[Where some of Eile's nature is revealed more fully; and where nuance means everything. Many deep thanks to Harald for some much needed guidance with this piece.]
Mouse does what he is told. He's precise and well oiled. His little gears tick-tock as he goes about his business, seeing to every detail within his purview. He's been here the longest, with Aimee close behind. He's become more and more like his prison, more mechanical and wound up with each passing moment.
Mouse's little eyes click at me, blinking an inquiry or brushing away an offense. It's hard to be sure with him. His mannerisms are tough to interpret, and his feelings are rarely his own. He's become an agent of the Throne; Her voracity has eaten almost the whole of him. My tendencies and talents are often lost on Mouse, and yet I continue in either amusement or petulance; I'm never sure which.
Terrance and I are talking in the middle of the room. Rena is propped up in the corner, quietly sleeping. Aimee is nowhere near, and neither is Clarice. It's my understanding that the rest of our Troupe have their own area. I assume Mouse checks on them as well.
Mouse nods his head in my direction, his neck whirring along with this head. I stride over to his post at the door. He murmurs something to me, his mechanical mouth clacking as the words whir out. I demur, moving my head in a negative fashion, and his response is to stammer, rattle and clank adamantly at me. I repeat my refusal, and take a moment to cock my head towards Rena, sleeping in the corner. I make a few gentle comments in Mouse's ear, talking slowly and directly. Mouse settles, and his noisy protests quiet into the sound of softly spinning gears.
I offer a few more words to Mouse and then head back to my conversation with Terrance. We talk of nothing important, carefully guarding ourselves of unchecked feeling or concern. As our discussion continues, we hear sounds coming from the corner. For quite a while, there’s an accusatory set of notes coming from Rena, pushing at Mouse with her strong sound and vibrant voice. Mouse persists, winding and whirring back at Rena. After some time, the tenor and tone of the sounds from the corner change.
I keep my composure as the little ticks, clicks and whirs escalate to buzzing, humming, and the sounds of springs in action. Behind the rhythmic staccato is an eerie wolfnote, the sounds of strings winding and descending, a squeak of rosin across strings, followed by a quick vibrato and then, after a long while, a duet. The ticking becomes a metronome; the strings begin to follow an unseen symphony, the odd music and machine working together.
The gears slowly begin to work faster, and the time in the music changes to a quicker beat. The tension of the two melds into a union of an unexpected chord, the pitch raising and the intensity gathering like clouds in a thunderstorm. Little bursts of steam start to escape from Mouse, and Rena is building a crescendo, her bridge bowing and heaving in time with Mouse. The metallic explosion and the long high C strike against each other in the quiet of the room, reverberating and echoing, very slightly discordant in the down beat.
Terrance has carefully been watching me throughout this concerto. I’ve been watching him as well, carefully looking for any movement, wrinkle or change in his stony face. Some of us are capricious and some are careful; yet we're always wary of Her presence. He’s much more like me than any of the rest, despite his appearance. His bulky, rocky masses are blunt, heavy and desperately grotesque. Each feature is turned and twisted in nearly unimaginable ways; coercing stares and gapes from those unfamiliar with his form.
Our hopes, watched and measured by that ever cool presence, are silent and obscured from the outside. I’ve seen a glimmer of desire in his rocky crag before, but I don’t think it’s for anything I understand. I catch it again now, as the orchestra pit and the conductor bid each other farewell. I haven’t understood Terrance’s interests before, but as I listen to Rena’s strings quivering, it clicks into place. I smell it, in the briefest of instants.
I incline my head, very slightly; knowing how dangerous this can be. Terrance slides back into his façade, his dark glassy features obscuring his face from me. This moment is enough, and I tilt my head down, gently raising my ears in a warning.
I hear Mouse banging the door closed, and I know that he’ll be back He does what he’s told.