hill on one side, the side I was now on. Falling off that cliff would almost surely be fatal.
A steady pounding at the door behind me showed the pursuers' determination to enter, and the slow movement of the objects against the door indicated that they would succeed in short order. I had no choice: I swung across the railing and dropped, kicking my legs inward and throwing out my arms. I caught the railing on the floor below; it groaned and protested against my weight, but held. Repeating this process two more times, I leaped off the lowest floor, tucking myself into a ball, and rolled several times, stopping inches from the grassy ledge. I listened as debris fell over the side and hit the gravel lot, far below me. Other than a mildly sprained ankle I was, fortunately, not seriously injured, and I ran as fast as I could away from the accursed house and its lunatic residents.

After a pause to catch my breath, I composed myself as best I could and limped into a police station to report my observations. The sergeant on duty listened politely to my tale. He assumed a kindly expression on his face. "Well now, ma'am, it sounds as though you had quite a fright. I'll send a man over there when he has time - maybe some kids were playing up there and decided to have some fun with you."

"But - the blood!"

"Aye, there was blood all right. The inmates broke free of the secure area and attacked the nurses and security staff. But the security folks - almost all ex-police - fought back. I reckon that when you work with crazies all day you might become a bit crazy yourself, because those security guards shot and stabbed and beat the inmates until every one of them was dead, and even then butchered the remains before finally killing themselves. It was by far the worst killings that we'd ever seen in these parts. But that was twenty years ago, in 18__. Come to think of it, it was on this very night. Nobody has been in that asylum since then." He chuckled. "I'll say this, ma'am, you have a very vivid imagination!" With that, he turned his attention to something else. I limped out of the station, found a gypsy cab, and had the cabbie take me back to Caledon Downs - with a lengthy stop at the nearest pub.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

New to the Downs

New neighbors...Miss Lilliejay Mills has built a cozy retreat just next to Chez Jameson along the lake in Caledon Downs.

Meanwhile, the ballet school that had resided down the street, by the air field, for what seemed to be the briefest of moments, relocated elsewhere in Caledon. In its place arrived this place of worship, the Caledon Church of Calvary:

Inside, the church has a magnificent pipe organ next to the altar:

Please, Neighbor: as much as enjoy the sound of the pipe organ, Sunday morning may not be the best time to open the stops and let 'er rip. Some of us are still recovering from the night before.

[N.B.: No sooner had I typed and saved this entry, Mr. Ionach Tantalus announced that the property was for sale. One hopes this is not a commentary on the spiritual life of Downs residents though, sadly, I fear it might be. In addition, Miss 3ring Binder's Bad Kitty Clothing, just up the hill from Chez Jameson, has relocated to Eyre.]

Monday, September 28, 2009

Mr. Woodget Hosts a Party for Caledon's Newest Knights

In this case, the title says it all: Mr. Rudolfo Woodget hosted a formal dance at his fine establishment, The Bashful Peacock, in honor of Dame Kiralette Kelley and Sir Podruly Peccable.

Sir Podruly...

...and Dame Kiralette both looked resplendent.

Caledon On Sea - Mt. Caledon Reserve and Fort

I visited Mount Caledon, in Caledon-on-Sea, to explore the old fort. There I discovered a property next to the preserve, owned by Miss Mathilda Islay, dubbed the Mount Caledon Reserve.

The reserve has a spot to enjoy a scenic view (and perhaps a boxed lunch with a special someone - or, heck, just go alone and eat it all yourself!), and a hidden bathing area, nestled under an overhang of the mountain. I could tell you all that I went skinny-dipping, but that would most likely be a fib. Wouldn't it?

A powerful telescope allows one to view the activities of neighbors stars.

The old fort is worth the steep climb. It provides a rare glimpse into Caledon's more dangerous past.

One can imagine the brave men and women who first arrived on these shores, determined to make a go of their little colony. (One imagines Guvnah Shang looking and dressing...well, exactly as he does today. :) )

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Steampunk Songs: Hitchhiking at Night

[Less steam and more punk, perhaps. But this is my metaphor for overcoming writer's block. Keep the words flowing and something good might happen. Or at least that's what we hope. N.B. Here's a public service message: Don't actually go hitchhiking at night. - RJ]

In a recurring dream I have,
A dream that seems to very real,
Driving on freshly-paved asphalt
Safe in a cage of rolling steel
When suddenly the road ahead
Vanished, becoming grass and weeds.
No path to move ahead for me,
I can't envision where it leads.

If the journey is the destination
What happens when the journey ends?
I need to find a new road,
I need to know
What's coming
Around the next bend.

Tried to navigate a new path
But came upon a concrete wall
Stretching higher than I could see -
Was anything beyond at all?
Left the car beside the road and
Looked for a toehold or a crack.
Finding no way to climb I knew
The way ahead was to fall back.

If the journey is the destination
And believe me I know it is
I need my own star to follow:
A sun,
A flame
Of self-consciouisness.

I stood beside another road
In the deepest part of night,
Hearing the roar of a diesel,
Waiting for onrushing light,
Hoping that a friendly face
Would stop and offer a warm ride.
I'd summon courage to accept
And with a smile step inside.

We don't know the future
Or what tomorrow brings;
Decisions have consequences,
Some are right, some are wrong,
But everyone must keep moving
Moving, going on.
Sometimes you ride alone,
Sometimes with a friend along.
Sometimes you beg lifts from strangers
Always moving,
Moving, moving on.
Yes dangers lurk around every bend,
Risks are always with us
Sometimes all that's left is
Hitchhiking at night
Hitchhiking at night.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Caledon Morgaine - Defenses

When I am away from home for a while, I try to have a neighbor keep an eye on the property...just in case, as they say.

When Miss Emilly Orr recently had a brief time away, her home in Morgaine was well protected...just in case. First, there was the Tyrannosaurus Rex - to be sure, a little one, but a fierce carnivore nonetheless - standing guard:

The Automated Death Ray provided additional deterrent to the unwanted visitor:

Finally, should both those fail, the determined pest would face the Death's Head:

Miss Orr doubtlessly slept well at night knowing any valuables on her property were safe.

My trip to Morgaine reminded me of an earlier (much earlier) journey to the Cavorite refinery. Despite the industrial nature of the property, it had a pleasant cave and grotto - though, naturally, being filled with Cavorite, it was high off the ground.

Below, the refining process at work:

I don't know what happened to the refinery, though my guess was that the enormous chains seen in the picture above finally rusted through and snapped, sending the entire structure skyward. Its absence can be felt in the sky-high (pardon the pun) Cavorite prices we have seen since then.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Steelhead Days Harvest Festival

Thanks to Steelhead resident Mr. HeadBurro Antfarm (last seen critically wounded by the Mason Labs explosion; let us assume he communicated telepathically with Dr. Ryne Beck, who then posted the information), I learned of the Steelhead Harvest Festival and its livestock contest. A most unusual livestock contest, and, here, "unusual" modifies both "contest " and "livestock."

These are not your ordinary barnyard animals.

Nosireebob, they have characteristics unique to the Steamlands.

Is this little fellow fueled by nuclear fission? In the 1880s? God help us!

As this is a (mostly) family-friendly Journal, I have omitted a picture of the Steampunk cow with a heap of steaming...bolts as excrement. In its stead, I give you this charming critter:

Ah, the crisp autumn air in Steelhead!

Caledon On Sea - The New Train Station

Out with the old, in with the new: Mr. Adzer Thorne's new and elegant Caledon-on-Sea train station rises from the site of the Botanical House:

Inside, the stationmaster's office:

And the waiting room. Is there a beach in Penzance?

Signs of construction continue, however. Might this be a hotel for travelers?

Spare track lies in a field of debris on the sandy soil:

Ah, train travel! Making the world smaller: a mixed blessing. Still, one cannot stand in the way of progress.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

AM Radio's Interactive Art

Let me start off by saying: I don't get it. But it's fun.

Mr. Hotspur O'Toole alerted me to Mr. AM Radio's latest installation, a series of Burlington Northern freight cars in his signature open prairie. In this one, however, the viewer grabs a can of spray paint, which opens up a browser window that allows one to "spray" on a particular car. When finished, a mouse click uploads one's artwork (or "artwork") to Flickr, and then - magic! - onto one of the cars in-world.

The large blue chap with wings, a fedora, and a martini glass is Blue Linden (with unknown female - not moi) (in case the casual reader might think I would possibly dress like that).

More graffiti. And young lady on the left, nipple rings do not constitute covering your breasts.

My anemic effort.
Okay, so what's it all about, Alfie? I have no clue. I'm certain that says more about me than Mr. Radio. But it was fun.

New in Oxbridge Village

I found myself in Oxbridge Village, visiting the Thistle Hill Market, when I realized that a number of the buildings were unfamiliar to me. Much had changed in the village since my last visit, and I thought I might catalogue some of the newcomers.

First Miss McGimsie has Poppet's Freebies, a division of Wunderbar Enterprises, in a thatched-roof treehouse. I don't want to think of the labor costs of getting the building up that tree. Perhaps she employed a large ape that was seen recently in Oxbridge.

Down the street is the Caledon Oxbridge Fencing center, in a utilitarian brick building. (For fencing, one should read "En Garde.")

In a delightful corner shop we have the Questi and Discovolante Mechanical Consortium, from Mr. Marian Questi and Miss Martini Discovolante. It was in that shop that I encountered the equally delightful Mr. Tryst Doune, a nattily-attired gentleman who accompanied me on the rest of my journey around the village square. (Mr. Doune, it turned out, had recently purchased property in the Downs, not too far from Chez Jameson, so we shall be neighbors.)

I believe Miss Discovolante is also the proprietress of the Dodo Redux pub. As everyone knows, shopping is hard work, and having a spot to refresh one's self is always a good thing. Guinness is Food.

Mr. Trilobyte Zanzibar, of BlakOpal, has this little structure. In it are housed several steampunk astrological devices of the sort recently featured in this Journal.

Although the village has tended not to be a residential area, Miss Debbie Ziplon has purchased a quaint house and established residence next to the BlakOpal lighthouse, with an excellent view of Steam Sky City out the back.

Time constraints did not permit me to browse through the latest (?) branch of Miss Fatima Ur's Antique Artistry, but it is housed in quite the stately mannor, just next to the seaplane port.

This sprawling structure is the estate of Mr. Petey Carver, and contains a variety of unidentified free goods, packed neatly in storage containers.

That's quite a bit of change for one small village!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Aether Salon: Exhibitionism!

Sunday's Aether Salon in Babbage Palisade bore the title of Exhibitionism! The speakers were Miss Breezy Carver and Mr. Aeolus Cleanslate, and the topic was the series of World Fairs held in the second half of the nineteenth century. As always, the Salon attracted a large and enthusiastic crowd.

Miss Carver opened with a discussion of the Chicago World Fair of 1893, the famous "White City." The Fair, which was designed to show off Chicago as a world-class city - in contrast to what those in the eastern U.S. thought, not to mention those in Europe - took untold hours of planning and building, and opening on time was a close thing. Still, most thought the Fair a huge success, displaying cutting edge architecture and technology, including the first Ferris Wheel. At the same time, the Fair attracted predators, including a man calling himself "H.H. Holmes," who was later called America's first serial killer. Holmes moved from a life of fraud and bigamy to wholesale murder, often preying on young women who had come to Chicago for the Fair and took rooms at Holmes' boarding house. Below, Miss Carver and Mr. Cleanslate.

Below, Miss Viv Trafalgar introduces the speakers and kept what semblance of order is possible.

Miss Beq Janus and I have front-row seats for Miss Carver's presentation, which turned out to give us more of an eyeful than expected...

Miss Carver's talk was interrupted by the arrival of Miss Ahnyanka Delphin, of the New Champagne Rooms, who danced the hootchy-cootchy in imitation of "Little Egypt," a Syrian dancer who introduced belly dancing to the States. Miss Delphin diverted the attention of the men in the audience with her scandalous attire. Meanwhile, Capt. Red Llewellyn also scandalized the audience while seated on a nearby settee, looking lovely while doing so.

Mr. Cleanslate illustrated his talk with a new-fangled device he called a "kinoscope," which displayed pictures. He discussed the various World's Fairs of the 19th century, including those in London (1851), Philadelphia (1876), Paris (1889), Chicago (1893), and Paris again (1900).

As Mr. Cleanslate explained, with Prince Albert's help, the London fair, held in Regent's Park, was a huge success, featuring the famed Crystal Palace. The fair, showcasing British industrial technology, helped assuage fears of technology. The Philadelphia fair, held on the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, was designed to show the country's post-Civil War recovery, as well as The U.S.'s prominent place in the world. The fair featured the hand and torch from the Statue of Liberty, and tours of it funded the completion of the statue.

Alas, other obligations called me from the discussion at that point, so I did not hear the finale of his presentation, nor the question and answer session that followed. Nonetheless, I can confidently say that the Salon has maintained its well-deserved reputation for booking speakers of the highest quality.