Caverns of Science2 min read


Carrie Vaughn
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Her distant, ill-formed memories held tears
And shouting, thrown objects shattered,
Threats, and finally an ultimatum
That echoed for years
In the room that formed the boundaries of her world:
Tall brick walls
Tiny windows staring down
Watching as an epic unfolded
Within a cavern of science.

Coils, wires, spires of steel
Pumps and engines
A looping sphere
To mark the turning of the world
Crystals to focus light
Symbols to explicate secrets
Of the universe.
Lasers and an aerostat
With a range of leagues
Winged bombs with timers accurate to picoseconds
Tools of a new vision
Or an old madness
All effort directed to a purpose:
To change the world, one way or another.

She creeps under workbenches
Lurks in corners, shadows
Outside awareness
Outside his calculations.
Static flickers against skin
Oil burns the back of her throat
Her eyes are wide, wondering.
Spells of power weave under his touch.
She watches
And hopes
Dreams of a place
Within his machinations.
She can turn a dial or press a switch
Tie twine
Call out when the machinery begins to rise
Keep watch. Guard.
If only she were brave
Had courage to step out
Instead of simply wishing he would call on her.
He can destroy all he wants, if only he would notice
The one who holds doors open for him.
She brings him offerings,
To his mind, meals simply appear,
Delivered by devoted servants,
Of course they are devoted, how could they be otherwise?
That his work continues ought to be reward enough,
She hopes to persuade herself.

The electric river coruscates
A thousand rainbow lights
Arcing, cometary, coil to coil
Against a canvas of pregnant smoke.
A thousand missiles penetrate the sky
Trailing banners of greasy steam behind them.
A shout triumphant—

When the police came,
Beakers smashed, a thousand crystals fluttered
Steel toppled
Apparatus tangled.
As always she remained unseen
In a place under the stairs, safe
Where she could hide during the recriminations
The shouted ultimatums
(“I’ll take the girl, to punish you—” “You wouldn’t dare—”)
He left as Mother had
Dragged away
Shouting denials
Anger and terror
A distillation
Like an elixir dripping from a twisted tube
Birthed out of fire.
He had broken the world
(He’d had practice, after all)
Smashed it to pieces
And what was there to say?
(“You will not get away with this!”)
Glass from moon-like windows showered down
Rain came in.
Still unobserved,
She raised her hands to it
Tipped back her head, opened her mouth
To taste its acid edge.
This is the world, she thought,
And this… this is the future.


  • Carrie Vaughn

    Carrie Vaughn is the bestselling author of a series of novels about a werewolf named Kitty who hosts a talk radio advice show for the supernaturally disadvantaged. She’s also written stand-alone fantasy (Discord’s Apple, After the Golden Age), young adult (Voices of Dragons, Steel), and dozens of short stories. She’s a graduate of the Odyssey Fantasy Writing Workshop, and has a master’s degree in English literature. After surviving the mobile childhood of the typical Air Force brat, she’s managed to put down roots in Colorado. For more information, visit

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