The bells toll— The Clockmaker
for those who awaken
surrender willfully to death.
Johan Strauss swayed at the bottom of the mechanical tower clock moving the pendulum on a controlled, relentless oscillation. He wasn’t used to the constant movement and as he looked down to relieve his revulsion, he discovered a trail of footprints ingrained on the wooden floor. For how long had he been there walking in cycles? Three decades? A century perhaps? He couldn’t remember at all. “If only I could stop,” he thought.
But stopping was not an option. Three broken ribs and a half-healed scar reminded him that he was bounded to that pendulum; that if he dared to stop, like the day he went on a strike, the pendulum’s inertia would drag him back and forth on a vicious cycle, claiming, if unlucky, his life. No shenanigans. No matter what he tried, he was tied to a win-lose situation. He looked up where the mechanical gear danced harmoniously, but he failed to appreciate its perfection. If anything, it was its precision what Johan feared the most: the dented circles rotating against each other, devouring themselves endlessly, producing that raucous sound. Oppressed by the tic-tac-tic-tac, he went from left to right, or right to left? he wasn’t sure which way was next, not that it mattered at all. The only thing in Johan’s mind was to keep that mechanical beast alive. As the pendulum swung across the miniscule cell, the image of Eliene’s hair appeared swirling in the invisible air waves. Johan realized he hadn’t thought of her or any of them since that day. In fact, he barely remembered anything about his life before the pendulum. Was his mind playing tricks on him? Was seclusion driving him mad? Frightened, he allowed himself to wander deeper in his own thoughts. Between the monotonous tic-tac-tic-tac and his steps cracking on the floor, he heard a smile.
Yes. It was hers. He closed his eyes and after some effort, he saw a cake. A birthday cake. There had been a celebration that day, but whose was it? Was it his? Had it been his birthday? “Open your eyes,” the memory whispered. Johan opened his eyes. In the shallow darkness, a blue cake waited in front of him. he stretched his hands to grasp the cake but it dissolves in the air. Johan closed his eyes to keep the memory in his mind. He saw clearly a ribboned blue cake. A golden table. A giant backyard with prehistoric vegetation. A lilies pond. Burning candles on top of the cake. One, two, three, six… seven. Seven golden candles shining on top of the exuberant cake. “Make a wish,” Elienne’s memory whispered. But there was no time for wish-making. They appeared from behind. With forceful arms, they grabbed him and pulled him from the chair on a violent m, Johan had lost his balance and before he knew it, his face was on the table. A buzzing sound. A trail of blood over the blue chiffon tablecloth. In the blurry vision, the candles melting over the meringue on the cake. The others taking Eliene’s by force. Eliene’s muted screams. Then, darkness. Silence.
He was seven when They preserved him. With anger, Johan opened his eyes and looked around the wooden cell. He looked down and saw his worn out shoes. He looked at his hands with acute curiosity. It was only now, in front of Eliene’s ghost, that Johan wondered why he was still seven years old.