Thursday, December 6, 2007

Watching the Watchers

Father — or rather, the man whom I was raised to believe was my father — tried to instill in me the importance of journals and thorough note-keeping to any and all scientific endeavors. In that respect, I have failed the man. Here, I have made no entry since Monday, November 26th, 18--. A period during which much of note and consequence had transpired, and a period I do not presently have time or energy to recount. Instead, I will focus on yesterday, for I believe that yesterday bodes ill, indeed. I will note, though, that numerous residents of New Babbage have confirmed the "cuckoos'" interest in myself, and more alarmingly, in my daughter, Elenore. It began with a worried note from Miss Janus, and has been followed by warnings from such varied townspeople as Miss Alina Standish, Dr. Arkitekt Undercity, a young girl name of Pollyanna Nightfire, and the enterprising urchin Loki Eliot. The messages range from the vaguest of inquiries to a claim that the two twins wish to give myself and Elenore "a surprise."

Yesterday, after passing many hours over a particularly sticky chemistry problem at the Abney Park laboratory, I strolled south, past the Museum, on down to the Canal District and the skating rink across from Ruby Flanagan's public house. There I was greeted, once again, by the pale staring twins. Since I first mentioned them in my November 8th entry, the pair have made themselves increasing conspicuous, and I would daresay that, at this point, the majority of the city's populous has seen them at some point. Regardless, there they stood, on the avenue running north to south (bordering the skating rink on the west). They were on foot, without their usual bicycles. Determined to make some headway into this mystery, with Miss Paine at my side, I confronted them. It is difficult to convey in words the sense of dread they impart, even in one such as myself, who has encountered many dreadful beings. They spoke first.

"Good day," one said, and the other finished the salutation, "Professor."

I said that I'd been told that they wished with speak with me, and immediately one of the two informed me "That. Is. Mistaken. We. Not speak yet."

At this point, Miss Paine asked, " Do you mean to speak with her in the future, then?"

And, growing impatient and angry, I said something like, "I would have you know, though, I am watching you, and I have watched worse."

"We. Watch. Too." one of the cuckoos replied, but the other asked Miss Paine, "What is future?"

I told Artemisia to let the matter rest, that they would speak to me when they were ready and not before. But the twins continued to ask about the nature of the "future," inquiring as well what I might know of them. I replied, "I know that you, like me, are not of this world." They persisted with their question about the future, and I replied, "Time. Now. Before. Later," attempting to recreate something of their syntactic pattern. Their response? "All. Events. Are. There is no before later. Future is Before. Future is now." Fixing their stark, staring faces, I said, in all earnestness, "I have had times when I would tend to agree with you, yes. But there is a sort of...utility to the notion of future."

When I confronted them about Miss Beq's report that they'd said they wished to gift myself and Elenore with "a surprise," one of the two answered, ""Perhaps. Later." At my wit and patience's end, I left the two and walked across the skating rink to speak with young master Loki, busy assembling a fruit stand. The "cuckoos" stood on the street and stared at me for quite some time. Finally, I returned to the clock tower at the center of the rink and stared back at them. I was joined there by Dr. Undercity, and we spoke briefly of the twins. Soon, the two moved away north, towards Babbage Square. I confess I was relieved to see them go. The encounter could not have lasted for more than half an hour, start to finish, and yet it is certainly my longest meeting with them thus far.

A little later, Miss Paine and I were returning to Abney Park. As we passed the Imperial Theatre, Miss Paine paused and asked if I minded if she went inside. Though uncertain why anyone — and the two of us, least of all — should desire to enter that dreadful place, I nonetheless acquiesced and followed her down to the basement where the deactivated Eliot device is still stored, displayed for curious sightseers. And there, Miss Paine almost at once discovered an odd hemispherical mechanism, no larger than an orange. It pulsed softly, giving off a violet glow. Realizing at once its provenance, I told her we must go to the laboratory and search it thoroughly. I knew — and I cannot say how, anymore than I may explain how Miss Paine found the original device — that if a second mechanism was to be found in Abney Park, it would be in the loft where Elenore was born. And, indeed, I quickly located it beneath a stack of crates. I attempted to move the object, but discovered that it seemed to exist slightly out of phase with this reality, and I was unable to touch the thing, much less lift it from the floor. Later, Miss Paine discovered a third device, on the second level of Ogdred Weary House. The pattern here is undeniable, the associations with myself and Elenore, as well as the awful Porta Terrarum Device.

I have too many questions. Do the "cuckoos" merely seek some way of leaving this world? Are they merely stranded, as I once was? Or is some more diabolical force in back of their presence here? Most of all, I fear for Elenore's safety, and I am considering sending her away to be with Bellatrix Bracken in Steelhead until this crisis passes. Truthfully, I miss the now-disbanded League. Leon Susenko and the robotic reincarnation of Lucuis Sin are nowhere to be found. Little is seen of Gloriana Maertens. I have Miss Paine and the urchins. I have Miss Beq Janus, who seems almost as distrustful of me as she does of the twins, having accused me of knowing more of them than I have told. She is correct, of course, but I have learned from the episode with the Eliot Device and Jason Moriarty: few here are to be trusted, and panic is the likely result of shared truth. I am still seen as an outsider, and an odd one, at that, and I must not risk Elenore's well-being by drawing undo attention to myself. I cannot incite the sort of suspicion I suffered during the Eliot affair. I am very tired and will try to write more later.

Addendum: Shortly after dawn, Miss Paine located a fourth device, identical to the three mentioned above, in the Palaeozoic Museum. Is it the last?