The ground begins to shake beneath me. I stumble to the nearest park bench and sit down hard. The cobblestones in front of me crumble; the branches of the oak tree above me vibrate and tremble. My heart skips a beat as I look to my left and some guy with a grey beard three benches down is flattened by a large falling branch. Further down, tree limbs are being flung like pick-up-stix, and to my horror the largest one takes out a pair of joggers. The couple are crushed in an instant. I blink. To my right, a towering ash is uprooting as pedestrians and dog walkers scramble toward the street. The giant trunk teeters for a moment in slow motion, and then in a split second crashes to the pavement, squashing the horde like so many mutant cockroaches.
I have been feeding pigeons, thousands of them, for years. But there was one, a beautiful bird – pure white with light grey tips on her wings. She was different. I had only to wish and call her and she would come flying to me. As long as I had her, there was a purpose to my life.
I was always too afraid to marry. An inventor should have a wife, they told me, but they didn’t understand that I was already married to my work. I could never be worthy enough for a woman, who were superior to me in every single way. My heroes, Isaac Newton and Immanuel Kant also never married and their genius was a testament to that. My chastity was the key to my own scientific abilities, but as I near the end of my life, I sometimes doubt if the sacrifice was worth it.
The grand piano lays discarded by the mossy path.
She sits on the frayed velvet of the wooden stool long rooted into the ground.
She slowly runs her finger up and down the black and white ivory.
Houses whispered as she walked past.
“Choose me.” “Choose me.” “Choose me,” they enticed.
The origins and depth of her longings for strange homes confused Lois, but she wanted to be inside each and every one of them. We all have our lusts.
Really, I did feel bad about neglecting the alien, but I was terribly busy at work that week. I’m a delivery driver and Christmas is our busiest time of the year. And the company cancel your Christmas bonus if you clock-in late more than once in a month.
So, I’d just stepped out the front door that morning and there s/he (gender indeterminate) was: standing beside the bird feeder – a six foot high Giant Crab, waving her/his front claws rhythmically like giant windscreen wipers.
Apart from hunger, I have zip in common with Chizzy, but he’s ex-army and knows how to handle himself. It was my idea to pair. Chizzy’s a quiet one, keeps a low proaf. Literals: we’re elb-to-elb in cold grit and he’s silent as a panther. Got the same lean, muscular phys’ too. Mabes he’s stashed some weights some place and works out, sly-style. We have time apart daily so we don’t do each other’s heads in – not so long we morb-out though. There’s zip to be gained from that.
It’s Audrey on patrol tonight, pacing back-forth on the other side of the fence. She’s ‘resplendent in Halloween green’ through Chizzy’s mil’-grade binoculars.
A tangle of black comms lines, like a clustered neuron, hung dead on a wooden telephone pole. It was a web ready to burst into flame at the first signal surge. This was the first image Zed saw as he exited the Vijayawada air terminal. Wired lines at the end of the 21st Century? I have to rely on these to carry my “all safe” message home.
Zed had come to give a lecture at a new university, an up-and-coming institution in this Indian Capital of Learning. Twenty-four hours of planes through Singapore and Chennai, a slight kerfuffle at customs (he’d misspelled the address of his destination), happily countered by a warm greeting by his host and friend, Prof. Srinu.
“You’re going to be a big hit,” Srinu said, taking Zed’s bags. “Our design students can’t wait to hear from a top typographer like you.”
The hour struck midnight. Everyone in the sleepy town of Everstead could hear the chimes and gongs and bells of clocks. They all resonated from the same gloomy, eldritch manor at the west outskirts of the borough. The residents had heard stories about its solitary inhabitant. The legend went that Horatio Ward had one day awoke to the deafening toll of an enigmatic, hidden clock that only he could hear. It never ceased and pushed him to the brink of madness. His manor was now full of an omnium gatherum of clocks as he searched far and wide for the one that incessantly drove him out of his mind.
None of the townsfolk wanted anything to do with Horatio Ward or his clocks. The haunting sounds of time that drifted over their homes at each hour were enough of a reminder. However, there was one man daring enough to venture to the timekeeper’s manor.