The Engineer and the Clockwork Dragon: A Preview


from “The Hobbit” (2012)

Sixty-seven-year-old Rolf Liechtenstein was surprised to wake up alive, but that wasn’t his biggest revelation. Looking past the strange figure robed in crimson, tangerine, and green who was hovering over him, he saw a large, golden dragon collapsed on a wide, stone floor.

“I thought I only dreamed…” His voice sounded more like a croaking frog, and his throat was dry as desert sand. He had meant to speak in English, but had lapsed into his native German, a tongue he hadn’t spoken regularly outside of his home since he was a boy.

The hooded old woman muttered something incomprehensible, and wizened hands protruding from long, loose sleeves pushed his shoulders back onto a mat as he tried to get a better look.

“But, I say, a dragon.” He reverted to English in an accent honed by years at Oxford. “Of all the…” He finally took notice of the woman’s furrowed visage. Her eyes were gray and her skin was dark brown, but her features were unmistakably Asian. “Who the devil are you? Where am I, and…”

He saw her expression change from concern to stern determination, one his mother had worn many times when she disciplined him as a lad. Then she chanted something lyrical and passed a hand over his forehead. The 19th century scientific engineer experienced a wave of disorientation and fell back onto the thin mattress that supported him above the cement pavement. His eyes fluttered as he witnessed satisfaction appear on the old woman’s face. She stood, and then turned back toward the dragon behind her, or rather the figures who were huddled around it. He momentarily pondered the last time his eyes had been closed, Thursday, March 1, 1849, the day he died. The mystery of his continued breathing was profound.

Last week, for a writing challenge, I wrote a 100 word story called The Clockwork Dragon. I was trying to get a handle on a story I meant to submit to an open submissions call about a world in which magic is the primary technology. I just finished the first draft and I still have three days to send it in to the publisher.

Of course, I have no idea if they’ll accept it. They have published one of my stories, but rejected several others. They may reject this one. It might not be magical enough.

I decided to share a brief snippet from the very beginning. It’s nearly 300 words long, but the first 100 words wouldn’t have conveyed a sufficient sense of the tale in my opinion. I hope you enjoy it. The tale of the Engineer and the Clockwork Dragon is just beginning.

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