Thursday, January 17, 2008

Tomorrow at Midnight

And there stood at each end of the Wailing Wall a grandfather clock, a mystery in the face of the greatest mystery of mankind. The clocks wouldn't have been considered anything interesting in Jerusalem by themselves, fanatics and crazy folk has set up far more bizarre displays at the Wailing Wall even before The Event, after The Event the displays became even more outlandish and incomprehensible. These clocks wouldn't have seemed interesting at all, except for the fact that they exploded.

The clocks sat at either end of the Wailing Wall all day and all night, incorrectly keeping the time, harming no one. Local authorities considered them so innocent in the face of many other more garish displays that they allowed the clocks to sit for a few days before attempting to remove them. It was then that the grandfather clocks became interesting.

Upon laying his hand on one of the grandfather clocks the luckless Israeli police officer burst into flames, along with the clock he was touching. The grandfather clock was completely destroyed, and all that was let of the police officer was a charred corpse. A grandfather clock was an odd mode of delivery for a bomb, but this was Jerusalem, and far more bizarre methods of death and terror had been implemented, even before The Event.

At noon they deployed the bomb squads robot to deal with the other clock. Remote inspection revealed no trace of a bomb, this one might have been a decoy, a gambit in the hopes the police would inspect it first and decide to let the other clock alone. Still it wasn't worth taking any chances, the bomb squad activated the robots pincers, and attempted to drag the clock over to the detonation van. This clock burst into flames too, taking with it $20,000 dollars worth of robot.

The next day the clocks reappeared, some say in the exact same positions as the day before, at least one of them was for certain, the bomb team had marked the second clocks outline with chalk, and the new one stood exactly within the lines.

The police weren't taking any chances this time, they cordoned off the area around the clocks, and just let them tick away. When they blew up, the police decided, there would be no one around except for the police, who would quickly put out the fire, and inspect the remains for clues too the bombers identity. So they let the clocks tick, and they did tick, for three days and nothing happened. The police were stumped, remote controlled cameras and thermal imaging revealed no bomb components in either of the clocks. but they didn't want to take the chance of touching them again. Nit being able to keep such large sections of the Wailing wall cordoned off for such long periods of time, the police allowed people nearby, but they had to stay outside of the clearly marked perimeter of the clocks.

And so the clocks stood when a tourist took note of them. The tourist wasn't interested in the clocks when he encountered the first one, only sparing a passing glance, noticing its engraving reading "Eli," but when he came across the second clock on the opposite end of the Wailing Wall engraved as "Moshie" he decided to give the clocks some thought. He watched the clocks for hours, and with the pen and stationary set he'd stolen from his hotel, he scratched out notes about the clocks. The clocks read five minutes after midnight, and after calculating the speed at which the clocks told time the tourist worked out that it would be almost seven years before the clocks would read midnight again.

After thinking about his discovery, the tourist turned the page on the stationary pad, and began making a list of all the things he wanted to do before it was midnight again.


Fox Cutter said...

I like this one, it's effective. I like the little details about how any little piece of it doesn't stand out Jerusalem, but the whole of it is really strange.

The end of it makes it creepy on it's own. Just one nameless person working out what it all means and his reaction to it. Reminds me of an school sci-fi story.

Nitpicker 31 said...

It's nice, but one detail bothers me: Grandfather clocks do not keep track of seconds, and their dial only has twelve numbers, so midnight and noon are one and the same. If the clock was to measure "twelve hours" in about seven years it means that, in the enitre time the clocks were on display (a few days, then a one-day gap, then three days) until the tourist worked out his math, they would have run just over two minutes. If the tourist noticed them after they reappeared, then three days worth of observations would have allowed him to see it tick once, most likely (roughly 75% likely), but that is not enough information to tell the length of of a clock's "minute. You'd need two ticks for that.
Other than that yes, the story is much more powerful than what is found in "Left behind". Should it really come as a surprise, though?

practicallyevil said...

That's one heck of a nit-pick, nitpicker31. I actually didn't do out the math of how long it would take between ticks, maths not my strong suit. However writing is, so I built in an indeterminate amount of time between the bomb squad and the tourist so there were a few more minutes on the clock.

Although I'm still kicking myself over the twelve hours part, although the tourist might have inferred it seeing how he figured out the clocks relation to the Event.

Ian said...

mmm...that's like good Lovecraft.

(like Lovecraft in conveying a sense of inescapable, maddening, otherwordly doom, a doom that will soon destroy everything sane and human. not like Lovecraft in that Yog-succoth does not appear and in that nothing is described as eldrich)

Dash said...

I read this when it was first posted, back on the 17th of January. I've mentioned it to a dozen people since then as a unique and interesting take on the "two witnesses."

Well done!