Mother of Crow
By Jenny K. Brennan
This Sundered World - Book 2
A spirit-punk steam-punk tale we don't know where, maybe not even why, and most certainly not how.
Draft exclusive to House of Imp. Copyright 2017 Jenny K. Brennan - All rights reserved.
Chapter 4 Mundane things. And waterLast updated: January 5, 2019 at 19:40 pm
Mary turned off the tap from the water collector and moved the full bucket to one side. She reached into the tepid water and grimaced. Tendrils of slimy water vine stuck to her hand. She moved the hand in several small circles before pulling it out of the bucket. Threadlike greens stuck to it in a clump of wet slimy grass. She tugged at the mess with her other hand; the metal one. When she had managed to gather all the vines in a soppy bright green ball, she squeezed it dry and tossed it over her shoulder and Over the edge of the island that had become her home. It disappeared without a sound. Peering into the bucket, she picked up one stray bit of green and then nodded to herself. She placed a second bucket beneath the tap and turned the crank once more. Water dribbled lazily, taking its time. Mary didn’t normally mind. The vine choked reservoir would eventually give her all the water she needed as it always had. There was time, there was no rush to do much of anything. But time was short. Somehow, it had gotten shorter. “Or I’m just getting older,” she muttered. She was barely forty but her body felt differently. The next water collector would work better, but she would have to make her way to the other side of the Maker’s Plaza for that and she had neither the strength or the will to go that far. This was safer and close at hand. Plus, it was rarely used and never ran dry. Waiting didn’t bother her. Until it did.
She turned her back to the copper collector with a creek of dry metal and innumerable twinges and pinches throughout what was left of her body. Mary stepped carefully to the end of her world and looked down. This took a moment as her neck protested in pain while emitting noises no human body should be able to. Mary cringed. She would never get used to the harsh grinding crackle that made her head ache. But it was easier than trying to fold forward; bending at the waist. It had seized a few weeks earlier. Her lower back would fuse completely if she didn’t do something about it. Soon. She walked with an uneven clunky lumbering gate on the best of days, It was getting worse. She would have to visit the tinkerer again.
She sighed heavily and looked out over the ocean that wasn’t there.
Listening to water dribbling into her pale, she raised her arm to shade her eyes from the misty harsh sunlight. Once again, she tried to make out the land that she knew was on the other side of the dried out sea. There were days when she could. Today was not one of those days. The glaring light made the world harsh and unforgiving.
No different from any other day and she should be able to see if only a hint of the distant main land. But her eyes were tired and the strain made them sting. If she kept insisting they would ache. That was one thing the tinkerer couldn’t do anything about. Her natural flesh which consisted of her head, one complete arm, chest, one complete leg and both feet was beyond his expertise she knew. He could oil her midsection and left leg, adjust her right arm to make it function, but he couldn’t heal her torn skin and aching bones.
That didn’t stop him from glaring at her chest and pretend he didn’t. She lowered her gaze to the edge and the great waterless expanse of death far below her. At the edge of Isle of Machine the land dropped off steeply and fell away in a tangle of rocks and petrified remnents of life.
From where Mary stood, she saw no bottom. Perhaps it was her failing eyesight that made the distant ocean floor look soft and not quite real. She had a feeling that it was better that way. She could think of it as something distant, something from a dream. But pretending didn’t stop her from wondering. What happened to those creatures? All the fish? all the boats stuck on the surface of the sea when it drained out of the world. The land was over there, somewhere, and again she squinted.
The changing sound from the bucket brought her out of her reverie of a world lost and with a grinding squeak she turned back to clean one more bucket from slimy growth. She wondered about the new plants that had started growing all over the island. A stubborn sickly green vine that clung to everything and anything. Even the bare rock that covered most of the island could sometimes sprout ugly plants that had little or nothing to do with real nature.
this island was dead.
She thought of something else. Could it be called an island without the water? Mary smiled weakly and turned off the water collector. But what was the point of remembering? It hurt to remember and she ached to forget. Forget all of those dead and all of those minds lost in the change. She slowly and carefully shook her head. A muscle twitched, sending a spike of hot pain down her spine and hip. She grimaced and pushed the past out of her mind best she could. After cleaning the second bucket of water from vines, she whistled softly. A battered Model madame service robot rolled up on squeaky wheels and announced its arrival with a distorted beep. Mary smiled at the helper. “Oh I know, little one. I may be broken and only half me, but I can see you just fine. You should spare your voice, Dear. You have precious little left.” She placed the water on the flat top of the rolling drinks table that beeped once more. Mary’s smile lingered and she shook her head. “Come now, we best get back before…” Mary let her words fade as she walked slowly and carefully next to the diligent servant of long gone nobility. Before what? She didn’t know what bothered her. She was restless and more distracted than normal. Something was up. She glanced up at the sky that was opening the blinds to its tainted secrets. Unnerving flashes of something that may or may not be the answer. But Mary thought not. “Taunting bitch.” She said, but quietly. Mary’s dislike of the world as it was did not allow her to disrespect the Mother. Not even to herself. She had seen the display thousands of evenings. It never seized to fill her with awe. And terror. Now she made herself watch it again. Soft tones of orange and red crept into the endless misty blue. They quickly changed to deep purple that shifted to ugly green. Streaks of luminous yellow appeared and disappeared. Red gained stains of color Mary had no names for. The emerging lights were just the precursor of the blazing nighttime artistry that was Mother of Crow never letting humans forget. But the deiti’s nightly tantrum wasn’t what was bothering Mary. Something else was begging for her attention. something other. Something far away but right here. Despite the pain, she glanced over her shoulder and swept the horizon with weary blue eyes, as if something would come. If she looked hard enough, something would come. A sudden shiver ran down the spine that was so embedded in metal that she shouldn’t have felt anything at all. She shuddered and closed her eyes, momentarily without air, without time, without thought, simply a vibrating longing pain that she didn’t recognize. For a fraction of a moment she thought she knew. Knew what? Suddenly released from the sensation, she turned violently and painfully away from the sea and hurried away. Away from a quickly fading knowledge that she didn’t know if she could bare. Not yet, she didn’t. so she forgot.
About the author
Jenny K. Brennan is a Swedish/Canadian vocalist, songwriter, and writer living in Ontario, Canada since 2002 with one husband, one dog, and unfinished projects in the thousands. Find her on
The House of Imp,
kompoz.com, and anywhere else Mr. Google can locate her. She studies English and braille at The Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually impaired. On her free time, she learns Wordpress by trial and error, audio production using Apple Logic Pro, and carpentry by association.