(Fiction) The Dunvluddich Furnace

Antuan pounded on the door with a fist, and it opened. I was led up for the first time and emerged into a vast open space. It had been described to me by its creator numerous times, but none of his bragging did it justice. It was enormous. I stood at the railing and looked over it all.

“First time here?” he asked.

I nodded.

“Welcome to the furnace.”

The Dunvluddich furnace was a kind of giant boiler named for its creator, Abraham Dunvluddich, a Lithuanian-American magician and scientist who was convinced there was a way to marry the “estranged sisters” as he called them: science and magic. Certainly he spent his life in search of the means—perpetual energy machines, incandescent orbs of healing, crystal transmitters to communicate with the other side, or across the globe. His designs were legion. As far as I know, none of them ever worked.

After he moved to America, where heresy was no more tolerated, only more weakly prosecuted, Dunvluddich began conducting experiments, of which I only heard tell later, when the two of us were neighbors in Everthorn Prison. His furnace, in which the mizzen were ensconced, had been built to contain a hellion, a being of fire, which Abraham had acquired from an Arab sheik in Tangiers, subdued inside a glass-and-ceramic vase. The beast tried to escape as soon as it was set free but was held in check by the iron sphere’s hermetic seal. I could still see the major constellations carved into the interior, along with the circle of the ecliptic. It was a mini universe. It kept magic in. But it also kept magic out, which made it a useful fortress.

Being made of hellfire, the hellion expanded to fill the furnace and so boiled a quantity of water carried in pipes, the most massive of which ran through the very center of the sphere. This was meant to produce steam for a turbine, but alas, the hellion could only rage for brief periods before it sputtered violently to a stop, its air intakes choked by the accumulating brimstone, which is porous and crumbly, like foam charcoal.

All of Abraham’s experiments suffered such infirmities, or so I learned through his ramblings. No matter his effort, it seemed there was always some peculiarity of the magic that made it impossible to harness industrially. While seeking a solution to the brimstone problem, and for reasons unknown, the enormous furnace ruptured. The damage was still visible in the upper corner, where the thick metal turned outward like shark’s teeth. That hole was now the primary ingress to the cavernous space, which had since been filled with makeshift structures: trailer siding, construction scaffolding, reclaimed wood, rope, and wire. It was a hanging city lit by strung lights.

Of course, in the conflagration that followed the explosion, the true nature of Dunvluddich’s experiments was revealed and he was sanctioned by The Masters upon threat of dispossession. He didn’t stop, of course. He moved instead to Chicago, where the hellion ultimately escaped from a less magnificent chamber and triggered the Great Fire of 1871. Abraham Dunvluddich was captured, tried, and convicted by a tribunal magique and subsequently imprisoned for life. By the time I met him, he’d been locked in a cell so long that he was both quite aged and quite mad. He had never stopped designing, however. The stone walls of his cell were covered in arcane engineering diagrams, one on top of the other: ghost antenna, magical dynamos, gears inscribed with pentagrams that were activated and inactivated as they ticked and turned inside concentric circles of runes, like an orrery.



a snippet from my forthcoming occult mystery, FEAST OF SHADOWS