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''.Double-click this passage to edit it.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 left undone
*[[Rejection]]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 faceless actors freeze midscene, and turn their heads your way. They seem to be waiting for instruction.
It takes you a while, and a lot of self-reflection, to tell them what to fix about the scene. What they're doing wrong. What you should've done right. And each new version still feels off. You feel no closer to the truth than you were back then.
But it doesn't matter.
You have eternity to get it right. Play everything out [[again->again1]]
As long as it takes to get it right.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.
And you aren't the first; the world itself revolves around its turning gears. Or so the legend says. 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. The backdrop may change, but the tower remains.
He lives outside of [[his own plans]]. Great Grandfather is at very least two-faced; he might have more on different sides. One of the faces tells [[standard time->check the time]].
The other, smaller one 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]] 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. (//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 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: "Its architect was time himself. And surely even He 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 the fear without looking it in the eyes.
Today, you are among the brave. [[This is your pilgrimage->XII]].They get the scenery 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. Your best friend and yourself hovering just outside the classroom.
You were on your knees. Your gaze was 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]]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]]And [[again->again2]].And [[again]].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. I only forgive people who actually mean the apology. You're only feeling sorry for yourself. I won't forgive you, and I never will. So stop apologizing. In fact, don't ever talk to me again."''
At first you'd try to do it anyway, time and time again, but 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.]]"