City of Clocks
rating: +13+x

Sixteen Minutes Till Midnight…

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As Martin walked though the town, he wanted.
Hundreds more walked and wanted with him, watching their Watches spin.
Always watching, walking, wanting.

Martin looked to his wrist, finding no Watch. He wasn't surprised. He kept time in a bottle in his suitcase, which he dragged behind him through the busy streets. To others, he was a spectacle with wire spectacles, the man with no time. Yet Martin thought he had all the time in the world, though the other pedestrians thought otherwise. They scoffed and avoided Martin, thinking him a fool. He was a modern Moses, parting the Red Sea of those on the sidewalk. He went in the same direction, everyone went in the same direction, but he did not check the time.

On every street, there was a clock tower. On every corner of every block. People here were so obsessed with mechanical hands: Spinning, spinning, spinning round. Soon comes Morning, soon comes Midnight! They were always looking at their wrists, or at the towers of time. Clocks were built into storefronts; built into the very people's lives were clocks. As Martin peered closer, he realized something. For some walking and wanting, their Watches were not on their wrists, their Watches were their wrists.

Some pedestrians cried out as the town approached Midnight. Tick, tock. Always wanting these people, always wanting they were. If the clock reached Midnight before they got what they wanted, what would their time walking have come to? They told themselves that the storefronts would satisfy them. But the storekeepers had another thing in mind entirely. They were the only ones who did not move with the Red Sea. Their stores were built so that someone could buy without stopping at all. Advertisements were posted blocks ahead of the actual store, to inform the walking masses of the next big thing.

Martin wanted too, but he was not disillusioned like the masses. Everyone wanted the same thing, after all. Martin just knew that it didn't come with the stores, or the next big thing, or the Watches. He knew something these pedestrians did not. Shopkeeps called out to him, beckoning him over to purchase their wares. He waved and continued on.

"Why, that one thinks he's quite the fellow, hm?" snickered a woman, eyes transfixed to a clock tower to her left, even as she spoke. "A vagrant he is, and what a waste of time! What has he done with it, other than watch it fly by?"

Martin laughed good-naturedly, leveling his eyeglasses. He could not help but pity the poor woman drowned in lavish animal pelts and extravagant clothes. "I apologize for any arrogance or aloofness, ma'am, that you have perceived. On my part, I only try to enjoy the time. You say I've squandered it, but that's hardly true, I rather—"

Even as he spoke, she left him. These people wanted nothing to do with him. He smiled.

Another stroller, a large man in a pinstripe suit, stepped up in her place, interjecting. "But haven't you got anything to show for the time? Prove to me it's been worthwhile!" His auburn mustache bobbed vertically as he spoke in a far too proper manner. "You squander time, and Midnight will take you by surprise!"

Martin cocked his head. "I would wager it's not me who's the squanderer, if you'll excuse any offence, sir." Martin said this with the polite mannerism of a scholar, despite him being a humble street urchin.

The man huffed, strutting off to join the crowd.

"But don't you fear Midnight?" asked a young school boy licking a lollie behind him. He looked innocent enough, but his tone hinted to his upbringing at the hands of those wrist-Watch people.

Martin spun, walking backwards with perfect confidence in his strides. He examined the boy with a sense of sympathy. "No, because I know one thing no one else here seems to know."

"What could you possibly know that someone like the man you just talked to could not. He runs a successful enterprise, you know. He is happy."

Tick tock. "Ah, then perhaps I know two things that no one else knows. But here is the first: Midnight and Morning are the same hour. One does not fear the Morning, one should not fear the Midnight."

The boy watched him like you would watch a car crash.

"And the second," continued Martin, "Is knowing that happiness is not something that happens in our time. It is only by acknowledging this, and to turn away from watching the clocks spin, that a pedestrian can grab a slice of happiness and cling to it." He smiled again at the boy.

"So you are happy, then? You've acknowledged that happiness is a myth?" The boy's expression was odd, and Martin could not place it.

Martin stopped. He stopped right in his tracks, looking down at the boy. The boy nearly walked right into him, horror painting his face.

"Yes. The things in the stores are not the cause to happiness. They can be good, but not past Midnight."

The boy turned white, looking around frantically. He too had stopped, and was terrified at the concept of it. People did not even spare the boy a glance as they walked, looking only at Martin in fearful disgust.

"So if I accept this, I'll become like you?" The boy's shock turned to derivativeness. "Then I'd rather not. You're quite the insufferable fool."

The boy ran off, but he left his lollie behind.

Martin opened his suitcase, pulling out a bottle. He gave it a look of fondness, and set it aside. He then pulled out a collapsible easel from his bag, and a small stool along with it. He sat on the stool, and unfurled the easel. Looking at the people marching by, he began to paint. He took the bottle, pulled out the cork, stuck his finger into the bottle, and began to paint. Time graced the canvas with impressions of what those before him had left behind. It showed him too what was ahead, but he cared little. So much fear in their wanting.

Tick tock. Martin finished his painting, calling it good. This was his want, and one of the few things that could not be bought in a store: To create. It gave him such joy to know that this thing, this wonderful thing in front of him, was completely unique. Time wrought many things from iron: The towers, the Watches, but it also created things from paints. From words. From music.

And those things are timeless.

The clock struck Midnight,

And a new Morning dawned.

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