The Architect’s Clock Tower

A short story that takes place after Shadowland -Obachuka

I lived in the Architect’s clock tower; he called it the gear room. It rested very high up, just below the magnificent yet also twisted clock face. On bright days during noon, the sun would pierce through the stained glass windows above, and warm colours would decorate the churning gears.

I worked here with my friend Vladimir. We possessed gears and forced them to turn, breathing life into the mechanisms of the clock tower. Others like us possessed the other gears, since we can only possess one at a time. But they never talked. Only Vladimir and I could talk, though I didn’t know why.

After every hour we switched gears. Quite literally too. Explicit instructions from the Architect. We would exit our respective gear, and slowly navigate through the air that stank of dust, rust, and oil. We floated through the air slowly because the air in here felt almost like gel to us. During these times, the gears stopped, though to be honest, I suspect that the clock tower can run without us turning these gears.

Vladimir rotated the giant gear next to me, in the opposite direction. We rotated near the edges of the gears because it was much easier that way. Something to do with torque. So as we rotated my gears, we moved closer to each other.

When we were in hearing range, I spoke up and asked, “Hey Vlad, do you ever wonder how the clock manages to stay in time even though we stop every hour?”

We didn’t have shoulders with which to shrug with, but if we did, I imagined Vlad to be shrugging. I continued, “Even though there’s no visible power source, I think the clock tower can run on its own.”

“That’s entirely possible,” Vlad said.

“So if that’s true, what do you think we’re here for?” I asked. It was something that’s been on my mind for a while now.

Vladimir didn’t reply in time, and we moved away from each other as the gears turned. I waited, thinking to myself, planning to have an answer the next time we talked. After a few minutes (our gears were rather large), Vladimir approached hearing range.

I began to speak, but Vladimir spoke up first. “I don’t think we should delve into that too deeply,” he said. “Have you heard of that shadow that got too curious? I heard he got lost somewhere in this tower at one point. Said it was the most horrifying experience of his life.”

The mention of the curious shadow stirred something in my mind. I think I remembered someone like him. “You mean Marx? I heard he returned only a few hours later,” I said.

“Yeah, but I also heard that after that experience, Marx changed,” Vlad said.

We started to leave each other’s hearing range again, so I told Vladimir, “Let’s move closer to the center to talk.” At the center, we could talk longer, but it was also harder to turn the gears. I floated towards the center, and I struggled to turn the gear. It needed to be oiled again.

“So Vlad, what do you mean Marx ‘changed?'” I asked, continuing our previous conversation.

“Well, huff,” Vlad said, also struggling with his large gear. “I don’t know. Just that his personality seemed off.”

A heavyset door squeaked open at the back of the room, and the oiling robot drove in. Its cylindrical, bronze body sat upon two pairs of black treads. It extended its claw-like arm, and spilled oil over the gears. After a while, he approached Vladimir and I. He oiled my gear, and I breathed a sigh of relief. I effortlessly cranked the gear. Then, a thought hit me.

I moved to the edge of the gear, and split myself in half. It would be harder to turn the gear now with only half of me, but it was recently oiled, so my other half should be fine. Meanwhile, I dispersed through the air, and possessed claw of the oiling robot.

Vladimir called after me, but the robot already drove away, returning to its home in the deeper parts of the clock tower.

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