“When was the last time you saw Henry Marsh?”
Henry Marsh… Henry Marsh… Henry Marsh
Gil hurried down the streets, black buckled boots splashing in puddles that glistened with oil from the drippings of various cogs that turned the signs hanging above shops. His cabby hat was pulled down as much as he could over his eyes, flattening his charcoal black hair beneath it. Henry Marsh… Henry Marsh… The name seemed to be whispered in every shadowy corner of the street he ran along. His hands gripped at the heavy parcel wrapped in brown paper under his arms. If anyone knew he carried a book it would be the gallows for him. The cold of the autumn air bit at the tips of his fingers not covered by his fingerless gloves.
“Watch out! Darn urchin!” A peddler yelled at him as he narrowly avoided the cart. “Rude brat,” spat the man when Gil didn’t even manage a brief apology.
Breathless he reached an old shop door and he yanked on the door handle, the shop bell ringing as he came inside; the warmth of the gas-lamp lit room greeting him. Steely grey eyes flicked around at the objects cast in dim golden light. The walls were filled with gadgets and gizmos, as well as strange oddities that Gil had never seen before. Swallowing the young lad stepped forward, wary of his surroundings and clutching the book tighter.
“Excuse me?” He called out, stepping forward he ventured further into the shop. “Professor Higgins?” Gil made it to the dusty shop counter and looked around, there was only a bell on the counter. Reaching his hand out, he pressed his palm down on it. Nothing. Gil frowned but before he could hit the bell again he heard a small clank and noticed a ball beginning to roll. Gil watched as the ball rolled down the metal bars, falling into a basket. Various wheels began to turn raising the basket up along the wall. Tipping at the top the ball continued down the narrow metal path. Through a crocodile’s mouth where it triggered another ball to being rolling. This one wound its way through the shop. Gadgets all beginning to turn and move as the ball set them off. Gil watched as the ball went down a corkscrew path through the rib cage of a skeleton. Finally, it rolled along a groove in the floor and Gil had to spread his feet to avoid getting in to its way. Spinning around he watched the ball go into what looked like a mouse-hole. Nothing happened. Gil frowned.
“AH!” The young boy nearly jumped out of his skin when a skeletal metal hand landed on his shoulder and he turned to look in to the magnified eyes of Professor Higgins.
“Gilbert!” The old man pulled up his goggles, his eyes returning to their normal size. “So good of you to drop by, I hadn’t been expecting you. What’s this you have?”
He was still trying to calm his heart, when he set the parcel on the counter. The professor reached out his mechanical hand and tugged on the string tying the paper shut. The wrapping fell away to reveal the gold lettering of a title pressed into the black leather binding.
The Journal of Henry P. Marsh
Professor Higgins gave a sharp inhale, “Where did you get this boy?” His long bony finger reached out to touch the embossed lettering. “Answer me.”
“A-A man. A man had it, he asked me to bring it to you.”
“What did he look like?”
Gilbert wasn’t use to the Professor’s voice being so sharp and he jumped, hesitating in his answer until the Professor demanded once more to know what he looked liked. “I-I couldn’t tell… he wore a cloak. He kept to the shadows.”
Professor Higgins was immediately covering the book up once more and turning to look around his shop of oddities. He made it to the door in two large strides, the deadbolt slid shut under his hand and he covered the peep-hole, with hurried movements he yanked down the blinds on the windows, a few odds and ends clattered to the floor as he did so. Whirling around to face Gilbert he hissed, “You must tell no one of this, do you hear boy? It is your life at stake if you do.” With a slack jaw Gilbert nodded a little, he wouldn’t tell a soul but his curiosity was piqued. What was in the journal left by Henry Marsh? He said nothing, only followed the professor, when motioned to, to the back of his shop; then up a flight of rickety slanted stairs to the professor’s workshop. Professor Higgins handed him a small brown sack, giving a reason to send the boy away he said, “I need this brought to Mrs. Peppersnitch.”
After Gilbert had left Professor Higgins made sure the door was securely locked behind him and every window to the outside world hidden, he was alone in dark of his shop. He hurried back to his workshop, locking himself in. His hands shook as he sat down in front of the book. Henry Marsh. “That bloody old fool,” Higgins muttered, “what has he gone and done this time?” He uncovered the book flipping it open to the end of the journal he read what was last written there.
My dear Higgins,
If you’re reading this, I’ve already gone. A series of unfortunate undertakings have led to my quick departure and I’m afraid I cannot explain it all. In this journal, you will find only pieces of my work – I have destroyed the last half of my life’s work afraid of what it might cause should this journal accidentally fall into the wrong hands.
With the information here though I trust you are intelligent enough to realize what I have succeeded in doing.
I trust you will keep it safe from the wrong hands. Pray for me friend for I fear that with this discovery my end is quickly approaching. Heed my warning, do not attempt to reproduce what I have done – the world is not yet ready for it.
Yours truly your dear companion,
Henry P. Marsh
Just a little something from a writing prompt I did and one day might turn into a bigger story! It’s not perfect, more of a draft but I hope you liked it!
Bonus: I am pretty sure this music was the one that went with the prompt that spurred this snippet.