Title: His Little Bumblebee
Word Count: 797 Words
Name: Lisa Shambrook @LastKrystallos
His Little Bumblebee
Professor Mordecai called Ottavia his little bumblebee because her heart hummed. I think he loved her more because her flaw made her real. I love her because her heart sings.
My heart runs as smooth as clockwork, because that’s just what it is, ticking quietly, flawlessly. Every brass nut and bolt, every piston and gear move in perfect unison. Her flaws led to my perfection.
Ottavia stared down at our creator’s limp body, her fingers clasping his hand, and my heart fluttered like the professor’s glass-winged dragonflies darting about the gloomy study. Her shoulders slumped and I recalled his last words as I hurried to her side.
“His heart gave out!” I hissed, “I have to get you away before the Regent claims you!”
She ignored me, burying her face in his dusty and worn brocade robes. I had no intention of ever letting the Regent anywhere near enough to listen to the hum of her heart, or even to touch the wiry golden curls that fell around her face. “We have to leave!”
Her hand leaped to her breast and her eyes glistened in the gas-light. “I can’t, not without my key!”
She lifted the ribbon that hung around her neck and its frayed empty ends whispered in the breeze.
A terrible sound echoed down the vast university corridors as the gas-lamps flickered. My heart pounded as I listened to the clickety-clack of a thousand wings. “There’s no time!” I muttered, grabbing her arm.
“I need my key!” she protested, digging into the professor’s pockets.
A horde of mechanical mosquitoes struck the ancient oak door like metal woodpeckers. I peered through the keyhole as wood splintered. “I need to get you to Professor Greenfire, before they destroy the door!” I desperately combed the room as Ottavia scurried about searching for her key. I yanked open the lid of an intricately decorated box revealing a pulsating mass of gold and steel bumblebees. Wings whirred into action as I released them. The tiny bees swarmed through the keyhole and sped into the fray of long legs and tin wings. Sparks flew and metal clattered.
“I’m not even going to make it out of here…” She dropped to the floor with a clatter.
I watched the curve of her breast rise and fall as she stared up at me. I could hear it, the heavy thump, the easing of pistons, the wisps of steam curling from her ribcage beneath her bodice, her mechanism slowing, running down. “I need my key!”
Acrid smoke spiralled through the keyhole as the clangs and clashes of metal echoed. “And there’s no way out up here anyway!” she cried, staring up at me through sparkling topaz eyes.
I whipped her cloak away from her shoulders. “There’s always a way,” I murmured, brushing my fingers over the delicate wire-framed wings protruding from her shoulder joints. I flung open the window. “I sent dragonflies ahead and Greenfire will meet you down by the forest.”
Her brass curls bounced as she shook her head. Her breaths shuddered and jerked as her cogs and gears slowed down.
I tore my key from the string around my neck and thrust it at her.
“It won’t fit!” she smiled. “And even if it did, you can’t live without it.” Her limbs shuddered and her eyes dulled, and desperation echoed inside my clockwork heart.
Our keys didn’t match, but sometimes, as Professor Mordecai once told me, magic happens when love exists. As her breaths faltered and her frame jerked, I untied her corset ribbons and reached up beneath her stays. Her ribs juddered and her heart stopped singing.
My shaking fingers located the keyhole beneath her breast-work but my key wouldn’t fit. I jiggled it delicately, and as my heart began to fail, it slotted right in! I wound it, listening to the barrel click, and watched a pale light fill her eyes once more.
I tied my key to her ribbon.
Her fingers trembled and jolted as they curled around mine and her cut glass eyes shimmered with tears that could not fall.
“Now go…” I listened to the whirring buzz of mechanised insects outside the disintegrating door.
She touched a lever at her waist. Her wings vibrated and her heart sang as she stood upon the windowsill. Morning rays glimmered against her fragmented glass wings, and they fluttered gently as tiny pistons pounded, flywheels spun and gears shifted. Ottavia dived from the window and I leaned across the frame.
She plummeted and my heart slipped into my mouth, and then she swooped and her wings bore her away, away to safety. I smiled as she disappeared behind cotton-wool clouds and automated bugs broke through the door. I still had enough fight left, enough to save my precious bumblebee.