A Story by Nina St. Moritz

This is a setting exercise I was doing for my senior project. Felt rather cheated that my mentor and teacher were the only ones who would read it, so I'm sharing it with all of you. <3 Its steampunk.


Emilie's eyes flew to the window, the view from which stole her breath. Below lay the sight that affected her more than any canyon vista, mountain panorama, or ocean portrait. Below lay her home, a place she had not seen in twenty years.

From this height, it all looked the same: the patchwork of the farmland fields bordered with hedges, the dark rash of the pine forests creeping towards the town, and the tan shadows of the town itself, stretching far in the setting sun. If she were looking for changes, she could see that if anything, the town seemed smaller, compressed, rather than outstretched and growing.

Emilie’s brows furrowed at this surprise.

A light on the control panel began to flash a throbbing red, alerting her to the necessity of beginning the landing sequence. As she threw a switch and released a capsule of air from the zeppelin, her stomach lurched with more than the jolt of the aircraft losing altitude. Unease squirmed through her at the thought of returning to the place she had scorned and abandoned so long ago.

All too soon, the land was rushing towards Emilie, and she towards the past. The zeppelin paused, and Emilie lost her breath. The pulsing light flashed once more and turned green. There was a small hiss as a pane of glass on the control panel slid away, baring the little white button that launched the rope ladder.

Now was the time to come home.

Taking a deep breath, Emilie pressed the button and fairly flew from the piloting room, down the twisting brass steps to the entry bay, coming to a breathless halt before the exterior hatch. The light beside the portal was glowing a welcome green, once more pushing her onward. Gritting her teeth and preparing herself to face her past, Emilie turned the big brass wheel and swung the door open to the dry prairie air.

Instantly, she realized that her past wouldn’t haunt her here anymore.

The little town of Hitspun Heights had changed.

Though the dirt road straight through the center of the place was still the same dull red, dusty and hot, the life it used to carry was gone. There were no chugging engines heading towards the general store, no shrieking, laughing children playing sticks and hoops. The boarded sidewalks lacked the strolling couples, scolding nannies, and gruff farmers. Only a few people remained on the streets, and there was no mirth or geniality about them. They hurried along their way, heads down and shoulders bent against some misfortune, paying no mind to the world around them. The majority of the breathing life that Emilie could see were the crows perched atop the steep roofs of the buildings, keeping dark vigil over the busiest district in Hitspun Heights.

Unable to comprehend this general lack of vitality, Emilie climbed down the rope ladder and off of her zeppelin in a daze. Her feet walked themselves down that wide dirt street, her eyes too busy taking in the sights on either side of her to give her mind time to think.

The first building at the edge of town was none other than the most important one: the Sheriff’s Office. The iron bars remained strong on the outside of all the windows, keeping the danger inside, and all signs of life inside with it. The only clue that the place hadn’t closed up for good was the feeble flickering of light that came from beneath the thick door.

Down from that was Doc’s clinic, never really busy at the best of times anyway, and appearing even more abandoned now. In fact, Emilie realized with a jolt of grief, there was a faded sign in the warped glass window declaring the office “Closed for Good.” The wooden deck and porch in front was dusty and unhealthy, as much a symbol of its emptiness as the sign, because Doc was meticulous in keeping the whole building clean.

Emilie kept to the center of the street, her heeled boots hitting the hard earth with each step, sending little billows of dust into the air. Even those didn’t last long, dead within moments. The red she had grown up with now seemed more sinister than warm.

Her heart twisting, Emilie began to run, chasing the memories of her past down the street, through the town, searching for hope in the last two buildings that would ever close up.

Right in the center of town, at the crossroads of the Easterwest and Northensouth roads, were two buildings that had been the epitome of life at Hitspun Heights. On one corner was a large, squat building with a wide front porch and steps opening on both streets. A faded sign above the two sets of doors declared the place to be Brokerson Brothers’ General Store.

Twenty years before, there was never a time when the store was empty and the street outside devoid of life. Brokerson Brothers was the only store in miles that stocked the essentials for life in these parts. Emilie remembered when her mother brought her from their homestead to go shopping and would leave her in the cart outside the store. Emilie would hop out and join whatever game the local boys were playing in the street, and more often than not, proved herself better at it. The general store had always been a symbol of her youth - days spent in the hot sun, having fun and being a carefree child.

What it had been then, it was no longer.

Though light still shone from the windows, the doors were shut against the evening night. The glass which had normally shined from its ritual cleaning and revealed tantalizing tastes of what could be found inside were now cloudy and empty. There were no carts or engines parked along the street in front, and no little boys tossed a ball in the dirt. Brokerson Brothers was more dead than any death Emilie had seen.

Across the corner was the second building that pulled life together from the farthest corners of Hitspun Heights. The Smashed Spyglass was like the general store in that it was the only seller of alcohol and betting games for miles around. Twenty years before, farmers would come to the Spyglass after a long day’s work in the harsh sun, ready to cool off and let out some steam. The young men of the area who had nothing to do found themselves at the Spyglass, wasting money and earning it back at the whim of luck. Women weren’t a rare breed at the Spyglass, either, and they were as respectable as any proper housewife, probably more so, as they were there to make sure their husbands and lovers got home in one piece. The music from the old grand piano filled the night, rippling past the swinging doors and out into the streets. When her dad and his sons came to the Spyglass and brought little Emilie with them, she would go out into the night and dance, either alone or with one of her brothers.

Of all her memories in Hitspun Heights, the Spyglass was the setting for some of her favorites.

In a haze, Emilie’s feet carried her over and up the steps to the building. Her boots clomped hollowly on the wooden planks, echoing like thumper-gun shots in the empty silence.

Even disregarding the lack of piano music, Emilie knew the place was empty as the rest of Hitspun Heights had become. There was no loud yelling, raucous cheers, or rowdy singing, the sounds of which had become a set characteristic of the Spyglass. The welcoming light that normally brightened the whole town was absent, nothing but foreboding shadows stretching out from the swinging doors, which hung lifeless and still.

A tear rolled down Emilie’s cheek as she pushed open a door, wincing at its dry squeak that she’d never heard before. Had it always squeaked like that, and she hadn’t noticed because of the noise from within? Or perhaps that squeak was the effect of abandonment and neglect, the emptiness that suddenly greeted Emilie’s tortured self when she entered the building.

The bar was empty, the bottles long run dry along the back table. The long mirror behind the bar was cracked, the glass missing in a couple corners. The chandeliers that dangled from the ceiling were dark, and trails of spider webs drifted only slightly on invisible currents she couldn’t feel.

At first glance, Emilie thought the place was empty as the street outside, and then a shadow at the back of the room shifted. A startled scream caught in Emilie’s throat, and she coughed instead as the figure got up from its seat at the piano and stepped into the flimsy sunlight that filtered in from the doors.

“Emi?” the figure croaked, his voice rough and uneven. “That you?”

Emilie couldn’t breathe at that voice, one that had followed her long after she’d left her past behind.

“Papa?” she whispered, her shoulders dropping. “What happened?”

He was silent for a long moment, his face invisible beneath the wide-brimmed hat on his head. And then he lifted a thin arm and pulled the hat away to reveal a thin, sallow complexion, grief-ridden grimace, and skeleton-sharp features. His eyes were the only bright thing about him, and they blazed like fires from hell, piercing her to the soul in a way that said everything more than words could.

He opened his arms to her, and Emilie rushed into that old embrace, her shoulders shaking as she sobbed and sobbed at this terrible homecoming.

“You left, Little Emi,” her dad said quietly, gently rubbing her back. “You left and took the soul of Hitspun with you.”

© 2013 Nina St. Moritz

My Review

Would you like to review this Story?
Login | Register

Request Read Request
Add to Library My Library
Subscribe Subscribe


Added on February 26, 2013
Last Updated on February 26, 2013
Tags: homecoming, home, story, setting, western, steampunk


Nina St. Moritz
Nina St. Moritz

Near San Bernadino, CA

25. Female. California. Wattpad: http://wattpad.com/MissPotionsOwl NaNoWriMo: http://nanowrimo.org/participants/Monstaccato Email: [email protected] more..