Click, click.

Idony slid her umbrella over the rough cobbled streets of Bristol. A light breeze from the sea tickled the freckles across her nose. In her memories, the streets were dirty and the sky was filled with smog, but she couldn’t see them anymore. Perhaps the streets had been swept clean till every pebble glistened in the sun, and perhaps the sky was filled with the fluffiest, softest clouds.

As she approached the port, she could hear the bustle and clatter of all the people. Several bumped into her, none apologized. Of course, she knew they probably didn’t mean to be rude. They were in a hurry. She could hear the clipping sounds of automatons and the whirr of coal-powered buggies.

Eventually, she located platform 14 of the airship loft. As the boarding bell sounded, she joined the line of passengers and attempted to hand over her ticket. She could imagine the ticketmaster eyeing her up and down.

“Miss,” he said. “Where is your chaperone?”

Idony straightened up and smoothed her skirts.

“Sir,” she said. “I have none.”

“Excuse me for saying so, but the trip from Bristol to Calais is hardly a safe distance for a blind young woman to travel on her own. I cannot in good conscience allow you passage.”

“Hardly safe?” This came from a new voice, a woman’s with an American accent. “Hey! What are you implying?”

“O-oh.” The ticket master’s voice had a new edge of uncertainty. “I am just trying to advise this young lady here to take care of her safety.”

“My ship is the finest airship in all the world. It’s flown from Texas to London fifteen times without any trouble. She’s taking care of herself quite well by choosing to take it if you ask me.” The woman said.

“Captain Alvarado, I didn’t mean any disrespect to your vessel or your flying skills,” He said. “I’m only worried that some scoundrels might take advantage of a beautiful young woman with neither sight nor chaperone.”

“Man, you forget yourself.” Captain Alvarado said. “I am the captain of this ship, and so I am chaperone to every passenger on board. You have my assurance that this young lady will reach her port safely, and further if she requires assistance. Here, I will lead you aboard.”

The ticketmaster meekly accepted her ticket.

“Thank you, Captain,” Idony said

“You can call me Berlyne,” She said. “And you are?”

“Idony St Claire,” She said, sliding her umbrella tip along the plank. “Why are you named after a city?”

“My mother liked the sound of the name,” Berlyne said. “She always loved reading stories about Europe, which is probably part of why she left my Father to move here.”

Idony tried not to look shocked. “I’m sorry to hear that. That must have been quite painful for you.”

“Oh it was,” Berlyne said. “But time heals all wounds and all that. I’m lucky to have this airship so I can visit her and my prodigal sister.”

“Steam is such a wonderful thing.”

“I’m glad you appreciate it,” Berlyne said. “I love hearing the sound of the engine every morning. So, you’re off to Calais? To see a friend?”

Idony could feel blood rushing to her cheeks. “It’s a surprise. I haven’t seen him in over a year.”

“That’s exciting!” Berlyne said. “Est-ce que vous pouvez parler la langue?”

“Un peu. Je l’ai etudie quand j’etais une jeune fille.”

“Ack.” Berlyne said. “Your is so much better than mine. I shall stop for fear of embarrassing myself.”


Enel Lanum felt a little as the keeper of the pawnshop placed the leather case of the telescope on the top shelf. There was a musty smell, and the room was filled with old, decrepit objects, likely the sort of contraptions used before the discovery of steam solved every modern woe. It no longer seemed like such a good decision to leave such a treasure here, but now the money was in his pocket there was no turning back.

Enel poked a spinning wheel, then spun it lightly. There was a cough behind him.

“I see you’re wearing a uniform from the King’s College School,” the shopkeeper said. “What could you need the money for? Nothing mischievous I hope?”

“Just a steam trip to visit someone.” Enel said. “Thanks, and goodbye.”

He rushed off into the streets. The smog was more disgusting in London than in Bristol, in his opinion. He hated to see all the fancy people in their fancy clothes and fancy faces. He knew he should be grateful to have been whisked out of the orphanage, but he wasn’t feeling like it today.

He got in line to purchase an airship ticket.

He felt a hand on his shoulder suddenly. “Don’t move.”

He turned to see his good friend and sworn enemy Apen Shephard staring him in the face. His raised the old case Enel had parted with only moments before. “Seriously, Enel? I had to part with five shillings for this.”

“No way.” Enel said. “You followed me!”

“I knew you were up to something, and I don’t let people just borrow the Silver Eye and then walk away.” Apen said. “Even you.”

“I was going to buy it back.” Enel said “He said he’d keep it for a month.”

“Not good enough.” Apen said. “This telescope is priceless, it wouldn’t last that long. I’d rather spend the money. But anyways, this is besides the point, why would you need to sell the Silver Eye to go visit Idony? Or is it your mother?”

“Neither,” Enel said. “I’m going to Calais.”

“Marcus, then,” Apen said, his eyes lighting up with recognition. “I’m coming with you.”

“Why?” Enel said. “You don’t want to see him anyways. You hate each other.”

“Do not.” Apen said. “I’m going to keep you out of trouble.”

“Leave me alone,” Enel said “Excuse me, I’d like a ticket to Callais”

“Here you go, young sir.” The ticket seller said. “Your ship is the Novalog, on platform 5, which leaves in fifteen minutes.”

“Sir, is there another ship to Callais?” Apen asked.

“Yes, in an hour.”

“I’d like to buy a ticket for that one.”

“I thought you said you were coming with me,” Enel said.

“I am, but not on that ship.” Apen took his ticket. “Je vais te voir a Callais.”

“French is a dumb language.” Enel said. “See you in Callais too.”


After he left, Apen breathed a sigh of relief, ducked into a nearby alleyway, pulled out the Silver Eye, and focused it onto the brick wall. As he did so, three thin numbers appeared over his vision, and he began to flip a dial along the telescope until they numbered 300, and held it there. The brick wall melted away into a swirling grey world of cogs and mist. He entered, walking back into the alleyway five minutes into the past. He dashed out into the street, knowing that if he hurried, he could grab a few things from the dormitories before his flight arrived.


Idony could remember the day she met Marcus Lanum. She was meeting Apen Shephard at the port, and she recognised his voice through the crowd.

“I’ve heard the flying boats in Germany are better than ours”

“Of course, that’s always the way with things.” A voice like embers said. “But what we need to do is create something better than a flying machine. People are all so wild about flying now, they completely forget the other possibilities.”

“Like what?” Apen asked.

“Well, think about it.” The man said. “The world is becoming smaller each day as the flying machines cover new ground. People will soon be expected to go here, go there in the matter of instants. Already we have factory workers who spend their entire lives slaving away in the creation of new machines. Why not a machine that will give them more of the commodity they are so quickly losing? A machine that will give them time.”

Idony’s heart beat faster, and she edged closer to them. “So you mean a time machine?” She said.

“Oh” The man’s voice sounded taken aback, “Sorry miss, I didn’t see you there..”

“Wouldn’t a time machine create a lot of problems?” She said. “For example, say you do the dishes, and then you go back in time and do the laundry. The second time, the laundry won’t have been completed.”

“I wasn’t really thinking of it that way.” The man said. “I was more thinking…say you read a book, and then you went back in time and did the laundry. You would have still read the book, and done the dishes.”

“Helpful, I suppose, if you want time for reading.” Idony said.

“And don’t you, miss?”

“I can’t read,” She said. “I’m blind. I can read braille, but those books are scarce. Have you ever thought about making a machine that reads things out loud?” Have you ever thought of putting the essence of your voice in a bottle?

“No,” he said. “That’s an excellent idea, though. I wish I had more time for inventions. Right now I work at the library. If you want someone to read out loud to, you can come by and ask me to.”

And so she did. And he read her Austen and Bronte and Shakespeare, and she was visiting the library every week, soon almost every day. Her mother nagged at her that she was neglecting her duties with the orphans, so she asked Marcus to read aloud to all of them.

One day, as they were reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein’s Monster, he stopped mid-sentence in the second chapter.

“What is it?” Idony said.

“Well, he said awkwardly. “Remember the invention?”

“What of it?”

“I’ve been having trouble with one of mine.” He said. “I was wondering if you’d like to accompany me on a walk by the pier later today to discuss it.”

Her heart beat at a mismatched pace, and she felt a steady ache. Why hadn’t he just told her that he loved her yet? But still, it was a step, and she did want to hear more about his inventions. “Of course.”

They walked down by the pier, arm in arm, and the salty air rustled the shawl around her shoulders.

“I have been working on an invention with Apen Shephard and one other person” He said. “We are almost done.”

“Congratulations!” Idony said.

“We are hoping to make some money off of it, perhaps even selling it to the crown.”

“Really?” Idony said. “It sounds like that would provide a lot of financial stability.”

“It would, and at that time, I would be honoured if you would…”

Idony felt like her voice was screaming out inside of her and all the blood in her body was rushing into her cheeks, but all she could do was say “…yes?” in a voice as small as a mouse’s.

“…accept a donation to your mother’s orphanage.”

“Oh.” Her heart plummeted.  “We would happily accept the donation.”

“Your work there is amazing,” He said. “When I was a boy, I think I would have considered myself blessed to end up in its shelter.”

“Were you in need?” She said.

“You could say that.” He said. “But I have been blessed to survive my youth and end up here, where I could meet you.”

Though Idony couldn’t see, she was certain the whole world must be glowing with the light in her heart. But her face must have betrayed her by being too calm, because he said:

“Sorry, I shouldn’t have said that. I didn’t mean anything by it.”

And so she was pulled back into the solid drudge of reality, as always.

“Do you remember my suggestion?” She said “To make an audible portion to the device, so people don’t have to see to use it?”

“I have been taking it into account,” he said. “Thank you for your time, Idony. I really appreciate your help in this project”


That was the first day he spoke her first name aloud, on its own. Although it was gone too soon, she treasured the moment.


Enel was surprised when he saw her, leaning against the railing.

“Idony!” He said “What are you doing here?”

“I could ask the same of you,” she said. The wind tossled their hair as they leaned against the thin rail that kept them from being thrown overboard an into the waves.

“Let me guess,” Idony said. “You’re not enjoying London?”

“London is a terrible city.” Enel said. “It doesn’t matter that Apen is going to school there.”

“Is it the air?” Idony asked. “I didn’t think it was so much worse than Bristol.”

“Everything is worse.” Enel said. “It’s the worst city I’ve ever had to live at in my life.”

“Really?” Idony said. “And Calais is going to be better?”

“Marcus is in Calais.” Enel said.

“Have you and Velvare not been getting along, and you want your foster father rather than your natural one?”

“At least Marcus wouldn’t sent me away!” Enel said. “I don’t get it. I spent my entire life wondering who my parents were, and then they find me, and all I get is a year with them before they decide to send me to live somewhere far away? I don’t understand. They don’t even talk to each other, and they won’t tell me why. To make matters worse, Velvare has decided I’m taking over his trading company, when I’ve told him a thousand times I don’t want to!”

“That is a little unusual.” Idony said. “Isn’t your older brother going to take over it?”

“No idea.” Enel said. “He’s started his own trading company in Germany, and Velvare doesn’t want to talk about that, either.”

“Interesting,” Idony said. “And you haven’t told Velvare about this?”

“Nope,” Enel said. “If he’s going to send me away, I don’t want to talk to him. He can figure out why I’m gone on his own.”

“Ah.” Idony sighed. She wished she could just say one word and lift all of Enel’s troubles away. But she couldn’t fix Enel’s life for him.

“What about you, Idony? Why are you going to see Marcus?”

“Why do you think?”

“Are you going to ask him to marry you?” Enel asked.

Idony laughed. “Something like that.”

“Great!” Enel said. “We can all live in Calais together.”

“I’m sorry Enel,” Idony said. “I’m going to convince him to come back to Bristol.”

“Why Bristol?” Enel said. “I mean, I like it, but it’s not that great, and Velvare is there.”

“If he doesn’t want to live in Bristol, that’s fine.” Idony said. “But I know he liked that town. He really loved the library there.”

“Then why did he move away?” Enel asked.

“Because of me”

“What? Why would he do that?”

“It’s complicated.”

They stood there a few moments, feeling the rush of the airship rising and falling as it adjusted altitude.

“I really love airships.” Idony said “Do you?”

“I don’t know.” Enel said. “ Right now, I don’t know if I love anything.”

Apen looked anxiously at the tall figure standing on the other side of the airship. If he had known Velvare was going to be there, he would have risked his luck with Berlyne. He knew, though, that it would only be a matter of time before Velvare spotted him, and Apen didn’t want to be caught unawares.

He walked up cleared his throat. “It’s been awhile, sir.”

Velvare turned, as if from a daze, and then started. The cogs of an elaborate monocle covered an entire eye on one side and half of the other. The rumors said that he was almost blind, but Apen knew otherwise.

“Apen Shephard, what a pleasure. Ah, don’t be afraid. I know I threatened to have you sent to Australia last time we saw each other, but the threat was…empty, I must admit.”

“I know.” Apen said. “Your son and I are in the same dorms at school. I figured if you were serious, you’d know where to find me. Still, I wasn’t going to mention it.”

“I’ve been planning on bringing it up for a while,” Velvare said. “I shouldn’t have lost my temper at that time. You must understand me, though. Being able to go back in time…I could have put so much to rights. I didn’t fully understand that your invention had become about stopping time, rather than going backwards. If I had known, I wouldn’t have been so rash.”

Is this…an apology? Apen wondered. You could never be sure with Velvare.

“Anyways, I pulled some strings in the government to convince them your device was defective and destroyed itself.” He said.

“Really?” Apen said. “Is that why you’re going to Calais? To tell Marcus he isn’t exiled anymore?”

“No.” Velvare said. “He already knows. I told him months ago. I am visiting him to find out why he hasn’t come back, actually.”

“Oh.” Apen didn’t know why, but that sounded like Marcus. He thought of mentioning that it might have less to do with Velvare and more to do with Idony, but he wasn’t sure where his loyalties should lie, or what would be appropriate to reveal.

“By the way, sir,” he said. “He would hate for me to tell you this, but Enel is also going to Calais.”

Velvare straightened up. “He’s on this ship?”

“No.” Apen said. “On a ship an hour ahead of ours. I had to take this one because the tickets were all sold out.” He crossed himself quickly.

“Oh,” Velvare said. “I hope I’ll catch him in Calais, then. I assume he misses Marcus. He could have just told me.”

“He’s not just visiting Marcus.” There was no point in hiding it. He would find out in the end, and Apen was just saving everyone time. “He feels hurt because you sent him to live away from you.”

Velvare turned away.

How long is it going to take for him to change his mind? Apen thought. This is why he hasn’t settled anything with Gudrun after 24 years. Still, he knew he couldn’t interfere too much. I know you can do it, he thought. Just don’t take too long. Either way, he hoped that if there was a road that would lead to Enel moving back to Bristol and out of Apen’s hair, Velvare was going down it.

Enel led Idony up the stairs, then suddenly pulled away.

“I shouldn’t have come here,” he said.

“Why not?”

“Marcus– he’ll say I’m being childish. He’ll send me back to Velvare.”

Idony reached out to where she thought his arm was, but her hand ended up touching the stone wall beside them. She tried to pretend she’d meant to do that. “Not without hearing you out first. Maybe he’ll be a bit cross with you, and so will Velvare, and probably your mother as well. But if this is something that’s hurting you, you need to face them, each in their own time, and make them see sense.”

A moment passed and then another. “I know.” He said. “But I’m just not ready. You go in first.”

Idony knocked on the door of the small apartment in the port of Calais. She waited, and then knocked again. She heard the sound of someone opening the door, and then stumbling back.

“I–Idony?” Marcus’ voice was just as beautiful as it had always been, and just hearing it made her warm inside, though a bit sad as well.

“Sorry to arrive unannounced.” Idony said. “I need to talk to you.”

“Well, I don’t know, it’s a mess in here.”

Idony smirked. “Marcus, I couldn’t see it if you had an army of elephants in there.”

“Oh, right. Then by all means, enter.”


Marcus tried to keep himself together.

He had done so well. When he’d first set foot in Calais, a part of him wondered if he’d even make it a week before buying a ticket back to Bristol. He’d resisted, of course, and he’d been so impressed when a month passed, and then another month, and then before he’d known it, over a year had gone by, and her letters didn’t even hurt him anymore. But now here she was, her freckles scattered all over her face, her brown eyes gleaming, She casually swung her umbrella around her wrist in a way that made his heart leap. Still, inside he tried to remain firm. There was no way she was convincing him to come back.

“So, Marcus,” She said, her voice light and musical, like the dawn. “How have you been.”

“Sufficient,” He said “And yourself?”

“Lacking. Tell me, is your invention here?”

He felt a wave of panic wash over him, and he had to struggle to gain his composure. “What? No.”

“No?” She leaned against the table, hanging her umbrella on the ledge. “I was sure if it was anywhere, it would be here.”

Marcus wasn’t prepared for this. A thousand thoughts were galloping through his mind and he didn’t now which one to follow. “You…wanted to see it?”

“Of course!” Idony said. “I know you weren’t proud of it, but I kind of helped invent it, didn’t I? I wanted to see it.”

“Oh,” he straightened up. He had to tell her. “I destroyed it.”

“Oh,” she faltered only a little bit. “I thought that might be the case. You were worried about what the crown–or anyone else, I suppose– would do with it, weren’t you. I suppose it’s for the best.”

“Yes,” Marcus said, and then, before he could stop himself, more words came out. “It was an abomination. I don’t deserve to invent anything ever again.”

Immediately, he knew he’d made a mistake.

She took a step closer. Her eyes weren’t quite on him, but he knew they were meant to be. “Don’t you dare say that. What about my reading machine.”

“Someone else will have to invent it.” Marcus said. “I am clearly not capable of thinking of the consequences. I can’t do that. It was my first invention, and someone could have destroyed the world with it.

Idony reached out towards him, missing him as he stepped backwards. “Don’t say that. Our first invention…was us, in a way, no? And I liked us.”

“We were a mistake.” Marcus said, regretting every word as he spoke. “As your mother said, I’m not good enough for you. I’ll just take your time away from the orphanage.”

“Who are you–or anyone– to say that? Idony said. “Don’t I get to decide who is good enough for me? What if I want to do a few things besides the orphanage, hmm?”

She reached out for him again, and this time he let her catch him. The setting sun shone through the window, brushing against her golden curls.

“So, what do you say?” She whispered. “Will you think about moving back to Bristol for me?”

He could hear the gulls calling outside, and the sound of an airship landing in the distance. He knew that in the end, there was only on choice.