The Clockwork Conjuror: Chapter 14

“…And for that reason I will ask all of you not to disturb me this evening,” said Viscount Vernal. His lips pulled back into something resembling a smile, if one had heard a description but never seen one. The group of servants faking listening attentively turned away and changed their looks of polite interest into utter incomprehension as they filed out of the room. Two maids stayed behind to tidy up.

Lord Vernal looked around the room, first up at the vaulted ceiling with its spire in the centre then down at the circle of chairs arranged on the floor with wires snaking around them. In the chairs sat 23 puppets. Then he looked up again to see lightning arcing across the sky and whispered, “soon”.

He began to don a strange looking hat when there was a commotion at the door. A man came into the room.

“My lord…” started the man.

“I thought I said no interruptions Smith,” said the Viscount. “Was that somehow confusing?”

“No my lord, but we thought you would want to know about this. We found these two snooping.”

Mr Smith indicated to the doorway and a couple of rough looking fellows came in carrying sacks on their shoulders.

“Ugh!” said the Viscount. “What foul men are these?”

“These are your employees my lord,” said Mr Smith. “The snoopers are in the sacks.”

The two men undid the sacks to reveal Phlebotomous Bosch and Sir John.

“Well, well, well,” said the Viscount. “What do we have here?”

“I think it’s two men, sir,” said one of the thugs, which earned him a sharp glance. He shrank back, or as much as man can when he is six foot five, and also quite tall.

“And what men indeed,” said the Viscount. “It’s my old friend, the vegetarian vampire, who was so very helpful before. And… wait… I recognise you from the church.”

“Sir John Jennings,” said Sir John determinedly. “Paranormal investigator.”

“Well you’ve come to the right place,” said Lord Vernal. “Look, here are 23 little supernatural creatures. Although soon there will only be two magical creatures here, when my fully operational device will extract their magic into me. In fact, I think I may make that one by having your vampire friend for dessert.”

“You can’t do that!” cried Phlebotomous, glancing wildly around the machinery lining the walls of the room. “Oh, my mistake, it looks like you can.”

There was an ominous rumble of thunder above.

“Then let us begin,” said Load Vernal.

He walked over to an ornate looking throne with wires connecting it to the spire. He sat in the throne, donned the strange helmet. He looked around him one time and glanced up as the lightning played around the spire.

“Soon,” he said, his voice rising from a whisper to a roar, “I will be more than a man. Soon, I will be powerful beyond belief. Soon… I will be immortal!”

Viscount Vernal closed his eyes and smiled. There was a flash high above in the spire as lightning struck.

Arts and Crafts

Dear Readers

First we would like to apologise for the recent slow progress of posts on this illustrious organ. All we can do to explain is to quote one of the world’s greatest philosophers, and say that, “life is what happens when you make other plans.”

We do now hope to resume something like a more regular and indeed more frequent publishing schedule. Readers can be re-assured that not only is the Clockwork Conjuror complete, there is a new story that Mr Michael has commenced. More on that topic later in the year.

We have also uncovered recently a most amusing device called DALL-E. This contraption is, amazingly, able to produce “art” to demand based on a literary prompt. I use art in the loosest possible sense here, for reasons that will shortly become clear. We are also aware we are a little “behind the times” on this topic, but then being behind the times is perhaps half of what we do here.

So, intrigued by the proposition of an autocreating art machine, we gave it a cursory description of Mr Michael and Ms Pichette to see how it would cope. This is the result.

The resemblance is uncanny, in that it doesn’t resemble us at all but rather something uncanny. We then asked the device to create an image for Miss Henderson, with this result.

We are reminded here a little of Francis Bacon’s Screaming Pope – not least because the image caused us to cry out a religious oath at some volume. Lastly we asked the device to re-imagine our famous “clocktopus” logo.

We’re not quite sure what the time is on that clock, or what the curious debris at the base of the picture is, but this does at least have something. With any luck, it won’t pass it on to anyone else.

So, our little survey led us to conclude that whilst this device was not terribly suitable for producing art of great note, it could produce “visual material” that is at once unsettling and hilarious. Since that is almost our metier, we thought we might, if you would indulge us, use a few examples for the next few episodes of our story. Ms Pichette will of course effect the magic she does to make the automated “artwork”seem more visually appealing. Or possibly, given the source material, visually appalling.

We look forward to entertaining you on a more regular basis forthwith …

The gentlefolk of the Benthic Times