Moreau-Walter Amalgamated

 

15 Plum St., Dandytown

 

Kazooland

BG Pottsworth was observant enough to see that the young woman he had been pulled through time and space to assist was dead tired, scared, and in need of a friend. Rather than drag her to the Cavalcadium office (an enormous campus of buildings in the center of Dandytown) right away, he decided to take her home. Drawing out his pocket watch and popping it open to reveal a round video screen he pressed the stem again and a female operator appeared and connected him to number 15 Plum Street, Dandytown. Lilah was too confused and tired to process any of what she saw and so decided to trust him. He spoke next to a man on the other end of the watch who became excited and agreeable to her being brought there. In what seemed like moments, the airship was slowing, circling a city and coming in for a landing. The spires, domes, rooftops, and clock towers looked like those in an old European city imagined by an insane person. Pottsworth ushered her off the ship and they bundled into a carriage drawn by gaunt, silver, automaton horses. Lilah started to get a second wind as she took in the sights and marvels around her. The carriage entered a quiet residential area, turned a few streets and stopped in front of a pink sandstone townhouse, three stories in height with the number 15 on the door. Pottsworth helped her out, wished her luck and explained that as a time traveler with no control over when or where he appeared, he was not sure if he would ever see her again, but was glad that he’d been able to help a descendant of his good friend. He tipped his pith helmet, she thanked him, and he exploded in a shower of sparks, on to his next adventure.

            The door to 15 Plum Street swung open and the automatic horse drawn carriage clipped away. Slowly, Lilah climbed the steps, stuck her head in the door and called hello. A thin wisp of what looked like smoke coalesced in the foyer and a disembodied voice welcomed her to the house. “Welcome home, Miss!” a man’s voice said, enthusiastically. “I am called Gilmore. I’ve got Mrs. Moreau-Walter’s room prepared for you and dinner will be served at six. Do you have any bags? I can run a bath for Miss if you like or would you prefer to rest first?” The smoke congealed into a tall, sepia-toned human male, though he was still a bit see-through. “I do apologize for my enthusiasm, Miss. It’s been so very, very long since I’ve been able to serve!” He was pleasant looking, grey-haired and appeared to be in his mid-fifties, wearing a stereotypical butler’s uniform of black and white. Lilah looked him up and down, stared through him at the stairs behind him, and fainted.

 

.x.

When she woke, Lilah was surprised to find herself in bed. The air was a little stale and dusty, but warm. She lay on her back covered with fine linens and a puffy down comforter on a king-size brass bed that creaked as she sat up and rubbed her eyes. Startled and confused, she scanned the room and saw her sneakers placed neatly by a low dressing table. That, its chair, two chests of drawers, and a huge armoire were all of a matching set of some kind of dark wood and everything had an early-twentieth century look to it. Two large windows on the right and in front of her were heavily draped but some sun shone through. To the left was a door and the thought of bolting for it flashed through her mind a split second before she noticed the tray of food.

            A silver tray stood on a folding stand at her bedside. Three small plates with glass domes over them held what looked like fruit, breads or pastries of some kind, and perhaps cheese. Though they had some semblance of what one would expect to see on a breakfast tray, there was something not quite normal about their appearance. A tall glass of water, a small vase with a delicate blue flower and a folded card propped up against it completed the tray. With trembling hands, remembering the last thing she saw before she lost consciousness, Lilah took the note and read it.

 

            “Miss Delilah, Welcome to 15 Plum Street! Bri. Gen. Pottsworth informed me that you were coming and did mention you’d never travelled to Kazooland. I’m afraid I was so excited to have a Moreau-Walter in the house again that I quite frightened you! I apologize most humbly. My name is Gilmore and I am your family’s servant and have been for the better part of seven decades. I am a ghost - a poltergeist to be exact, meaning that unlike the average specter, I am able to move tangible objects. Ghosts are not an uncommon sight in Kazooland, unlike on Earth, and there is a vibrant community of those like me here in Dandytown. Peter A Moreau-Walter II in 1955 set up a trust to maintain this house in perpetuity and to pay my salary and I have remained faithful to him all this while. I hope you find the house to your liking. I took the liberty to place you in Mrs. Moreau-Walter’s room. If you find it not to your liking, there are many other rooms in the house to choose from as all are sadly empty. When you are ready, simply call for me and I shall attend to your every need. I look forward to serving you! - Gilmore”

 

            Lilah folded the note again and paused, listening for any ghostly sounds and hearing none, tore into the breakfast tray, consuming every bite of food on it. When that was taken care of, she slipped out of bed and leaving her shoes behind, went to explore the house. To her relief, just outside her door was a large bathroom. Two staircases (one up, and across the hall, one down) and three doors (her room, the bath and two other bedrooms: one masculine and one childlike with two beds) framed a large, pentagonal hallway. She looked to the stairs that went up and decided it was too dark and creepy to investigate right away. The downstairs were wider and lighter so she padded down in her socks.

            At the base of the stairs a hall stretched before and behind her. On the eastern side, a bright sitting room with tall windows seemed a perfect place to have breakfast. Next, a library or study room full of dusty tomes and a handsome writing desk. On the western side was a parlour with some decoration, photos of the family, copies of images she recognized from home of the first three generations of the Moreau-Walter dynasty, plus some more unconventional, decidedly Kazooland-esque images of bizarre people with and without members of the family. The front door had an art-deco geometric design filled with blue and turquoise stained glass that seemed to glow in the sunlight. Across from the open, arched entryway of the parlor, on the eastern, street side of the house was a rather worn door. Though the carpet in the hall had surely been replaced, the parquet floor was worn between it and the threshold. Lilah turned the knob hesitantly, but then opened the door quickly, pushing a layer of dust up into the air and the sunlight streaming into the room. She gripped the door frame to keep from falling down as she took in the music room. Instrument cases were stacked neatly against the far wall. Music stands stood at the ready. Five, distinctly beautiful gramophones with their flower-like horns were staggered around the room and she could tell that the furniture was of the special reinforced variety her family had constructed to suit their metal men. Photographs adorned the walls of the Steam Man Band, some with family, some performing, and even a few with another mustachioed robot with glasses who she recognized as Hatchworth, the poor robot sealed away in the lowest level of manor house. The largest image of the three musicians hung above the tiled fireplace. The Jon, The Spine and Rabbit posed for the camera, grinning, holding a mandolin, a guitar and a small squeeze box. Lilah trembled, teared up and stood there for several minutes before she collected herself and entered the room. She sat down carefully on a blue velvet sofa and rubbed her face. “G-Gilmore?” she whispered.

            “Yes, Miss,” he replied, appearing in the doorway.

            “I have some bad news.” Lilah turned to face the spectral butler. She’d rarely had anyone but a robot look on her with such compassion and patience. “Please, come in and sit down. There’s something you have to know.” He bowed his head and she watched him closely as he crossed the room. He was slightly translucent, but not as much as he had been when she first saw him. His body and clothes were both sepia-toned but otherwise everything about him seemed normal, right down to the silver cufflinks and the shine on his shoes. He sat on a sturdy wingback chair across from her and gave her his full and silent attention. “The reason that I’m here…” she began softly and told him of how the robots met their end and how she had run away. She hoped he wouldn’t be disappointed that there would be no other family members coming to stay because they couldn’t know where she was. To say these facts aloud was deeply distressing to the young woman and Gilmore gently reassured her that he was pleased to have her and that he would do his best to make her residence comfortable. He changed the subject by suggesting that he tour her around the rest of the house. When he asked if she’d seen the basement yet, she dried her eyes, perked up and asked “basement? Is there a lab?”

            Oh, was there a lab. Three subterranean levels of lab space that had gone unused for decades, and though some of the technology was woefully outdated, other items thrilled her in their strangeness.

            “Oh,” Gilmore wondered when asked what a certain gadget was. “Perhaps these are items only found in Kazooland? As I recall, Cav members are not permitted to contaminate Earth with certain things.”

            “The Cav…” Lilah whispered as she handled a brass and wood device that looked a bit like a cross between an egg beater and a light bulb. “I think I need to join this thing.”