Nov. 8th, 2009 07:09 pm
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Dusk muffled the click of the secondhand, and Leander stretched away from the rickety iron ladder to light a lamp behind the west tower clockface. The reflective shield sparked and glowed like a sun all its own, bright as a lighthouse beacon, stagnant as an unblinking eye.

He climbed down to the catwalks, thinking of eyes and lighthouses and wretched demons cowering in the filthy streets below. Strings of crude photographs flickered on the wall as he passed, the ghostly pale of faces. A cot without a pillow, a cold teapot and a chipped plate, traces of crumbs and jam. Copper and bronze ratcheted and glimmered in the new light. Turning, turning, clinks and whirrs, echoed behind the watchful faces like a private cathedral in its head.

The clock keeper took the lantern up a spiral staircase to the belfry, where the wind ravaged the pillars and shoved fruitlessly at the cracked triplet bells. The lights of the city were enough here, a starry field above and below.

Leander set the lantern down on the catwalk and approached the balcony, quiet behind the winged gargoyle as if not to wake it. From his pocket he produced a smooth stone, painted in childish bright colors, and he carefully set it on the stone barricade next to the others. Like a troop of little warriors they sat all lined up, ever-watching under the tutelage of the gargoyle's shadow; he adjusted them all with careful calloused fingers.

A cold brutish wind crashed through him and the chime of the bells thundered in his chest, though muffled by the ever-present plugs in his ears. Leander never heard the crack of the explosion, nor the screams of death and terror, nor the rush of inferno like a train derailed. He perched on the barricade and watched black smoke, glowing red from inside, pour out of the distant woods and block the moon with ash.

A prayer in the old language crossed his tongue and slipped through the twitch of a smile.


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November 2009

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