Jarrow stopped, looked up, and squinted as he noted an elegant purple sunset. Being used to this type of beauty, he put his head down, plunged his hands into his pockets and resumed walking, ignoring it. As he walked, he kicked any stone he could get his shoe under. Another long and unsuccessful day at the market. No one trusted his innovations. Well, to say they didn’t trust them was an understatement. They downright feared them. When they saw his gadgets, they didn’t see objects of practicality, fun or status, they simply saw machines, and they did not like machines. So his backpack contained all except one of product’s he’d ventured in with that morning. Miss Sashk was the only person he’d ever managed to sell anything to. She wasn’t afraid of trying new things. She loved his work, and normally bought something whenever she saw him. It was a wonder he still bothered to try and sell anything to anyone other than her. Today Miss Sashk bought a peculiar spider like gadget. It had a key on its back and when you wound it up, the gadget would create a path forward in the direction it was pointed. It could punch through buildings, slash through forest, and even redirect the flow of running water. It took Jarrow a long time to perfect it, so he was prouder of it than most his work. He didn’t have the faintest clue what Miss Sashk would use it for. She seemed more like the reserved type than the type that needed blow paths through buildings.
Jarrow felt some fitful movement against his back as his Sending woke up. It lazily unzipped his backpack from the inside before poking its pastel purple head out the top, yawning loudly right behind Jarrows left ear. Jarrow was used to this, and took no notice. That was until some of his gadgets started to fall out of his now open pack. He stopped abruptly, causing his Sending to lose its balance and fall straight out of the backpack and land with a soft pat on the grass amongst the fallen gadgets. Once it collected itself, it stamped its tiny circular feet and stared up at Jarrow. It looked like a queen whose throne had been torn out from under them and then repeatedly smacked over their head. Totally invalidated. The tiny creature huffed, crossed its arms and turned its back on Jarrow. Ignoring the tiny tantrum, Jarrow picked the gadgets up off the ground. Making a point to pick up those that had fallen closest to the Sending first. Then simply, walked away, leaving the Sending where it was. A few moments later, the Sending noticed that it was being ignored. It spun around, let out a panicked squeak and rushed to catch up with Jarrow. Once it caught up with him, it climbed up his trousers then clung to the front of his shirt. Jarrow casually lifted it up and placed it on top of his mechanical shoulder. It sat there, satisfied. In a shockingly short amount of time, it had completely forgotten about its tantrum, it even started to hum pleasantly in a sweet, feminine note. “Sorry for dropping you,” said Jarrow, before handing the Sending a plump grape. In response, the creature gently patted the nearest non-mechanical part of Jarrow it could reach with it's tiny hands. It split the grape in two before putting each part in its mouth and chewing loudly. It swallowed them both and a let out a satisfied sigh, followed by a quiet burp. All was forgiven. The pair rounded a bend and came upon what Jarrow proudly described as his ‘house’. It was located in the centre of the field of an old sporting stadium. The structure itself was made up mostly of plastic chairs, hundreds of them. Meticulously stacked and arranged. In the eyes of someone passing by, it would have looked like unburied garbage from Deadworld. To be avoided. Had they ventured inside they would have known in an instant why Jarrow was so proud of it. The first room of the house was a hive of activity. It was Jarrow’s main workroom. The ceiling was high and the many gaps between the chairs that made up the structure, allowed for hundreds of needles of the days dying light to pour in from every angle. What would first strike most people’s attentions, however, was the endless array of copper gadgets. They were stacked high on shelves, hung from the roof, zoomed through the air and skittered across the floor. All the while they hummed, ticked, whirled and steamed. As Jarrow strolled in, his Sending slipped from his shoulder and disappeared into the clutter, chirping happily. Jarrow himself, plunked down at his desk and began emptying the contents of his pack. He pulled out fascinating gadget after fascinating gadget. A mechanical frog that, when the draw string was pulled, would go and find help, handy if you’re in a spot of trouble. A nifty lantern that could generate light in any colour you choose. A delicately engraved and accented telescope that showed the user things from impossibly far away. He continued pulling out gadgets until he got to the bottom of his bag, where he found his most prized possession. This one wasn’t a gadget, but a book. Most people went their entire lives without ever seeing one. He took it with him to the market, for the same reason he slept with it. So he always knew exactly where it was. It was titled “The Last Artist” and the author was not recorded. He placed the book on the desk, and started leafing through it. It contained page after page of schematics for new gadgets. Jarrow had only managed to build a few of them, his arm was one, his telescope was another and so was the path builder he sold to Miss Sashk. Regardless, the concepts in the book built the foundation for the rest of his innovation. He was in the process of rethinking the products he took to the market. He was getting tired of his inventions being ignored. Earlier on his walk home he had resided himself to creating the plain low-tech stuff people so obviously preferred. However, even researching the topic bored Jarrow in the extreme. Before long, he was yawning uncontrollably and low grumble from his stomach gave him the perfect excuse to procrastinate. He fixed himself and his Sending a simple dinner of buttery green vegetables, fatty duck breast and crispy roasted potatoes. While he was eating, Jarrow watched his Sending munching away contentedly and wondered, not for the first time, if the creature really needed to eat or if it was just something it did because it liked it. Shortly after eating, he found himself automatically tucking The Last Artist under his arm as he climbed the spiralling copper staircase to his bedroom. Knowing he was defeated for the day, he took a few short steps, and let himself fall face first into bed fully clothed. Before his body even made contact with the comfortable arrangement, he was fast asleep. His Sending did something strange that night. It didn’t climb lazily into the plush nest Jarrow had built for it. Instead, it stood on a shelf above the human’s bed and waited, starring at the mouth of the staircase with unblinking golden eyes. Then, just before dawn, when the night was at its purest dark, they came. There were two of them. Their lanky bodies were so dark they formed a silhouette against the blackness of the night. Their faces were eyeless, their heads formless, and their hands were reaching, always reaching. With those hands they unmade anything they touched. Their thirst to destroy was unquenchable. They arrived in Jarrow’s workroom, silently unmaking everything they passed. They slid up the staircase, seemingly relishing in destroying it, one stair at a time, before they dripped upwards into Jarrows bedroom. In one swift motion, Jarrow’s Sending slipped down from the shelf, and focused its eyes on Jarrow’s sleeping form. A copper nozzle protruded from the creatures robe and sprayed a purple mist over the sleeping person’s face. His eyes snapped open. It was a mind shaking experience. He went from the deepest point in his sleep cycle, to his most alert waking state with only a handful of milliseconds in between. He knew this feeling although he had no idea from where. Everything that happened next, happened in mere seconds. The silhouettes swarmed forward, grabbing for the Jarrow and his book. Jarrow sat up, reached for an object and swung. The object, his telescope, was easily snatched and unmade by one of the dark creatures, its raw material cascading to the floor. Jarrow rolled out of bed, landing on his feet with his book in one hand, while his other, reached for the frog-like gadget located on the wardrobe beside him. The silhouettes continued moving toward Jarrow. A hand grazed past his bed, it melted into feathers and fabric. Another hand reached toward Jarrow and his Sending. Jarrow jumped backwards, just barely avoiding the hand, smashing into his wardrobe. Stunned, he dropped the book. One of the silhouettes lurched forward, grabbing for it hungrily. The book was a near immeasurably short amount of time away from being unmade when the small purple Sending attacked. It rose several feet into the air, standing on mechanical pincers that had grown from its lower back. More still, grew from its shoulders and it slammed them into the silhouette. Each time a pincer collided with a creature, it was unmade, however, the distraction gave Jarrow the time he needed to make a grab for his book. He managed to get a hold of it with the tips of the fingers on his mechanic arm. He pulled it close to his chest while his Sending continued its assault. He reached back again with his other hand and felt the frog-like gadget. He snatched it up. With an instinctive double check to confirm he had his book, he tilted up his head and smirked at the monsters before jumping out the window. His Sending stepped out after him. Jarrow landed on the soft grass outside, broken glass crashing down around him. His Sending attached itself to the front of his shirt before he began sprinting away. Every few steps he cautioned a look back. He couldn’t see them. Tucking his book under his arm, he wound up the mechanic frog and let it lose. It would know where to go. He ran for a long time. He kept running long after he was sure he wasn’t being followed, until eventually he went crashing through the ground and fell into someone’s private universe. Behind him, his cozy home was crushed into itself as if was never there at all.
By Curtis Campion