The Inventor (Part 1)
Inventing. ’Tis a strange word, is it not? I suppose all words are strange. Sounds formed from symbols? Heck, who created languages? Wow is it convoluted. There are so many words, so many languages. How did one create them? I yearn to create, but what? An inventor’s mind is naught but questions.
Alas, I cannot labor for another. My employment usually runs quite short as I abhor my daily tasks. Servitude does not befit me. As Master Jules’ apprentice, I mainly work the printing press . He trusts no one with his inventions or the marketing of them. While he invents, I print fliers of previous inventions. There is never information exchanged for current projects. I believe master thinks little of me for my age and that I have not yet felt a woman’s warmth. Cold and lonely nights pass as I wish to experience the feeling. Master Jules says there are two kinds of women, wenches and witches. He always chuckles and says he shan’t allow me to be tainted by a witch — or a wench.
A lass strolls by my window at the tenth hour of each morning. She always carries a basket of fresh bread. A bonnet rests quaintly upon her long blonde hair. She’s quite cute, and the smell of sourdough straight from the oven doesn’t hurt. Break of dawn signals the beginning of my own chores. Printing the fliers must be done early each day and therefore, I’ve already been quite active when she strolls by. At 10 o’ clock, I eagerly wait by the open window for that scent of heavenly bread. We’ve conversed through the window a couple times but very infrequently. I’d like to know her name but at this juncture, I am too shy to ask. I wish I were more preoccupied with inventing like Master Jules.
Master Jules is secretive, dark even. Yet he is brilliant. He invents machines from beyond this world. His long and wild hair must hold extra ideas that would otherwise crowd his brain. I am forbidden from his workshop but one can only imagine what happens inside.
He once emerged holding a small box with a small hole in the center. There was tubing hanging from it. He set it gently on a table, held the end of the tube, and stood next to me.
“Look into the hole, Zeke,” he said. “Make sure to smile.”
I smiled, a little nervously. Master Jules squeezed the tubing. There was a large flash and a pop as the room lit up.
I jumped. Master Jules held me from stumbling. The box began to whir and a piece of parchment came from it. Master Jules motioned that I grab the parchment. This was no normal parchment either. Candlelight reflected off the page. As I turned over the smooth parchment, I saw myself staring back. The machine had printed the exact image of Master Jules and me.
“What magic is this?” I said with awe.
“’Tis a device to capture a moment, to capture feelings, to remember a moment for years to come. I call it a camera, and this,” he motioned to the parchment. “This parchment holds memories and stories to be told to the next generation. You could say it holds one thousand words worth of knowledge,” he replied.
I stared back at the photo of us, speechless. The thousand words it said must have been stolen straight from my mouth. There had never been anything like it. Master Jules was a genius.
“Well. It’s time to improve it,” he said abruptly. He lifted the camera from the table and walked back to his workshop. I set the picture down gently with the rest of my possessions and continued to look at it. A smile came to my face.
“You can keep that photo, but those fliers won’t print themselves, you know,” said Master Jules as he peeped back out of his workshop.
The time for fun was over. I checked the clock above the printing press only to realize it was 10:30 and I had missed the girl with the bread. I sat on my stool and started to work the printing press. As the machine pushed out papers, my mood fluctuated between ecstatic about the camera and depressed that I didn’t see the girl.
By the next day, I had tired of the fluctuating emotions. I entered the office, excited about the prospects of the new day. Maybe Master Jules had drastically improved the camera. You never know with him, he truly works wonders. I was also determined to talk to the girl with the bread basket and find out her name. Although I tell myself this same thing everyday, I felt especially motivated this morning.
Ten o clock came and there had been no sign that Master Jules was even in his workshop. It was highly unusual to neither see nor hear Master Jules by this point in the day. Temptation crept into my mind, I wanted to check inside the workshop. I knew I was expressly forbidden, but I had to check. For Master Jules’ safety, of course. I gripped the doorknob, still undecided whether to enter or not. If he was inside, working quietly, I could lose my job again. As the saying goes, ‘curiosity kills the cat’, but I thought this particular cat would be fine. Famous last words. I twisted the doorknob but was interrupted by a voice before I pushed the door open.
“Hi,” said a woman.
I spun around and noticed the girl with the basket standing in my window.
“I didn’t see you yesterday. I looked in, but you and that old man looked busy,” she stated.
She was looking for me yesterday. My heartbeat quickened a little. She had been thinking about me. I walked over to the window to speak with her.
“Hey there,” I replied awkwardly, dumbfounded by the situation I found myself in.
“My name’s Mary.”
“Zeke. I’m Zeke,” I said more shyly than I would have liked.
“So what was that thing you were playing with yesterday?” she asked.
I took a second before answering. Master Jules never wanted me discussing his inventions with people. But on the other hand, I was always printing fliers for them. I was basically in charge of marketing. Who would it harm to talk to her about it. Plus, she keeps batting her eyelashes at me. Is that intentional, is it my imagination? I’m overthinking this.
“Master Jules calls it a camera.”
“And Master Jules is the old man you were with?” she asked.
“Yeah, sorry. He’s an inventor,” I said sheepishly.
“So what does it do?”
I walked over to my pack and retrieved the picture from yesterday.
“This is what it does. It captures a moment and prints an image of it,” I said, showing her the picture.
“But- But that’s you. It’s not a drawing?” she questioned.
“Not a drawing,” I replied.
“I want to see it. I want to see the camera. Let me in,” she demanded.
“Whoa, wait. I can’t go into his workshop,” I said.
“That’s not what it looked like earlier,” she said. “Besides, I’m sure you’re hungry. I can give you some bread.”
“We can’t go into the workshop, I’m sorry,” I answered.
“Fine. Let me in at least and we can have lunch together. Maybe you can teach me about this printing press.”
There was no harm in that, I’d let her in. Although Master Jules didn’t seem fond of the women in his own life, he couldn’t punish me for bringing a woman into mine. I opened the door and she came in.
She walked over to the table and set down her bread basket. She removed her bonnet, letting her hair fall elegantly down the back of her dress. She sits down and starts to unwrap the bread. Every little piece makes the room smell better. As she prepares, I go to the kitchen and find some cheese and sausage sitting in the pantry. I grab a couple plates and napkins and return to the table.
When I return, she isn’t sitting there anymore. I look up and notice the workshop door is open.
“Mary! Are you in the workshop?” I ask.
There’s no response. I creep closer to the door, afraid of what I may find in the next room.
“Mary?” I whisper quietly as I turn the corner into the workshop. I’m not sure why I whisper.
The workshop was bare except for just a few items. There was just a chair, a desk with the camera sitting on it, and something I did not understand. There was a puddle of golden liquid in the corner of the room. It appeared to have the consistency of melted gold as well. The pool emitted it’s own light and was cupped in a bowl that Master Jules must have carved into the floorboards.
I looked around the room, searching for Mary. There was no sign of her anywhere. I crouched over the small puddle of golden liquid and gave it a visual inspection. I was afraid it may be very hot at first but as I waved my hand across the top, I felt no heat. Additionally, if it were hot metal, it would surely melt through the floorboards. I looked up to check the ceiling. I wanted to see if the strange liquid was seeping in through the rafters but I saw no evidence of that either. I stuck my finger into the puddle, not sure what I would do next. I just wanted to see if I could figure out what it was.
That’s when my world turned upside down. Literally. I felt myself spin upside down and I was sucked into the golden liquid. I couldn’t breathe, I was surrounded by gold. I seemed to be diving deeper and deeper into the earth. I was not moving myself at all, the liquid was propelling me along. It felt as if I were engulfed in a never ending waterfall of warm honey. It would have been pleasant had I fallen more slowly and had I been able to breathe.
But just as quickly as it began, it stopped. I had landed back in the workshop. Oddly enough, my clothes were completely dry. None of the liquid had stuck to me. In fact, when I looked back at the ground, there was no liquid there. I got up off of the floor and took in my bearings. Mary was standing at the entry to the workshop, looking out into the other room.
I looked over her shoulder into the room. What was once my printing press had become an enormous mechanical contraption. The whole office had become fifty times larger and the whole room contained moving parts. Gears, cogs, levers, and pulleys were operating all sorts of machinery. Different components of products were pumped out in multiple locations on one end of the room and by the time they made it to the other end, they were completely assembled. The room was mass producing some kind of mechanical item. I, however, had no idea what this invention was.
“Where are we?” I asked.
Mary turned to me with the same fear in her eyes that I recognized in my own stomach.
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