The clock tower at the heart of the city had not always been a clock tower. Long before it was a tourist attraction, it was the last place on Earth that anyone would willingly go; and long before the clocks were installed, the four walls of the chamber at the top of Shadow Tower had one very small window each.
Shadow Tower was built during one of the darkest periods of the kingdoms past. King Heckleford had ordered the tower built, and upon its completion he locked away his unfaithful queen and her secret lover, they were never seen again. The tower would go on to be used by many kings, as an unspeakable way of dealing with many problems.
Shadow Tower had become synonymous with death, until many hundreds of years later when revolution relegated the royal families to a much more pagent-like figure-head role. During one remarkably brilliant renaissance the darkness of the tower’s past was debated, and there were more than ever that wanted to see the tower pulled down. But fears of disturbing the evil that once took place within the stone walls kept such talk from going very far.
It seemed that the light, and goodness of the renaissance would be marred for the kingdom, until one exceptionally talented tinkerer appeared and offered to transform the tower. No longer would it be Shadow Tower; it would be renamed The Timely Tower, the largest and most accurate clock tower in all the world.
It took the tinkerer seventeen years, eight months, three weeks, four days, and eleven hours to complete his work; and once done he left the kingdom forever, nearly blinded from the job, and his hands so struck with arthritis his fingers were permanently curled.
* * *
When Brent broke the news that he would have to work on New Year’s Eve, Kira was none to happy, but when he reminded her that he had keys to everything in the museum, including the clock tower, her mood improved.
“No one gets to see the clock tower like this.” Brent told her as he slid an old iron key into a lock that had not been opened in decades.
“Do you think it’s really haunted?” Kira’s voice betrayed the fear that she was trying hard to hide.
“No, those are just old stories….I’ve never seen anything, and I’m here five nights a week.”
They made their way to the room at the very top, it was full of gears and pulleys, clicking and twirling away. In the center of the room sat a table made of solid iron; it was cylindrical and perfectly smooth; it contained no handles, buttons, or switches.
Kira sat on top of the table, “Come here and kiss me, it’s almost midnight.” Brent was more than happy to oblige.
“Mhmm, I’m getting hot.” Kira said, as she ended the lustful embrace.
“I bet you are.” he replied full of swagger.
“No, I mean I’m really getting hot.” and she slid off the iron table just as the clock tower struck the first chime of midnight.
The large iron table began to give off a faint eerie glow. With the second chime the light that was being emitted became more defined, it was coming from the smallest of openings that encircled the top of the table. The third, fourth, and fifth bells of midnight rung out as the two lovers watched in awe.
“It’s a lid.” Kira knelt before the table and reached out tentatively.
“What are you doing?”
“What do you think, I want to know what’s inside.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“Don’t be such a chicken.” she mocked.
The ninth, tenth, and eleventh bells rang out.
Just as the twelfth bell was rung, announcing the arrival of the new year, Kira lifted the lid. As soon as she had every movement of the clock came to a grinding halt, and the light that flashed out from the container blinded her and Brent, and sent them reeling. The room at the top of the tower was filled with shrieks of terror, and then everything was deathly still and quiet.
As Brent and Kira reopened their eyes, huddled together in the nearly complete darkness, the only light that remained came from the underside of the still open lid, from the words that were inscribed in scrolling letters upon it, and that were now glowing, ‘There Is Only Peace and Rest Inside, The Outside World Holds Nothing but Destruction’.
written for: The Speakeasy #142