Chapter One

The boy surveyed his work. Three years of his thirteen crafting, bending, filing, sawing and polishing and the results lay before him like a sleeping dragon. Almost every corner of his father’s library was filled with pipes, pistons, bellows and wires – grapevines and tendrils in a forgotten greenhouse. It was New Year’s Eve, 1916 – 1917 would see the first successful Transmission.

Acidic smoke belched from a side-vent as the boy turned handles and frantically pumped footpedals. Some type of grit poured from an opening and was directed out of a window with funnels. An array of greasy bulbs slowly came to life as a low rumble emanated from deep in the belly of the machine. The boy wiped his forehead on his jacket sleeve and retrieved a series of punch cards from a nearby table. Leafing through them, his face lit up as his gaze alighted on one particular cardboard sheet. This was it, he thought – the Initial Transmission.

He had no doubts whatsoever that the machine would do what it was designed to do. The boy considered himself a vessel, an instrument just as the recipients of the Transmissions were also vessels. The only difference was, of course, that the mucky-faced child stood in the shadow of the machine knew his role already.

It was nearly time. The boy didn’t research the recipients personally, rather they were supplied to him by the same agency that gave him the blueprints for the machine.

The understanding was that if the Initial Transmission was a success, he could choose the next set of recipients himself. Frequently the boy had mused that in the coming years he could perhaps refine the apparatus and reduce it’s size somewhat, even relegate it to an outbuilding so his father could reach his Encyclopedias again. Perhaps create living quarters within the vast apparatus if the heat and noise didn’t make that proposition too risky.

The boy traced his finger across the rough-hewn holes in the punchcard and read the hand-written title at the top. ‘Without‘ was all it said. Of course the boy couldn’t decypher the card itself, and even when the machine had devoured and processed it the likelihood of him being able to comprehend the resulting diagnostic data was slim at best – but he would know for sure that it had worked, and the last three years of his life, three years of night-long knuckle-scraping hard work, would not have been in vain.

Three of the five bulbs were now illuminated and the low rumble had become a dense roar. The machine was ready for input, the autistic child – forgotten and left to his own devices, had built a mechanism by which art could be transmitted across time. He inserted the punch card and lungs still, pulled the lever.

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