Of all the short stories I will write for my “Steampunked Nursery Rhymes” anthology, this will have the most of me. I started writing it a few months after my miscarriage, and it deals with that anxiety and sorrow. As the name suggests, “Falling Down” is for the nursery rhyme London Bridges. Here in this scene I try to capture what it’s like to have to go out and be around people during a difficult time. My protagonist does not have a name, something I did on purpose, and is referred to as “she.” Margaret is an acquaintance who has been asked to keep an eye on her while her husband is at work.
She laughed when Margaret laughed. She smiled when Margaret smiled. To be human, she had to mimic one.
Their wanderings took them over London’s proud clockwork bridge. A structure of such magnificent craftsmanship it buzzed with people as constantly as healthy hive. Artists were scattered about painting it, couples strode by to admire it, and many tourists and locals alike rerouted their travelings to cross it.
The people bothered her. She didn’t want to smile. She wished she had the parasol to hide under. They buzzed and buzzed.
What if she threw a rock into the hive? Would they sting her? She welcomed the thought.
She realized they were walking across the bridge, too. Pulled by the mesmerizing hum. Margaret was chattering away, probably unaware herself they had followed the draw of the bridge.
She stepped close to the edge to study the minute detail of the clockwork. Her eyes slid over the curves and crevices of the workmanship. The dips and notches were hypnotic. The tension in her chest eased. She drew a deep breath.
“Don’t get so close, you’ll fall!” Margaret’s high, thin voice sliced into her mind.
She winced. Her gaze drifted to the rhythmic water below.
To have peace.
A longing she could not see, but she could feel, stretched its arms to her in the pretense of welcome.
The demon opened his eyes and raised his head to her. He whispered in her mind questions she could never answer, feelings she could never express, accusations she could never refute. He showed her the looks others gave her behind her back. She heard the whispers she could not decipher.
He breathed in her fear. He drank in her despair. He grew.
She leaned on the edge. She told herself it was only a dream. There was no demon telling her to let go. Below stretched only water.
It promised silence.
Her eyes fell on the arches of wings and she blinked. A clockwork angel formed part of the intricate design.
Then she was being pulled. The grip on her upper arm hurt. Her body was torn from the promise below.
Margaret’s face matched the white lace around her throat. Margaret was walking too fast. Margaret’s arm was hooked so tightly around hers she practically skipped to keep pace. Margaret’s words were pitched too high and said too fast to understand. Margaret kept that momentum until they had reached her house.
She drank the tea Margaret rang for. She ate the biscuits with dainty bites. She tried. She really did. But Margaret’s mask refused to slide back onto her face.