about the author

Ryder Collins has work published or forthcoming in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Monkeybicycle, DOGZPLOT, DIAGRAM, shady side review, and Segue, among others. Her story, “White girl/boy angst” was a finalist in The Southeast Review’s World’s Best Short Short Story Contest, and her story “Name game” has just been nominated by Juked for storySouth’s Million Writers Award. She has a chapbook, Orpheus on toast, forthcoming from Imaginary Friend Press. She blogs at bignortherngirlgoes.blogspot.com.

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A Steampunk Guide to the Apocalypse

Ryder Collins

All timepieces are now defunct. Rip their guts out; climb Big Ben if you can. Trail the innards down empty streets. Pin them to your vintage blouse. Wear them on your fingers as rings.

It’s no longer ironic, though, because time really has stopped.

You will not think about the ramifications of this; how the myth of progress was just a myth like you always said.

Things are definitely not getting better.

You’re glad you’ve accessorized with chainmetal today, even if it’s not quite de rigueur.

Duck into a pub or a tavern. Whatever’s closer; you need to take a breather, take a second, well not really, there are no seconds left.... Do what you do best then: moue into the mirror behind the barkeep-less bar; grab the gin and drink it straight or with a twist of clock. A twist of fate. A “fate” accompli. You will not lose it, though, even if your mind’s trying to play tricks on you, trying to free associate to make sense of all this; you will keep your cool and to keep said cool, you will look cool, you will look good enough for the vampires to suck. Forget that playacting vampire shit you did on teen night at the club years ago with that one androgynous New Waver, I’m talking real vampires here, flying about. Bat wings and talons and gleaming incisors. It’s neither day nor night now so all the freaks can come out.

Hell’s unleashed its demons. You need to pick a side.

You take the gin bottle outside to watch the fires and the floods and the chirring locusts whirring.

You are so thirsty; you sit on a hill and swig and swig.

The angels are pretty in their billowing white. They swoop down and muss your blue-black hair. You say, “Oy.”

You’re not a Brit. This is not Britain. This is no country now. People are screaming and people are fucking and people are burning and people are running and people are drowning and people are shitting and running and people are just standing stock still, you’d be so about the 15th century etymology of this phrase if this weren’t the end of the world, and you are looking down on them all.

You feel a little bit like Morrissey and you wonder if he’s gonna make it through this. Even if he’s not one of you, not a steampunk, you still love him deep down, you always will.

It’s the only thing you have to confess.

That and how the androgyne made you hot.

The angels are still swooping and hollering. It’s an angel flumadiddle, an angel hootenanny. One of the angels carries a flaming sword; it burns into your retinas. Where did your little Victorian sunglasses a la Bram Stoker’s Dracula go?

The angel’s getting closer, it seems. Your gin starts bubbling.

You run. Your platformed, thigh high metal-encased custom made leather boots you spent three paychecks on back when money had some meaning slow you down.

You don’t want to die, but if you must, you want to do it looking good.

Whatever rips you open, angel or demon, whatever puts its cold, inhuman hand into your chest and pulls out your heart, you know you will look good dying. That is the only thing you know; the only side you’ll take. You will be beautiful encased in steampunk, encased in death. Maybe they will cry over your young broken beautiful body, those angels or demons. Maybe they will mourn something in all this.

You won’t be able to know or not, but just thinking this is enough.

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