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If you had the chance to create the world, could you leave it behind?
A short story toying with the idea of what "it had been a long year" could really mean. Ambiguous, a tad florid, and somewhat, strange, I'll admit. I had a lot of fun writing it, though. And yes, the format of the "click clack" is intended to force your eyes to bounce from side to side like watching a pendulum or the hammer of a grandfather clock.
It had been a long year. Like a keen but measured arbiter, the Pendulum ruled over that year with the same unswerving consistency it had over all the years past. Of course it had -- the years before it were the same, after all. She had brimmed with pride on the first day of her self-ordained captivity; who but she could say that time itself obeyed her fancies? Now, though, that pride was withered and rotten, overcome with utter dread for that quickly approaching last moment before the turning of the year. Today, that loathsome day called December 31, was the 10,957th day of the year 1977.
The freezing cobblestones forced her barefooted toes into an uncomfortable curl as she hesitated, hovering at the mouth of a long, straight road shrouded in the cool evening fog. Echoing incessantly, the deep timbre of the pendulum’s ticking resounded off the path at her feet before vanishing into the mist. The clock in the shopkeeper’s window read 11:58 PM.
She squared her shoulders, a huff of smoke engulfing her face as she exhaled quickly. This day, it would be different. Thirty December 31sts had passed her by as the clock forgot midnight at the pendulum’s behest. The loud bronze click, only moments away, that always boomed at the start of the pendulum’s backward tumble reverberated in her mind, as it had the last thirty times that year’s cogs reset themselves; a moment, a single second, was all she needed. The clock read 11:59 PM.
She shifted her weight, padding quietly and slowly down the cobblestone path.
The echoes of the pendulum’s swaying begged for her undivided attention. She quickened her pace.
Her muscles coiled as she surged into a sprint. Fog swirled angrily around her, devouring her vision but never slowing her.
She threw her arms forward, grasping at the unseen world beyond her prison as she leaped. The clock read 11:59: 57. The one moment, the final stroke. 11:59: 58. The second where --
--resolves into -
The pendulum echoed angrily, reverberating with such violence that the fabric of the world seemed to visibly ripple. Grass and leaves at once replaced the bitter cobblestones that had become so familiar. She stood, swaying uncertainly, as if a veil had been lifted from her eyes. At the striking of midnight, at that very moment when the pendulum stood still at the height of its climb, she had broken through. The world of the pendulum had vanished. Her pearly teeth sparkled in the moonlight as she grinned widely. After thirty of 1977’s December 31sts, she reveled in the perfect feeling of living on January 1 of 1978.
Her memory, like a weary wanderer, slowly uncloaked itself and recalled for her the forgotten meaning of where she stood -- in the shadow of that very same gnarled oak where the ticking cogs of time had first answered the feeble whispers of her heart.
She whirled, ragged skirt curling around her legs as she spun, startled to find the brazen ticking still echoing ominously even in her own world. The pendulum repeated its insistent cry. Her eyes drifted uncertainly downward to where, beneath her bare foot, a small stone square rested in the bed of tall grass. The figures engraved into the pale rock were ragged and worn, but a fuzzy feeling hovering in the back of her mind reminded her of what they said.July 13, 1931 – December 31, 1977.
Only hours? Was that unwilling goodbye to that quiet father only hours ago -- not even a day ago?
The grass curled around her hand as she crumpled to her knees and dug her fingers into the turf, a pit of forgotten sorrow welling up in her stomach. She forced herself to relax, easing the tension in her shoulders and drinking in the frigid air. She was free, right?
Brushing her hands through the soft meadow, her palm suddenly grazed over another hard slab. Instantly she recoiled as if she had skimmed over a cobra. Buried in the thick, swaying grass was another headstone whose warm grey surface seemed new and lacquered.
She jolted, shrinking from her invisible foe whose thunderous voice encompassed her mind. Her breathing came in ragged gulps and she panted, heart aflutter. How could she have forgotten the ticking of that wicked timepiece? She took a moment of silence to calm herself, long puffs of steam wafting before her as she breathed slowly and deeply in the cool air. Then, hesitantly, she brushed away the windblown grass cloaking the new headstone.
The inscription was crisp, and time had not weathered it. April 29, 1934 – December 31, 2007. She stiffened slightly, but her fingers continued to trace the engraving, of which a small portion still remained. It said simply, Eloise, can you see me?
“Stop it!” she screamed, standing and spinning so quickly that she fell back again to one knee. Glistening tears tickled the sides of her eyes, and the booming, brazen roar of that nefarious timepiece pounded inside her head.
She glanced sidelong at the graves and tumbled clumsily into the trunk of the mighty oak tree, its ragged bark plucking at her skin. The year was not 1978. Reclining her head gently against the thick trunk, her eyes dulled and grew still.
The pendulum-like echo of her aching heart called out to her, summoning her tenderly back into the warm embrace of that precious world where the balanced ticking spurned the passage of time. Her eyes stared at the horizon, sightless once again as she retreated into the world where her forlorn future could not intrude.
It was December 31, 1977.
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