The clangor of the bell tower echoed throughout the ancient city, stirring a heavy chaos in the afternoon quiet; the racket of the disturbed birds deepening it further. Amidst the ugly clamour, the timekeeper observed the city calmly. His features contorted into seemingly grave expressions, yet as he stood at the edge of the arched corridor, that connected the two stone towers on the fifth floor, he was relishing the commencement of the time. His Time, as was promised. Smiling to himself, he slowly moved his hands to his cloak pockets and brought out a golden stopwatch. The stopwatch that would make him the owner of death.
It was a pretty little thing to see, glinting even as the sky had turned red; the glamour of this antiquity deftly disguising the monster it possessed. The timekeeper admired it for a while, then shut it hastily, pulled up his hood, and stormed off in the direction of the farther tower.
He warily climbed down the stone steps, keeping close to the wall. Whether it was his mysterious appearance or daunting demeanour, he couldn’t tell, but it did ward off prying strangers. He entered a narrow alley through a back door, and then turned right, into a crowded bazaar. The business was at peak; the liveliness was a stark irony to the indolent city he was watching few moments ago. Looking above the heads of people, the timekeeper located his overly conspicuous destination, and then paced slowly towards it, his eyes set down all the while.
Two well-dressed men guarded the large wooden green doors. On seeing him approach, they straightened, and asked in their hoarse voice, “And what is your business here, mister?”
He took out a paper and held it out to them. “I go by the name of Jacobs. I was invited here personally by Mr. Caylos,” he said brusquely. The guards handed back the paper immediately and bowed, “It is a pleasure to see you here Mr. Jacobs. Mr. Caylos inquired about you few moments ago. Please come in.” The guards pushed the door open.
The atmosphere inside was heavy with music and smoke. The timekeeper waved his hands in the air, trying to unclog vision; and spotted Caylos sitting at the centre table. A lean figure, Caylos sat there crowded by uninterested people, guffawing at his own jokes while he gulped down the liquor. The ever drunken fool, the timekeeper said to himself, I almost pity him sometimes. He walked towards Caylos, and asked in an innocent manner, “Mr. Caylos?”
Caylos turned to face the caller, bewildered. “I am Jacobs,” the timekeeper replied instantly.
On hearing the name, Caylos’s expressions relaxed, and he exclaimed, “Come in, come in, Jacobs. You’re well in time. The party has just started. I was beginning to fear–”
The timekeeper interrupted him abruptly, “Mr.Caylos, if we could have a word in private?”
Caylos blinked at him stupidly. “Private?” he repeated, “Why should we talk in private? It is a party, you idiot. Didn’t anyone tell you that?” Saying that, Caylos broke into peels of forced laughter and took another hearty swig from his glass.
The timekeeper did not look amused. He stood there; watching as Caylos retched, choked on his own wine, and waited patiently for the drama to die down. Caylos took control of himself, went to the table, and picked two full glasses. “Now, now, let us rejoice and celebrate before we get into the business of doing it,” Caylos thrust one glass in the timekeeper’s hands, clanking it loudly with his own in an attempt to toast.
The timekeeper was losing his patience. He gripped Caylos’s arm and muttered, “The business deal can only take place in private. You understand that, don’t you?” Caylos continued to sway and drink. I’ve never seen a worse pig, thought the timekeeper. His anger had begun to reach dangerous levels now; and though he tried to keep calm, the glass shattered in his hands.
A perturbing silence spread around at once. Everybody now had their eyes on the timekeeper, as they flinched back from him. Caylos seemed to have noticed that, as he put down his glass and eyed him suspiciously. Trying to pacify him, Caylos put his hand of the timekeeper’s shoulder and said in the most amiable manner, “You take things too seriously, for a young man like you, Jacobs. Come; let us finish our deal first. I will not annoy you any further.” Saying that he refilled his glass, and said to the others, “Please don’t mind our little altercation. That does happen with this,” he tapped his glass.
Caylos turned to go to the room in the right corner, sipping continually from his glass. Leading to your own death, the timekeeper thought as he followed him into the room.
“Be seated comfortably,” said Caylos, as he spread his body lethargically across the two-seater. The timekeeper moved to the opposite seat and began to loosen the clasp of his cloak.
“Carltos briefed me about the offer, which I must say, is alluring. You definitely have a mind for business. He also told me that you–” Caylos stopped speaking midway, as the timekeeper pulled down his hood.
“You?”, Caylos whimpered, paralysed by fear. He started to crawl back into the corner.
The timekeeper smiled. “Yes, it is me. Are you surprised, my dear Caylos?”
“But…but…Carltos should have…He is one of the most loyal men in my service. He didn’t warn me that you were coming. He didn’t even mention you,” Caylos uttered, his words a blurry.
“He wasn’t supposed to Caylos. You see, he was acting under orders,” said the timekeeper, with a satisfied grin.
The line vaguely reminded Caylos of something. Something dreadful in the past, though it had completely transformed his life. “I didn’t have a choice. And you were just a boy back then. What would you know of my situation?” Caylos tried to reason.
The timekeeper studied him for a while. “You know, you’re right Caylos, I wouldn’t,” he replied, lazily toying with his golden stopwatch, “And I don’t intend to.” Saying that he snapped shut his stopwatch, and moved to where Caylos was cowering.
“Please! Please! Have mercy. I employed you, I gave you shelter in times of strife–”
“And threw me out when my true identity was revealed. Then stripped me of all prestige. Have you forgotten that, Caylos?” the timekeeper completed. The watch now dangled in the air from his left hand, oscillating in front of Caylos’s eyes.
“My men, they’ll kill you, when they know you’re here. I just need to call them,” said Caylos, mustering all the courage he had. The thought gave him certain hope.
“Really, Caylos? And who will come to your rescue?” the timekeeper said, grimly. Caylos looked outside, and his eyes grew wide. People stood rooted to their places, their conversation stopped mid air. Dishes stood lop-sided, so did the glasses. It was as if….the time had frozen.
Caylos confronted the truth, terrified of his looming end. “Not my life…please. Please. Anything in return…what do you want?” he pleaded, sobbing hysterically.
“Your time. Your remaining time,” replied the timekeeper, inching closer.
“But I–”. Caylos’s statement was punctuated by a brief click. His limp body stumbled on to the floor, a trickle of blood flowing from an invisible wound.