The paper was empty. It remained empty for hours, though by then it shouldn’t have been. Autumn should’ve filled it by then, but whenever she turned her attention to planning, where ’twas s’posed to be, it’d turn ’way to other subjects—subjects it’d be better off not squandering precious time considering. She must’ve tried turning her attention to planning dozens o’ times, but her attention kept turning ’way like a stubborn, spoiled child.
She tapped her fingers on her book ’gain & ’gain & ’gain & ’gain & ’gain. @ frantic speed, rapidly. She shifted gainst the brick wall o’ Edgar’s storm-drain home, careful not to shake Edgar too much, Edgar having fallen asleep next to her. Then she shifted in a different position, & then shifted in ’nother position, & then shifted in yet ’nother position. None were well. Her head had incomprehensible aches, & she held her head in her hand. This didn’t make the aches go ’way.
The only sound present in that empty realm was the inescapable tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick. Sometimes there would be a tock inside o’ there—sometimes. Since she saw no clock in sight, she wondered if the ticks her ears swore they heard were true or if they were only her mind’s fantasies.
What was certain was the effect it had on Autumn, which was her fingers quaking, her teeth gouging her bottom lip, & her eyes twisting in fury. The ticks seemed to vacuum in all o’ the oxygen, for Autumn was breathing heavily & sweating under the stale carbon dioxide left ’hind.
Which was ironic, since Autumn knew she didn’t want the clock—authentic or imagined—to stop ticking. Quite the opposite, actually: ’twas the very knowledge o’ their ’ventual demise espoused by every tick that made her twitch.
She had made a habit o’ checking her funds every so oft, written on the back sheet o’ her ideas pad. She knew ’twas a time-wasting distraction, but couldn’t stop herself.
Let’s see… I have 113,752₧ within the span o’—she paused to do the math… Almost a year & a half. That’ll probably solve less than a year’s worth o’ necessary funds just to keep myself ’live, much less money I get to keep. ’Less I improve my production immensely, I’m screwed.
Always afterward, she’d check the calendar on her cell & would always see the year 2011 shrink.
Only a few months till I must figure out a way to subsist on my own, she thought. O, she knew her mother would technically ne’er demand she go out on her own; she always had that peculiarity o’ demanding nothing from Autumn while offering whatever li’l she had—which was, Autumn surmised, probably why she had li’l in the 1st place. But Autumn knew she could ne’er accept such a degrading situation for herself. ’Twas embarrassing ’nough to do so as a minor, when there was a socially manufactured ’scuse; when the ’scuse disappeared, such a situation became untenable.
No, if Autumn could not keep herself afloat on her own, then she deserved to drown. That was the logical conclusion.
Whenever that thought had finished its time, she put full pressure on her plans, e’er cognizant o’ the time she’d pathetically squandered. In such a mental state as that in which these thoughts left her, her imagination rarely felt well, & so Autumn oft felt the need for external enticement: what would start as the absentminded squeezing o’ her hand from ’nother would gradually shift to the e’er-so-minded stabbing o’ pencil in palm, closing her eyes & breathing deeply @ the serene burn it left.
It does not stop till you start devising feasible thieving opportunities, she told herself.
It rarely did; but after a while, Autumn would see the futility in this venture & stop. Though she always craved a stronger dose, she acknowledged the disastrous opportunity losses she’d accrue if she were to accidentally break something. Anyway, she realized ’twas mo’ a recreational act than an incentive to think, since it ne’er seemed to succeed—& she didn’t have time for such useless games.
Hmm… I seem to be mentally aberrant, she mused as she stared down @ & slowly pet Edgar’s head. O well. So long as we keep that to ourselves, that should cause no problems; so long as we keep everything to ourselves, there should be no problems.
So urgent was her quest for new ideas that, after finishing the usual business, she spent the rest o’ her lunch sitting @ a table with her face pressed almost-touching to a blank notepad, hoping to make it not blank anymo’, while Edgar sat ’cross, watching the rest o’ the cafeteria for signs o’ abandoned food that Autumn could pilfer & resell.
But she could tell that part o’ his focus was on her, & she could tell that he could tell the frustration painted on her face or embodied in her hand squeezing her pencil so hard she could feel it almost break. She could tell that that knowledge only increased her frustration, e’en though it should do the opposite. It only did so ’cause she didn’t want it to infringe on his feelings; & the increase in her ire only increased the infringement further, creating a cycle…
“¿Is something wrong?” asked Edgar.
“¿Huh?” grunted Autumn, looking up @ him. When he hesitated to answer she added, “¿Did you say something?”
“I, uh… I was just wondering if something’s wrong.”
“Nothing you can cure.”
Edgar turned fully toward her with his jaw hanging out slightly.
“¿Is it something serious?”
“¿What? No,” Autumn replied in a petulant tone.
“¿Does it have something to do with—?”
“Edgar, I don’t have time to discuss this inanity,” Autumn snapped. “¿Could you just give me peace for the next few minutes?”
Edgar lowered his head & murmured, “Yes… Sorry…”
“You needn’t be,” murmured she.
It did Autumn no good, anyway: e’en with Edgar’s voice gone, the constant clatter o’ plastic dishes & the perpetual patter o’ a trail mix o’ voices ensured that her focus would be squandered. She reacted by covering her ears, which gradually progressed into trying to squeeze her head; but the sounds still somehow managed to seep in.
She slammed her pencil down, stood up, & announced, “Fuck planning: it’s time for action. My surroundings are clearly giving me a message.”
Autumn’s eyes shifted left & right as she stormed down the cafeteria, seeking food or other valuables she could raven. But no matter how deep she searched, none appeared.
This should be no surprise. After years o’ being robbed, surely they’d learn to perfect protecting their property. Still, you’d think there’d be some who’d leave their food ’hind purely from nonchalance—’less they’re intentionally trying to deprive me o’ thieving opportunities, which is certainly possibility.
I s’pose I could try breaking through the new locker locks, but it’ll be risky. People are also mo’ watchful ’bout that, too, now.
No matter where she went, her thoughts were distracted by the voices surrounding her.
“I must say, old chap: take a gander @ this pneumatic moving picture I discovered on the ThouScreen in which this fellow hollers into a face-recording camera embedded in his computational device while playing 1 o’ those electronic entertainment devices.”
“¡Indeed! ¡It’s quite the gerbil’s pajamas!”
“¿Didst I hear thou art crooning with Sassoon?”
“Indeed, agreed we both to prom this noon.”
“Prithee, hold not your tongue in dam, thou beaver;
Release the details for which I so thirst.”
“They say the clock tower’s where the janitor left his riches just before suiciding.”
Autumn stopped as if reaching the end o’ an invisible rope.
“Sigh”—the voice literally said “sigh.”—“I don’t want to hear any more o’ your obviously fabricated stories. This is as bad as that time you said a blurry photograph jumped out @ you from your closet.”
“¿O, truly? ¿Then why did I find this golden doubloon, huh?”
Autumn glanced toward the noise & saw that, indeed, 1 o’ the students appeared to be holding a fat goldenrod coin.
She noticed 1 o’ them glance back @ her for a split second, & then look back @ her partner.
“We can discuss this somewhere else,” she continued in a low voice, & then the 2 shut their lockers & walked ’way hastily, as if they were late for class.
Autumn didn’t follow, but stood still & scrutinized the floor tiles. She doubted the story: ¿Rich janitors? ¿Who could believe such an absurdity? But considering the situation, searching could hardly be considered any mo’ a waste—& the potential reward was too spicy to dispose o’ so quickly.
’Nother plus: this wasn’t true theft, since the dead can’t carry their wealth with them to the abyss, & thus the risk o’ danger dramatically diminished. It wasn’t as if the janitor’s ghost was going to come back to haunt her or stop her; not ’cause she didn’t believe in ghosts—ghosts were ’nother scientifically-confirmed biology anomaly in Boskeopolis that gave scientists such headaches—but ’cause the idea that someone who chose to kill oneself would voluntarily return was just too absurd to taste for a second.
But her newfound enthusiasm didn’t end with this scheme; for as she considered the prospect o’ this treasure’s true existence, she mused o’er what other buried riches might lurk round Boskeopolis. After years o’ scraping raw the same empty caves with plastic beach shovels, she might’ve landed in an untouched mine providing its own automatic drills.
I’d better find Edgar, she thought as she 180’d, only to bump into him.
“Ah, there you are,” said she. “Good news: I might’ve found a new reservoir o’ gold.”
Edgar scratched his head. “¿Inside the school? ¿Couldn’t that cause water damage?”
“Shhh,” Autumn whispered as she leaned her head closer, her eyes darting left & right. “Wait till we find barren land before we discuss this further.”
“That might be difficult to find in such a sprawling city as this, though there may be some in Mustard Mountain,”
The reveille rang for 4th period.
“Damn. It’s too late to try my lunch hideout,” muttered Autumn. “We’ll just have to consider somewhere else after school.”
“…This protest proved historically important, as 2 months later, General Clay relented, allowing a parliament to form, the 1st steps toward Boskeopolis’s transition to a republic…”
Autumn was glad her 6th period teacher spent the whole class droning on ’bout the same content they’d already went o’er before, giving her ample opportunity to consider mo’ important issues.
Foremost, she still needed to figure out where the clock tower was, & find a way to sneak inside unseen. She guessed that ’twas somewhere near school grounds, considering the involvement o’ the janitor; though she also knew this was not a certainty.
She couldn’t stop eying the clock every minute. ’Tween the birth o’ this business @ break & now, further rumination had melted her juiced engine o’ ebullience into a flickering flame o’ doubt—which only made further thought harder, since candles had much less memory to spare for thought than e’en engines impaired by spilt Sitrus Berry juice.
So distracted by these figurative thoughts was Autumn that the bell’s school-end chime startled her. She gazed round the room that seemed alien after such a long mental vacation & received confirmation from all o’ the students sliding books in bags & storming out the door. She played the pattern.
She waited by the maple just in front o’ the entrance, ignoring the light sprinkle o’ rain falling o’er her & watching the stream o’ students swarm out the door for signs o’ a familiar skull & hood. By the time her eyes netted him, he was already staring @ her & walking her way.
“So, ¿what do we do now?” asked Edgar. “¿Go to your house so you can plan whatever this new thing is?”
Autumn paused to think.
“I think we’d better use this short opportunity while we still have a ’scuse for being here to search for the clock tower; then we can go & plan how to sneak in.”
“¿Clock tower? ¿What do you need from there?”
“Shit,” Autumn muttered as she searched the vicinity for lingering ears. Her arteries eased when she saw no suspicious hesitations—nor many students @ all, for that matter.
You’re on fragile rope already, she told herself; don’t drop lit matches like cigarette ashes.
“Ne’er mind,” Autumn whispered huskily. “Just look round for 1 without attracting attention.”
“I’ll start outside, you inside; ¿all right?” asked Autumn.
Look casual, Autumn told herself as she paced down the back terrace o’ Applewood with her hands deep in her pockets, her head hanging low, & her shoulders slumped.
This was not mere acting. In the deepest corners o’ her brainstem festered visions o’ various people—some she saw in her vicinity, & some she’d ne’er seen in her life—sneaking into the clock tower this minute & mad dashing with fat cash sacks ’cross their backs, leaving her 1 year later crouched in an alley, fishing from a trash bin.
“¿You all right?”
Tossed back into reality from her looping nightmares after dozens o’ attempts to do so herself, Autumn looked up to see that ’twas the groundskeeper, who was now raking the soggy November leaves into a pile next to a pair o’ black plastic bags, his large furry claws working effortlessly. Autumn couldn’t e’en guess what the crafty grizzly was thinking, as its eyes were covered in the same olive uniform-matching ranger hat they all wore; but she knew the groundskeeper would know where the clock tower is, & thus would be a high-level risk o’ competition.
“Nothing,” mumbled Autumn. “Just a tad tired.”
“¿Doing some extracurricular activity?”
Autumn couldn’t stop herself from cringing when she felt a familiar buzz in her pocket.
That must be Edgar, either with intel or trouble. Knowing his capabilities, it’s likely the latter.
She waited till she’d left the groundskeeper’s sight from ’hind an outcropping wall o’ the building before slipping out her phone & checking it:
“Found where clock tower is its [sic] fasther [sic] out in the park hind the wire fence hgind [sic] the school”
¿Why would you add ‘sic’ statements to your own text? Why not just correct them if you know they’re wrong? Autumn wondered as she questioned Edgar on how he made his discovery.
Her phone buzzed once mo’, & her screen was replaced with mo’ text:
“I asked someone a the front desk”
Autumn blinked repeatedly, refusing to believe what her eyes told her.
“I think you made a type. You were not foolish 'nough to outright ask someone for its where'bouts, right?”
A’least a minute perished before ’nother text appeared:
“Was i not sposed to”
Autumn could feel the steam rise from her forehead as she mashed her next message:
“'Course you weren't s'posed to! What part o' 'without attracting attention' did you not understand?”
“Its OK i told her we were doing some istory project”
“That's such an obvious lie she'd have to be lobotomized to believe it.”
When ’nother minute went by without reply, Autumn added, “Well, it’s late, so we might as well get started on plan 2. We a’least gained something, though @ mo’ risk than warranted. Meet me ’hind the school.”
She pocketed her phone & then began pacing swiftly back & forth, her eye swinging through the vicinity to ensure that the groundskeeper wasn’t watching her. Every second that withered off the branch felt like ’nother coin being vacuumed out the clock tower, the vision o’ its mammon mountain quickly dissolving fixed before her eyes.
Holy Buddha, ¿what’s taking you so long, Edgar?
A minute later, she saw Edgar emerge from ’hind the corner, guilt obvious on his face.
“There you are,” whispered Autumn. “We don’t have time to plan. We’ll just have to snap it from here, ¿OK? Now let’s go.”
But before Edgar could say mo’, Autumn was already halfway to the gate; & when she reached it, she didn’t e’en hesitate for a second before she began climbing. The only time she did stop was when she reached the top, so she could help Edgar up. Once he landed on the other side, she jumped down after him & bolted forward, Edgar scampering ’hind, holding the hem o’ his robe up to avoid sloshing it all o’er the slushy grass.
Autumn turned her head left & right @ a dozen turns per second as she wandered through the enormous clearing till her eyes caught thick bronze. They followed the tall rectangular object upward till they reached the top, adorned by the round white face o’ an analog clock.
¡Perfect! she thought as she rushed for it, looking back briefly to ensure Edgar wasn’t too far ’hind.
@ the front o’ the tower, bordered by 2 thin wall outcrops, stood a tall, thin door o’ mossy green wood. She turned the knob with shriveled expectations o’ utility, but was surprised to find it as loose as unlocked—& indeed, when she pulled, the door opened easily.
‘Twas an unhappy surprise: it meant somebody had probably already entered, & would likely take all o’ the treasure before she could get a coin in her fingernails.
Since the inside was so small horizontally, her eyes naturally glided upward. There her mind became o’erloaded by the mechanical complexity o’ all the moving screws, churning cogs, jerking plastic hands, & other apparatuses Autumn’s attention couldn’t stretch ’nough to register. E’en the walls were a jumble o’ millions o’ mechanical pieces glued together, a few cogs in the front spinning, for reasons Autumn didn’t care to guess.
Getting to the top would be complex. Autumn frowned. She didn’t like complexity: it only added mo’ steps she could fail, causing her to fall off completely. The mo’ she considered the whole venture, the mo’ she doubted its benefits: she didn’t e’en know if there was truly treasure here, if somebody else hadn’t stolen it by now, or whether she’d be able to e’er find it if ’twas still there. If any o’ these returned false, she’d have wasted hours—& with time running out, she needed to optimize the usefulness o’ her time.
On the other hand, she’d already spent so much time that it’d be a waste to give up before trying.
I’ll just have to carry my expensive bet out to the end.
Since the only object she saw in front o’ her on her level was a set o’ grated silicon steps, she started by climbing them. As she rose, she looked down & saw below & to the sides o’ the stairs empty blackness. She didn’t want to learn the consequences o’ falling in.
She turned her head ’hind her once ’gain to ensure Edgar hadn’t lost himself since she’d last seen him. As she neared the top o’ the steps, she saw Edgar poke his skull in.
“Up here,” she said as she waved a hand toward herself.
As she looked for where her next path should lie, she debated whether she should instruct Edgar to stay ’hind, & thus save her time not waiting, or if he might come in handy later, & thus be needed nearby.
This deliberation was shoved aside when she noticed a small clock on 1 o’ the walls, with a sign ’bove that said:
Greater time means greater speeds;
12 is when all motions cease.
I could sure use some speed, Autumn thought as she strode o’er to it.
“This sure is an odd clock tower…” Edgar said as he stared upward, his tinny voice rising in strumming echoes. So long had Autumn gone hearing only the light whoosh o’ plastic & metal swinging through the air, the quiet crunching o’ gears grinding gainst each other, & the steady whirr o’ them spinning by themselves, that such sudden loudness caused Autumn’s hair to jump.
“I’m blurry on why they’d have a clock tower in the 1st place,” said Autumn. “Probably some rich academic built it for fun.”
“Hey, you don’t think… you don’t think with people dying in here this place might be… might be haunted, ¿d’you?”
“Such a prospect wouldn’t e’en nest in the top 20 o’ my frets,” said Autumn.
She now stood @ the edge o’ the grilled silicon platform, with a wide spinning gear ’tween her & the platform below the li’l clock. She carefully reached a foot out to the gear platform & instantly felt a force pull on it when it touched the gear, causing her to yank it back before her legs were ripped apart.
The only way this’ll work is if both feet go together—I’ll just have to leap the whole thing like a frog.
Edgar continued the conversation Autumn hoped had already been buried:
“¿You don’t think any bats might fly @ us from dusty corners or any spiders might leap on us as we’re trying to climb, or any floating ghostly Medusa heads might fly @ us in wavy patterns & knock us into the abyss down below?”
That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve e’er heard, Autumn thought as she crouched in preparation for a large jump. ¿What harm could spiders do us?
But Autumn just replied with, “We should be fine so long as I don’t fuck up any jumps.”
As soon as she could after jumping, she grasped the riveted edge o’ the gear to hold her in place. Then she stood up in a crouch ’gain &, when her face was a few degrees before the platform, jumped so that her angle matched the platform’s.
Just think: you’ll have to do this many mo’ times before we’re done, she thought as she thumped gainst silicon ’gain.
She grasped the single hand on the clock. Well, let’s hope this bears honey… Then she twisted it clockwise till the hand was pointing @ the 11.
Gears whooshed—e’en heavier than before. She turned & saw all rush. Cog edges & plumbs blurred. She trod back, shocked.
“They weren’t kidding when they said this made everything faster.”
She turned the hand to 12 & heard the whirring & grinding & churning & flailing, indeed, cease, which was replaced by a gradually fainting sputter, like that o’ a dying fan. She turned & saw that everything had stopped moving.
Autumn put her hand on her chin & rubbed it back & forth while she attempted to devise a strategy for continued exploration based on the results o’ her recently-finished experiment.
On 1 hand, this’ll be much easier to deal with; on the other, it might make things go slower, & I’m already probably getting cogged out o’ my money now.
She sensed the minutes slipping past her guard, moment by moment by moment by moment. She clutched her head, pressing gainst it with such strength as if she were attempting to crush a balloon. She didn’t keep a single reason for why she might believe such an action might help her think mo’ quickly; but then, she was so preoccupied with attempting to figure out the solution to the dilemma ’hind the clock speeds that she simply did not possess the time necessary to rethink the reflexive motion she made gainst her head.
¡There’s not ’nough time to waste standing round here; but there isn’t ’nough to screw up, either! ¡Shit! ¡Think!
She mentally forced herself to settle on a decision, which would be to make the clock tower operate @ maximum speed so as to make their movement speed maximal, too—a’least, that is what she hoped. She decided that her situation was so calamitous @ this period o’ time that ’twas necessary for her to maximize her risk in the hopes o’ gaining as much o’ the reward as she could.
She placed her hand on the clock hand & turned it back a li’l distance so that ’twas now o’er the 11 once mo’. All spun ’live ’gain so fast.
“¿Did you figure it out?” asked Edgar.
“I think…” Autumn had her hands up to her head & a confused expression.
Edgar noticed this & wanted to ask her what was wrong, but then saw her instantly turn her attention to the task @ hand & decided that she’d probably not want to waste mo’ time discussing such trifles.
She stopped by the speeding cog, watched it close, & then jumped on it. The cog’s force would’ve thrown her if she hadn’t grasped tightly. Legs wobbled as she tried standing. Her surroundings blurred.
No time to waver, she thought. Better try the next revolution & hope for the best.
She leapt, but a li’l too late: she went @ a leftward angle, landing on the edge o’ the platform. She moved forward to avoid tipping off backward.
“I guess this’ll make climbing the tower quick in some way, ¿right?” asked Edgar.
Autumn strode to 3 cogs half-stuck in the wall, leading up to a higher platform. She saw that they were revolving toward her. She looked back @ Edgar.
Damn. ¿How is he going to be able to get through these if I can barely do it without being flung off?
“Edgar, stay ’hind,” Autumn called with hands funneling mouth.
“¿Are you sure—?”
“Yes. Hopefully this won’t take long.”
Her trick was to hop past all cogs without pause. Since she spent li’l time on any cog, their movement had li’l effect on her. ’Bove, she saw that the path went much farther: conveyors, pendulums, giant screws, & flipping blocks. The next step was a long conveyor that ran toward her.
Augh. ¡Cranking the speed up didn’t help @ all! This is only going to slow me.
No time to go back, so she ran full-speed. Only ‘twas harder than she guessed, going only tick by tick. It took 2 minutes to reach the end, & she barely had the energy to leap to the next platform—a rapidly flipping block she had no time to rest on, though her heart’s battery felt low.
She jumped to the pendulum after—mistimed, as it swooped ’way in mid-leap, leaving her unable to grab it. Gravity yanked her till she slammed face-1st onto silicon ground, shattering glasses.
Staring upward, she saw the smudge that was Edgar.
“¿Are you all right?”
She reached for glasses & raised them to shocked eyes. Then she sat up & pressed palms into her sockets.
“I still had time… I still had a chance…”
Edgar saw her shake.
“If you want, I can go & see if I can find you ’nother pair o’ glasses you could wear.”
She turned to him, the bottom o’ her eyes dark. While she was mostly still, her hand still shook as it grasped through the holes in the silicon platform.
She whispered, “You don’t understand, Edgar—we don’t have time. We still have to climb this insipid tower, look for the treasure, & hope that nobody’s taken it. & we can’t just stay in here all day; somebody’s going to notice us in here, what with all o’ the noise. This was only s’posed to be some quick search. It’d probably be better just to leave, but then, ¿what if there truly is treasure here? ¿& then what will I do?”
“I’m sure you’ll find ways to make money later…”
“You don’t understand—I don’t have time. Time is running out on us just being able to sit round getting necessities for free. I need a constant supply for food, for shelter, for all o’ that & keep a surplus to prevent me from being perpetually poor. Hoping that money will eventually come is not ’nough: the speed & ’mount o’ my gains simply must improve.”
She sprung to foot. “& I’m just wasting mo’ time on this discussion.”
But she was fuzzy on what to do next. ¿Should I try climbing with broken glasses or waste time having them fixed? She squeezed a hand as if it’d pump her mind. There were too many split paths that split into other split paths & so on till there were millions o’ choices—almost all could lead to failure.
She exhaled deeply. We must ease. Excess hurry is causing you to make poisonous choices. Whatever we might gain from speed will have been lost by now, anyway. I will simply go get my glasses fixed, take this tower the slow way, & hope that the treasure’s still here—if there’s any e’en.
She turned to Edgar’s blur & held out her glasses.
“¿Could you run out & get these fixed or find ’nother pair, & could you hurry, please?” she asked, wincing uncertainly.
Edgar took them, nodded, turned, & sped downstairs.
Just after, Autumn jumped on the cog to the small clock, but waited before jumping ’gain, better aiming where to land still with blurry sight—falling off here’d be direr than wrecked glasses.
She grasped the hand & twisted it to 1; but then when she planned mo’ for how she’d climb, she turned the hand e’en further to 12.
With that issue now properly settled, Autumn expended the time she waited for Edgar’s return in attempted relaxation. She sat down & considered in greater detail what she’d do, not only in terms o’ her current venture, but also for the relatively distant, though not distant ’nough for Autumn’s taste, future.
She found this to be much too arduous as she stared round the tower, seeing it become mo’ portentous in her smoky, congested vision, as if her losing her glasses had transformed the tower into a spectral, non-Euclidean nightmare. Autumn’s nerves ne’er soothed @ the deprivation o’ her spectacle-dependent sight any mo’ than they would if she were locked in a confined coffin, vulnerable to the various invisible hazards surrounding her.
I s’pose that’s simply the outcome one must expect when one is born with such biological weaknesses, she mused.
After a couple o’ minutes, Autumn had considered asking Edgar how well he was doing; but then she remembered she’d ne’er be able to see what she was typing, so she dropped the idea.
Wouldn’t be surprised if he just said fuck me & went awol. It’s not as if I’m doing anything for him ’cept harry him round… Autumn thought as she bit her finger, only for her thoughts to trail off when she noticed the pain said biting caused & realized how much it soothed nerves that just recently were as far from soothed as possible, & found a new way to survive a time period that wouldn’t be useful, anyway.
However, she had to quickly stop her activities approximately half an hour later, when she witnessed the white smudge o’ Edgar’s skull ascend from the top o’ the large yellow smudge that was the silicon stairway.
She waved him toward her & said, “Could you try hopping o’er here? I stopped everything, so it shouldn’t be too hard.”
Edgar stared @ the holes ’tween the cog for a few seconds, but then nodded. He ran toward the hole & leapt with his hands outstretched, as if he hoped it’d improve his distance. Autumn sighed in relief when she saw his fuzzy figure land before her & felt a light bump ’neath.
Then she saw the blur move ’gain & sensed an e’en lighter tumming beside her. Suddenly, the much closer voice o’ Edgar said, “¿Could you lean your head down a li’l, please?”
“¿Huh? ¿Why?” Autumn asked as she did so, while also turning toward him.
Then she said, “O,” when she felt plastic lightly jab into the sides o’ her face, & her blurry vision was replaced with clarity o’ Edgar’s skull & the tower.
She straightened up & readjusted her glasses with a cough.
“Thank you,” she mumbled. Then she added, “& sorry for my rude rushing… I…
“Anyway, I wanted to ask if you could stay here & change this clock when needed.” She pointed to said clock. “I’ll call down to you when I need you to change it.”
“Uh huh,” he answered.
With that settled, Autumn bounded back ’cross to the central platform, & then up the 3 gears ’gain, finding it much easier than before thanks to the lack o’ movement messing up her jumps. She found traversing the conveyor belt to be much quicker, as well.
However, as she reached the end o’ the block after the conveyor, she noticed that the pendulum was stuck in a backward swing ’way from her; she was certain she couldn’t jump that great a gap without winged boots.
So she called down to Edgar with her hands funneling her mouth, “Turn the hand up to the #1, please—& be ready to turn it back to 12 the second I say ‘now.’”
Edgar raised a thumb in confirmation, & then she saw him twist the hand a tad rightward. The ground below her feet rumbled & the pendulum slowly swung forward, & then back.
She curled her fists & stared fixedly @ the pendulum while she timed short hops every few seconds to keep from being rolled off the floating block.
As she saw the pendulum near the end o’ its swing toward her, she shouted, “¡Now!” & watched as it eased to a stop a mere 2 feet ’way from her.
She leapt & tightly hugged the neck o’ the pendulum. Then she kicked her feet upward till she was able to get them ’bove the bottom ball while she pulled her upper body upward ’long the neck. Her feet wobbled on the ball, unsteady on her spherical ground.
OK… Just need to take this next part carefully. Jumping off this is going to be much harder than jumping on—I don’t want Edgar to have to find me a 3rd pair o’ glasses.
She called down, “’K, turn it back to…” Then she looked up @ the gap & platform before her. While making it run mo’ speedily will make it harder to jump off, it will also minimize the risk o’ not reaching the other platform.
“Turn it up to 6.”
She didn’t hear a reply, nor saw 1, since her attention was fixed on what lay before her; but she did hear the click o’ pieces being put into different places, & then felt the pendulum gradually increase in speed till it was a swing per second. She felt the bile rise in her esophagus as it swung her back & forth as if ’twere a twisted carnival ride.
She watched the next platform carefully as it neared & distanced, & when the pendulum swung forward for its dozenth time, she leapt.
So we don’t have to read through mo’ paragraphs-worth o’ Edgar retrieving her new glasses & her climbing all the way back up, let’s say she made it. The world will ne’er know, if only ’cause the world is concerned with mo’ important issues than whether some secondary student climbed some clock tower.
@ the end o’ the next platform, she saw a set o’ spiral stairs, mostly covered by a long white plastic tube lined with many thin, ringlike ridges. Well, this ought to be much easier than all that other crap. Let’s just hope it takes up most o’ the climb.
She rushed up the steps, still impatient to get to that treasure before anyone else. Then she went up mo’ steps. & then e’en mo’. & so many that Autumn began to wonder how long the whole thing was. By this point, running up so many steps had sapped the energy from her, leaving her slowly treading, panting, up the steps rather than rushing.
Finally, her curiosity o’erthrew her desire not to waste e’en a teaspoon o’ time, & she looked back, only for an inkling o’ the sheer height o’ stairs she’d climbed.
She saw that she was still only a few steps from the platform where she began.
¿What? That’s impossible—that’s literally impossible.
She turned round & stepped backward up the stairs, thinking the trick had to appear sometime. ’Stead, she saw that she didn’t appear to move up @ all, despite the feeling o’ her feet going up & down the steps.
Then she stared down @ her feet as she climbed, specifically seeing them change steps. But every time she glanced forward, she saw the same opening, static.
The doorway couldn’t be moving ’long with me & I just didn’t notice, ¿could it? I mean, this tower must be decades ol’; they couldn’t have had the technology yet for such an insignificant tower.
Then ’gain, ¿why would they have giant swinging pendulums & flipping blocks all controlled by a clock @ the bottom?
¿& who are they & why did they build this pointless place in the 1st place?
Autumn slapped herself out o’ her reverie.
No time for clouding.
She descended the stair, surrendering any attempt to figure it out, & looked round it for ’nother way up. But as far as her eyes told, there was none.
She squeezed her hand as if t’were a boiling spigot in need o’ stemming. Panicking won’t help you devise a way forward, so don’t waste time with it. Then she realized she was wasting time just thinking ’bout panicking & drove it all from her mind.
The repetition o’ clicks, ticks, flips, & whooshes drilled into her head, slowly, & seemingly methodically, challenging her already weakening grasp on her sanity. Her forehead started producing beads o’ sweat while the rest o’ her form twitched as an o’erboiled kettle. Thoughts on what she could do with the pendulum or what she still could do with spiral staircase were constantly interrupted, till she was left with just the distracted thought, “OK, need to think o’ something…” o’er & o’er ’gain.
She clamped palms o’er her ears & shut her eyes, hoping to ’scape all environmental distractions. Then she remembered why Edgar was far below her in the 1st place:
She shouted downward, “¡Edgar! ¡Turn the clock to 12, please!”
She could faintly hear a voice call out, “’K.”
Then she heard everything round her grind to sleep, & then blessed quiet. Her mind, once being so cramped that she felt every thought shoved round till they couldn’t root, now was full o’ space in which to experiment.
After a few minutes basking in this renewed calm, her nerves bunched up ’gain.
¿What’re you doing wasting your time fogging ’bout? ¡We don’t have time for this!
Then she peered mo’ closely @ the ridges round the stair’s shell & her sight followed them upward. She walked up to the shell & lifted 1 o’ her sets o’ arches up to 1 o’ the ridges, testing her balance on it. Then she gripped ridges higher up & lifted the other arches to a ridge ’tween them, & then 1 with her other arches. Though she could feel herself wobble on such tiny holds, she figured she could stay on with constant climbing.
So she did, moving hands & feet upward in a left-right-left-right motion. She found it worked well for the 1st half o’ the climb, till 1 point in which her foot slipped, & the rest o’ her almost tumbled down with it. The prospect o’ falling 5 meters down drenched the side o’ her face in sweat—¡Think o’ how much time I’d have to waste climbing back up!
But as I said, I don’t want to waste any mo’ time repeating actions already done; & since I don’t want to be repetitious, I didn’t have Autumn fall, but ’stead wrote for her to reach the top in this story.
& what a height ’twas: Autumn could see the walls all stretch toward each other toward the bottom, all o’ the contraptions she’d used to climb upward looking like toys.
Remembering her pressing mission, she looked ’head & saw a door on a li’l platform @ the other side. The gilded words on ’twere so big, she could still read it e’en from her distance: “DON’T ENTER WITHOUT PERMISSION.” Under that was a white rectangle o’ what she guessed was a sheet taped to the door; but ’twas much too small for her to e’en confirm it had text, much less read it.
There was still the matter o’ crossing the gap. Autumn saw her solution when she noticed the giant arrows protruding horizontally from a pole in the middle. They were still much too far ’way, though, till Autumn remembered, once ’gain, the way this tower operated.
“¡Edgar! ¡Turn the clock forward to 11!”
She heard no reply. He was so far ’way by now that she doubted he could hear her, nor her him if he e’en replied.
But then she heard the tower’s cacophony restart & saw the giant clock hands move in a circle in rapid jerks. Only the longer o’ the 2 seemed as if it could reach her, so she watched it & waited till ’twas near her before she shouted for Edgar to turn it to 1.
Everything ground to a trudge, as if the tower were suddenly buried in sand, giving Autumn plenty o’ time to mount the arrow when it came before her.
Now safely lying on the arrow, her arms wrapped round its neck tightly, she shouted, “¡11 ’gain!”
She felt herself throttled left & right as the arrow jerked its way forward. She guessed that this would leave her with throbbing headaches later, but didn’t think much ’bout it now—now she had to watch where the arrow was so she could tell Edgar to slow the tower ’gain before it reached the other side.
It did, she did, Edgar did, & Autumn stood up ’gain when the hand slowed. Now all she had to do was step o’er the crack-wide gap ’tween the arrow & the platform & she’d reach the end.
That was when 1 o’ the hand’s jerks flung her so out o’ balance that she fell o’er the side, plunging meters down the empty center o’ the tower. As the sides o’ the tower rushed past her, her eyes frantically searched for some piece below her she could grab to a’least salvage something.
There was nothing—there was just a black void below her. Looking o’er her shoulder, she could see that she already fell past the bottom o’ the tower & that the walls o’ the bottom platforms were stretching farther as she went deeper into the hole.
The image o’ her splashing gainst hard ground into bloody, bony bits any minute for some reason festered in her mind.
She shouted, “¡Hey, Edgar! ¡See if you can do something to stop me falling in this pit, please!”
She doubted he would hear her, doubted he could do something to salvage her e’en if he did, & doubted she’d ’scape this pit with her internal organs still internal. But though the vision o’ final failure did trouble her, what truly made her distraught was that it happened @ such a low point in her life. She’d dreamed that if she had to go—& she had a good inkling that she did eventually, though she had also dreamed o’ finding some form o’ immortality—she’d a’least go out in a powerful blaze.
As it turned out, Edgar did hear her & looked down with a start to see Autumn’s body quickly shrinking into the dark distance. He stared upward in search for any mechanism that e’en seemed able to do something from below. A full minute’s hunt left him dry.
¿How could I e’er find such a thing in this tower before Autumn… hits the bottom? Either it doesn’t exist—¡which is probably most likely!—or it’s hidden deep within the millions o’ gadgets & stuff in this tower.
He looked down into the abyss ’gain & saw only the abyss stare back @ him.
This is my fault. If I were a mo’ competent partner, I could’ve thought o’ some way to get her back up before she… he shook his head, the full image o’ what might happen to his best—only, in fact—friend striking his mind.
Certainly that couldn’t happen. Not to her. Not so young. I mean, I could see lots o’ disastrous stuff happening ’cause o’ her unique hobby… ¡but not something this disastrous! ¡Certainly not without a warning! ¡It seemed to happen in a snap!
E’en if Edgar had only known Autumn for 1/6th o’ his life, his thoughts still filled with warm memories o’ him sitting next to Autumn as she planned in her hideout during lunch, him sitting next to her as she planned in his storm drain, & him sitting next to her in class, when she pretended to spend attention on class activities, but was truly just focused on her heist-planning.
Edgar sighed, knowing that no matter how desperately he wanted to relive those memories, the reality o’ time made it impossible. No matter how much he’d love to, he couldn’t just turn back time as if ’twere a clock.
After a few second’s pause, Edgar turned back to the clock controller.
He clutched the hand & tilted it backward slowly. This speed was not by his own desire, but by the way the hand moved, caused by some complicated way the gears were constructed that Edgar couldn’t comprehend.
Edgar watched his surroundings as he turned the arrow back & felt his heart smack into his ribcage: the flipping block was flipping in what Edgar could swear was the opposite direction from which it did before.
That doesn’t mean anything. E’en if you didn’t just forget how it truly went, it could just be how the tower itself works. We don’t operate based on its position.
But his heart stirred ’gain when, looking into the pit, he saw a speck gradually grow into the shape o’ Autumn & rise from the pit, all the way back to the top o’ the tower.
“Uh, Edgar, ¿what’s happening here?” she called out.
“Tell me when you’re back right before you fell off,” he called back.
Autumn felt her feet land back on the arrow @ the top & waited a second before yelling, “’¡K, stop!” Everything stopped. “¡Now make it 1!” Everything started churning forward @ a slug’s pace. Now all she had to do was step o’er the crack-wide gap ’tween the arrow & the platform & she’d reach the end.
That was when she bent down & tightly gripped the arrow head, holding herself gainst the forces o’ its jutting. When the hand reached the other platform, she jumped off just after letting go.
Now she saw the door right before her eyes. However, before opening the door, she took a closer look @ the paper taped to it. Its clean whiteness already worried her; that meant ’twas likely put there a’least within the last year.
CONGRATURATION!! this story is unhappy end for you. if this is your reading you are super dumbfuck.
you've gained all o the treasures @ last! NOTHING! the jantor & money story is an illusion & is a trap divisut by us you must truly try the identicle tower in honey street with a ballchain tighed to you.
the fail o your theifs now prooves the justice o’ our culture. LOL
Autumn’s limp hand let the sheet gently glide toward the floor while she slowly slid gainst the wall to her knees, eyes vacant.
O’ all the outcomes I expected… I ne’er expected it to be as mortifying as this. ¡To think, those 2 idiots with terrible grammar drew me as an ass so well!
Autumn was jerked from her thoughts when she heard a sudden, piercing ¡Ding! She looked to her left, where she thought she heard it, & saw a door she’d missed before slide open. Inside was Edgar.
“Well, it does work apparently,” Edgar said with a guilty expression. Then he saw Autumn sitting on the floor & his face became e’en mo’ haggard. “It’s not there, ¿is it?”
“No. ¿Is that an elevator? ¿Where’d you find that?”
Edgar hesitated. “On the very bottom floor. I saw it when I was looking for a way to get you back up from that pit, but instantly ignored it as useless. Then my curiosity got the best o’ me &… well, I tried it & I guess it works…”
Autumn pressed palms into her glasses, feeling the hard plastic pinch gainst her face. ¿How could I have missed something so obvious? ¡I swear I ne’er saw such a thing! ¿Did I not e’en spend a second to look @ the bottom floor?
’Course, not… She smacked her forehead. I didn’t want to waste any time, ¿remember?
She let her arms fall to her sides. “Well, its nugatory, anyway, since this whole ordeal turned out to be a practical joke.” She lifted the sheet. “Hours flushed down the drain.”
Edgar sat next to her so he could get a closer look @ the note & cringed.
“¿For what?” said Autumn, hands still covering glasses.
“O, I dunno… So, ¿are you still in money troubles?” asked Edgar.
“On the minute hand, no; on the hour hand, yes. But e’en when you’re far ’way from the hour hand, you still can’t ignore it, or 1 day it’ll smack you right off when you aren’t looking.
“But on the other hand, it seems my trouble is I keep my eyes on the long-term so long I screw up short-term goals so frequently. & e’en if my plans weren’t going awry, ¿who knows what might come in @ the last minute to screw them up, anyway?”
Edgar noticed dark lines under her eyes, as well as both her eyelids & body as a whole were drooping.
“You spent all night planning last night, didn’t you,” said Edgar.
“Always,” Autumn answered ’hind a stifled yawn.
She gradually leaned into Edgar till she was lying down gainst him, eyes closed peacefully, her snoring inhales & exhales mimicking the ticking & tocking o’ the various clocks round the tower.