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THREE HUNDRED WORD WRITING CHALLENGE #1 -- Victory for Boneman!

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Teresa Edgerton

Goblin Princess
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THE CHALLENGE: To write a story in 300 words or less

Inspired by the image provided below, and in the genre of Science Fiction, Fantasy, or other Speculative fiction

Only one entry per person

This thread will be closed until April 10 -- as soon as the thread is unlocked, you may post your story

Entries may be posted no later than April 30, 2011 at 11:59 pm GMT

Voting will close May 15, 2011 at 11:59 pm GMT
(unless moderators choose to make an extension based on the number of stories)

You do not have to enter a story to vote. In fact, we encourage all Chronicles members to read the stories and vote for their favorites.

One vote per person

For a further explanation of the rules see here http://www.sffchronicles.co.uk/forum/531184-rules-for-the-writing-challenges.html


THE MAGNIFICENT PRIZE: The Dignified Congratulations/Groveling Admiration of Your Peers
Three months of Glory and Adulation
Your story added to the 300 Word Challenge Roll of Honor


THIS QUARTER'S INSPIRATION:​





All stories copyright 2011 by their respective authors, who grant the Chronicles Network the non-exclusive right to publish them on this site​
 
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Gary Compton

I miss you, wor kid.
Joined
Jul 8, 2007
Messages
3,247
All right, someone is taking the Mick; I’ve been stuck up here for over one hundred years doing my job, lifting this stupid piece of gold metal. Up – down, up - down; every bloody hour, every sodding day, year in, year out.

It’s affecting my health, I’ve lost weight and feel terrible, but I can’t go to the doctors because I’m in charge of time. Imagine if I went home for a cookie and a cup of tea. The world would grind to a halt; no News at Ten; no trips down the pub for last orders, no going to bed for an early night. Life would be a nightmare.

Mind, I suppose it could have some advantages, you’d never be late; you couldn’t work 24/7. There’d be no extra time at the football, TV shows would never overrun. And at least I’d get to spend some time with my Uncle Boneman.

But sadly time will never stop, it goes on relentlessly, never looking back and always looking to the future. I just keep doing my job; day in, day out, come rain or shine, sleet or snow.

I wouldn’t mind really but them two idiots over there. Who do they think they are? I do all the work and they just stand there, never speaking and just being judgemental. Teacher boy stares at me all day, trying to put me down with his evil gaze. While the poof with the skirt adjusts his beard in the mirror; thinking he looks attractive.

He’s ugly – end of. He’s got hairy legs, fatty thighs and he’s got no knickers on you know. Everyone laughs when they look up. I heard a woman say the other day that she’d had bigger chipolatas with her Christmas dinner.

Anyway, must go, time beckons.
 

alchemist

Be pure. Be vigilant. Beware.
Joined
Sep 22, 2010
Messages
4,063
Location
Ireland
Time is of the essence


The siren tore Hodiny from restful peace, and dropped her into a living nightmare. Before the Novices could get out of their bunks, the door burst open and Master Sindel entered.

"Quickly!" he bellowed. "The Chronites have found us. Man the battlements. For the clock!"

"For the clock," they repeated, with a mixture of fear and confusion. Hodiny grabbed her warhammer and squeezed through the door before the others. The moonlit courtyard was packed with monks, most of them bearing weapons to the battlements.

"They are through the walls," a Master shouted.

Sindel pulled Hodiny back by the arm. "The courtyard is lost. Go to the tower, and I will hold them here." The look in his eyes told her he wasn't coming back.

"But, Master-"

"No. Protect the clock. Remember..." His voice faltered. "When you get there, remember the prophecy. The blood of innocents will preserve Time.”

She nodded. “I am ready for my sacrifice, Master.”

Screams erupted behind them. The malevolent, inhuman shapes of the Chronites were cutting a swathe through the crowd. Sindel charged a white bear and a skeleton, but was beheaded by a bronze statue’s sword.

Hodiny raced through the tower door and ordered the slaves to raise the drawbridge.
"Who is ClockMaster tonight?" she demanded.

"Orloj,” someone answered. “He's at the pendulum."

She raced up the stairs and into the mechanism chamber. Novices were barred from here, but right now, the rules didn't matter.

Hodiny gasped. Lined up around the wall were hundreds of shackled, pale children. Mechanised blades made precise incisions, dripping blood into the heart of the pendulum.

"No!" she screamed. The blood of innocents will preserve Time. Not her blood after all, but this; the abomination that nourished Time.

Hodiny drew back her warhammer and smashed the nearest wheel.
 

Susan Boulton

The storyteller
Joined
Mar 15, 2006
Messages
1,952
A Conversation.


"Listen to me small child. Unseen and unbidden I come. All I touch and change, but nothing touches or changes me. I was here, am here now and will be here. Listen well small child."

"Pray sir, tell who or what you are?"

"Listen to me young man. I saw you born, saw you grow and will see you age then pass from this life. All that has happened to you and all that will happen I know. For you mark your span in this world by me."

"You have many names then, sir, in many tongues. I have heard men curse your passing or dread your coming. I have heard them plead with you to stay your hand. To leave things unaltered, unchanged, but you never have sir, why not?"

"Listen to me man full grown. Would you wish the child sleeping now in your arms, always to be so? Not to grow and share the joys and sorrows of this life with you? For such would it be if I stayed my hand or altered my nature."

"Nay sir, I would not have that, I begin to understand you are as you have always been and must always be. That which is and we men mark your passing in many ways, but chiefly with our lives and those of our fathers and our children."

"So old man, you now know me for what and who I am?"

"Yes sir, you are, what you are. Pray excuse me; I must set my clock."


(Bit short only 257 words)
 

Brev

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 16, 2011
Messages
333
Location
B'mth
[FONT=Verdana, sans-serif]Lord in waiting.[/FONT]


[FONT=Verdana, sans-serif]I watch the movement of the heavens, waiting, counting the passing aeons. While you, scurry, unknowing to the ticking timetable of my revenge.[/FONT]

[FONT=Verdana, sans-serif]Hours, weeks, mean little to me. I measure time on a far greater scale than you can comprehend.[/FONT]

[FONT=Verdana, sans-serif]Though I will admit, vast age does not always bring vast wisdom. I have made errors, believing you more capable than you are. You progress was not always as I had hoped, and intervention was required, to adhere to the timetable.[/FONT]

[FONT=Verdana, sans-serif]My brethren laughed when they abandoned me to the mercy of huge lizards here, on this desolate, unstable rock, but I knew then, I had time, all the time in your world.[/FONT]

[FONT=Verdana, sans-serif]The first intervention did not produce the desired results, you were strong, fierce even, but lacked the necessary intelligence. [/FONT]

[FONT=Verdana, sans-serif]Yes, I am building an army, but not to fight here.[/FONT]

[FONT=Verdana, sans-serif]Only through time and trial did I achieve the correct blend. The optimum mix of diversity and creativity, strength and lifespan. [/FONT]

[FONT=Verdana, sans-serif]War and disease will harden you, teach you, prepare you for what is to come.[/FONT]

[FONT=Verdana, sans-serif]Ironically perhaps, you are self absorbed, believing yourselves important, forgetting that you are mine, that you serve a greater purpose.[/FONT]

[FONT=Verdana, sans-serif]My purpose.[/FONT]

[FONT=Verdana, sans-serif]Thus, further intervention is needed, whispered insight which directs you progress, and keeps my revenge on time. [/FONT][FONT=Verdana, sans-serif]For the spiral arm has almost turned full circle, we are close to the source, close to the time when I will return in triumph.[/FONT]


[FONT=Verdana, sans-serif]So I watch and wait, counting the aeons, allowing you time, as your population grows and your technology develops. [/FONT]

[FONT=Verdana, sans-serif]Soon, my wonderful, genetically uplifted primates, it will be time to embrace the reason for your creation.[/FONT]

[FONT=Verdana, sans-serif]Soon I, Iovah, will be off this planet, this Earth, and it really will be a Godforsaken rock.[/FONT]
 

Talysia

Lady of Autumn
Joined
Oct 26, 2006
Messages
4,981
Location
Lincolnshire, UK
The Burdens of Divinity

There had always been war between the gods. Some said that they had forgotten the world of mortals in their attempts to repel their enemies; that they were too busy to answer prayers, or been destroyed long ago. Every time she heard such comments, she sighed sadly. Knowing the truth was a terrible burden.

Asamanay placed one hand on the face of the Celestial Clock. Ever since her sibling deities had left the mortal world, she had remained behind, alone. As a goddess of the Gate, a Greeter of Souls, she had vowed to stay and maintain the link between the realms, ensuring that the dead could still find their way to heaven or the hells. But in all that time, all those millennia, she had heard nothing.

She recalled the words her brother had said, before he’d left. “Our enemies must never find this world, Asamanay. If you do not hear from us by the time the stars fall into complete alignment, many thousands of years from now, then I want you to close the Gate. You can follow us, or you can stay here and watch the mortals, but the Gate must be closed.”

The Clock had been her own idea. She had created it in the centre of the largest city, on a building known to all, but it did not tell the time as humans knew it. The symbols on the face and the numbers on the dial moved to a different kind of mechanism: the movement of the stars, and on that fated day, the great bell would toll.

She knew that the day was approaching fast. The mortals had advanced in many ways since the time the gods walked the land, but were they ready to stand completely alone?

She made her choice.
 

Templar

Active Member
Joined
Apr 4, 2011
Messages
40
Location
London, innit.
The morning after.


Paul stared up at the clock. His eyes watered and his head hurt. They had arrived in Prague 3 days before, and hadn't stopped boozing since. The last 3 days had been a whirl of night-clubs, strippers and enough tequila to floor a regiment. The rest of his mates were still in the hotel, sleeping off a drunken stupor.
But for some reason Paul had laid awake all night, thinking about this clock. The image of it passed through his mind again and again. Even in bed he could feel the cobbles under his feet, the ache in his neck from looking up at the clock's face. Something had drawn him here, stopping him from sleeping, pestering his thoughts and eventually, at the break of dawn, dragging him out of bed to stare at it, a full half hour before its chime.
So here he stood, waiting.
A few drunken revellers, still heading home, shouted at him, but he did nothing. He just kept watching the clock. A street cleaner swept pointedly around him, trying to get to the discarded burger wrapper under his shoe, but Paul didn't move. He hadn't even noticed. He watched, mesmerised, as the hand slowly swung upwards.

Suddenly the clock struck the hour. The chimes played and the statues swung. Paul watched, fascinated, as Death jiggled his little dance, ringing his bell as he went. Then, half a second before it finished, Paul watched in horror as Death turned to look straight at him.

And winked.

Paul's heart stopped, his head snapped left and right, hoping to find someone, anyone, who may have seen it.

But the street was empty. Not a soul could be seen.

And so he looked back up at the clock and watched, as the hand slowly swung round again.




(I'd just like to explain something: I worked in Prague on a TV show called "Boozed up Brits Abroad". Yes, I am ashamed, but more to the point, every time I see the astronomical clock it makes me think about all the stag parties we had to hang around for 3 weeks. This may explain a lot about my little tale. Apart from that, I hope it is the kind of thing people were expecting for this competition.)
 
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mosaix

Shropshire, U.K.
Supporter
Joined
Feb 13, 2006
Messages
6,753
Location
Shropshire, U.K.
Time After Time.

“We have here your application for a slot on the Time Machine, Mr. Kaplan,” said Mullard. “Suppose you explain it to the committee in your own words?”

“Of course. My wife died four years ago and…”

“Let me stop you immediately, Mr. Kaplan,” said Blackman of the Timelines Studies Group. “There’s not the slightest chance that we’ll let you travel back in time to save your wife’s life.”

“That isn’t my intention, sir. My wife was a very shy, private woman. We had hardly spent a day apart in all the 47 years we were married. I persuaded her to take the trip, I thought it would do her good. The bus collided with a truck. She was thrown clear but died shortly afterwards.”

“So, the purpose of your application?”

“A policeman saw a stranger with her, talking, trying to hold her, comfort her. She would have hated it. I need to put that right - it was my fault. Also, there are some things that I never said.” He wiped one eye with the back of his hand.

Sheldon from Public Relations spoke. “Gentlemen, I know we normally reject such applications out of hand. But, in the light of potential funding cuts, showing some humanity by granting this application could bring us some useful publicity.”

###​

He knelt beside her on the grass. In the road emergency workers were frantically pulling survivors from the bus whilst others struggled keeping back onlookers.

He took her hand. Instinctively she pulled away, until she opened her eyes and saw his face.

“David? But how…?”

“Never mind,” he said cradling her head against him, “there are some things I need to say and we haven’t got long.”

From a distance a policeman saw him with her, talking, trying to hold her, comfort her.
 

Teresa Edgerton

Goblin Princess
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Nov 1, 2004
Messages
13,700
Location
California
A Fairytale — Ending

In the abandoned ballroom, moonlight touches the fabulous old clock. Below the clock, as if a part of it, stands the statue of a woman, and kneeling on the dusty floor, the prince. The woman was … is … his young wife.

Transformed through the spite of an envious love, she is marble save for the nightly interval of the midnight chimes. So brief a time — yet he is faithful and never fails her. Once, when deathly ill, he had servants carry him downstairs and place him at her feet. Otherwise he allows no other to enter the room.

(Gears grind.) The chimes ring out:

ONE. He thinks he sees a pulse at her wrist, as though her cold heart throbs.
The ardent boy of twenty is graying now at thirty,
But she is changeless, still sixteen.

TWO. A faint flush tints her skin.
He fears a slow death to their love, age undoing
What the wicked spell could not.
Perhaps, after all, that was the intent.

THREE. Slowly, she opens her eyes.
The pounding of his heart almost stops his breathing.
FOUR. Their fingers touch.
Hers are warmer now than his,
For sleeping in her marble she does not share his fear.

FIVE. She smiles.
Does she know how many years have passed?
SIX. Trembling, he wraps his fingers around hers.
How finely textured her skin.
SEVEN. He bows his head, weeping.
And how swiftly race the seconds.
EIGHT. (The clock shudders.) She bends down to kiss his brow.
Sweet agony to feel that kiss,
To know it must suffice.

NINE. Already, she grows cold.
Does she feel his falling tears?
TEN. Quickly now, she withdraws her hand.
But he would gladly endure a day,
Without food, without rest,
His hand imprisoned in hers.


ELEVEN!

The clockwork breaks; the spell shatters …
 

Perpetual Man

Tim James
Supporter
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Jun 13, 2006
Messages
6,266
Sychronicity

It may have been thanatophobia but Amoth the Great and Magnificent did not believe it; he was more than aware of his mortality, that it could come to an end in a heartbeat's time or in any number of years was his concern. The simple certainty was every moment brought him closer to that terminal conclusion.

So it was that he applied all his talents to his greatest achievement: the clock.

More than just a timepiece, it measured the seconds, minutes, hours, days, months; it kept track of the movement of the stars. Whatever destiny the celestial bodies may have predicted, it measured with infinite precision.

Linked to the heart of the chronometer was a thread of life from Amoth, aging as he aged, so that when he died the clock would stop.

But Amoth was not called the greatest wizard of his time for nothing. He allowed the device to run a year and a day. Then, when the sympathetic connection was at its greatest he stopped it. If the clock could not stop naturally, his life would not, could not end.

And there in his laboratory Death appeared, a skeletal figure that moved fluidly, carrying a scythe as black as night in his bone fingers.

To say Amoth was delighted was an understatement, "I've done it!" he proclaimed, "I have arrested death itself! Not only will my name be eternal, but so shall I!"

If it was possible for confusion to cross the blank skull it would have. "Arrested Death? I recognize not of what you verbalize. It is simple serendipity Amoth. Sometimes a clock is just a clock. I am here for you."

With the noise of a breath splitting the scythe fell through the air.

Amoth the great and magnificent fell dead.
 

MstrTal

Valeyard
Joined
Feb 10, 2011
Messages
622
[FONT=&quot]Remembrance

[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]After nearly seven centuries of existence Elsa is no stranger to the perfume of death and decay. It was an intimately familiar and all too vivid aspect of her reality. She had seen death come to hundreds of thousands, she has visited death on many occasions herself as a matter of course. No death and decay are no strangers, yet their cloying presence along the abandoned streets of Prague so early after sunset are nearly over powering. Even to one such as she whose lungs had long since ceased to function. [/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]As she stood among the nearly three quarters of a million dead and rotting corpses that occluded the streets she drew the darkness around her more firmly. Her gaze was riveted to the figure of[/FONT][FONT=&quot]מות [/FONT][FONT=&quot]as he struck the toll of the hour. She could not repress the ironic smile that twisted the corner of her mouth as she gazed upon the aged and brittle yellow bones covered in an artist’s glaze. Had there been any about to stand and admire the Orloj, any of the living, they would have merely considered the boney continence of [/FONT][FONT=&quot]מות[/FONT][FONT=&quot] a historic oddity. She however knew the truth; the boney effigy was in fact the remains of the fabricator of the beautiful astrolabe before which she stood. [/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]However looking to the east Elsa’s mirth fades. There barely discernible to even her heightened preternatural gaze the nocturnal horizon shows the faintest shimmering glimmer of green and blue light. Soon the wave will crest upon Prague and those who died under the teeth and desiccated claws of those who shambled before them will also rise. She hurries inside the Orloj to make ready. For when the dead rise even a seven hundred year old vampire is wise to be under lock and key. [/FONT]
 
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chrispenycate

resident pedantissimo
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Aug 10, 2005
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7,214
Location
West Sussex
A birth of cosmology​

"So," said the duke, looking at the construction rather than the master Horlogier, its creator, "thou claim’st this timepiece can never fall out of synchronisation with the cosmos, even if never rewound?"

"Not precisely, your grace. Since the two have been linked, should the clock be stopped –difficult, but not impossible – the seasons would cease changing, the sun stop, the stars immobilise. We only intended the star dome to power the clock, but a gearbox works both ways."

"So an anarchist with a crowbar…?"

"Crushed, with a twisted piece of iron, No, the Creator would not make it easy to spoil His work. But, for free will, He has not made it impossible.”

Too late to keep it secret. The duke knew the previous Emperor would have had this smashed to mark his death. And the heathen masses from the steppes would destroy it on a whim.

The clock had already worn his finances lean, a conclave would put him in debt for years, but he knew his responsibilities.

* * * * *​

“We have a lever, with the clock on the long end. Since we dursn’t change the clock, perhaps we can enlarge the universe. If the sun were further from the Earth, and huge, the crystal dome were even further away, and the stars, rather than simple points of light, were big as mountains, no matter how long the lever we’d never shift them.”

“But the Bible… ”

“God created the Heavens and the Earth; how much of each did He create? Natural philosophers will become insufferable when asked to teach this, but God, who we’ve striven in our self-importance to keep small, will be enlarged too. This artisans’ work will change His scale.

Belike it is a blessing, if not a comfortable one, and unarguably God’s will.”
 

Sapheron

Making no sense.
Joined
Nov 9, 2006
Messages
850
The Beginning of Time

I wandered to the north, and met mighty Bear. I said, “What measures of time do you need?”


Bear answered, “I must know the seasons. I eat the berries in spring, hunt the seals in summer, fish in autumn and sleep my deep sleep in winter.”



I nodded. “You are wise, Bear.”


My journey continued. I walked into the east and found myself in a meadow. I picked Daisy and asked it, “What measures of time do you need?”


“I open to drink light, but close to weather night,” sang Daisy.


“I shall remember,” I promised.


I travelled to the southern shore and stood among the waves. I asked of Shellfish that lived there, “What measure of time do you need?”


“I count the times of day, for the tide is fickle to me.”


“That is a hardship,” I admitted.


When I went east I found Foal beside a river. I asked it, “What measures of time do you need?”


“I need none. I wish only to grow till I can ford this river.”


“So you count the years,” I said. The horse snorted at me.


I travelled home to my people, and told them what I had learnt. I asked them if they needed a measure of time. My sister spoke; “I count the moons, once in each I bleed.”


I considered the five from whom I had heard. Then I got the men of the tribe to help, and raised a great circle of stones that could tell all that was needed. It took many years, and my travels had been long. As an old man, I chuckled, for I realised that in capturing time for the world, I had let it escape me.
 

goldenapples

of the sun
Joined
Feb 4, 2011
Messages
114
Location
Stories published Limbo, Eclectica, Silverthought
Twenty Four Twelves

One two three four five six seven eight nine ten eleven twelve
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The Spurring Platty

I am the wild blue yonder
Joined
Mar 10, 2011
Messages
202
Vanity

Tribute to the maker, the clock had never stopped.

A ram is equally steadfast.
Another creature wanders near.
Boundaries marked by snorts, hooves, and musk.

Territory and unwritten rules, unnoticed scents.
The bull shows no regard and chews the tender new grass beneath it.

Grey egrets move, inciting no interest.
An eldest twin sits at the pier and fishes, dreaming of a lost love.

Casts another nothing, causing each ripple.
Crabs scuttle underneath, foraging for what the afternoon tide left.

Light eases off.
Lions stir, eager to begin the night’s hunt.
A chance to feed and bond with young cubs.

Violets, irises, roses get ordered.
Tomorrow holds the promise of a royal wedding.
A young maiden lies restless in the night fearing the unknown.

Love is both real and …?
And what? Why was the choice not hers?
Will they find a balance in their time together?
What justice in life if they don’t?

She could only really plead in openness.
Doubts became scorpions, poisoning her mind. Pray they go away.

Surely a god is there though all response is unending silence.
Each prayer an arrow missing the mark, until sleep finally took her.

Carriages arrive, preening regals in convoys observing royal nuptials.
Wine casks opened and slaughtered goats feasted on.

A queen, unjust, arrives riding in unmatched splendor.
Guards shove, knocking over a youngest twin bearing a water pot.

Pulled into shore, carp easily snared.
Proclaimed an emperor’s fish but peasants also need to eat.

Another day’s cycle is done. Animals following seasons and tides.
We follow dials and paths, from babes to scholars to skeletons, remembering past, living in present, fearing and hoping to the future. We mark time, but in the end isn’t it time marking us?
 

Mouse

ejtett.weebly.com
Joined
Jun 2, 2006
Messages
9,975
Location
in your face
Ten to Death

There is a clock in our city that has been possessed by the devil. We can’t see him but we can feel he’s there. Evil radiates from the dial, bathing us in hate as we pass by.

Every day at noon, people are killed. There is a little figure beside the clock who rings a bell to let us know that it is time to stand and watch.

And we do watch. Every day we watch, because if we don’t we will be punished. We have been told of the ill fates and disease that will strike us down if we hide away.


Today at noon there are to be ten sacrifices. The devil will call to them, they will come forward from the crowd to bow before him, and he will turn them to dust.

In our city, they build churches from bones, but dust ends up on the soles of our boots. We tread our fellows into the ground and forget they ever existed.

We are frightened and we are cowards. In ten minutes, ten of us will die beneath the clock. And I will watch with everyone else and thank the devil if I’m not one of them.
 

Aun Doorback

Your place is magic
Joined
Mar 11, 2011
Messages
298
Location
In a parallel existence Aun works as an Asset mana
Grim Tidings
 
Horus Grim was the official timekeeper for the city. He was admirably compensated for his task. His wife was very proud.

Every morning he would, at sunrise, make his way to where the magnificent clock stood and check the time to set his watch.
The clock had been built years ago and had been designed with one face and so his job had been created to feed the hungry needs of the merchants who resided on the dark side of the city.
Each tinker, tailor and home furnisher paid him a penny to check his watch and adjust their clocks accordingly. The city lived and breathed with the heartbeat that Horus carried.
The story would have finished here, but for the vision Horus saw one summer’s dawn, when he reached the clock.
‘Look at death!’, he cried, but no-one else saw what he saw.
‘It’s mouldy bread’, his wife suggested, but the next day, a plague struck the city and the tinkers and tailors perished.

On the Sabbath, Horus spied three wise men upon the clock and dreamed that night of an elixir made from mud and honey.
Awake, he manufactured a barrelful of cure, which he sold to the city and all were saved.
‘I saw death upon the clock and death came to the City’, he told the major, when he was given the keys. ‘And when I viewed the Bible kings I became the saviour. I am rich, blessed and my wife is pregnant’
But returning home, he looked up at the clock and saw all parties there. Saviours and death.
Tick and tock.
’Come quickly’, a neighbour shouted. ‘Your wife’s sick’
Tick ~ he ran
Tock ~ he reached his beloved and kissed her fevered brow. ‘Life for you’, he smiled and fell down dead.
 

Anne Martin

incorrigible
Joined
Mar 30, 2011
Messages
269
Location
I'm a rabid writer. Once I start it's a frenetic j
Gemini Rising

"Beware the rising of the dark star in Gemini." The tramp's words had burned into Eamon's memory. He'd puzzled the meaning for months. The tramp had vanished as suddenly as he had appeared, startling him out of his lunchtime reverie on this same park bench. The Minster clock struck one. One more day to Gemini. Why did the church insist on an astrological clock, here of all places, complete with saints on the left and Death on the right?

Last week, Jake, a fellow technician, had taken a bullet through the head. Was Eamon next? Was it a coincidence that their project was code-named Dark Star? He surveyed the cloister, a few monks – most would be undercover security, some protecting him and others watching him for signs of treachery. His head would be in the crosshairs of at least one rifle. Had Jake broken? A mother played with her son, while his sister slept in her pram. An Asian girl sat opposite him reading the latest Grisham and munching on a sandwich – when she remembered it – while a pigeon circled her feet greedily. She was pretty. She reminded him of ... that was another painful memory.

Eamon was too distracted to read. What time did Gemini rise?

The woman tossed the rest of her sandwich to the birds and stood, "What time is it?" she asked, "I could never understand that damn clock."

Eamon checked his watch. "Just after one o'clock," he said, looking up, but she had disappeared, her book sitting open on the bench next to him. Inside the cover was written, "If you are lucky, you'll be dead before it begins."

It was a simple experiment: odds of failure four billion to one. Suddenly, Eamon didn't like those odds.
 

Exploder666

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=The Custodian=

Smoky purple strands lingered before the astronomical clock gesturing with intelligence toward the obelisk, bleating lights encoding an alien language amidst the particulate swirl. Four distinct creatures merging and separating, forming well defined clouds.

“Are you humans?”

Zítřek assembled himself, fleshy bubbles vaguely recognizable as human. He’d long ago stopped assuming facial details. The aliens’ lights flashed brightly as they surrounded Zítřek. He responded to the lights with his own solar glow, redirecting warmth toward the beings.

One of them drew attention toward the clock and a light protruded from its center, rolling to Zítřek’s mouth. “You want to know about the tower? This records and translates?”

The creature’s body greened momentarily.

“Last thing in the city hasn’t returned to the earth. It’s stopped at the exact moment I became the last man on the planet.”

Zítřek, for the first time in hundreds of years, molded a face and put real eyes on the clock tower.

“After the singularity, when we learned we could be light not grounded to planets, most of us flew to the stars to evolve and explore and create and destroy as we saw fit. Others have gone since, bored of this world. Some bored with life and flung themselves into the sun.”

Zítřek rubbed his face with fully realized hands and stretched muscles moments ago nonexistent. He felt his shoulders, his expanding chest, breath. He’d forgot how much he enjoyed the taught vehicle of a human body. “But I stayed, because I knew someday you’d come. The prodigal children will return, or their progeny. Someone needed to tell the tale of Planet Earth.” The creatures brightened and gathered before Zítřek, his back to the clock.

“I’ll keep my promise and you can tell your people that Zítřek Kustod is still back on Earth, telling stories.”
 

Parson

This world is not my home
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Hi Ho! Hi Ho! It’s Off to Work I Go

Time stood still. The planets froze in their orbits. Even death did not keep its appointed rounds. Beside the shaft that kept the hands on the clock a tiny head peeked out. She saw people who collapsed under their own weight whose eyes were unblinking in the sunlight. Nothing human was moving.

She smiled. Serves them right, she thought. Humans had the idea that time kept rolling on by itself. It didn’t. This world was really run by her, the clockwork mouse. When she stopped tending the clock, their time stopped. They thought time was measured by light, and orbits, and other weirdly scientific stuff. It made her laugh. All the while they had been doing their stuff, she had been doing hers. She kept time running.

No more! She wouldn’t keep the wheels of time running for them. It was her turn to have fun. It was supposed to be easy. The only things moving were the other mice. She knew where they would go. Together they would head for the club for music and dancing, and... whatever. She was ready for anything.

When she got to the club it was so disappointing. Without time there was no music; there was only noise. Without time there was no dancing; there was only shambling. Without time the “whatever” didn’t even succeed.

She sighed. Much to her consternation it was clear that unless she went back to work there would be no fun for her. Frustratingly, even if she went to work there would be no real fun for her.

Grumbling as she worked. She planned dark stories about the villainous Snow White. Snow White lived for singing and dancing. But not for long. Not after the clockwork mouse wrote her stories.
 
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