Things often begin when the clock is first set. Well, this is //the// clock: [[Great Grandfather]]. You've [[journeyed->your journey]] however long, however far to see it. Where are you going from here, do you know?
Do you know when and where the pendulum will [[stop]]?
Or are you merely [[along for the ride->forward]]?The way you came. Funny; the road is blocked off, now. Now it's dark- too dark to see much of anything. You peer back down the way anyway. [[What can you see?->Memory lane]]
You can stay here for as long as you want, looking back and getting nowhere new. Or maybe you want to go somewhere, see something new. Onward, forward.You keep down the road, straight and narrow.Double-click this passage to edit it.A one-way street. The light is strongest nearest where you stand, fading out to darkness the further back you look. [Familiar houses]<homes| line the laneside. Interspersed between them are [familiar buildings]<ohtheplacesyouknow|.
(click: ?homes)[(replace: ?homes)[The homes of your neighbors- current, old, or only half-forgotten-]]
(click: ?ohtheplacesyouknow)[(replace:?ohtheplacesyouknow)[your old office building, your old school, the park you used to visit on summer afternoons]]
You're tempted to walk back, look at them more closely. To sit on the rickety old swingset, or knock on your parents' door and tell them (what?)
...Instead, you read the roadsign: ''Do not enter. Go Back''
[[Jump the barrier->go down the lane]]
[[Stay and think]]
[[Go check the time->XII]]Screw the sign. You came up this way just a moment ago: how much could have changed in just a moment?
Looking around and forward (backward?) yet, you don't see any roadwork. The lane, in fact, is empty here tonight: just yourself, the darkened buildings, the silhouettes of memories. Maybe there's nothing else to see.
[[Go back to where you started->XII]]
[[Continue your stroll.]]You sit in the empty street, legs crossed, thinking. Reflecting, maybe. That's your call.
It's nice to hit pause and just gather your thoughts sometimes. You can spend who-knows-how-long in your own head.
But do be sure you [[mind the time.->XII]]You've seen no other cars out here tonight, but just in case, you make your way onto the sidewalk. Walk the same-old line over the same-old cracks, familiar beneath your feet.
The terrain you're walking changes several times without your notice. Your eyes look everywhere but the ground.
[[What do you see?]]Everything around you is translucent. The buildings past and on the pass are walls around your memories. You can look straight through them, now, and you can see right in.
The lobby is as grey as the outside, dimly lit and bland. And there's no ticket line: at least this theater doesn't waste your time (mouseover:"waste your time")[(~~although maybe you are~~)].
Instead, an [[usher]] stands near the theatre's entrance. They spot you instantly, and wave.
Or maybe not, on second thought. This sounds like a rerun, and you've got better things to see here.
You came out to see something ''new'', didn't you? [[The clock. You're here for the clock.->Great Grandfather]]This moment- now; the one you're in- can only last so long. You don't want to waste your ''[[here->XII]] and now'' caught up in ''back then''.Actors onstage play out the scenes before you. Most are only [[silhouettes]], but the one cast as yourself bears quite an eerie likeness.
You know the scene already, but still it manages to catch you by surprise. Perhaps you expected to watch the rerun of last night's adventures. Or maybe you wanted to view your life as a highlight reel.
Haven't you learned by now? Memory is never that kind. But your head is a bunch of video clips playing over each other a bit off time; strong memories are those that scream the loudest. Always the same few on a loop:
*[[Things left unsaid]]
*Things never begun
*Things left unfinished
*[[Things never fixed]]Onstage, the actors keep replaying the scene, like a video on loop, twisting and twisting the knife in you.
You cannot take it.
[[Maybe you just need to stop for air.]]
[["STOP!"]] You shout. There are clock towers, sure, but Great Grandfather is more of a clock [[monument->Look closer at the tower]]
A placard at the base of it reads:
"The pendulum swings to next ceaselessly, as though [[the past]] held enmity."
It is (current-time:). Well, that answers one of your questions.
[[Where is the moon?->the moon and sun]]With its four grey slab walls and pitch-black windows, the building recedes into the surrounding darkness. It would be invisible without the backlit glow from two dim spotlights.
The lights reveal a likely once-grand stairway, gone to dust, leading up to the front entrance. Above it hangs a printed banner: ''The Theater of Your Life''. (//Never seen a theater look so much like a prison,// you think.)
A poster, there below, reads: ''Still showing Last Night's Show''.
[[Enter the theater]]
[[Keep going]]The nearly faceless actors freeze midscene. Some stay still as statues, as the breath you're holding now without quite realizing. The actor-of-yourself, however, turns your way.
When they speak, clearly, it's like hearing your voice on a recording. "Is something wrong?"
Well, is there? You answer,
[["... Never mind. Show me a different scene."->what's playing]]
[["I don't know what it is, but...->something's off]]
"Nothing, nothing. I just need a minute."The stage becomes a whirlwind of romance.
Two lovers meet their senior year of high school. English class, Ms. Hartford, 7th period. A nervous boy, a quiet girl, both stricken with the same arrow... or so they both hoped. They did their Hamlet project together; rode in the same cart on the ferris wheel during their senior trip, just the two of them. Went off to the same college- a change of scenery- the promise of //something there// still in the air, a force left silent.
A classic romantic comedy, but this was one of your life stories. You know this play won't have a happy [[ending]]. Your brain cannot create new faces. You read that somewhere once - maybe right here, right now - or else you don't remember where. Every face you dream about is one you've seen before: up close, or in passing.
These actors are no different. Vague people with vague faces you've seen a million times before. [[It's hard to tell a friend from a stranger here->what's playing]].Call it devotion or obsession. It's always been your goal to watch the clock in person. You've gone through life picking the options that brought you in nearest proximity (click:"proximity")[... which, living on your salary, happened to be twelve hours by car.]
You aren't the first, by any means. The world itself revolves around those. turning gears.
That, or the opposite: the gears revolve around all of you. Different sects of the church will tell the stories differently. All anyone really knows for sure is that Great Grandfather has been here telling time for as long as there's been time to tell here. The backdrop may change, but the tower remains.
[[Time]] lives outside of [[his own plans]]. Great Grandfather has many faces; and each face has two clocks. One pair of them appears every so far up its body, a pattern holding true on all four sides. The one most visible to you displays the [[standard time->check the time]].
Another, smaller clock overlays it. It tracks the movement of [[the moon and sun]]. Both have retreated behind the clouds for now, so the clock is your only look behind the veil. [[Great Grandfather->Great Grandfather 2]] promises a full moon tonight.
You wish you could see [[the stars]].For such an ancient thing, the clock looks oddly modern. Four glass walls reveal innards of bronze clockwork that shift and spin in ever-perfect rhythm. (Thus far into forever, these gears show little sign of wear, of rust.)
But when you look up, you can't see where the structure ends. Its spire reaches higher than anything.(click:"anything")[(//Seriously.// Since mankind's inception, curious minds have been trying to measure Great Grandfather's height. It's why we invented the concept of length to begin with, which furthered us in everything but the initial goal. Then scientists thought inventing the airplane would be enough; it wasn't. Nor was the space shuttle. NASA Mission Horologus, sent to find the spiretop, has not been heard from in 27 years. An Irish newscaster once said of the tower: "Even Time Himself must not have seen the top of it.")]
Craning your neck upward, you can just barely see the spire's base: a mishmash of ancient lines into antique designs. It casts the barest shadow on the ground.
You lower your gaze to look Great Grandfather in the [[eyes->the face of the clock]]. Which gives him eternity to write his schedules, and equally long to keep track of them. You live by one of them, as do the rest of us. We are altogether the infinite pile.
Not that you'll ever get a viewing copy. Everyone works by [[an unknown deadline]] Some less pious sorts squander half their hours ignoring that tick, tick, tick. That lasts them to the midway point. Then goes the other half to their attempt to come to terms. The ticking grows steadily louder until they can hear nothing else-
(click: "nothing else-")[Then the face of the clock is the last face they'll see. And after that, the blackness.
[[As for the rest,]]]
They don't procrastinate. Instead, they pay him an early visit. Can't conquer a fear you don't look in the eyes.
If you see him on your own terms then, when Time comes for you, you can greet Him as a friend.
Today, you are among the brave. [[This is your pilgrimage->the trip]].The final scene. They get the set exactly right: red lockers that seemed much taller than they were lining the empty hall, posters for the senior prom tacked on them in blue tape. More of the pipes and wires.
And, of course, your best friend and yourself, hovering just outside the classroom. (click:"classroom.")[Just the two of you; the halls were too empty that day.]
[[What did you say?]]This is stupid. Whatever it was... it happened years ago. Plenty of time for the hurt to scab over. You shouldn't be able to feel it, now. You shouldn't feel the scar.
Time heals all wounds.
...But memory reopens them. And when it does, it [[makes you bleed]].The air in the theater is too heavy to be breathable. It smells like musk and dust and mothballs. You try to inhale anyway, and find yourself coughing it up.
//Outside, then,// you tell yourself. //The cold night air will clear your head.//
Rising to stand, you push up from the theater seat you'd sunken into and walk towards the [[exit...]]
You struggle against their grip, which must be iron-clad for how successful the attempt. Yet their fingers are weightless, pressureless.
"Come on, stay a little longer. Why not see [[the full show->sit back down]]?"
[[Stand your ground]]A moment's pause. Yet they remain still.
"Leaving here is... it's not that easy," they tell you.
And raise the brim of their cap to you. The shadow clears.
...Wait. You know that face. You wore it every day for years. That face is what used to be [[yours->ours and hours]] You watch your face break into its rueful grin. "Well, there's the door. Don't know that it'll do you any good, though."
They- well, you- step aside.
[[Ask what they mean by that->experience]]The other you sighs.
"...You should know by now, things never are as easy as just opening the door. We've already tried it who- knows-how-many times. And the most we've had to show for it is a few moment's peace between shifts. An intermission. Then the place just reels us back. Or have you [[forgotten]] even that?"
...They're right. There's more to be seen, here. More to understand.
If you watch things again- properly remember memory- maybe you'll be able to spot the problem. You return to your seat with new resolve to [[see through the shadows->what's playing]].Beneath the brimming shade of their cap, you cannot see the usher's face, cannot measure their expression.
You grit your teeth, gather the nerve to speak:
"Seriously.[[Just let me out]]."Something about them just catches your attention. They are nearly your height and build, and wear a familiar uniform. A red collared shirt buttoned diagonally; an open navy vest; a gold-plated name tag with nothing written on it. You wore the same thing back in high school, when you worked at the local chain cinema every Tuesday, Thursday, Friday night, checking tickets, stopping tweens from sneaking into adult flicks.
You didn't think employees at //real// theatres wore the same exact uniform, though. But then again, why wouldn't they?
The brim of an army-style cap conceals their face in shadow. For whatever reason, you're striken by the need to see their face. But adjusting your angle does nothing to brighten the image.
The usher clears their throat-//ahem//-and you blush. "...Right," you say. "Lead the way."
Their back to you, you follow the usher into the hall and take your sagging seat. Your gaze goes toward [[the stage->what's playing]].You haven't forgotten. Of course not. After all, you spent your teenage years in this theater, opening a door you could never keep to one side of.
Because something you saw on that stage kept drawing you back.
And it stll does, [[sometimes]]. But the past is just something you pass through now and then, now. Now, you have control. You have the choice to leave it be.
So long as you're feeling strong enough to push through [[the door]].You're back on the lane, brisk autumn air cutting through your thin windbreaker. Fresh air always refreshes you. So long as you're present enough to feel the wind, the forward-flowing breeze will take you where you need to be.
And that's not a spot you can find on this street.
Don't tell me you forgot about [[the clock->XII]]? After all, you spent the next eight months still second-guessing, still avoiding, gathering the nerve to put to words whatever hung between the two of you. And while you were waiting in the wing, a third-act challenger stole your place onstage, and swiftly stole your show.
Armed with your confession, you came back in the last scene to the sight of two lovers kissing. Then the curtains closed.
Love is [[never]] painless.''"No, you're not."''
But you were (click:"were")[(weren't you?)]. Maybe you just didn't the words out right. You could [[never]] get the words out.But the way is blocked. The usher stands in front of the door, the shadow across their face seeming darker than it had before.
You try to move past them, around them, but they mirror your movements effortlessly as a practiced partner.
You continue your fruitless tango until the usher breaks your pattern, going into to grab your wrist.
In a voice as grey as the theater, they tell you, [["No early exits."]]It gives without much force.
As you leave, you toss a few words back over your shoulder.
"You can't leave this theater because you're part of it. Just [[another memory.]]"This seems as good a place as any, you think to yourself. Lovely view ([[look up at that clock]]). Quiet. Undisturbed.
Perfect for [[what you need]] to do. Truth be told- to tell yourself the truth, for once- some long-since-buried part of you envies those actors up on stage.
So comfortable on a pedestal, so comfortable with all the eyes on them. They carry themselves as if the weight of your gaze on them were not a [[burden]].The stage transforms into a familiar space.
A large room, with three and a half walls, two of them mirrored. Children and teenagers in shapeless white uniforms run laps around the red-mat floors, barefoot. They swerve to avoid other students, running between punching bags and shelves of sparring gear.
It doesn't take you long to spot your twelve-year-old self jogging past, your baggy do-bok tied with a gold-stripe [[belt]].And, being a quiet person by nature, you never learned to bear the weight of people's stares. One set of unknown eyes on you would make you collapse from the pressure.
You'd once dreamed of being in your high school's improv troupe. Because yours was a brain that saw the strange connections between two unlike things before anyone else made sense of them. That would have been an asset in improv.
But-//like all the other tools at your disposal//, memory reminds you- you left that go unused. Sat by, and watched it [[rust]]. (I will connect this back to other scenes; perhaps you step in to play yourself at some point.)You used to love Tae Kwon Do. Truly. Or maybe it all came back to the embarassing crush you had on your instructor.There are clock towers, sure, but Great Grandfather is more of a clock [[monument->Look closer at the tower]]
A placard at the base of it reads:
"The pendulum swings to next ceaselessly, as though [[the past]] held enmity."
There is [[a bench->Take a seat?]] across from the pedestal. As must the Clockwinder himself. [[His wife]] lives among them, after all. Most everyone comes out to see Great Grandfather here at least once. How they spend the time varies. Some bring their whole families there and stage a [[photo shoot]]. Some come to [[capture the image]] in their own way. Some come to [[reflect]].
Some come just to [[sit]].
Personal peace is subjective.
(But this is discouraged. Most visitors to the Clock tend not to want anyone, or anything, shattering their quiet.(click: "quiet.")[//Have you ever heard an eight-person family with a dog trying to stage family pictures at a monument? I'd be more impressed if you ''hadn't''.//]
Besides, who needs a snapshot of the clock? You can see it from anywhere. The spyre pokes out from behind the horizon line. If you come to visit Great Grandfather, you're here to do [[more->peace]] than see it.Still seated, you pry your backpack straps off your shoulders and spin the bag around so you can reach the zipper. Opening it, you pull out your sketchbook, a set of pencils.
There should still be a few hours of sunlight left for you to [[work]]. Double-click this passage to edit it.They call him the [[Clockwinder]]. Over the years, he has been conflated with his machine, his endless, ever-growing clock. Yet he is not merely his Clock. He is Great Grandfather's own father; its architect and its keeper. Act 1, Scene 1 begins just as you'd remembered it. The stage morphs into your ninth grade biology classroom: once-white walls aged into beige, long lab tables, no ceiling (click:"ceiling")[(your school was under renovations that year, so most of the rooms revealed visible pipes, the wires holding up the lights)].
You yourself are [[nowhere]] to be seen.Onstage, your two best friends pick you for their science fair project group. Get hold of the teacher's clipboard, and [[sign your name away]].Ah, yes. The ''fucking'' science project. Your whole class had to do the same one; you were all contributing to a research study at the local university. It involved working with some obscure breed of plants that required constant watering. So all the groups drew up schedules, planned their time around caring for those finicky little sprouts.
You, however- perhaps because [[you had not found Time yet]]- constantly [[missed the mark]]. //Well//, you reassured yourself, //you were only 13, 14//. Most kids of that age had not found Him yet. Kids don't need to find Time for things; their time to them feels endless. And nobody cares about Him until they realize his countdown has begun without their notice.
You noticed it earlier than most, however. Back then you hadn't the words to tell anyone what it was.[[You've never had the words->sign your name away]].9th grade was the year you began to fall apart. When you noticed the countdown on your back, felt the weight of it bear down on you, you couldn't quite function the same way you used to. The actor playing yourself shows the transformation: bright eyes turn flat, bones begin to show through skin, their walk becomes stooped and their gaze is cast down. Describing the feeling to your friends did very little; they nodded along with you, and then asked what you were looking at.
You weren't sure how adults got anything done, having to bear[[that burden]].And so //you// became the burden for your group to bear. They were nice enough about it to your face, but complained about it, about you, to anybody within earshot whenever you weren't.
You had enough informants that it made you paranoid. The project launched a war: you vs. them, an effort into which you and they recruited as many allies as you could, through gossip, through tears, through [[vaguely-worded posts on social media]].
By the end of the year, you were hardly speaking to each other except through mediators. And that was how you said [[it]]. The words themselves bear no repeating (click:"repeating")[...well, they did, but you did not repeat them. It was a friend serving as mediator who performed the copy-paste.] You never said them aloud, yourself- only through a private online chat. You might have stopped yourself had you only heard the sound of them above that whisper.
But your partner heard it as a scream. From there, you could not ever [[take it back->Rejection]] You were on your knees, with your gaze lowered to the tiles instead of meeting hers. Tears streamed down your cheeks, made it hard to breath, to speak. Even now, watching the recap, you're straining to hear your own lines. All you can discern is, "I'm sorry".
But you remember her words [[perfectly.->what she said]]Your head is a bunch of video clips playing over each other, each one a bit off time. Regrets scream louder at you than the rest.
Memory is never kind.
So you must be veering somewhere outside of it, now. But you've seen the play; you know what needs to be fixed. //This time I'll [[get it right->Rejection2]]// You sigh.
"Listen, it was a good performance. Well-acted, well-staged, you got the look down pat... really nice work. It definitely struck a chord with me- just not a chord I wanted hit, if that makes sense."
Onstage, your actor frowns. "No, I get it. Sometimes this one gets a little bit raw for me, too. Sorry about that, director.
"Is there something about the scene you wanted us to [[fix->the repair crew-4]]?"Final scene. They get the set exactly right: red lockers that seemed much taller than they were lining the empty hall, posters for the senior prom tacked on them in blue tape. More of the pipes and wires.
And, of course, your best friend and yourself hovering just outside the classroom. (click:"classroom.")[The halls were too empty that day... and now you remember [[why->classroom2]].]
[[What did you say?->Whatdid2say?]]This happened ''during'' class- seventh period, in fact- when she had English and you had math, which you'd skipped in order to find her and apologize. Came into her classroom, crying. You had that teacher (and were a teacher's pet), so he let the both of you go outside, as [[everybody stared]].You were on your knees, with your gaze lowered to the tiles instead of meeting hers. Your knuckles were clenched white. Tears streamed down your cheeks, made it hard to breath, to speak. Even now, watching the recap, you're straining to hear your own lines. Seems your actor cannot cry and speak discernably at once (which, to be fair, you can't do either). Your friend looks as confused as you feel.
From your seat, you yell out,''Cut''!"(click:"''Cut''")[Your actor rises to their feet, looks to you for feedback.
[["Easy on the tears."]]
[["Do you know your line?"]]]Not the most tactful way to apologize, putting her on the spot like that. She later would accuse you of just wanting the attention and, looking back, you certainly see why. Maybe theater really ''was'' your calling.
Would the whole thing have gone better with [[a change of scenery]]?The actors have been waiting patiently for your instruction. Finally you tell them, "The setting is all wrong. Let's try something different."
With that, you snap your fingers.
Each one rearranges the stage before you. It goes from the Washington monument, to her house, to the girl's locker room, [[to the Clock]], to the biology classroom, to the amuseument park you both went to for middle school graduation, everywhere and back before you settle on the only thing that [[seems to fit]]...Great Grandfather came up in conversation more than once (how could it not?). You'd been sitting beside her in history class- 7th grade, Mr. Curtin's class- when somebody asked him who'd built the clock. "Only Time will tell," Mr. Curtain said, "if He's the one who built it. But so far, the Clockwinder's not spilling his [[secrets]]."But that memory breaks quickly.
Now you're standing at the head of the Lane again, back behind the construction signs. You check the street sign: it reads "Arrow Way". A brown tourist sign, pointing the direction of the clock, hangs below it.
The Theater, the school, the playground... now those are nowhere in sight. You don't know if you miss them or you feel lighter without them. Shrugging it off, you return to [[the clock->Great Grandfather]]. As usual, the two of you were doodling through class on the same sheet of lined paper. You'd started out drawing flowers and turned them into cogs and gears. She kept drawing animals. After Mr. Curtain's answer, she wrote you this message, in heart-dotted cursive: ''OMG, quit trying to be clever for not knowing the answer. Just tell him ask Ms. Deisel (click:"Ms. Deisel")[(your science teacher)] instead.'' At least back then, you had agreed. Then you both went to playing Tic-Tac-Toe.
You still chuckle at it in [[hindsight]].//I miss you.// The thought strikes you from nowhere, startles you. After all, you haven't spoken to her since that failed apology. A memory that stings- still does, and always will.
So you've tried to avoid thinking about it. About her. About the costs of your self-centeredness. You've memorized the failure but never came to terms with the grief. You never reconciled the happy stories with that final scene.
All you can hope for [[now]] is that you've learned the lesson."She clearly can't hear what you're saying. Anybody would have trouble when you're crying that much. If you play it more calmly, she'll understand your point; then she //has// to agree." //Makes as much sense as anything, doesn't it?//
As you speak, the actor nods nods nods their head. //Uh-huh. Okay. Great idea.// What they finally say is, "[[I can do that]]."They parrot back to you some generic variation of "I'm sorry". It might or might not be what you really said; you're not sure how creative 9th-grade you was. In any case, you could've done better.
"Try this instead." You offer up a couple different lines:
*[["I'm sorry. I didn't mean the things I said."->sorry 1]]
*[["I'm sorry. I should've helped more with the project."->sorry 2]]
*[["I'm sorry. I was going through a hard time."->sorry 3]]
*[[Go through the whole four-step formula->sorry 4]]
The actors resume their places. This time, the tears and the panting get downplayed as subtle. You can hear the actor clearly, now. And [[what do they say]]? "I was just... angry," you told her. "So I went for whatever would sound the most extreme. But I didn't mean the words as I said them. Really."
For good measure, you look her in the eyes, for perhaps the first time that day. "Really. Then why not tell me to go die to my face?"
What could you have done? Admit you were a [[coward]]? Or a [[liar]]?"It was my fault for not getting the graphs done. I know I had the flu, but I should've been done before that. Really, it's my bad."
Your friend looks incredulous. "Do you really think this was all about the stupid graphs?"
[[No]]Which should have been obvious from your costuming alone. After all, she'd seen your walk become stooped. She'd seen the bones pressing up against your skin. She'd seen all the colors you wear turn to black.
And she'd heard all your talk about the clock.
But all your friend said was, [["And you think I wasn't?"->what she said 4]] A post you read online once broke down the perfect apology into parts. Maybe it's equally generic but, hey, at least it's complete. You paraphrase them for the actor. "Sounds good to me," they tell you. "Like this?"
When you're satisfied with the final product, you proceed onto [[take two]].You were on your knees, with your gaze lowered to the tiles instead of meeting hers. Your knuckles were clenched white. Your hair was falling all over your face and little wisps of it were getting drenched by all the tears streaming down your cheeks. They made it hard to breath, to speak. Even now, watching the recap, you're straining to hear the lines, but you know them by heart: "I'm so, so sorry. All of this was my fault; I shouldn't have gotten so caught up in myself. You both deserved better. It won't happen again."
Your friend remains [[impassive->what she said 4]]. ''Look, you're not sorry. You're sorry I heard it. (click:"heard it.")[You're sorry for yourself, that this whole thing blew up in your face.](click:"face.")[You're sorry you have to deal with the consequences.](click:"consequences.")[ And, sorry, but you do. Because I don't forgive you, and I won't.](click:"won't.")[Just don't talk to me again, [[alright]]"?]A brief chuckle. "Is that what you need? You've been here a mere moment, haven't you? And how long has the moment been?"
The voice is nearby. You feel the burst of its breath hit your right ear. Yet nobody is next to you when you turn to check.
Still, you hear their voice, and feel its rust. "Ah, well. What do I care if you get [[weighed down]]?"Double-click this passage to edit it.Would this whole fight have occured in a time before it? Do gossip and tears do enough damage on their own without the H-bomb?
An endless question becomes another [[burden->that burden]].Double-click this passage to edit it....The hallway. You could have pulled her out another time-not during class, for instance- but there was nowhere else you could've done it. Nothing felt right.
"Start it off in the lunchroom," you tell the actors. "Then leave from there instead."
Your wish is their [[command]].You had not been sitting with her at lunch for some time, so you had to work your way across the cafeteria to do it- stage left to stage right. A moment to ask for her time. She exchanges a look with Sara from your math class before leaving the cafeteria with you. What was there to do except stay silent?
She looks down on you. You're still on the ground. [[Pathetic->what she said 4]].You were one, weren't you? You meant every word of it. Back then you hadn't quite realized what makes the world turn is the turning of the Clock. Back then it revolved around you. So a person who betrayed your trust might as well be dead.
Your actor's expression through their tears betrays the Mona Lisa. They stay [[silent->what she said 4]].What else could it have been? If you hadn't messed up on the graphs in the first place, your partners would never have badmouthed you to start with. You'd never have been caught up in the gossip war. You'd have never said the things you said.
Onstage, your actor looks confused. You didn't give them a line for this, and clearly, they're not trained in improv, either. All they can manage is, "[[I'm sorry]]."It wasn't. But you didn't know what it was about. Not then, and perhaps not even now.
Onstage, your actor stays silent. Your friend sighs. "How can you not see the problem when it's [[right in front of you->what she said 4]]?"Your friend sighs. "It was never about the project to begin with! It was about you. The way you were acting, and everything you said. [[How is it you still don't get it?->what she said 4]]."And so you didn't.
Nothing is changed. You can [[let the curtain fall]], or [[try again.->Whatdid2say?]]The actors have faded back into silhouettes. They stand in line onstage, and take a final bow. "We'll be here every night up through forever."
You applaud politely and say [[nothing]] as the tattered curtain closes.Exactly what you thought you heard.
Your friend's actor looks somewhere between amused and pissed. "Alright, let's all just repeat our lines, [[why don't we->what she said]]?"Time goes by many names, more epithet than anything substantial. ''[[Father Time]]''.''[[The Timekeeper]]''.''[[The One-Eyed Seer]]'' ''[[The Day Reaper]]''.
Legend says his real name has been lost. But then, it was only ever known in [[whispers->your journey]].You're here to see Great Grandfather, true. But you're also here to see [[Him->Time]]. If you can find him, anyway. The only way to do so is to fall under his trance.
Where else to start the search but [[zero->XII]]?Well, he has one child, anyway: the patron saint of Knowledge. The Truthseeker. //Their// real name still exists in written records: [[Solon]]. A child who threw their father's name away.
The two of them are no longer on [[speaking terms->Clockwinder]].That one is [[self explanatory->Clockwinder]]. This one is ironic at best. He was a better seer before a mortal took out His eye with the point of a spear, greatly reducing His field of vision. Even he cannot read the stars now.
Referencing the injury will not earn you [[His->Clockwinder]] favor. He reaps the day [[to court the night->Clockwinder]]. Synonymous with ''the Starchaser''. (They are themself a former mortal, risen to the heavens for decoding the stars in the sky. Certain sects of the Church are devoted to following their example, hoping to attain enlightenment through knowledge. None have succeeded; there are too many stars now.
Personally, you don't much see a point in [[that endeavor->Father Time]].)Well, his [[ex]] wife.
Lady Nova, known primarily as the Starscribe. Like Him, she is a recordkeeper, but one whose mind works far ahead of ours, and in a time outside of anything he knows. What she sees are the grander plans, and where we fall in them.
In her untidy scrawl, she [[writes our fates]] across the galaxies. You might even find yours, if you could [[see the stars->the moon and sun]].In Sunday school, you asked your teacher what tool [[she->His wife]] uses to write it. He spent a while pondering the question before eventually answering, "...A fabric pen."One of its faces is [[cracked]] on the right.Time is always there beside you. The only way to see Him is to be aware of him. To be aware of everything this moment, right here, right now, has to [[offer]]. You can almost imagine the Clockwinder's voice in your ear, a voice like rust: [["You know it's rude to stare."->what you need]]Like most things, this is far easier said than done. Your meditation teacher was one of those people who called it easy. Go figure.
But how exactly did she say it? (click:"But how exactly did she say it?")[ ["A moment to breath, and to feel your breath.
A moment to think- let the thought pass with the next.
A moment to see, and another to reflect.
A final moment to bring Him back.
[[A moment's all you have- but it only takes a moment.]]"]By //your// count, it would take three. But on this night, you feel you've got all the time you need.
So[[shut your eyes]].Moment, moment, moment. (click:"moment.")[You've never been certain what a moment's measure is. It is as vague and as useless a unit as broader time itself.]
It shouldn't take you this long- you don't think- to find your breath.
[[But you'll stick with it.]]After all, you came here for this purpose, and this purpose only. No need to be distracted.
The rhythm of your breath is one you know. Soon enough, you can play along its [[symphony again]].The autumn air is brisk, and goes down cold when you inhale. Chills run down your throat to the pit of your stomach, the cage of your chest.
//It's goddamn cold out here tonight,//you [[think]].
[[Let the thought blow past.]]You mentally swear at yourself again. //Every time. Every fucking time.// You're too good at thinking, thinking, thinking without end. That's why you suck at meditating; you can't calm down. You get swept away with your thoughts instead of [[letting them blow past]].
Nothing can affect you if you don't let it. Your teacher once told you imagine your thoughts as leaves on a river bed; they float down the stream when the water [[sweeps them past]]. You open your eyes. He's not there. It's just you on the bench, half-covered in Great Grandfather's long shadow.
Nothing else to do but [[try again->what you need]].You feel your own weight pressing up and out of the Earth, off the bench. You feel the bench beneath you, supporting you, keeping you upright.
You feel a brief [[vibration]] by your leg.
You feel the wind in your hair.
You hear it rustling the branches on the trees.
And, of course, [[you hear the clock]].//Didn't I remember to turn my phone off? Welp, I'm an idiot.//
You can just keep going, you know. As with the rest. Just [[let it pass->sweeps them past]]
//But what if the message is important?// Maybe you should [[pull it out]] to check.Tick.
[[Tick]].There's a certain zen of clockwork. You've always found a modicum of comfort in the ever-moving gears, the rhythm of their movement. They are a constant that moves in perfect time.
[[As does he]].Your next breath carries with it the faintest scent of [[rust2]]. Upon opening your eyes, you quickly pull the phone from the pocket of your jeans.
You open your messages. You got a spam email. [[Congrats.]]//Way to fuck it up again. You should've just ignored it but, like always, you did the wrong thing.//
//Is there still time to [[do it right]]?//Some say they existed on two different planes to begin with. Others, that they grew too far apart.
One more tradition holds that they are two halves of the same. That she felt the blade in his eye just as he did, but soon enough forgot it. And Time became desperate for her to remember His pain. Trying to carve your wife's face open tends to put a damper on any relationship.
[[You're not certain where you stand->His wife]]Double-click this passage to edit it.Maybe there's nothing here that can be fixed. Nothing that can be changed.
And nothing here matters, after all. What's in the past is done with, over, finished. The years have done nothing but increase the distance between you and your memories.
Sometimes distance helps. [[Sometimes, it merely hurts]].The usher stands behind you as you slowly rise from your seat. You nod at them, silent as they lead you to the door.
They politely hold it open. But, for whatever reason, you're [[in no rush to leave]].You ask them if they know of any lodging around here; they don't.
"How about the lobby?" You're only half-joking.
To your surprise, they tell you, [["That could be arranged."]]"Employees here are able to live on-site. But, well, I'm the only one who's been working here for a while now. Ever since the old guy left... Well, we're always hiring, if you're interested."
[[You want to be close to the theater.->say yes]]Remember, it should only take a moment or three to find Him. You just need to focus.
Tell yourself to//focus.//
It shouldn't take you this long- you don't think- to find your breath.
[[But you'll stick with it->you can't.]]The voice in your brain tells you not to bother. That meditation is for people who can focus, and you've never been somebody who can focus on anything.
[[Tell it to shut it.]]
[[Ignore it->Let the thought blow past.]]You're only feeding into it, that way. And you know it. Yet you [[keep falling into the trap->letting them blow past]].You're right. It's pointless to continue this. You thought your practice might've made a difference, but in the end, it all comes back to the kind of person you are.
And that is a person stuck in a loop.
Maybe some cat memes will make you [[feel better.]]You tell yourself 10 memes will be the limit. You're at Great Grandfather; might as well see ''it'', if nothing else. But the memes make you smile, help you drown out the nagging in your brain. You'd like it on mute for just a little longer.
The 10 become 100 become [[who-even-knows-how-many]]. You may have forgotten the reason you came here, but He has not forgotten you. Time sees you, as he sees everybody.
[[To him, we mostly look the same.]]Everyone fits their certain pattern. The person on the bench before his clock, dead to the world but the screen in their hand, is no different than so many others he's seen before.
You are the person who tries to change, but cannot break the cycle.
[[He knows your type well.]]After all, he follows it himself. You open your eyes gently, blinking in the scene around you. The clock is maybe 40 minutes forward. A couple of withered leaves, rushing past your bench, dance on the wind. Great Grandfather's shadow has shifted ever so slightly; now it almost intersects your own.
Another shadow has joined yours on the ground.
[[Look to its source]].A teal-haired figure stands just off to the right of your bench. A hooded cloak casts its shadow on his face, dimming the bronze of his skin. You can only see his left side.
If you could see the right, you'd see he wore [[an eyepatch]].With a curt nod, the Clockwinder takes the seat beside you.
"Make this quick," he tells you.
You tell him you can. "I really only came to watch [[your clock]]."It's hard to read his one-sided expressions, but you could almost swear he looks a bit surprised. "You could have done that without my being here, you know."
You do. But that's not the point. "Don't you have [[a minute]]?""I always do."You accept the usher's offer, and now you can see the vaguest crescent of a smile peaking out from beneath their shadowed brim. They grip it between two fingers to properly raise their hat to you.(click:"raise their hat to you.")[The face they wear is one that used to be yours.
"It's great to see you again," [[you say]].]Everyone comes to the theater the same way.