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Chapter 1 : The minute hand performs its effervescent backstroke
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Dedicated to Molly (SnitchSnatcher)
In the hopes that it will inspire her to write her own someday
A/N: So...this is weird. Truly weird. All I have to say for myself is that I hit some writer's block with my current WIP's, and this is the monstrosity that came out of that situation. I know...I should stick to fluff and humor. XD
Your opinions are welcome and appreciated!
I will always remember that summer. Remarkable things took root, possibilities previously unimagined. A fertile mind burst into bloom. A new perspective, always so welcome, made me forget myself entirely.
It was the summer the clocks swam in reverse.
I first noticed it when I realized that, as I grew older, my heart grew bigger. Wasn’t it supposed to be the opposite?
The sun rose in the west and set in the east. The Earth was so tightly coiled from turning in one direction that it released itself and went spinning like a top in the other.
It was my time. It was your time. And the shifting of the world and the impudence of the clocks ensured that coincidence.
Is it possible, to fly in the face of fate? For a time, I wasn’t sure whether fate existed; later, when I had grown to accept it, I assumed it infallible. But what if I was wrong on both accounts?
Perhaps it was a meeting of two minds that were never meant to know one another.
But these are the befuddled musings of an old man, bored to tears in the absence of some philosophical question to poke and prod and ponder. It matters not whether we should have met; the simplest truth is that we did.
There I was, a young man with bitterness, ambition, and my father’s old pocket watch. It should have been a sentimental item for me, but all I could do was count the remaining months, hours, and seconds until I could foist it off on my brother, thus giving myself an excuse to obtain a new one. It ran smoothly, but there was a dent on one side, and the chain tethered me to everything that was mundane and dissatisfying.
It ran my life, that pocket watch – it never failed to remind me when I had to wake, and when to eat, and when to sleep.
And then, one day, it stopped.
I hardly noticed when it began to move slowly backwards. I was too busy realizing my life’s purpose. It was all so clear to me, even though I was staring directly into the sun.
I didn’t realize until later that the great star had blinded me.
How could I, when all I could see was the whole wide world stretching before me? You showed it to me – you planted the image – but how was I to know it wasn’t real?
The stars all bowed before you. Bunches of grain hurled themselves at your feet, and upon them I knew you would build your empire.
I was drawn, a moth to a flame. I had lived among mothballs for too long. I had been a bug, crawling over mountains of pillows that stifled me with their comfort. Being smothered is surely no way to die. It is soft and warm and – dare I say it? – quite cozy indeed. Death should burn like the flames of hell, or otherwise freeze you with ice that no fire can quench.
Dramatic, one might say.
Then I reply: No…glorious.
You knew all about glory, didn’t you?
“Don’t ever try to stop me, Albus,” you warned.
“One would be a fool to try to stop you.”
Ah, how sage I was then. I was a boy, and therefore I knew everything.
Whispers of greatness carried on the breeze and breathed new life into everything, sent ripples across the pond and gave wings to promises. We lay on the shores of destiny, basking in our own brilliance.
To be young again. To be that blind. To once again experience the sensation of a soaring heart, blissfully unaware of its imminent and brutal descent.
What beauty there was in your confidence. What purity in your certainty. What clarity in your purpose. All of it, always, contained within every freckle of your face.
We sent the clocks spinning backwards that summer – including my old pocket watch – and as they rewound, the blood returned to my veins. My heart swelled and sang, and I breathed freely once more. I could move again, and move I did, though I didn’t watch where I was going. I simply followed you down a beckoning path. You led, and I followed, and the sun was still in my eyes.
Then the watch stopped a second time.
The halt was jarring; it knocked me to the ground. I awoke and knew not where I was – or who. I only knew that I had been utterly forsaken.
I kept that pocket watch, though it hasn’t been reliable since. I keep it as a reminder: of what I was, what I nearly became, and what I hope to be. It’s battered and scratched and all but broken down, but it comforts me. After all, I have nothing else left.
That summer ended in a fog of destroyed time; it dissipated into an autumn of penance. And I? I live in that autumn, though my bones tell me that winter is fast approaching. I do not know what winter holds – I no longer presume to know anything. I merely wait…and accept. That is my purpose now, and I willingly fulfill it.
Sometimes the clock still moves in reverse – usually when I least expect it; it acts of its own accord, you know. The minute hand performs its effervescent backstroke, and I whisper, “Go away, Gellert.” Why must you tease me so? You knew I preferred the butterfly.
And then I wake up in a cold sweat, and in the stillness of the night, in the silence of my chambers, nobody hears me scream. In a castle full of warm bodies, minds young and old, my colleagues pacing in their quarters, and children running amok out of bed at all hours…my cries fall on deaf flagstones and reverberate through hollow tapestries.
You would find it all so amusing. You were always too wise for academics. I know exactly what you’d say.
How is it, Albus? How is it in your sacred tower?
Lonely. As you said it would be.
I was always the thinker, and you were the doer. Perhaps that was why we fit so well.
I gave you weight, and you helped me find the place where wings sprouted from my shoulder blades. Of course, your wingspan was so much more impressive than mine.
Disappointed, we were, to find that together we could only hover a slight distance from the earth, caught in a fanciful limbo somewhere between the soil and the sky. For you gave me lift, and I gave you gravity, and so we merely hung, suspended, unable to walk nor fly.
Without me, I’m certain you could have been great. But could you have been good? You never understood the difference, nor the importance. As for me, I often wonder whether it is possible to be both great and good.
As the answer has not yet presented itself to me, I prefer to err on the side of good. Perhaps greatness comes incidental to that.
But I suspect, my old friend, that you always saw it the other way around. Backwards, you see. And it was entrancing, I do admit. But it was flawed.
I move forward, in the direction humanity was always meant to move.
I move with some shame, much uncertainty, but always great hope.
I move forward without you, because you declined to make the journey.
I move forward.
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