The Keeper of Time
John sat at a deserted workbench, watching the antique timepiece he held in his hand with intense interest. Tick… tick… tick went the ornate second hand, the sound shockingly loud in the silence. He stared, trance-like and obsessed, watching in fascination as the little hand of metal spun around in endless revolutions, steadily traversing the worn face of a clock engraved with graphic depictions of terrible demons and glorious gods.
‘It’s losing time’, he observed, ‘at a rate of a millisecond an hour’. John despised tardiness, but despite this, he made no move, his exasperation soothed by the steady, rhythmic movement of the golden needle as it plodded across the clock face… round and round, round and round.
John didn’t flinch as the incoming train whooshed past him, flicking his hair into wild tendrils that billowed around eyes that gazed unsurprised, unblinking and abyss-black. Although impassive in expression, John nevertheless felt a twinge of irritation slither through his body and blossom into an irrational surge of anger, simply because the train was several seconds late. ‘It’s always late,’ he mused. ‘Always by the same amount, too.’
John had always suspected he was strange… well, not normal at least. Considered a musical prodigy at a young age for his unerring sense of rhythm, his mentors’ enthusiastic encouragements in this area had waned dramatically once they discovered his inflexibility. It seemed he could not, or would not, alter a melody’s tempo when required, such that his music, though technically perfect, lacked the wild, living beauty of spontaneity. The reason for this was that John had a metronome of sorts in his head – an inherent ticking that clicked away relentlessly, 24 hours a day and seven days a week, from the moment he was born to, in all likelihood, the day he died. He wasn’t bothered at first, until the physical toll of the relentless ticking began to distinguish him as different from the other children. Fascinated by rhythm though he was, this clicking proved perpetual temptation that distracted him from paying attention in class or studying. His physical performance also suffered, since during strenuous activity, his heart rate and breathing sped up and became erratic, which jarred with the steady beating in his head. This invariably resulted in a splitting headache, such that he stopped trying to resist it at all.
It was not until he was about 5 years old that he realized that the ticking in his head corresponded exactly with the second hand on a clock. Intrigued, John decided to delve deeper into the mysterious world of time. Enraptured by the synchronous harmony between the analogue clock and his own internal metronome, John soon developed an addiction to the soothing feeling of being in coordinated resonance with timepieces. Unfortunately, as a result of his new obsession, he began to get more and more intolerant of inconsistent and erratic beats and events.
Yes, John was definitely not quite normal.
John clasped the antique timepiece gently, still staring while the golden hand yet again swept over the demonic engravings. He had obtained it from his grandfather, and was eerily comforted by the unchanging tempo as the needle methodically crossed the dial. He knew that it was slightly inaccurate, but for some reason it did not bother him as much as it usually would.
Wham! A shock of searing pain speared suddenly through his side, slamming him to the ground and wrenching him out of his reverie. He looked up, dimly registering through clouding eyes a figure swathed in black, brandishing a bright yellow shaft of light, much like the one sticking out of his side. The pain was explosive. John tightened his grasp on the pocketwatch, seeking its comfort. The last thing he saw was the sunlight flickering over the dancing demon figures, before everything went black.
John’s body stood up, a force not quite earthly controlling him, like a puppet on strings.
The figure opposite him grinned, and then spoke.
“So, the Keeper of Time finally shows himself. Had enough of this charade? Why you decided to shirk your duty and hide yourself as a human I have no idea …damn filthy monkeys. But the game’s up now. You have no attacking power – you shouldn’t even be part of the Pantheon. Surrender!”
What used to be John merely looked at the gaping hole in his side before running his fingers nonchalantly over it. The regeneration was immediate – the bleeding vanished, flesh reappeared and fabric knitted together such that there remained not one indication that a horrific wound had gaped just moments before.
When he was done, he looked up and murmured slowly, “Do you know what I see? Do you, Keeper of Thunder? My eyes see the End. The End of all things. Everything has an end. It is a terrible curse, forever seeing destruction. Humans are so lucky, so carefree, only caring about their petty little lives and never having to be burdened by the great troubles of Immortals. Everything has an end, Keeper of Thunder. Everything. Even gods. This is the Curse of Time.”
He saw the black-clad figure begin to angrily summon another murderous shaft of light. With a supreme burst of effort, ‘John’ bade his personal metronome to slow. The ticking, once incessant, was beginning to stop, and was bringing Time itself to a standstill. The winds stopped howling, lighting halted in mid-flight, and a god peerless in power suddenly found himself trapped frozen in stagnant space and time. With a light push of a 15-year-old boy, the Keeper of Thunder fell without resistance, straight into the path of an incoming train speeding to make up for lost time.
The Keeper of Time smiled as he glanced at his pocketwatch, knowing, having foreseen that this fellow god would lie at rest until the very End, never, ever, to rise again. Time itself had forsaken him.
‘The train was late, like always. But this time, it was right on time,’ he grinned.
Kevin Tang 10F
This was my Time to Write Submission… decided to post it just in case anyone was interested. I wasn’t especially proud of this piece, because I felt I could have done a lot better, but I got lost in it and ended up writing about 500 words over, and then went crazy and deleted a massive piece of plot development…