This is another piece to the HJP Club serial I started several months ago. You can read more here.
“Do you know why we are stopped here?” Nitwit asked of the Timekeeper while her eyes took in the steam, the desert, and the dark appearance of the figure standing before her. His aura felt like an old friend, a worn and tattered teddy bear she had snuggled all her life. No fear flowed through her veins, though normally her knees would shake and the butterflies would dance within her. She was in awe of the whole process and intrigued by the Timekeeper.
She wanted to know his story, how he came to be, and how he ended up the way he is—part man, part machine. She had noticed the cylinder of water he held on his back, the liquid inside popping and bubbling as if he needed steam to survive as well. She had read of the Steam Era, but never believed it was real until just now.
“Where is here, anyway?” Tweak questioned. She found her hand still firmly planted within Kristen’s palm, their fingers locked together as if their lives depended on it. Her heart was running rapidly, as she too took in her surroundings, finding comfort in her friends being there with her. She noticed that Roderick was not here, her chest silently seething at their predicament.
“This,” his arms bending outward in a grand sweep “is Clockworks. I am called the Time Keeper.” A hiss produced a burst of steam behind his head as he turned to face them. “I do not know why you stopped here. I only know you are here.”
“But…I mean, don’t you control time?” A timid stage whisper crept from between Kristin’s lips.
“Yes, but not in the way you think. The steam keeps the clock going, I merely protect it.” Four steel cups appeared suspended in the air before them, like magic. “Drink. It gets arid here fast for those not accustomed to the atmosphere.”
Four hands took the cups from him and four pairs of lips were wetted from the liquid inside. It tasted of honeysuckles and strawberries, not what they expected.
“It’s sweet! What did you give us?” Nitwit stated.
“It is water. It came from the stream. I daresay that everything is a bit different here than you are used to, including me. Your eyes are as big around as your faces are.” His chuckle was deep and rich. It put the girls at ease.
“Do you know how we can get out of here?” Tweak again. She never was one for sitting in one place too long, and this didn’t look like the kind of place she wanted to investigate.
“You have to catch the train and you have to catch it fast since it only flashes by. If another happens to be riding when you are trying to catch it, and they don’t leap, you could be stuck riding the train for a long time. Who knows what your world would be like when you got off. You also can’t predict where the train is going to throw you off. This Roderick…he knew what he was doing. At least you are here during the good season. A few months later and it would have been cold.”
“When is the next train due?” He could almost see the gears churning within Raevyn’s head in invisible calculations as she spoke.
“That is what I was trying to explain to you. I may keep time; I may be privy to the past, present, and future, but I do not control the train. It arrives when it wills to, and only then, unless you hold its magnet. I do not know when the next train is coming. You can watch the clock for clues.” He turned back to the little house again, ready to leave them and return to his duties.
“Wait! I need to know something. How did you come to be the Timekeeper? How do you have the power to control the past, the present, and the future, yet you can’t control the train?” Kristin said a little too loudly.
“It’s free will. That’s all it is. See, I control time, but time has a free will, too. I know where it’s been, where it is, and where it’s headed, but I don’t tell it when to go or how to get there. As for where I came from and how I came to be, well, I came to be the same way as you did. My mother and father have long since passed on. I will pass on someday too. Sometimes I feel as if that day is coming sooner than I expect.”
Raevyn gave a slight shake to her long black hair before tossing it over her shoulder. Brown rolled behind the milky white of her eyelids before she spoke. “But how did you become the Timekeeper? I can’t imagine just anyone can do that. Were you someone else before? Do you have a name?”
His face seemed shadowed by the steam briefly, yet when he moved it was still covered in shadows even as the wind blew the steam away. His back seemed hunched all the sudden, his shoulders sagged, as if whatever memories the questions had spurned were too difficult to remember.
“Yes. My first name was Cage Ridley. The year was 1841when I was born, and both my parents were scientists. My father was an engineer, and my mother was a geneticist. They worked for an underground laboratory. Their specialty was working on magnets and the electro-impulses that occur in a magnetic field. In layman’s terms, they were working on building the first magnetic weapon, in the form of a regular human. Their research had been long and success eluded them. The magnets they worked with were very powerful. The most powerful magnet was placed inside a compass, for fear that it would used against them. The compass was marked with a secret symbol. They then took turns keeping it hidden to protect it. My parents received it shortly before my birth, and it was never seen again by anyone else.” He paused to tip his cup to his lips and let the water repair his raspy voice, his gloved finger lifting delicately to his left eye, his head cocked slightly to the left as if listening for some far off noise. Satisfied, he relaxed again, and refilled their cups.
“When I was three months old, an explosion destroyed the lab, costing the scientists their lives as well as their research. Only my parents survived, along with their research. Even at three months of age, my parents could tell there was something special about me and worried for my life when (and they knew the day would come) they were discovered. The first time they realized my true abilities, they found themselves reliving a day from the past, the day they were given the compass. Even then, they didn’t quite understand the depth of my abilities. It wasn’t until I gave them a glimpse of the future that they got a grasp of what I could do. It was then that they realized, as they watched the future Cage die, that I was a child who could control time.”
(To be continued)
For the Indie Ink Writing Challenge this week, Airicka Phoenix challenged me with "Time can be divided into three parts, the past, the present, and the future. It takes a special person to control any one of these parts. But what happens when a child is born that controls all three?" and I challenged Mary Terrani with "Use this picture for inspiration".
- And just for a little clarification, Roderick is the name of the man who challenged the Timekeeper in part 3. I finally named him in addition to the Timekeeper here.
- I’m always interested in feedback/concrit.