by Matthew X. Gomez
photo by saresai
Master Gernsmith sat in his workshop, hunched over his table. He was no longer a young man, but not quite yet an old man either. Brown hair, shot with grey, lay in a tousled mess a top his head, and crow’s feet were making their first inroads around his slate blue eyes. A jeweler lens was set in his eye, clockmaker tools carefully laid out before him.
He delicately set gears, springs, and latches, each piece carefully positioned. It was a delicate task, operating on your own heart, but it wasn’t the first time the craftsman had undertaken such a procedure. Other than the necessary maintenance a clockwork heart demanded, he’d made minor modifications to it. He knew each cog, each precision piece by heart. His hand remained steady as he attached the wires to the latest pieces, and he smiled at his handiwork.
Picking up a small piece of paper, he carefully folded it into the heart, making sure it was clear of any of the mechanisms. Satisfied, he wound it tight, then gave it a light toss into the air. The wings he attached fluttered and faltered, and for a brief heart wrenching moment, Gernsmith worried it would crash to the ground. The wings caught, however, and fluttering, the heart took off out the window into the night sky.
Miss Terntagle sat by her window, humming a tune as she stared out at the full moon. Her thoughts carried her back to earlier in the week, when she went with Aunt Matilda to the clockmaker’s shop. She’d been surprised by his earnestness, by the great deal of professional pride he took in his work, and by the intelligence shining bright in his eyes. She’d also noticed the distinct lack of a ring on Master Gernsmith’s hand. An oblique inquiry to her aunt confirmed that Gernsmith was neither married nor otherwise spoken for.
She turned away from her window, but not before catching a glimpse of something flying across the face of the moon. Intrigued, she peered closer, only to see the object, whatever it was, flying toward her. Giving a gasp, she stumbled back into her room, nearly tripping over her bed. She then remembered the window was still open, but before she could manage to close it, the object was in the room with her, having descended gently onto her desk.
It was a heart fashioned of copper, bronze, and steel. The wings were affixed with bits of wire leading to the main object. She approached it, curiosity overwhelming her earlier fear. A small door was evident, held closed by a simple latch. With delicate fingers, she opened the heart, extracted the small bit of paper contained within. Opening it, she read the missive and smiled.
“To my dear Mistress Terntagle,
You must think me overbold to go so far as to send you my heart, despite the fact we have met only in passing, and then in a strictly business transaction. I can only hope you will hold it in safekeeping for me until such time you deign to return it. I can be found in my workshop during regular business hours, but I have also included my home address on the reverse should you feel the need to return it outside of those hours.
I would go on to extoll your virtues, your beauty, but I am a poor poet of words, my expertise being more suited to metal and glass, wires and cogs. I can only beg your forgiveness if this comes as too forward, too intruding.
If there is some small hope that you appreciate this gesture for what it is, an open and forthright bestowal of my affection, then I dare ask that you send some sign, some paltry symbol of its acceptance.
Miss Terntagle flipped the paper over, and sure enough, there on the reverse was an address. Master Gernsmith evidently didn’t live far from where he worked. Smiling, Miss Ternatagle tucked the paper into her décolletage, closed the door of the heart, and went looking for a hatbox to pack it into.
Master Gernsmith was just reaching out to turn off the gas lamp by the door when he heard a light rapping on his door. He cocked one eyebrow, daring to hope it was who he thought, but afraid of having his hopes crushed once more. For all he knew, it would be Miss Terntagle’s aunt on his doorstep with the constable, demanding he leave her niece alone. It wouldn’t be the first time the good smith would find himself in such a position.
Opening the door, he was half-surprised to see Miss Terntagle standing there, a shawl drawn tight over her shoulders. Clutched in her hands was a hat box. More importantly, she was unaccompanied.
“Miss Terntagle, I must say, this is most surprising. Won’t you come in?”
“Why Master Gernsmith, I thought you’d never ask,” she replied, smiling at the smith as she glided past him into his sitting room.
“I must say I was surprised when I received your delivery earlier this evening, and can only express my delight to find you are still awake.”
Miss Terntagle placed a finger across Master Gernsmith’s lips, then replaced her finger with her own.
“Now, you dear, dear man, will you show me to the bedroom or must I ravage you here?”
Master Gersnmith was quick enough to regain his wits, and close the door.
“Oh, of course, you probably need this back don’t you?” Miss Terntagle said, opening the hatbox. The clockwork heart fluttered back to life, winging its way back into Master Gernsmith’s chest.
“I took the liberty of winding it first,” she said with a wink. “I figured you would need it tonight.”
The master smith, still at a loss for words, took the young woman by the hand and led her toward his bedroom. There, she discovered just how loud a clockwork heart could beat.
Matthew was born and raised in the suburbs of New York City, though he now inexplicably finds himself much further south than he ever anticipated. Now he lives in Columbia, Maryland, with his wife, two children, and two cats. He has been writing for forever, getting his real start writing for a number of student run publications in high school and college. He has been previously published by Death Throes and Dark Futures, and his work can frequently be encountered at writerscarnival.ca. He possesses a number of esoteric skills, not the least being fencing and historic swordplay, which, if he weren’t a writer, would be pretty useless. Matthew hopes to have an anthology of his own short stories out in 2014.