“Time. The currency which is distributed unequally to all people.
One may spend time, yet one can never earn more time.”
– Alexander Osmotif; Master of Time in Greenich
The dark looming clouds devoured the last light of the waning crescent moon. The smell of rain carried on the breeze, as rolling thunder growled in the distance. A small sleepily city lay in the path of the oncoming storm, its inhabitants dreaming of the morning sun and daytime activities, were blissfully unaware of the looming darkness. Twisted shapes shifted and flickered within the surging storm clouds as if a horde of malformed beings were riding upon the violent up and downdrafts. As the twisted shapes passed in front of the stars, the stars flickered and then winked out, covered by darkness so impenetrable even the lights of the city bellow could not pierce through it.
Unearthly screeching and whispering filled the silence between thunderclaps, as the storm rolled towards its destination, a small house just outside of the city. Thousands of red blinking eyes that swirled and shifted within the storm watched the darkness grow ever closer to its goal. The time was now right, the Unwinding had begun. The whole storm shuddered and billowed as if in anticipation.
Meer minutes were left.
The growing storm breeze fluttered a pair of white curtains that covered a jagged broken window. Gloom filled the interior of the poorly lit room as the last rays of moonlight glinted off of the shards of glass which lay near the window. The soft creaks and groans of the old house faded in and out as the thunder and rain grew near.
Hurriedly, Clarence looked up at the digital clock which flickered and blinked with the spasms of distant thunder.
Lightning flashed as it touched down with a muffled bang; the smell of sulfur and death mixed with the iron tinge of blood met Clarence’s nose causing his stomach to churn.
Clarence ran a hand through his rapidly greying hair, pausing when he felt a small bald spot. He knew that his time was running out. The darkness from the oncoming storm was not only figurative but literal for him and Clarence could feel the storm’s dark pressure building in his bones.
Clarence’s gloved hands trembled slightly as he picked up a small screwdriver and twisted a screw into the metallic device in front of him. The dim lights flickered and blinked as Clarence carefully fit the metal shards into place.
He reached for another screw as his eyes drifted to the still warm form which was bleeding out on the kitchen floor. The figure had once been humanoid, but now it was a twisted mess of vaguely human pieces and parts. Blood oozed from a gaping hole in the side of the figure. Shuddering, he forced his focus to return to the device.
“All over soon.” He whispered like a mantra to himself, panic adding an edge to his shaking voice.
He tried to shove from his mind the twisted image of the now-dead monster which lay on the floor. Clarence knew that the figure was not a monster or at least had not always been one. Rather it was an amalgamation, created by actions of those he once considered friends.
The lights in the house flashed and went out, causing Clarence to franticly grab at the side of his suit for his flashlight.
Pulling it out, Clarence flicked it on and quickly flashed the light around the room. The beam of light illuminated the dead figure, along with the modern furnishings and decorations of the kitchen where Clarence had been rebuilding the device. Another flash of lightning and a resounding bang echoed across the city causing Clarence to jump. The storm was increasing and Clarence knew he would need to leave soon if he wanted to survive.
Placing the flashlight in his mouth to free up his hands, Clarence quickly and carefully placed the last three half-circle gems into place on the device. A low hum, almost as quiet as the now falling rain, filled the room and Clarence turned off the flashlight.
The lights flickered back on again and Clarence smiled a weak tired smile.
“She was right,” Clarence whispered in awe as he pulled off his gloves and ran his hands over the egg-shaped device, feeling for any flaws or mistakes. When he found none, Clarence nodded as if answering a question in his mind. He carefully placed the device into his front jacket pocket.
Standing quickly, Clarence almost fell as his knees creaked with arthritic pain. He knew his time was almost up.
Touching the side of his head, right above his left ear, Clarence brought up his hollo display. Red lights and warnings flashed across his vision as they all fought for his attention. He glanced at the clock on the right side of his display which read: [11:45].
“Warning” a soft female voice spoke in his ear. “Bodily corruption at 95%. Please return to a sanctioned Reset Center before full corruption.”
Clarence ignored the voice as he quickly synced his display with the device in his pocket.
“Connection to Compass established. Please state your destination.”
A blinding flash lit up the entire house and Clarence was forced into his knees as the walls and the floors shook and rolled and the last unbroken windows shattered from the pressure. He covered his head as an ear-shattering boom shook the house causing pictures to fall from the walls and dishes from the shelves.
They had come. The harbingers of the Unwinding were here.
Clarence shakily got to his feet blinking away the afterimage of the lightning, only to freeze as a black shape with red eyes swirled into focus in front of him.
Panic filled Clarence and he stated, “Destination: Par…”
His words went unfinished as the dark form in front of him shot out a tentacle-like arm that grabbed him by the throat and hefted Clarence into the air.
“Order not understood. Please state your destination.” The female voice from Clarence’s hollo display announced.
Gasping and choking Clarence tried to squirm free, but the now almost fully formed shape only tightened its grasp.
Clarence, wide-eyed glanced at his clock [11:49].
“You have lost” the dark shape hissed at Clarence. “Give me the Compass, the time of the Unwinding has begun.”
Clarence’s vision began to dim as his brain lost oxygen. He franticly pulled at the tentacle, but his aging ungloved hands burned upon contact with the shadowed flesh.
The shadow began to take a more humanoid form as its other tentacle arm reached for the jacket pocket where Clarence had put the Compass.
In a final act of desperation, Clarence pulled the Compass out of his pocket and held it aloft. His lungs screamed for oxygen and his heartbeat pounded in his head.
With the last of his strength, Clarence threw the Compass over the head of the shadow monster and into the other room. The egg-shaped device flew through the air and the shadow monster shifted its twisted form to catch it.
For a small moment, the monster’s attention was not on Clarence and it relaxed its hold on his throat.
“Destination: Paradise!” Clarence gasped out.
“Destination confirmed. Please relax as your journey begins.” The hollo display voice pleasantly announced, “Current time is 11:53 pm. Paradise time is 2:30 am. Enjoy your trip.”
The shadow monster hissed and screamed as Clarence and the Compass began to fade from its grasp.
“You have not won, Time Master. You have only delayed us. We will be back.” The monster screeched, “The time of the Unwinding has begun!”
Clarence closed his eyes as white light washed over him. The experience of traveling through time was always a pleasant one, but Clarence could not relax like he normally would. His body was near death, aging as fast as he was flying through time and he needed to come up with a plan. A plan to save Jaz. A plan to stop Dustin. A plan to stop the Unwinding.