This Monstrous Thing - Mackenzi Lee

PROLOGUE

My brother’s heart was heavy in my hands.

The screws along the soldered edges flashed as the candlelight flickered, and I checked one last time to be certain the mainspring was fastened tight. It was smaller than I had imagined a heart would be, all those cogs locked together into a knot barely the size of my fist, but when I laid it in its place between the exposed gears in Oliver’s open chest, it fit precisely, the final piece of the puzzle of teeth and bolts I had been laboring over all night.

He wasn’t broken anymore. But he was still dead.

I slid forward onto my knees and let go a breath so deep it made my lungs ache. Below me, the inner workings of the clock tower hung still and silent. The gears had been unmoving for years, though tonight the pendulums swayed in the wind funneling from the jagged hole in the clock face. When I looked through it, I could follow the path the Rhone River cut across Geneva, past the city walls, and all the way to the lake, where the starlight was fading into milky dawn along the horizon.

When we dug up Oliver’s body, it had seemed fitting to bring him here, Dr. Geisler’s secret workshop in the clock tower where the resurrection work had begun, but now the whole thing felt stupid. And dangerous. I kept waiting for the police to swarm in—they’d kept a close watch on this place since Geisler’s arrest—or for someone to discover us, to walk in and spoil it all. I kept waiting for Oliver to sit up and open his eyes like nothing had happened. As though by simply being in this place I could reach out and pull his soul back from where it had landed when he’d crashed through the clock face and plunged.

“Alasdair.”

I looked up. Mary was kneeling on the other side of Oliver’s body, her face still spattered with cemetery dirt. We were a sight, the pair of us, Mary with her muddy dress and wild hair, me with the knees torn out of my trousers, braces unfastened, and my shirt smeared with blood. We looked mad, Mary and I, exactly the sort of people who would be digging up corpses and resurrecting them in a clock tower. I felt a bit mad in that moment.

Mary held out the pulse gloves and I took them, our fingers brushing for a heartbeat. She already had the plates charged, and when I pulled the laces tight around my wrists, I could feel their current thrumming inside me, fuzzy and electric like a second heartbeat that started in my hands.

“Alasdair.” She said my name again, so softly it sounded like a prayer. “Are you going to do it?”

I took a breath and closed my eyes.

When I remembered my brother, it would always be with his face bright and his gaze sharp. I would remember the days of being wild-haired boys together, of running in his shadow, of the hundred different ways he’d taught me to be brave and loyal and kind. Of falling asleep on his shoulder, and holding on to his sleeve in every strange new city we landed in. Of hunting with him in Lapland, skating the canals together in Amsterdam, watching him sneak away to visit the forbidden corners of Paris, and the nights he let me come along.

It would not be watching him take his last breath two nights before, already more corpse than man as he lay collapsed and bleeding in the velvet darkness on the banks of the Rhone.

I wouldn’t remember the night