Before you start reading, I'd like to say:
quite a few people have not been able to grasp the context of this short story, thus I would like to ask you not to think of it (the clock tower) figuratively, but literally. Unless you're just nifty as hell and get it right from the start, then ignore this little part here. Enjoy?
It is never easy to overhear the whispers in the dark; a bleak, endless void stretching out into caliginous infinity. The damp and frigid atmosphere burrows itself deep into who knows what eldritch depths of regions, probably even unknown to the gods themselves; surrounding, caressing and smothering everything within midnight's embrace. Alone in a world of oblivion, an endless pitch, a void landscape vacant of any and all defining features. Lost in a place where there is neither horizon nor sky, nor any ground. Not even wind passes through the eerie stillness. The sound of those ever present whispers, calling out in some archaic and long-forgotten tongue, lap at the loss of everything - the cloying orchestra of those voices is never interrupted. The world is a blank slate, occupied by one sole remnant: a clock tower. And I am left to stare at it.
I can only wish for this to be a dream.
"Aetas, love," I murmur, shattering the heavy whispers into nigh-abstruse fragments. "Should you fancy to move forward, just once tonight?"
There is no response, though the voices are finally silenced, and a glimpse through the shroud of glass protecting the hands on the clock shows the smallest movement of unwavering contempt. And then it's there again, quickly moving about, faster than it has before; that sensation I've tried to suppress. It creeps along my being, wrapping it's bitter tendrils around my bones and pulling at every ounce of will: dread.
It claws its way into my skin, digging deep until I gasp and everything starts to shrink. Once the walls begin to close in, no matter how big the room or how large the world, there is no way out. Smaller and smaller. They keep moving and do not stop until movement itself is impossible and I stand frozen, left with the creature that is not of this world, a remnant of a darker age - a fraction of one's mind. That thing you see out of the corner of your eye, the image that wanders through the darkness of one's kitchen at night, vanishing as soon as the head turns and you're eager to see it, and as quickly as it is seen, it is always gone.
"You cannot still be mad, love?" I urge the silence. "My dear, I have apologized, have I not? That was ages ago, and hardly a matter to dwell on," the words stumble from my tongue in an arrogant, cold manner that I know will not be forgiven. "It was selfish indeed," I begin anew, "I would offer you the same, love." Space unfolds itself again, blooming like the flowers in spring until I am able to move. A crack emerges from the tower. It is abysmal and lanky - cutting through the marvelous structure that I have once cared for, once loved.
The silence is heavy, tittering, and I know I have hurt it. "Do you remember," I breathe into the night, "when we first met? Ah, yes, it has been eons. Though, I can easily recall the day when I was fourteen - so young still. We met on the cold streets of London in winter," I say with more confidence, slowly, carefully striding towards the unmoving clock. The crack spreads upwards, just a bit. "It was so dreadfully icy that year - what was it, 1891? I remember, it was so cold you could see your breath like crystal in the air; words were so solid against the sky and sighs vibrated like ceiling fans. The chill in the air clung to your bones and one could hardly move without an ache. The world had been wrapped in white, lost in the snow, while I lived from crust to crumb in the back alleys," my voice breaks and silence takes over again.
I halt and stare ahead. Somewhere in the distance, cogs turn, powering the impressive clock on top of the large tower. It turns, slowly, silently and critically - ticking away in the nihility. No, no, no, I hear my subconscious shout in the back of my mind as the hands move in the wrong direction. "Must you continue to preserve your displeasure year after year with the path I have chosen?" I shout. My nails dig into the flesh of my palms as my fingers curl into fists. "Just because it is the anniversary does not mean you must continue to commemorate it! You ought to know better!" My voice shakes, as does my body and I will the tears away, refusing to give in. With my nostrils flaring, eyes turned into slits and teeth clenched I dare to take another unsteady step forward. I force the oxygen into my lungs with large gulps of air, swallowing hard in an attempt to calm myself.
"You are always so pensive, love, when you dwell upon the long ago. Can we not simply allow it to die? Let us live in harmony, each content with our respective choice," I offer with a sigh. I see the outline of the unseen figure emerge again from the corner of my eye. "I allowed for your refusal to go on for years! Love should acknowledge the freedom that is needed, and not be an obsessive cage. When will you accept my choice?" Panic weaves itself through my system and my eyes keep darting to the side, watching the ever alluring presence of the shadow draw closer. "You know quite well how afraid I had been!" I shout desperately up at the tower.
"I cannot remain at your side," I whisper, shuddering at the words. "I know, love, your eventual antiquation and demise will come; I would be furious as well! But have you no heart?" I beg, whimpering. Though I am ignored by the clock and it continues to caress my eardrums lightly, winding time with the tips of its fingers through the lush shimmer of the glass that holds it. "Do you not remember?"
The figure rushes towards me, its tongue slithers upon its lips. The closer it gets the more it takes shape: lithe fingers, pale nails, crimson skin; scrawny legs and arms, bald along the length of its cold, moist form. A smirk tugs at the edges of its mouth, and it stares at me with broad black pupils, no color around them. It inches its way closer and is mere meters away as it halts again, dancing from foot to foot as it waits for something that is beyond my knowledge. "Aetas, love," I plead, quietly. "Aetas, do you not recall anything at all?" I can't stop the quiver in my tone, nor can I stop the tears from spewing forth as they crawl over the edges of my eyes, and twirl down my pallid skin. "The livid fingerprints, the cuts, the bruises, the black eyes and blood that clung to me," my tongue stumbles on the words and I nearly choke, "the broken ribs."
"Give me! Give it to me, your eyes," the figure suddenly speaks up in a deep, arctic voice and as soon as it speaks the whispers are back, singing in their foreign tongue. "Your heart, your heart, I want your heart," it shouts, laughing, twirling and swaying to the melody of the voices.
"Aetas, please!" The stench of decay sweeps through my nostrils. I cling desperately to the hope of that it would listen, like a drowning man clutching desolately at a piece of wreckage that has been tossed into a pestilential ocean. The figure continues to laugh, it is a hollow sound, a bloodcurdling tone that clings to the very core of my self. "Love, your warmth, it kept me safe for as long as possible, but I couldn't hold on any longer. It was like grasping a greased rope. Not even you were able to keep me warm," I murmur while stepping closer to the tower.
Suddenly a sky erupts through the oblivion, red clouds form - a dark, deep maroon. My gaze wanders from the figure back to the newly added addition to our somber little party on the void landscape. The atmosphere is laden with terror, and my heart races, my body shakes and my knees melt, nearly giving in to my weight. Then, it rains. "Love, love, Aetas, love; he loved you not," the figure says in a sing-song kind of tone, pointing towards the tower. "He lies, he lies! Move about - dance little hands, dance. Backwards, backwards and on we go. Make him grovel, make him grovel, down on his knees." Its mocking tone resonates through the night.
The rain falls hard and fast at an unnatural pace. I hear it splash against the fictitious pavement, my skin, and it drenches the tower and the figure keeps dancing, splashing it everywhere. "Aetas, Aetas," it mimics my tone, "let me devour, eat eat, taste his flesh." Panic ridden I stumble into motion, towards the clock that had been my sheltered home, my very soul keeper. Blood seeps from the crack and it rains harder, faster, thicker. Thicker?
Blood; thick, metallic, rotten blood pours from the sky like a faucet on its highest setting. Not even seconds pass before I am drenched from head to toe. The atmosphere shifts as the stench grows and threatens to suffocate me. I gasp, parting my full lips and scream - a high-pitched scream that echoes loudly in the nullity swallowing me. Bloody raindrops trickle down my throat, and I fall to my knees, spewing the contents of my stomach onto the non-existing ground. The whispers grow louder, distinct and yet still incoherent. It is hard to tell whether it is my own blood spilling from my lips or not. "You took me in, as though I had been your feral love - and my home had never been better," I manage to mutter in between panicked breaths, while my eyes linger on the foul smelling contents before me. "Your hearth grounded me, the snippets of love swept through you and engulfed the flames of hatred within me."
I pause, tilting my head upwards and examining the ever bleeding crack. "Plead, plead - Aetas won't hear," the figure murmurs into my ear, swiping its tongue across it and I can feel it burn within my being. It lays its hand along my colorless cheek and smiles, breathing into my pores and I can feel its puff of air scratch at my skin. I feel its touch being etched into my flesh, eating it inch by inch until it meets bone and I moan, cry and scream while it laughs its hollow laugh.
Fingers, slim, curl around my jugular - its skin a match of a crimson, ruby adorned necklace. Its embrace tightens, clasping like a barrel clasp around the pallor of my arching neck and striking it in a violet-hued choker. "My heart cried when I saw you shine amidst the ashes of my existence," I breathe abruptly. The figure moves about my being, gracefully it winds, panther-like. Its rancid breath undulating with the pattern of my own. "In time we rose, in time we became something."
"Aetas, love," I trail off, casting my gaze upon the time. "Should you fancy to move forward, just once tonight?" I beg anew, in hope of the deflating air balloon to be filled with oxygen once more.
"But what does time mean, anymore?" The figure shouts. Its tone rattles through me, cutting into the very core of my heart. "For me it has stopped, for you it is-" It stops, screeching a sound of sorrow into the night. The noise slithers among the fine hairs along my body that stand at attention.
"And still you refuse," I whimper, digging my nails into the black floor beneath me. Crawling along the void, my flesh rubbing against illusory glass shards, I bite back a cry. "Aetas, I jumped. Aetas, I am gone. Say it love, for it is the truth," I whisper as melancholy as the cooing of a bird.
My nails part, rip and fall off, leaving a trail of blood behind as the tips of my fingers dig into the unknown and come back black, rotten. The figures grip tightens around my neck, digging into it until I can feel its fingers within me and it surrounds me, engulfs me and swallows me whole. Forgiveness, forgive, my love, my love, Aetas, I might have said, though my voice vanishes.
"For you it is death," I hear the whispers sing about and I feel the figure push itself inside me. It breaks every bone within my being, shatters them and my lips part in a silent scream for I am mute. And suddenly deaf, left with only my thoughts. My head snaps up, greedily taking in the marvelous structure of the clock tower I once cared for, once loved. It had always been warmer than the sheets I had slept in, like a painting, a beautiful collage of browns and gold.
Then it strikes twelve, midnight repeated. At the final strike, eyes appear atop the tower. An endless silver, and it makes me shiver and a moan escapes my throat. My tongue clicks against the roof of my mouth, and we are both awake, while I drown within the figures embrace - within the clocks grip, its heart and hatred for me. For I have left it while it had given me everything. I beg with unheard thoughts as we stare at each other, and it does not forgive me.
Aetas, you are all I see, and everything else is nothing.
This is written very vague, I know this and it is meant to be. Aetas is Latin and stands for 'lifetime'. If you couldn't grasp the concept, think of it like this: the clock (Aetas) stands for life and the figure stands for death. In my belief death is the heart of life, thus the little interactions of this seeming like a love story.