Prompt: This is a tale about xenophobia. The story is about a duchess who fears non-human beings. The effect of magic on technology is a major part of the story.
Source: Modified from seventhsanctum.com
The windows were all black, like the world had closed in around us. I sucked in a breath, bracing myself before I left the kitchen. I knew the main room would be loud, too-warm. It would be bustling with people who smelled like alcohol and hard labor; people with no sense of personal space. A room full of strangers.
“Get on with it,” the grating voice of the stove was flat, impatient.
I looked over at the appliance. “I’m going. Shut your door.”
The belligerent, metallic clang startled me as I turned away. Stupid stove – total jerk.
Tyrone called out as I entered the room, his dread swinging as he swayed with drink. “Duchess! Where’s my drink?”
I could feel the entire room staring my way. I ignored Tyrone completely. I delivered my drinks and left the room.
The stove greeted me with a petulant command – probably telling me I should interact with the customers – but I ignored it too. I went up the stairs, out to the roof. I could remember when the stove did not talk and when only regulars came to the tavern; before the magic had poisoned everything.
The sky was as black as the windows had suggested, lit only by the faint glows that marked streetlamps. I breathed out a coughing laugh. They had had to bolt the streetlamps to the street so that they would not walk away to pursue other things. One of them was missing – it had figured out how to detach itself and no one had seen it since. It was as warm outside as it was in the kitchen several floors below – heavy, putrid warmth.
I could remember when the sky was never darker than indigo blue and sometimes we could see the stars; before the furnaces had refused to hold the filth inside them and spewed it into the sky. They had called me duchess back then too – called me aloof and snotty – but I had been happy, or at the very least free from fear.
I looked out into the black, dirty sky. I saw strangers walking toward the tavern. Strangers. And bile rose in my throat. I could tell from their dress that they were from the Distant Country, where the magic had come from. And I was afraid.