Sunday, March 6, 2011

"A Proper Gremlin" - Fiction

Hello to Constant Reader and New Reader alike. I know, I know; no new fiction got posted last week. You have my most humble apologies, but be assured I'm not resting on my laurels. As you can see from my last post, "What's Up?", I'm quite the busy boy in getting many shorter pieces together for two different projects of new fiction for you, and it's taking up quite a bit of my time. Please, bear with me.

I would like to invite any of you that practice this craft to submit a short story for guest-posting right here on my blog. I would prefer hobby authors or those that have little to no publishing history to submit something. You won't make any money, but you will get a goodly amount of exposure if I do say so myself and you will of course still own your story. If interested, drop me a line at ericrlowther (at) yahoo (dot) com. Make sure to put the words "blog story" in the subject line, and I hope to hear from you soon.

In the meantime, I give you "A Proper Gremlin". I hope you enjoy. - Author

Grippik threw down his spanner and scratched his nearly bald, green pate. Human machines were so incredibly, needlessly complicated. He itched at a particularly nasty mole and chewed on a pencil as he examined his last modification. He'd been working on it for several hours and still couldn’t deduce the actual use the humans had for it. It was comprised of so many different elements and pieces that seemed to have no real intimate connection to the other. Grippik could only assume the various parts made up the whole in such a way that he just couldn’t fathom. Humans were like that, though. They always had to make things so complicated. But that was what made studying their inventions and machines so rewarding. Gremlin machines were rather straight-forward with their technology. One only had to trace a rope to a pulley or a lever to a cog to gain an almost immediate understanding of the machine’s purpose and intent. But humans liked to be tricky and show off their intelligence and opposable thumbs, something the gremlins lacked.

Gremlins had developed a nasty reputation over the centuries in human climes. Those that believed they even existed thought of them as nothing more than pranksters and vile vandals. In truth, most gremlins had no real cause to damage or even destroy human machines and technology. Most involved themselves with the stuff out of insatiable curiosity as to the workings of their machines or in reverse engineering so that the secrets of the humans could be applied to gremlin technology. True, there were those gremlins that took great pleasure in destroying human machines or causing them to operate outside of their designs, but these were looked down upon by any proper gremlin. Just because you couldn’t understand a thing or your own creations didn’t work quite right was no reason to take out your jealousy on the works of others. And the more Grippik looked at the machine he was in, the more it looked like a gremlin invention gone horribly wrong.

He'd tried tracing the various wires that ran throughout the thing but they ended in junctions and parts that Grippik's brain simply couldn't fathom their purpose. He'd pulled and changed the positon of wires and gadgets and all manner of parts and bits throughout the machine then put them back again and he was still no closer to solving its mysteries. He'd even tried disconnecting one of the many energy cells the creator had installed and still failed to create any noticeable effect on the machine as a whole. Grippik wrapped his fingers around a thick wire and felt the energy within. But the power wasn’t moving, just lying dormant in the line. Grippik guessed that where that energy would go would finally reveal what purpose of the machine. And to find that, he would have to go even deeper into the works.

While Grippik envied the physical size and incredibly useful thumbs of the humans, being able to reduce yourself to only a few millimeters in size and the ability to make your body intangible certainly had its benefits, especially when a reverse-engineering project went awry. His ability to shift his physical body to the ethereal and have his spirit remain in the mortal world had saved him from crushing gears and great blasts of energy more than once when delving into human equipment. For all their grand technology it was amazingly easy to cause one of their machines to function outside of their design parameters.

Of course, with Grippik this kind of result was always on cause of accident. But it was those design flaws inherent in most every human machine that allowed other, more unsavory gremlins to cause a great deal of damage. Grippik didn't personally know any of his kind that had ever been physically caught, and that was a good thing. He'd seen some human designs that only existed to cause great pain and destruction and would hate to have a human designer create a machine to inflict that kind of punishment on a gremlin. Humans seemed to have a great propensity for causing damage and killing each other with their technology, things anathema to most gremlins. With a sigh, he shrunk to his smallest size and started climbing along the thick bundles of wires in search of the termination point of the main power supply.

Grippik hadn’t been working long when the whole machine started moving, and none too gently. He could hear rough human voices booming around him and the whine of other machinery outside his own. He was being moved somewhere. The thing finally stopped moving, allowing him to continue his work. The relative peace and quiet lasted for little more than an hour before a great explosion of sound and vibration caused him to send his body into the ether out of reflex and he was again being moved. After a time, the feeling of motion fell away, leaving only the constant, booming drone. Grippik brought his physical body back to the mortal world and poked his head outside the machine’s exterior case to find only intense darkness that his small miner–style hat couldn’t cut. Not knowing where he was or what was around, Grippik elected to stay within the machine and continue his work.


It took nearly an hour, but Grippik was finally able to keep the roaring from tickling the thick tufts of course hair in his ears. He'd made some progress in the machine, though, and had finally traced the power to a large screen. Humans were notorious for wanting to see how their machines were working without actually going into them, something that a gremlin engineer would never truly understand. Why create such an intricate device and not take the great pleasure in watching it work from the inside? But he knew the practical reasons that humans had to rely on such complicated diagnostics and he almost pitied them for not being able to take such a level of pride in their creations from within as the gremlins' inherent abilities allowed them to do. Grippik put such thoughts aside for the present and studied the readout. If he was to present his paper to the Society and justify his time spent in the mortal world he would need to get to it. Their next meeting was less than a week away and he'd yet to discern what function this machine served.

Grippik examined his sketch pad and tried to complete a flow chart of the power lines he'd been tracing. They were a literal maze that shot this way and that and branched off in the oddest of directions. He found that the live wire ran into the readout and several other wires that appeared to be designed to conduit power ran away from it to other appliances within the machine. The readout contained several representations of the number characters humans used. One of the numbers kept changing. He counted several cycles and found that for every tenth change, the number beside it would change, and after every hundredth change the one beside that would change. So, at least one part of the device measured time. Grippik jotted this significant finding in his notes and continued his study. He traced one of the wires leading away from the readout to the lower portion of the machine and was immediately struck by a harsh, chemical smell. Just like humans; they couldn’t merely rely on technology or machinery, they had to mix alchemy into the picture. While the timekeeping function was a significant find, it also complicated matters even more. He'd been around human machines enough to know that anytime they mixed alchemy and power there was a great chance for the reverse engineering process would fail in a spectacular fashion.

Grippik traced the original wire back and found the main power source. Humans were great believers in the harnessing of energy into chunks of lead and copper. He applauded their ingenuity in finding a use for the otherwise neuter elements even while he scratched his head and examined the bundle of wires running from it. Grabbing several lines he felt along the wires and found two that had power within them. He grabbed hold of one and tugged on it till it came loose in a shower of tiny sparks. Grippik patted out the flames that had erupted in his single shock of white hair and grimaced. It would take weeks to grow back. Wouldn’t he just look a sight at the Society’s presentation? But still, it wouldn’t be the first time he’d sacrificed a little piece of himself for his work. Satisfied that the power had been cut off from the chemicals, Grippik went back to his work. He could always plug it back in when he was done.

The smell of singed hair followed Grippik as he crawled through the machine’s works. He'd gotten so used to the roaring noises outside the machine that he barely noticed when they changed in pitch and vibration. He went immaterial as the volume increased and he felt a sudden falling sensation. This lasted for several moments until the world around him bounced and screeched. If he hadn’t been in the ether he would've been thrown about the machine. Grippik waited until the feeling of motion stopped and the sounds died down to a respectable roar. Bringing his body back to the material world, he gathered his notes and sat down on the readout. The interruptions hadn’t helped and he’d lost his train of thought.

The sudden movement of the whole machine threw him off the readout and onto the floor. He cursed himself for not paying attention and again sent his body into the ethers. The ghostly image of the gremlin rubbed the growing knot on his forehead and waited for the machine to come to a stop. How could the Society expect an exhaustive report? No engineer, gremlin or otherwise, could conduct proper research under such conditions! Of course, the humans wouldn’t know he was inside, but the whole idea of science being manhandled in such a way discouraged Grippik to no end. He could feel various types of movement and had to wait several minutes before the thing steadied in its shifting. It was still in motion but had now fallen into a much gentler and steadier rhythm. The noise level had died away considerably but now his sensitive ears could hear a multitude of human voices all around him. The cacaphony was no more pleasant than the droning roar had been, but at least it was at a lesser volume.

Grippik dared poke his transparent head out of the machine and found he was moving in circles. The place was common to those where humans tended to congregate. Great artificial lights played overhead while hundreds of them moved this way and that. He was surrounded by dozens of other cases in various shapes and sizes that seemed to be waiting for seemingly random humans to come along and pluck them up. There were humans of both sexes and a wide range of ages, sizes and colors. Grippik had never seen so many different ones mingling together, or even such a place, before. He only wished his sociologically–inclined brother, Gronk, were here. He could have a thesis made from this place in just a few hours. But Gronk had always been the black sheep of the family for disowning any interest in machines and technology and had become quite hard to find. Last Grippik had heard, his intrepid brother was studying the Yeti in their natural habitat elsewhere in the mortal world.

Suddenly, a dark hand reached down and picked up the machine. Grippik thought of disembarking, but then another thought occurred to him. Since conditions surrounding the machine were obviously not conducive to proper research, perhaps the humans could show him the machine’s intent. If he knew that, he could apply it to his notes and make enough sense of it so as not to be laughed from the Society's presentation floor. Grippik stayed ethereal and rode along with the machine. The human carried it throughout the large structure while Grippik watched other humans move in great waves before and after him. How many of them were there, anyway? Their reproduction rate was extraordinary, but he had no idea there could be so many of them with a purpose to be in the same place at the same time like this.

The human finally carried Grippik and the machine into the night air. Truth be told it'd been rather hot and stuffy in the machine, but if Grippik brought his physical body back from the ethers now he ran the risk of detection. He would have to suffer through. After several minutes, one of the humans’ transportation devices pulled up beside them. He'd always marveled at such machines, but they were simply far too complex for one gremlin alone to catalog and study. He shuddered when he thought of old Frippo, his great–grandfather and the gremlin heralded as one of the greatest minds the race had ever produced. Frippo had tried to study some of the internal works of those machines and just couldn’t help but turn himself material once inside. A great metal rod had squashed him into his raw materials in an instant. The gremlins would have to wait till the humans made a glass one before further study could be done safely.

The human carrying the machine got into the vehicle and it sped away. There were two other men in the contraption similar in appearance to the one that carried him. Their speech was quick, excited and very animated. They seemed to be arguing about something. The human that carried him shifted the machine on his lap and started to work the latches on it’s case. That’s when Grippik realized he'd neglected to reconnect the power supply. Not wanting to be seen as one of those engineers that destroyed frustrating technology, Grippik went back into the case and turned material. Tracing the lines back to the power supply he found the wire he'd disconnected, but it was too late. He could see thin strands of light creeping through some of the less–solid seams and knew the human would be looking at the blank diagnostic readout.

The human uttered what could only be a curse as he discovered the dead readout. Grippik shoved the wire back into the slot where he'd pulled it from, but the energy felt different than before. When he'd pulled the wire the energy had merely been stored in it, content to sit and hum with no real direction or purpose. Now though the energy sung through the line, completing the complex circuits that humans took great pleasure in forcing electricity to achieve. Grippik hurriedly climbed back through the works and became intangible just as he breached the top of the machine then stood on the readout and waited to hear the human laughter and congratulations as their machine came back to life.

But instead of the sounds of joy, he heard the humans making a great commotion. He looked up with invisible eyes and saw the human that held the machine turn as white as a unicorn, his mouth open and quivering. Could they see him? He looked down at his own body and made sure he was still immaterial and caught sight of the readout. Grippik watched as the last few numeral symbols flickered away on their countdown. There was only one symbol left and it was changing almost as fast as he could recognize them.


The mortal world suddenly turned into the sun. Grippik's sensitive ears picked up the hum of the electricity and the chemical smell almost instantly. He frowned and stayed in place as the speeding vehicle suddenly erupted in flames and noise. In his immaterial form the explosion couldn’t harm him, so Grippik elected to stay in the heart of the inferno for later inclusion in his notes. He would have to find another machine to work with for his presentation at the Society. He simply couldn’t use this one. It would be the same as a dozen other reports from dozens of his other colleagues. Just one more reverse–engineering project gone wrong.


“In our top story, a car exploded on the bypass just outside of JFK airport late last night. The driver and two passengers were found dead in the wreckage. Formal identification has not been made but according to sources one of the passengers may have been Mushaif Ossalami, a known terrorist that has spent nearly a decade on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list. Airport security cameras and passenger lists indicate that Ossalami, traveling under an assumed name, had just debarked from a flight originating in London…”

The television suddenly flickered then died in a shower of sparks from the rear cover. A man in a suit and tie flinched away from the sparks as the television mounted over his head at the airport gate uttered its last. He gathered his things quickly and moved several seats away. No point in alerting anyone. He was sure someone would be along to repair the machine soon enough. No matter how far technology went, it seemed that no one could ever get all the bugs out.

Thanks for reading, and, just write damn it... - Author

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