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TitleA Strange Time
UserVelcora
RankingRunner-Up
Post Date (Visible)March 2021
Content

I returned home to discover my clock had turned evil. 

This may seem strange to you. It is strange. I cannot argue that point. But that does not mean it is not true. It is true. My clock turned evil. 

My clock, which is sometimes called the Vague Clock of Time’s Absolution, is a grander grandiose grandfather clock than your eyes have ever beheld. You may suppose this is hyperbole, but actually it is a true fact. My clock has no equal as far as ostentation is concerned. Perhaps that is the reason it turned evil. 

You may believe that there is no connection between the decadence of an item and its propensity for turning down a dark path, but that is quite naïve of you indeed. A simple oaken pipe, for example, would never draw evil into itself. Evil prefers a bit of panache. An Astounding Pipe of the Dancing Fox, on the other hand, might as easily bring a cloud of evil into itself as puff a cloud of smoke out. You do not need to believe me, the truth is remembered by the trees. They will not be fooled. A rock will not be convinced of untruth. In other words, my truth will prove itself in time. You’ll see. Keep an eye on those fancy trinkets. 

So as I was saying. My clock turned evil. 

I could tell because it was glowing a ghastly green, laughing faintly, and, not to be rude about it, emitting a subtle noxious odor. 

I sighed wearily when I discovered it. I thought about simply moving the thing to a corner of the Manor and shutting the door. But when one has an evil, potentially haunted clock in one’s Manor, one cannot shy away from one’s duty. 

I wiggled my fingers dramatically and proceeded to weave several layers of glamours about my person as a protective measure. Then I slowly slid my gorgeous mandolin out of my bag and quietly plucked a few simple melodies, and a couple difficult ones besides, adding my voice to the music to weave several songs around myself for further protection. Then I took a long drink of whiskey. That was unrelated—I just like whiskey. 

I’m no Moondancer, nor Hartstone, just a Spiritsinger. So, it was not as though some certain ritual sprang to mind. But Spiritsingers have magic too, and I believed my music might tame the evil within my clock, soothe it, or perhaps lure it out. 

My fingers danced upon the silken strings of my exquisite lyre, which happens to be in the shape of a fox. I added my voice to the music too, not in the cursory, formulaic way I had called forth protection moments before. Now, in uncharted territory, I felt with my song, reaching out with it towards the evil presence within my incredible clock. 

Sweat rolled down my brow, my voice strained, and my lyre warbled like a songbird. But I made no progress in tempering the foulness that had invaded my domicile. At first I thought I had encouraged the laughing to rest, but when I paused to wipe away my sweat and wet my throat again with another shot (or two) of whiskey, I realized the song had merely drowned out the laughter a bit. It continued, unabated. I furrowed my brow. 

But I was not ready to give up. I had worked hard to grow my clock, one wondercrystal at a time. I would not surrender it (nor my home, of course) to whatever had come to reside in it. I had to try harder. I called upon my changeling heritage, allowing my features to melt like wax and reshape themselves into another of my bodies. It only hurt a little, mainly when the curving horns emerged from my head. Long orange hair, lustrous like a fox’s fur, flowed down past my waist in curving waves. My shapely elfen torso melded seamlessly into my shapely goat’s legs. I stretched slightly. I touched my six-fingered hands to the strings of my lyre, adjusting to the new configuration of digits. I stretched my vocal chords too, bleating rhythmically. 

You might think that as a bard, I am always equally ready to dazzle with my performance. But the truth is, some bodies are built better for song, and for instrumentation, too. I don’t like to admit it, but it is hard to deny that sileni are the consummate musicians. If my sileni song could not exorcise this spirit, I would not be able to do it at all. 

I redoubled my efforts, gracefully plucking my lyre in a cascade of glissandos, crooning in a sultry sotto voce, and even dancing too, percussing periodically with my hoofs. My performance was so sublime, I became engrossed in it myself. So deeply engrossed, in fact that it took a bit of time to notice that the laughter was actually growing louder. I halted abruptly, half afraid, half outraged. 

Frustrated, I left my clock and retreated into my bedroom. I slammed the door behind me and thrust myself upon my bed. I pulled a pillow over my head and tried to think of what I hadn’t tried. 

Maybe it doesn’t like singing, I thought. Maybe it wants something. You might think it is obvious that not every creature responds to the sway of song. But as a Spiritsinger, I had found that almost every creature did. It was only now, having failed with that tactic, that I realized the more obvious route: talking to the clock. 

I sighed, and got up slowly from my bed. Do not think it did not cross my mind to hide beneath the covers and hope that time would cure this ill. Of course it did. But it also crossed my mind that the wonderclock could move from room to room within my manor. If the evil within it had not yet discovered this fact, it did not mean it would not find out soon. I shuddered to think of it invading my bedroom. 

“Accursed entity,” I intoned angrily when I had roused myself and stormed back into the parlour. “Why have you come here? And what will it take to be rid of you?” I demanded. I braced myself for the chilling laughter. I knew if this new approach did nothing to dampen it, I would be out of ideas. 

“I am here to extract tribute,” said a voice like stones rubbing against each other. I shivered. 

“Tribute?” I asked. I did not like the sound of that. You may think it frightened me. You would be correct in thinking that, but that is not the whole story. I was relieved. After hours of singing at a clock whose only response was laughter, I was finally getting somewhere. 

“I want cakes!” shouted the voice. 

Nothing could have surprised me more. “Cakes?” I replied. I opened my freezer, for I carried in it many cakes. I retrieved ten such confections from it and laid them before the clock. 

“One thousand cakes!” the voice shouted. “Each one must have a flower in it!” the voice added. A bit more laughter followed the demand. 

Eager to be done with the encounter, I did not even argue the ludicrous demands. I set off running. It took several days to obtain the rest of the cakes. Some of them I purchased, some I commissioned from bakers I knew. It took several more to find one thousand flowers. Similarly, I gathered some, bought some, and begged some from friends and strangers. I arrived back in my parlour completely drained of energy. I filled the room with cakes and flowers, then collapsed, exhausted, on the floor. 

I slept soundly for several more days. 

When I awoke most of the cakes were gone, and most of the flowers with them. Apparently the evil entity had been generous enough to leave me a few dozen of each. My clock showed no signs of being still haunted, but I gave it a thorough inspection, even calling a few friends to confirm that it was once again inanimate. 

The tale ended as simply as that. Although... 

Afterward I had a faint, vague memory of a dream. In it, a friend of mine, prone to pranks and masterful at illusions, crept out from behind my clock, gathered up hundreds of cakes and flowers, and started to creep out of my parlour. “I didn’t think you’d really get that many...” they whispered, probably to themself. I could have sworn they laid a kiss upon my forehead before departing. But of course this was a dream, and nothing more. I’m sure.