From the moment I stepped off of the tawny sidewalk I felt different. I exhibited a blank expression, the crenulate rubber on the bottom of my shoes making a smooth transition to the opaque, spotless slab of ceramic composing the pathway that lead across an acre of land to the entrance of an enormous building.
Rising from the precisely trimmed emerald grass was a splintered wooden pole with a sign crudely nailed onto the front of it, standing in contrast to the symmetry and charm of the surrounding landscape. The sign read, in faded letters: "The University of".
I followed the perfectly level walkway in its serpentine path, winding in and out of pleached shrubbery. The material had an almost marble like quality to it, but was much too harsh in texture for that possibility. It was neither day nor night. The journey to the university had taken more than twelve hours by my reckoning, and yet the sky had remained a uniform shade of pastel purple the whole time. Looking up, I could see a panorama of lavender, containing three earth-like planets apparently within close proximity of the atmosphere and with a clear view of their surfaces.
The property was empty. Nothing could be heard aside from the rhythmic tolling of something large and metal. The sound seemed to have been generated by a squared pattern of miniature conifer trees, about the height of a man. The path forked to the right, towards an opening in the verdure. I decided to take it, following the pallid pavement to an opening in the trees, the one side that wasn't concealed. Boxed in was a ceramic platform with a large brass bell in the center, chiming in perfect meter, filling the air with an loud tone. Below the bell was a black metal pot, seemingly cemented into the ground. The bell sounded on its own terms—no person or thing was there to ring it. The curved brass stood in place while a pendulum hit both sides. Left, right. Left, right. Left, right.
After several minutes of staring at it in strange awe, the noise became shrill and odious. I walked toward the bell, the sound getting louder with every step until I felt as though my ear drums were on the verge of bursting. I got close enough to see the pendulum, and with a cursory glance noted what appeared to be a human profile. Upon closer observation, it seemed as though it was cast in my likeness. It had two identical faces, pointing in opposite directions. A nose and forehead hit the left side of the bell, and a separate set hit the other. Left, right. Left, right. Left, right.
I reached out frantically to stop the pendulum, and in turn the bothersome noise, but it was no use. The instrument swung inexorably from its fulcrum, even with my hand clutched tightly to it. I slapped the left side with great force and the entire bell swung to the right. It froze in mid-air and the pendulum went motionless, leaning on the left side of the bell. An intense feeling of sadness came over me. The metal suddenly became very hot and I let go, shaking my hand sporadically to quell the burn. The bell became thin and droopy. It began to melt, quickly becoming molten-hot and pouring a golden goop into the black pot below.
I was free from the noise, but wasn't entirely sure why I was there in the first place.