Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Incredible Thaumaturge - Flash Fiction

This post is a response to Chuck Wending's Flash Fiction Challenge: Write a 1000 word story that is 'SomethingPunk', but it can't be steam, diesel, or cyber.

My punk is Tattoopunk (tattoos give the energy powering Natasha's world) and I offer it here. Thanks so much for taking a look.

The Incredible Thaumaturge

Natasha touched her palm to the base of the thaumaturge device. With a whine it clicked on; she counted the seconds as it booted up and the screen flickered to show the familiar visage of Nix, her best friend. The machine was running by the time she counted to nine – five counts faster than a day earlier.

Her ink strengthened at an alarming rate.

Colors, lines, and strange symbols swirled within the tattoo. At thirteen she was taken to the Energy Artist, and after several hours of thirst, hunger, and having to pee, she had her tat.

Officially she was an adult as a result, and thus she and Nix could enter a courtship ritual if they desired. Neither of them willed it: he was in love with the dark-eyed machinist on the second level, and Natasha had no thought for romance. She was too busy in a search.

Her thaumaturge was old, but she knew how to boot in memory and power from surrounding devices. As she twiddled the knobs and plucked the strings, keyed in words and numbers, her palm flamed as the energy surged within the tat. She hated to admit it, but the sensation was incredibly pleasurable.

Natasha’s search led her back in time. A desire for knowledge, a thirst to discover what happened before consumed her, and she searched the recorded stories beyond what was taught in her schoolroom at the side of her governess. The manuscript she found a day earlier looked promising; its kodachromed pages ('graphed before they crumbled to dust) hinted of forbidden secrets and an age no one remembered any longer.

‘There were those whose ignorance had no bounds, and they discharged voltage will-nilly, with no thought of their children. Although we know little about them, it is said they were able to harness their inner power through use of graphics, numbers, and colors, and amplify it…’

“Child.” A slim hand, framed with hand-sewn frills, slid over hers and stopped the frantic search. Her governess was silent as she walked through the manse, and often she had surprised Natasha thus.

A turn of the wrist and the thaumaturge clicked Off. Natasha wrestled down her frustration and forced a bland smile of compliance onto her face. She had come so close! Still, now she had a promising lead, and she could return to it easily.

“Child, you radiate too much. Temper your power, or Senator Flux himself will knock on our doors.” The governess smoothed Natasha’s black braids with her frilled hand. “Mind me, now. I want no midnight abductions – you deserve a dull life.”

Natasha nodded again, and with a heave of the bosom her governess withdrew her fingers and slipped out of the room.

The thaumaturge blinked with an incoming message from Nix: “Let’s meet at the greenhouses after midnight.”

“Very well,” she wrote, and sent her response with a careful surge of energy from her palm.


“How was Willa?” Natasha handed Nix a cucumber sandwich stolen from the kitchens earlier.

He bit into the stale bread with a slight wince. “Uninterested. She knows I’m infatuated, but there are several others after her kisses. Bloody sons of diplomats and earls!” With a burst of fury, he hurled his sandwich into the dead plants inside the dark building.

Natasha put her head on his shoulder. “She’ll see your loyalty and vision in the end – I’m sure of it.”

Nix blurted a rude word, tucked his arm around her, and they nestled together for warmth in the ruined glass. “And your search?”

“Getting closer. And…” She was uncertain whether to tell him about her tat. “I – I powered the Thaumaturge in nine counts today.”

His arm dropped and Nix withdrew. “Nine seconds! It takes my father three-quarters of an hour to get the screen to flicker, and he thinks he’s brilliant when it does. Nine?”

“Puffy is worried the Senator will discover it.” That was their name for her governess, due to the woman’s leg-of-mutton sleeves.

“Gosh.” Nix rose and helped Natasha to her feet. “I must go to bed, and you must as well. Tomorrow?”

“Of course.”


‘Once the connection between hypothalamus and ink is made, power increases exponentially to the point of giving the user any ability, even when contact is not established…’

Natasha’s reading was interrupted again by a frantic message from Nix. “Willa said Yes!” he enthused. “Dancing and dinner tomorrow under the stars. I won’t be able to meet at the greenhouse, though.”

No, I suppose not, she thought with a grin. Her search had yielded ripe fruit, and it looked as though Nix found his as well.

Those musings were cut off as the door burst open. A man with silver hair and eyes strode in, seized her wrist, and pulled Natasha to her feet. “This is the wench?” he snarled.

Puffy shook her head; the governess's chipped nails plucked at her starched frills. “Senator Flux, please do not hurt her!”

“Hurt? Why, Madam, this little slice will be the star of my collection.” The silver man held Natasha’s palm to his nose, sniffed her skin, and licked it.

“What?” Natasha was bewildered.

“Nine seconds. Is it true?” His silver eyes flashed, and white dents appeared beside his flared nostrils.

Nix. Willa. Nine seconds. With a heart full of lead, Natasha realized why her friend was able to secure Willa’s hand for dinner and dancing, and how he was able to fund his pursuit. “I found a way for everyone to harness my powers!” she screamed. “Give me three days – we will all have that conduit for the asking!”

The Senator snorted. “And do you think I would allow such knowledge to be freely given? No, small one. You will be mine.”

No arguments would serve, then. Natasha held up her tattooed palm and closed her eyes. With an inner click, her nerves and the colors in her skin combined as she called up the energy galloping within and spent it in a long, furious blast.

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