Read Lily Marin - three short steampunk stories Online
Authors: Paul Kater
"I am grateful for you being as punctual as
ever, Miss Marin," he said as he helped her out of her coat.
It made Lily feel good that he was after all
aware of this.
First the doctor treated her to a cup of tea,
as he explained what procedure he was going to submit her to. "It
is not more than polite, of course, that you know what my plan is.
After listening to me, you can still decide whether you want to
proceed or not, of course."
The man told her about a special cream he had
developed. "It contains some elements that will be approved by the
medical commission soon, so that is nothing to worry about. The
cream will be rubbed on your throat. Then I shall use a special
lamp to project light onto your throat. This procedure might be
rather uncomfortable, as part of the lighting will have to happen
inside your mouth. Would you feel hindered by that?"
Lily calmly put down the cup of bone china
and considered the words. "How long would this have to be done, if
I may ask?"
"Oh, by all means," the doctor said. "The
lighting inside your mouth would be done three times, over a period
of one minute each time. You would have to keep the light inside
your mouth, but please do not worry, Miss Marin. Let me show
Doctor Drosselmeyer left the room for a few
minutes, and returned with a small contraption that looked like a
light bulb the size of a teaspoon on a short flexible brass tube.
"This is what you would keep between your teeth, Miss Marin." He
handed her the device.
Lily looked at it and decided this was not so
bad. She had eaten lollipops larger than that, but she did not tell
the doctor this. There were certain things a lady did not
"The light may be a bit alarming to you," the
doctor continued, "as it will change colours during the procedure.
This is however nothing to be worried about."
Lily felt safe with the doctor. He was very
careful with his work, and he was clearly very dedicated to
whatever he could do for her.
"The light," the doctor continued to explain,
"will be powered by the latest, state of the art power boxes, from
the well known company of Mr. Enderson."
Lily recognised the name from somewhere. With
the doctor placing his trust in them, this too had to be a good
thing. "When do you think we can begin the procedure, if you do not
mind me asking?" Lily was very anxious to get her voice treated so
she would be a great singer.
The man in the white coat smiled at her as he
arranged the light on his desk, next to the power box he had
pointed out. "Of course, I understand you are looking forward to
this, Miss Marin," he nodded, "but if you would like some more
Lily asked if this would be beneficial to the
treatment. As the doctor said that it would not make any
difference, she said she did not want to wait. Upon the doctor's
request she undid the high collar from her blouse so he could rub
her throat with the special cream he had told her about.
The cream felt very cool on her skin. Lily
sat as still as she could, so the doctor could work in peace. He
almost startled her as he said that she was allowed to breathe
normally. Lily coloured red; she had not noticed she had been
holding her breath.
"Now we have to wait for the cream to settle
on your skin," doctor Drosselmeyer said as he wiped his hands on a
fluffy white towel. "This will take a few minutes, Miss Marin. If
you feel anything that is uncomfortable, please tell me. In the
time we wait I shall prepare the table."
"Table?" Lily was so surprised by this that
she forgot all rules of etiquette and blurted out the word
Doctor Drosselmeyer, who had already started
walking away, stopped and turned. "Yes. Oh, I am sorry, I did not
explain that part, Miss Marin. The procedure should have the best
effect if you lie down. That will enable you to relax as much as
possible and should provide us with the best results. Which is what
we want, don't we?" Apparently he had not heard her bluntness.
Lily nodded. "It is, indeed, sir." She
watched as doctor Drosselmeyer worked on what looked like a kind of
bed that was in a far corner. At least that was better than a
table, she thought.
Her throat started itching. From the inside,
which was awkward as the cream was on the outside. She told the
doctor about it, who asked if the sensation was very bad. "No, not
very bad, but it feels strange so I thought I would tell you."
"Good, good, I am satisfied with this, Miss
Marin," the doctor said as he turned back to the bed that was a
Suddenly the doctor rushed to the desk and
picked up a clock. He shook his head, mumbled something and then he
invited her to lie down on the table.
Lily, wondering why he shook his head, then
noticed the leather straps on metal chains that hung from the bed.
"Excuse me, sir, but do you think these are necessary?"
"These are merely a precaution, Miss Marin,"
the doctor assured her. "It is imperative that you remain lying
still, so a few supports for that should be in place."
It struck her as odd to call these straps
'supports', but the doctor was the expert in this field, she told
herself once more, so she lay down and let him secure her arms. And
her legs. That worried her slightly, as the man was touching her
ankles during that. And he was a doctor, yes, but still... As she
wanted to make a slight comment about that, she noticed that, for
some reason, she could not speak anymore. Could it be that the
cream was not so innocent as it had looked? As the doctor had
As she tried to talk, the doctor smiled at
her. "Good, good, Miss Marin, move your jaws, so you can hold the
light in your mouth more easily in a little while. We're going to
do the first minute soon." He walked off, out of Lily's angle of
The young woman, strapped to the table,
started to worry slightly. How could she tell this man that she
could not speak? She could not move her hands nor her legs, so she
had no way to write something on a note for him. As she was trying
to think of something, doctor Drosselmeyer came back, holding the
light in one hand and the power box in the other. He had connected
the two together.
"Now, Miss Marin, if you would be so kind to
open your mouth," he asked with a polite look. "No, please keep it
open, do not pretend you are a little goldfish, Miss Marin." Doctor
Drosselmeyer chuckled at his joke.
As Lily tried to force a sound from her
throat, the doctor saw one moment that her mouth was open long
enough and he slipped the light between her teeth. The presence of
the strange object in her mouth startled her and she had to use all
her self-control not to bite down on it. The rate of her heartbeat
went up as she tried to calm down.
"Now, Miss Marin, just relax," the doctor
said. "We will commence the first minute of light treatment -
As he said 'now', Lily heard a click. At
first nothing seemed to happen. Then a faint blue light crawled
over her upper lip and lit up her nose. She was so surprised by the
unexpected colour that she lay still, watching it. Before she knew
it, the click was there again and the light faded.
"Wonderful!" the doctor exclaimed, "you did
wonderful, Miss Marin. Now open again, so I can take the light
out... very good."
Lily sensed a strange tingling feeling in her
throat. Very deep inside it. She had to cough and felt ashamed that
she could not cover her mouth. So unladylike! She gladly accepted
the drink of water the doctor offered her, and when she thanked him
there actually was a squeak coming from her throat. So it was not
all bad, her voice was coming back!
The doctor fussed over her, made sure she was
comfortable on the table she was strapped to, and checked the cream
on her throat. All seemed to be fine, and he did not comment on her
Suddenly he was there again with the light.
Lily, a little more confident this time, opened her mouth
voluntarily and let him put the light in. Before the click there
were some rattling sounds and then the blue light appeared again.
Lily wondered how her cheeks would look with all that light from
the inside, when she heard a few more rattles. The light became
orange and then an awkward feeling went through her whole body,
something she had never before experienced.
It was like an itch, but it wasn't precisely
that. She seemed to vibrate everywhere at the same time, while her
muscles seemed to stop reacting to her wishes. She was subjected to
the slight jolts that they performed on their own accord, while the
light glowed brighter and brighter. Its reflection now gleamed from
the metal tube that came from her mouth, which had not happened
during the first session. Shocked, Lily realised that she was
rationally following the strange procedure while she should be
The orange light faded quickly. She opened
her mouth without being asked and the small bulb disappeared. Lily
waited, with closed eyes, until the shaking of her body would stop,
which eventually happened.
"Oh dear," said doctor Drosselmeyer. "I think
we are shaken up a little, aren't we, Miss Marin?" The chuckle
Only when Lily was certain all the tremors
had left her, she slowly nodded. Her eyelids were heavy like the
rest of her body. What a strange thing, she thought, for something
that was only meant for her throat. After taking a deep breath, she
tried to speak. She asked for water. It came out as if her words
were being mauled by a grinding stone, but at least she could speak
The doctor helped her drink again and checked
her throat, her eyes and her pulse. "You are just fine, Miss
"Will I be able to sing?" she asked. The
doctor could not understand her words at first, she had to repeat
them a few times.
"Oh, certainly, certainly," he nodded, "the
voice is a delicate instrument, and we are treating it in a way it
is not used to, Miss Marin. This coarseness is a matter of time,
you will see and you will hear."
"How much time?" Lily cracked. She knew she
was not very polite, but she did not want to hear the rasp that was
her own voice now.
"A few hours at the most, Miss Marin." The
doctor did not seem to mind her terseness. "Are you feeling
Lily started telling him again, with
considerable difficulty, about the shaking she had felt. As she
spoke, a strange dizziness came over her. She rested her head back
on the table, closed her eyes and hoped that the nauseating feeling
would quickly pass. Alas, it did nothing of the kind. On the
The young woman's body went rigid, all her
muscles seemed to be pulled tight from somewhere. She couldn't even
breathe anymore, as an invisible band around her ribs began to
squeeze all air from her lungs. Lily panicked, but could not do
anything about it, not even cry out for help. Balls of light
started a slow and nauseating dance before her eyes as pain coursed
through her very veins, pushed along by the irregular beating of
Her body protested against the air
deprivation by bringing a thundering roar to her ears which invoked
even more pain. Lily desperately wished to lose consciousness, so
this agony would end. Even death crossed her mind as a welcome
Suddenly everything was gone. The pain, the
noise, the stiff muscles. Slowly Lily raised her hand and touched
her forehead. Something cold touched her cheek; she opened her eyes
to see what it was and stared at a short chain, dangling from a
leather strap on her wrist.
"Doctor?" she asked, looking around in the
room. The office was empty. The orange light coming in through the
windows told Lily that the day was coming to an end. But the good
doctor could impossibly have left her there, alone, bound to the
Lily looked at her other hand. The leather
strap was still on her wrist, and chained to the table. She lifted
her arm and pulled. It felt strange. She pulled a little more and
the chain broke with a loud snap. Confused, Lily sat up and stared
at the dangling chains. Then, slowly, she undid the buckles.
"I am probably dreaming," she told herself.
"I can't break metal chains like that." In a sudden impulse Lily
pulled up her knees.
The chains on the straps that were on her
ankles suffered a similar snapping fate as the ones on her wrists.
After taking off these straps also, she swung her legs over the
side of the table and grabbed hold. A wave of dizziness washed over
her. It was so violent that she had to lay down again, waiting for
the feeling to go away.
After some time, Lily had no idea how much
but the receding sunlight still came in through the window, she
heard the click of a lock in a door. Carefully she turned her head,
fighting against the ghastly sensation in her head. The door to the
doctor's office did not open.
"You are going mad, woman," she muttered to
herself. Then there was another click. And again the door to the
office remained shut. "See, you have clickings in your head." She
hardly noticed that her voice was almost back to normal.
Curiously, as this one had sounded so much
louder, Lily gazed at the door again. And this time it opened and
the doctor came in. His eyes found her immediately.
"Oh, Miss Marin! You are awake! How
Lily wondered why he had to yell like he did.
"Could you please talk in a normal voice, Doctor Drosselmeyer? You
are hurting my ears." She hoped she was polite enough through her
The doctor frowned. "I am not speaking
loudly, Miss Marin," his voice boomed.
At least this time it was not so deafening
for Lily. "Thank you, sir," she said, touching her head.