The Complete Text of the First Ten Volumes
of Dr. Fleckwain’s Very, Very Short Steampunk Novels

#1

The night vouchsafed ancient prophecies
as one by one the stars abandoned the sky
and the clanking aeriform flotilla approached
from the east under the power of their slowly
churning propellers. I pulled
on the ponderous torque wrench.
100 lbs.
150 lbs.
200 lbs.
The gage was nearing 250. With
a shattering crack the bolt-head
snapped and I
fell back
on the deck.

The weapon
would be
useless.

#2

The arrival of the lone biplane sheared
through the mood like a whetted
adamantine blade and the skies
above the alpine meadow,
moments ago festive,
with ribbons
streaming from the airships,
now felt accursed.

As the unholy
machine returned to its masters,
the celebrants panicked to their vessels.

My bride paused, then picked up
the skirt of her black-lace
trousseau, kicked off her
slippers and cried,
“Go!”

And we ran.

#3

The extempore
band on the floating zeppelin
played well into the night, and we
danced like fireflies, branding
the night with our turns, graceless
bows, and laughter—yes,
much of that. And why not?

But as the sun rose, our
merriment was stilled
and we went outside and
gripped the rails and stared
down at the fragments
that remained. No one spoke.
No one could.
What could we say?

#3 The Sequel

“Aim for the Trebuchet,” I
snapped as another flaming
tar-covered boulder passed
just below us.

Angling the Gatling gun
down,
she cranked the handle
viciously,
spitting
back in exasperation,
“They go behind the palisade.

This is useless!” Sitting on the
deck, I ignored her and attended
to the weapon in my lap and tried
calmly to dial in the pulse
that would leave us
bloodied,
yes,
but the machines below,
lifeless.

#4

The raving howl
had slipped to a zephyr, so
we dared the ratlines
to the top of the envelope
just as the sun
slipped into the gap
between the cold wet stratus
and the Earth’s horizon—
bathing us in gifted
rays of fever-orange.

And there!

There on the silk and canvas
sat a modest and
bedraggled
junco. Its eyes closed.
Breathing.

Part I of  #5 (Trilogy)

Today we flew our new steam-powered zeppelin over the remains of a lost robot city, still decorated with once silver-coated Christmas trees and frozen mechanical reindeer. Later, as we drifted over snowy mountains and as the moon shined like a lamp above the cloud-shrouded peaks, we ate a dinner of faux unicorn haunch over a bed of roasted parsnip roots. Merry Christmas.

Part II of  #5 (Trilogy)

I am standing deer-eyed in the oozing sedgy mud outside the downed ship while my assistant tries to wake up the mind inside. Catastrophically, the ship is now hardly alive in the usual sense. Our bête noire has sliced out her memory and set up a loop of perceptual input that creates in her the illusion that she is flying through bellowing airy clouds. I can hear the ship singing old whaling songs. I turn away.

Part III The Thrilling Conclusion to #5 (Trilogy)

We were surprised to find a butterfly so high up. It was black and yellow and exhausted, clutching to the tight gray canvas with a casual grace that belied its malapropos berth on the wafting dirigible. The labored rhythmic pulses of its thorax, however, hinted that it was struggling. Dying. Even so. It came from somewhere. A forest remnant perhaps? "Start the engines!" I shouted above the wind.

#6

She stood with me on
the edge of a dying sea, in
her hand the last and least
vulnerable thing in
existence. A treasure. A
gift. It quivered and
smiled and
she smiled back and
released it with a puff of air

from her lips. And
it, breathing for the first and
last time,
launched itself
toward the stars.

#7

The now arenaceous seabed was
empty of life—
of both flesh and metal pith.

The scouring war left
us but rotting carcasses
tossed.

And they?
Frozen cold in the void
of our devising.
They would not recover.

Nor would we.

The set of her face told the tale entire—
the devastation, the wasting and now the end.

“Let’s go,” she said.

Yet as I swung onto the deck,
if only for a second,
I swear I could smell
lilac on the wind.






Click here to listen to Steven L. Peck reading "The Complete Text of the First Ten Volumes of Dr. Fleckwain’s Very, Very Short Steam Punk Novels"






Steven L. Peck is an ecologist from Moab, Utah. He is a current nominee for the 2011 Science Fiction Poetry Association’s Rhysling Award. His poetry has appeared in Dialogue, Bellowing Ark, Irreantum, Red Rock Review, Glyphs III, Tales of the Talisman, Victorian Violet Press, Wilderness Interface Zone, and other publications. His fiction has won several awards, and he has two novels in press: The Scholar of Moab (Torrey House Press) and a book of juvenile fiction called The Spear from the Wealdend’s Tree (Cedar Fort Press).


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