“No Hand to Turn the Key by Carrie Cuinn tells the tale of an alternate future where humanity has been wiped out by Mythos horrors leaving only automatons behind to defend what remains of Earth’s human legacy. The result is a touching tale of sacrifice and hope in the face of overwhelming odds.” – Alan Loewen
The second reprint story in the new collection originally appeared in Steampunk Cthulhu: Mythos Terror in the Age of Steam, out from Chaosium in 2014. It was actually one of the first Mythos stories I wrote, and is an example of what I like best when writing Lovecraft-inspired work: playing at the edges of what came before me, exploring the long-term effects of the Old Ones, with characters you wouldn’t expect.
Want to know a secret? It’s set on the UPenn campus (in my favorite building, Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center) and mostly in my favorite place, the 6th floor. That’s home to the Kislak Center for Special Collections and Rare Books.
The story begins after all hope had been lost…
The University didn’t have many buildings to choose from. She’d spent time in the Downtown division, where troopers could sit in a 10th story windows and pick off intruders with ease, but having been promoted to defend a more delicate area, she was also forced to do more work. The tallest building on the quad was the New Library, so she headed up the large gray steps toward the wood-paneled doors long-gone construction units had rigged together when the original glass one was busted, decades before. Her heavy armor weighed on her as she moved herself up each worn piece of concrete but there wasn’t time to rest. There was barely time to wind.
Past a pair of dim-witted sentries and into the lift she’d held her back straight and her head high, but alone in the box she finally allowed herself to slump against the wall. Deftly undoing the multitude of fastenings on her coat, she slipped one hand inside and found her windup key – an ornate cog slowly untwisting against her otherwise plain chest. She gently moved her fingers across its intricately engraved surface, feeling the motion of the cog as it clicked down.
The lift slowed at a floor lower than the one she’d been aiming for, and suddenly her moment of privacy ended under the gaze of a male she didn’t know. His eyes widened, taking in the scene.
“I’m sorry,” he said quietly. “I can wait for the next one.” He dropped his gaze.
“No, of course not,” she replied. “Don’t waste the energy. This one is already going up.”
He nodded, entered the box, and turned to face the closing doors, still looking down at the floor.
She realized too late that she had left her hand inside her jacket, fingers idly fondling her chest.
I’m running out of time to pay off what I owe so I can register for Fall, so please, if you can contribute today. I can take contributions via PayPal here (Anything sent this way is still eligible for the same rewards, and I add it to the total at GoFundMe so everyone can see where we are). If you’d like, you can use the GoFundMe instead.