Monday, November 10, 2008

Leviathump and Thing

It rained today, all day, and the streets of Vanister became little more than rivers of mud. The children of the town had a marvelous time playing in them. Their parents were not quite so happy.

I spent the day in the Museum again. There has still been no sign of Professor Flanderdrack since he disappeared into the building two days ago; as slim as the chances of finding anything in the Vanister Museum are, I was still hoping I might run into him. I didn't.

What I did find was a small room, probably a former washroom or the bottom of a stairwell, with only one thing in it. On a crate in the middle of the room sat a complex little clockwork thing, a bit like a cross between a typewriter and a crab. Its label said simply, "Thing." That was all. The room was otherwise empty except for a little bowl for the dust-mice, which was filling up with the rain that dripped down the narrow window.

(As huge a building as it is, it would be impossible for the curators to keep the Museum clean. They can't even find all the rooms in it. Instead, it's swept and dusted by omnivorous dust-mice (some of the only wild rodents in Hamjamser that people actually encourage to live in their houses). They come out every night to sweep up dust with their tails - which are so fluffy that they look bigger than the mice themselves - and eat it. They live on nothing else; dust and water are all they need. The downspouts on the Museum's many roofs are linked to small basins in each room to provide water for them.)

The room had the usual little brass nameplate, which proclaimed it the "Leviathump," so it wasn't undiscovered. The curator who discovered it simply hadn't done much with it. I still don't know whether the Thing was called that because no one knew what it was, or because no one had bothered to find out, or because that was actually its name. I probably never will know.

I assume it was my footsteps on the floor that woke it up. When I looked later, mine were the only footprints in the dust on the floor - the dust-mice apparently avoided the room, which made the forlorn little water-basin seem rather sad - so no one else had entered it in quite a while. For whatever reason, when I got within three feet of the Thing, it started moving. There was a click, then a tight little chorus of clinking gears, and it raised itself on eight metal legs (made, I think, of dismantled scissors) and began to dig its way through the crate.

I can't think of another word for it. It simply dug into the wooden slats, using three or four little brass shovel attachments, and scooped out slivers of wood. They clattered on the floorboards on either side. Within a few seconds, it had dug straight through the top of the crate and climbed inside.

Cautiously, in case the Thing climbed back out, I leaned over and looked through the hole in the crate. A few slivers of rain-soaked light leaked through the spaces in the side. I could see small flashes of polished metal pieces moving in the darkness. The sound of wood being scooped away like ice cream filled the little box, then suddenly stopped; the glints of light folded themselves downward and vanished.

I waited for a good two minutes before I moved the crate.

Below it, there was a neat, round hole in the floorboards. For some reason known probably only to Mister Creemer, the space beneath them was filled with layers of embroidered carpet. These had been cut neatly away as well. Below them was empty space. The darkness was filled with the muffled clicking of a multitude of surreptitious clockwork.

I backed away from the hole then, wondering where exactly there was an unlit room full of moving machinery in the Vanister Museum, and went to the window to see if there was another one below it. I was surprised to find that the room was now on the ground floor. It had been on the third when I found it. When I went back to the hole, there was nothing below it but dirt. The room had moved.

I'm still not sure what the Thing was. Perhaps it was some sort of sentry, posted to warn the other Things when someone found the room above theirs. That seems rather pointless, though, as I would never have found the dark room if the Thing hadn't burrowed into it. Perhaps something in it had jammed, and it took just the vibration of my feet on the floor to loosen it and let it make its way home. Perhaps it just wanted to be alone, and I interrupted it, or frightened it, or woke it up. I doubt I'll ever know.

I put the crate back before I left. The label saying "Thing" now appears to refer to a hole in the floor. If future visitors to the Leviathump find that confusing, they won't be the first.

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