The Grande Complication by Christopher Reynaga

Published: in Writers of the Future Volume 29

Genre: speculative fiction – you could make a case for steampunk possibly, since it has the right setting

Length: 22 pages

Setting: London, probably early 1900s/late 1800s

Interest: It was published in the 2014 Campbellian Anthology

Summary: Neil is being dragged off to the orphanage when suddenly the world stops. There’s only a single man, Mr. Harrison, walking through the train station. His job is to fix the World Clock, and anything that falls out of time (like Neil) is usually important for fixing the Clock. The World Clock, and therefore time, is breaking down and Mr. Harrison doesn’t know why. He opens a portal into the workings of the clock and sets about looking to fix it. Unfortunately, the jam is in a space Mr. Harrison can’t reach. He sends Neil up to eliminate the jam, but watch out for the grasshopper-like chronophages. They eat parts of the clock. Turns out the clockmakers have been putting their own works into the World Clock, and those are the parts that are failing.

Final thoughts: A haunting little story that I really enjoyed. It sucked me right in and made me want to keep reading. What’s wrong with the World Clock? How can be stop the evil chronophages from eating parts of the clock? What’s Neil’s role in fixing the Clock? Everything that falls out has a role, you just have to find it. Turns out, Neil’s very good at breaking things. Mr. Harrison can’t figure out how that’s going to be useful, but it ultimately is. Turns out the chronophages aren’t evil, and Mr. Harrison had it all wrong. They were just trying to return the clock to its original, unadulterated design. Neil is able to see that design and knows just what to break for maximum damage to the manmade “repairs”.

Title comes from: The Grande Complication was the central mechanism that drove the World Clock. It was also where the gears were jammed in this particular stoppage.

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