The Rose Chest

The first time I met Grandfather we were in his workshop. He was a clockmaker, you see. Grandfather swept a clutter of clock ephemera from the desk and pulled me upon his knee. Gutted husks of clocks rose around us, but he reached for a small chest emblazoned with a rose. Undoing the gold clasp on the lid he withdrew a miniature windup doll and closed my hands around it.

"I paid dearly for this, once upon a time," he whispered in my ear. "From a princess like yourself, but in a kingdom far away. I should like to pass it along to you."

"Why?" I had asked. The tiny creation was much like a fairy from a tale, but instead of flesh and blood and magic, there were gears and metal plates which slid over each other like silken snake scales. Its face was a mirror. Delicate feathers fell as hair down to its shoulders.

"It needs a new haven now. Promise me you will never look into the reflection of your eyes in its face. No questions now," he chided when I stirred. "Just believe an old man."

"Yes, Grandfather," I said.

The second and last time I saw Grandfather I had just entered Miss Maggie's Academy for Gentle Girls. The walk to the academy was not far from home, but Miss Maggie insisted on pairing her girls up, as young ladies should never find themselves in a compromising situation. Amy Thompson lived in a house further down the row and we found the other's company to be amicable.

The shortest route to the academy took us along a corridor of ash trees in a park. Young couples came here to watch the sunset. Not, I should add, that we knew of such a thing.

Amy halted beside me and gasped. Her hand rose to point off the path. "Is that a man?"

Hunched beneath a tree was a man, his coat so threadbare one could see his arms wrapped about his knees. He had his head down, but even still my heart fluttered. I was stepping from the path before I even knew to stop myself. Amy made a sound of distress before she crunched through the leaves after me.

I knelt before him, heedless of the hem of my dress dragging in the dirt. "Grandfather?"

Amy gasped again. A despicable habit, I thought. The old man's head rose slow as mist. This was my Grandfather, but no longer the one I remembered.

Eyes such as his would be described by literature as soulless. I saw in him a man decimated. "Ashes and dust."

I strained to hear his broken whispering. I reached for his elbow. He moaned and my hand flew back to rest against my breast.

"Remember, the mirror."

He again refused my attempt to aid him and wandered off into the trees. Amy twisted beside me.

"We shall be late."

"Go ahead of me," I said, rising. The doll had the answers.

Wordage: doll, decimate
Genre: Steampunk
Wordcount: 498

Image Credit: Asunder


  1. I didn't want this story to end! I want to know what happens when she looks the doll in face!

  2. Feathers as hair, lovely. <3 So curious what might happen if she looks the doll in the face. Does she become the doll? Such questions!!

  3. Thanks guys :) I kinda wonder too, haha. That's the mystery~


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