Weather: Extremely pleasant. Light Breeze.
Encounters: See Below.
Expenditures: None, but need to replace lamp bulb.
This morning we entered the valley. Deep green vines snaked through the branches making webbed designs where their shadows hit the ground. While Senelala chomped away at the vines to work his way through, I chopped with a machete. I felt guilty with each swing.
The work was difficult, at one point I felt tears well up in my eyes. My mind kept playing the same sentence over and over again, Should I have taken this journey?
“Let’s move, Senelala.” I said and pushed my regret out of my mind. The valley stretched on. It seemed to extend into complete darkness. I thought to myself, What if there’s no way out?
I’m not sure how much time had passed, but the sun was beginning to set. I turned to check on Senelala’s progress. He was not at my side. How was I unaware of his absence? I felt the familiar fast thump thump thump of my heart. “Senelala!” I yelled into the valley. The dense foliage seemed to muffle my voice. Stumbling backward over the roots and vines I saw the slow bob of light from his lamp, ascending the side of the valley.
“What were you thinking?” I shouted and Senelala looked at me. I reached the base of the wall he was climbing. There I saw the steps, hewn into the rock and ground. They rose up and out of the valley, seemingly carved into the landscape itself.
I remember saying, “Don’t do that again . . . but, this path looks interesting.” We were exhausted as we climbed. I noticed as we approached the top of the path the colors of the forest started to change. The colors once vivid greens morphed into warmer shades. As we journeyed even more inward I saw sparks of light hovering over the leaves of the trees. Senelala swiveled his head backward and forwards to take in the new sight. He was as confused as me.
I walked to place my palm on the smooth bark of a tree. In my hand, I felt a ticking, the tick-tick-tick of a timed rhythm. I moved to another tree, it was immense, the size of a tower. There was a similar rhythm, tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock. The little sparks neared me, but I could not make out what they were.
Suddenly I heard a voice call out, “Who has entered my dwelling?” The voice sounded deep and ancient like the beginning of our moon. When he stepped forth the sounds of the trees heightened, filling my ears with the inner rhythm of the forest. This stranger stood before me, squat and kind-faced. He squinted out behind glasses, one lens was clear and the other was a clock face. His mustache curled into a silver beard where multiple sparks of light had taken up residence.
I could feel my heartbeat keeping time with the trees. I walked closer to the impossibly ancient man. It wasn’t that he looked so ancient, but that he felt as old as the forest around us. It permeated the air around us. “Who are you?” I asked.
“Most call me the Clockmaker.” He said and knocked on the trunk of the enormous tree. The vines slithered away and the limbs shook to reveal a door. He motioned to Senelala, “He can come.”
We entered into the trunk of the tree. Before us was a great staircase that wound up multiple stories. We began to ascend. The steps were wood but they shone like metal. The walls were covered in clocks from many years past. I expected to hear a great noise from them, but they were silent.
“Tell me why you are on a journey.” He said as we worked our way up.
I opened my mouth to speak, but I didn’t know what to say. “I’m not sure.”
“You aren’t sure?” He said quizzically and nodded. I glanced behind me to check on Senelala, he snapped his mouth at one of the sparks of light. It seemed to be teasing him.
“I had to move” I said, slightly out of breath from the climb. “I just had this feeling.”
His eyebrows lifted, “Ah, just a feeling. Feelings make us do strange things.”
One spark of light buzzed by his ear, with impressive ability he snatched it out of the air. We reached the top of the staircase after a long climb. I realized I was behind the face of an enormous clock. The tree really was a tower.
I started to recognize the strangeness of my situation. What was I doing with this man? Why did I blindly walk into his clock tower?
“Why are you here, in the middle of the woods?” I asked.
His face did not change; the same wise look covered him like a mask. “Do you know what a firefly is?” he asked me. I told him I did not. He smiled slightly, “Well, that does not matter. Have you seen these little lights? I call them timepieces. I’m going to give you this timepiece in my hand. You need to cup it in your hands and look through the hole you make between your thumbs. Just press one eye up to the space. This is how we used to look at fireflies.”
I nodded and he shook the light (or “timepiece”) into my open hands. I quickly shut them closed so it couldn’t escape. I peered into the dark space and nothing happened.
“Wait for a moment, it will reveal itself.” The Clockmaker whispered. It sent shivers down my back.
Slowly I saw the light morph and contort. It was as if I was looking at a small screen, with a flickering projection. It shifted and clarified. In my hand sat a woman, in her middle-aged years. She was beautiful with dark hair. Her eyes held a deep kindness. She sat in the grass working on her sewing. I could have watched her needle dart in and out of the fabric forever.
“Who is that?” I asked without taking my eyes away from the scene. Before the Clockmaker could answer I saw a man approach the woman. His face was familiar, a younger version of the man who stood before me.
“That is the woman I love.” He said and took the timepiece back into his own hands. He opened a pocket and closed it within. “When she passed everyone told me to move on, to fix my eyes only on what was to come. I rejected that idea and moved out here to work on my clocks.” He held up a timepiece, but this one was not lit. It sat motionless in his hand. “Do you think you could summon the feeling that set you on this journey?”
I nodded and he passed me the un-lit timepiece. He put his hands over mine and we held the little metal device in the silence. “Concentrate.” He whispered, and I tried. I felt it start in the pit of my chest, a flutter that grew. In my hands, I felt the machine whir to life, its wing-like mechanisms trying to escape my palm.
I thanked the Clockmaker for his time, and we traveled onward out of the woods. I’m not quite sure what to make of my interaction with the Clockmaker. I can hear the timepiece clicking in my bag. I wonder what I will see in it?
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