The sky had been clear. There had been no clouds in sight. The sunlight shone across the realms of his mind, bringing light, extinguishing darkness. It brought joy. It brought peace. There was nothing but care and happiness. Things were finally becoming light again.
But the pendulum was about to swing back.
What is it about the pendulum, the grandfather clock, the forlorn swaying motion? Back and forth, back and forth. Into shadows, out of darkness, into darkness, into light. Dark, light, dark, light. Back and forth, back and forth. Eternally growing smaller, until suddenly-
The pendulum completing its ark, the clouds returning to the sky. The gentle patter of rain, it chills the air. The air grows cold, the rain falls down. The clouds fall in.
They cover the sun.
A gust of wind blows them away. A gust of pure determination. "No!" cries a voice in the night. "I will not return!" Again, the wind gusts away, trying to expel the clouds, but the gust only turns the raindrops into a torrent. They tear at flesh, rip away skin.
The voice cries out, but the voice is alone. It drowns in the flood of water.
Then comes the lightning. The cruel lightning. Terror. Horror. Submission.
One last cry. "No!" The clouds go away for a moment. A moment of peace. A moment without torture. One moment of stillness.
The stillness is sweet. It gives life it gives hope. The voice is silent, contemplative. It wishes for eternal sunlight, eternal joy, eternal peace. Unfortunately, everything goes away with time. Life, joy, sanity…
The voice runs its fingers along the grass. The grass of the graveyard of people its killed. It didn't kill them. It did. The other one. The other one who comes with the thunder and lightning. It is the one that deserves to die, not it. But It and It are the same one. They are one voice, but two sides. Guilt is rising, almost as powerful as the flood.
The knife cut cleanly through the skin. Just like it had dozens, hundreds of times before. The blood dripped down the flesh. But there was no pain.
"Why?" cried the voice in anguish. Why did this happen to him? What caused him to be the one to receive this punishment? For nearly ten years it had been this way. The pendulum swinging back and forth. From dark to light, fear to joy, insanity to the brink of sanity.
Hatred to love.
Was it love he had for that girl? Not a romance, certainly. But perhaps a different kind? A supreme feeling for responsibility. But also a supreme caring, too. For he had once been a little like her, strong-willed, wanting to do what was right.
But that was before The Machine. Before the Machine changed everything.
The clouds began to come back. The voice cried out again. It cried as hard as it could.
The pain. The torture. The exquisite agony. Lightning coursing through his flesh. The booming words of the mayor. "You will do whatever it takes to serve the District of Law."
"Ne-v-er," the voice had made out through strangled convulsions. But it was too much effort. He couldn't attempt to speak again. It was too much.
But perhaps the worst part of that night was the little girl sitting in the room nest to the mayor. Not the girl from before, but a different girl. She couldn't have even been ten yet. She was screaming, "Daddy! Stop it!" But the mayor wouldn't listen. He wouldn't even listen to his daughter. The electricity continued to course through the voice. "Daddy! You're killing him!" She beat against his legs with her fists.
"It is what he deserves," said the mayor. "He has made his choices, and these are the consequences." The voice could see the tears in the daughter's eyes. She understood his pain. The mayor did not.
But the lightning stopped, and his mind entered the darkness.
The pendulum had begun to swing.
His thoughts were submerged in darkness. These thoughts were completely opposite of his nature. The conflict, the fissure in his soul. The complete separation of his two halves. The darkness would prevail. He would only do what the darkness told him to do. He would only commit the sins that it implied.
And at a word from the mayor, he was a slave.
That is, until the pendulum swung back into the light.
The voice experienced freedom. Carefully hidden freedom, for he could not let the mayor know that the torture was ineffective. In this time of freedom, the voice secretly prepared, always ready to undo what the darkness had done.
But when he was finally experiencing joy again, the pendulum would swing back, and the darkness would ensue. It had been this way for ten years. Ten years of uncertainty, fear, terror, and swinging from side to side.
And now he was caught in the motion of the pendulum once again. It was the lowest point of the ark. While physics predicted that the ark would ultimately go into the darkness, he still pushed with all his might against the inevitable.
More clouds appeared in the sky. The sun was slowly dying. Its light was failing. The hope was fading.
Rain began to fall to the ground, and a gale began again blow across. But it couldn't blow away the storm, for the clouds were lined past the horizon. The gale only made the raindrops more violent.
It was growing. It was inevitable.
The voice was hoarse, it couldn't speak, but could only crack. No longer could it call for help; it could only cower on the ground.
The pendulum inched towards the darkness ever so slowly.
Is it over? Is there any fight left in the voice? Can it call out, roar against what is to be? Can it blow against the clouds that cover the sky? Blow the pendulum in the opposite direction? Regain its will?
Can it even breathe?
Only a sliver of the pendulum remained in the light.
The breathing increased. The white room became a blur. His eyes were fogging. His balance was upset. Jared stumbled around the room, reaching for anything to keep him balanced. He placed his arm against the wall, hoping that it would provide relief. But the world was on its side, or upside-down, or backwards. Everything was wrong and chaotic. Spinning out of control.
His heart was beating rapidly. It felt as though it would come right out of his chest. He was no longer simply breathing; he was gasping for breath. The voice was gone. The will was gone.
All that was left was the clouds.