Wednesday, June 27, 2018
Art by Rob Goldstein
I apologize and hope everyone finds this post…. I made a scheduling error…
Welcome everyone. The diesel-punk train has arrived at Jazz Age Wednesdays. It’s great to see all you Sheiks and Shebas! Artist, Rob Goldstein created a new video and more wonderful images for this episode. Check out his latest video, Am I Blue. His post, Dance of the Bots features the video. If you need a comprehensive review of this serial, Rob has a post with links to past chapters.
Previously with Hullaba Lulu
Due to sabotage to the Tesla coil, Valentino’s train passed into a painting. Heroic efforts by the clockwork angel-bots brought everyone back onto the train. However, it is still inside some kind of vortex and Valentino’s health continues to diminish.
In this episode we learn more about what’s in Lulu’s head as she experiences her strange adventure on Valentino’s train. Pearl has something on her mind as well. This episode is nearly 2,000 words. The story picks up where Chapter 10.1 ended.Now to Chapter 10.2. Do you hear Valentino’s trumpet?
Art by Rob Goldstein
The brandy Dynamite intended to help me go to sleep wasn’t as strong as any of the giggle water that flowed through my grandfather’s speakeasy. It didn’t have much effect on me. I pretended to fall asleep so that he and Ginger would leave and go about their business ― whatever that was for clockwork creatures.
Dynamite and the other angel-bots risked life and limb to get everyone back on the train, I thought. Life? Clockwork creatures? They must be more than other machines. Whatever the case, they deserve some time to do what they want, not look after me.
Everyone was worried about Valentino. After his collapse while his automobile followed the train into the Pittura Metafisica, and the dramatic way the angel-bots got us back inside the train, his deteriorating physical condition couldn’t be kept quiet. Moon had figured it out when he discovered that the Tesla coil had been sabotaged. I had a hunch he had blabbed to the other clockwork attendants.
Valentino with angle-bots, by Rob Goldstein
Humph… gossiping angel-bots. They seem more human all the time. They’re definitely not ordinary automatons, I thought.
I was feeling confused and conflicted. Valentino had separate histories with my grandfather, and later with my mother. The odd tension between the two men could be fierce, but I sensed something deeper too.
My friends, Rose and Pearl acted like smitten kittens when the handsome and mysterious man was around. Horsefeathers! So had that journalist who turned out to be a spy, Tom Driberg. It seemed the sheik attracted everyone. Though I couldn’t admit it, not even to myself, I may have carried a torch for Valentino too.
“Speak of the devil and he doth appear,” I muttered as Pearl stepped from her sleeper car and into the corridor.
Rose and Pearl, by Rob Goldstein
Although Pearl was no devil. Everybody said she was a darned nice girl. Her red eyes and nose told me she had been crying. I thought her crush on Valentino must have been more intense than I realized, but that wasn’t it.
“Hey! Do you want to go down to the automat for bloody marys?” I asked with a grin and a wink.
It was my nature to put cheering up my friends ahead of the need I felt to be alone. So I tried to hide my own confusion and sadness.
“Lulu, how can you stand this? I’ve never been through anything as horrible as this trip. Everything about this train and the places we’ve been is… upside down,” Pearl said and her tears began go flow. “It’s terrifying! And Rose is the worst part of it! For years, I thought she was my friend, and it turns out she was some kind of spy with Tom Driberg. She’s from a good family. I thought she was swell, but she was just using me the whole time, so she could hide.”
I was stunned by Pearl’s vehemence. I couldn’t think of what to say. While I searched for words, she looked at me as if my lack of response betrayed her as much as she felt Rose had.
“Rose had big things to hide from,” I began, uncertain of what I felt myself. “She mislead us about her past, but that doesn’t mean she wasn’t a friend.”
“You wouldn’t understand. How could you, with the kind of people you come from?” Pearl continued on a frustrated sob. “I know life is different for you, and I don’t hold it against you. But I love my family and I want to go back to them. I need to get back before everyone thinks I’ve run off with a bunch of…” Pearl glanced at me and paused. “I just want to go home!”
Lulu in the train’s automat… with cheeseburgers, by Rob Goldstein
Pearl turned back to her rooms and slammed the door behind her. What she said about the kind of people I come from made an empty spot in my stomach. Maybe Rose wasn’t the only friend who wasn’t what she had seemed. I wondered if a cheeseburger would help.
Maybe Pearl was right about Rose. She wasn’t who she let us think, but did that change the person she was? Maybe what Pearl said about me had just been a poor choice of words, but I started to wonder if either of my friends were the people they made themselves out to be.
Feeling even more despondent than before, I wandered the corridors of the train. My thoughts briefly went to Tom and my mother, Lauren. Both of them, although not together, used that tilt-a-whirl to run away, back at the amusement park. I said good riddance to both of them, but I couldn’t help wondering where they might have landed. The only thing that seemed certain was that due to the properties of the strange ride, they wouldn’t have gone to the same place.
Valentino, Lulu, and Tom, by Rob Goldstein
I kept walking, trying to get my thoughts to fall into some semblance of order.
A soft light emanated from the control room of the train. It was dark except for illumination from the various strange devices. As the comfort of the gentle glows beckoned me, I promised myself to make sure I didn’t bump into anything else. The last thing I wanted was a repeat of the Tesla coil incident. I walked into the room stiffly, trying to be careful.
My eyes swept the room to make sure I was alone. A single tear sneaked onto my cheek. Then another fell. Abruptly, rivers of tears ran down my face. I was sad to think Valentino would die, but I hardly knew him. So, I didn’t understand my uncontrollable grief. I felt that hope abandoned me just as my mother had.
A quiet click drew my attention to the large golden control angel. The Ouija board that was part of the navigation system was attached to the statue. The board started to exude a thin fog of ectoplasm. I bent closer to look at it. Some of my tears dripped onto the Ouija board.
The train’s control system including angel statue and Ouija board. Art by Rob Goldstein
The soft click came again. I looked up and saw the stationary angel statue staring me right in the eyes. So, it had looked at me that other time! I took a breath intending to tell it off when the heart-shaped planchette from the Ouija suddenly jumped off the board and shot right past my nose!
The planchette had a small hole to hold a pencil that could be used for automatic writing. The heart-shaped piece of wood flew over to the Orthophonic Victrola. (Chapter 4.) The Victrola had been connected to an odd looking device, which had an antenna at either end.
I straightened my arms at my sides and clinched my fists, so that I wouldn’t touch the thing. I heard another click from the control angel statue. Her eyes were opened very wide. Until the moment before, I hadn’t thought she was completely immobile. For all I knew, she might up and walk across the room, but her only movement was in her eyes.
She repeatedly turned her eyes from me to the device.
I gingerly stretched one hand closer to an antenna. She blinked. I drew my hand back. She blinked twice. I took a deep breath and reached with both hands ― a single hard blink.
The control room of Valentino’s train, by Rob Goldstein
I moved my hands near the antennae. The device began to whine and moan like a ghost. The sound was amplified by the Orthophonic Victrolla and the loudspeaker sent it throughout the train. I jerked back and the sound stopped.
The sound of rapid metal footsteps preceded Moon’s arrival. The clockwork engineer bounced on his toes excitedly. I started blabbing that I hadn’t touched anything, that the angel told me to do it.
“No, Miss! This is wonderful. Do it again!” Moon cried in answer to my defensive babble. “None of the angel-bots have been able to make the theremin work. It doesn’t seem to respond to clockwork creatures.”
“The what?” I asked skeptically.
“Valentino is deteriorating quite rapidly,” Moon explained in his subtly Spanish accent. “The theremin should stabilize his condition, but none of us could cause it to make music. Please, Miss. Put your hands out again.”
I did as Moon asked, but the hellish sound started again, so I drew back. He made motions over the machine, but it had no effect. I tried to copy his movements.
Angel control system, Art by Rob Goldstein
“The antennae sense the relative position of the thereminist’s hands and the control oscillators,” he began explaining in techno-babble. “With one hand you control the frequency, and the volume with the other. The electric signals from the theremin are amplified by the Orthophonic Victrola and sent throughout the train by the loudspeaker.”
“And this will help Valentino?” I asked, perplexed.
“It is unlikely to heal him, but it is my theory that the right frequencies from the theremin will stabilize him, hopefully long enough for healing to be found,” Moon told me.
“Just as the instruments of the train have to be attuned to one another, so does Valentino have to be attuned to the train. That balance was sabotaged, as you know,” the blue-gold angel-bot continued. “Yes, keep moving your hands like that. The vibrations are pleasing so I think you are using the correct frequency.”
Art by Rob Goldstein
What at first sounded like ghostly moaning, under Moon’s direction became more musical. Although it was still an eerie sound. Several of the clockwork attendants quietly gathered in the control room. The odd music seemed to please them, but in a soothing, almost mesmerizing way.
An indigo colored light suffused the area. A collective sigh came from the angel-bots.
The calm was broken when the trumpet levitated from the place where it rested. It blew a single sustained note, an A.
“You may stop now, Miss. The harmonic spectrum is in balance,” Moon explained, though it didn’t make a lick of sense to me. “That should help Valentino… at least temporarily.”
He picked up the Tesla coil to examine it and I cringed, remembering how wild the lightning from it could become. Moon still bore the scorch marks. A series of clicks came from the clockwork engineer. The sound reminded me of someone saying “tut tut.”
Valentino out of tune, by Rob Goldstein
“Do you know how to fix him permanently?” I asked and hated the pleading tone of my voice.
Moon shook his head and looked down sadly.
“The adjustments the theremine will not hold. I will have to ask you to repeat the process from time to time. Is that agreeable to you?” he asked and I nodded mutely.
The planchette started scratching where it had landed by the theremin. Moon quickly got a sheet of paper and slid it under the pencil of the heart-shaped tool. It zigzagged and looped across the paper. Abruptly it stopped. I looked at the product of the automatic writing.
“It drew a big triangle and wrote secret chamber?” I read aloud.
Art by Rob Goldstein
Suddenly it felt as though the floor dropped out from under me. There was a heavy thud and a hiss similar to tires spraying gravel.
“I don’t think that was a triangle,” Moon stated as he gazed out the large windows of the control room.
The train had stopped. The clockwork attendants were quick to make sure all the mechanisms of the of the train were in place.
At first, I thought the scene beyond the window was nothingness. Then I realized it was sand… an endless ocean of sand.
With a whoosh, the sky darkened. I gazed at multicolored wings in flight before they quickly vanished.
My eyes followed the direction of the wings. Squinting, in the distance I saw it. The Great Pyramid.
Composite image by Teagan R. Geneviene
Bushwa! Lulu is afraid Valentino is going to die. Well, he said he would if he’s separated from the train. Will there be time to save him? Tune in again next week!
Real World Notes
The Theremin. Originally known as the ætherphone/etherphone or thereminophone, a theremin is an electronic musical instrument controlled without physical contact by the performer. It is named after the Westernized name of its Soviet inventor, Léon Theremin, who patented the device in 1928.
I hope you’ll click over and check out Rob’s blog. You’ll find more fabulous images there, and terrific blog posts too.
Stay tuned for more spontaneously written fun. The remaining things Rob sent to drive Chapter 10 are Wave Frequency Machine and Hidden Door. Your guess is as good as mine for what I’ll do with those things.
I hope to see you will be at the station again next week to catch the diesel-punk train.
Thanks for visiting. You’re the cat’s pajamas!
Now some shameless self-promotion for my other 1920s books — the original “three things” stories about Paisley Idelle Peabody, aka Pip, and her friends.
Murder at the Bijou — Three Ingredients I
This is a work of fiction. Characters, names, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, locales, or events is entirely coincidental.
Artwork Copyright © 2018 by Rob Goldstein
Copyright © 2018 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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