A room full of mechanical toys can become quite devious in Mary Robinette Kowal's short story 'Clockwork Chickadee.'
Somewhere, somewhen there's a magical room full of clockwork toys. There's Clockwork Sparrow, flying around the ceiling on a string. There's Clockwork Scarab, sitting with his lotus. And there's the Clockwork Chickadee, who flaps her wings and pecks at the shelf.
Clockwork Sparrow tends to think a lot of himself. He is, of course, the only clockwork creature in the room who can actually fly. It may not be the sparrow who is clockwork, though, only the device on the ceiling that makes the bird fly when the boy winds it. Nevertheless, Clockwork Sparrow feels that he is special.
Being special can cause envy, though.
Clockwork Chickadee can't fly. Her wings flap, her head moves, but she sits solidly on the shelf where she is kept. Clockwork Chickadee does know a few things that Clockwork Sparrow doesn't, though.
Clockwork Chickadee knows Live Mouse.
Clockwork Chickadee knows that Live Mouse has the wind-up key.
And Clockwork Chickadee is very, very clever indeed.
Highs: The story starts out seeming like a simple retelling of a parable, but by the end turns into something completely different.
Lows: It's a very tight story, but it leaves me wanting more tales from this room.
Verdict: A tale unlike the others I've read from this author, available for free here on her website.
Further Reading: 'For Want of a Nail', 'Tanglefoot'