Tony awoke with a stiff back. Someone had left the window open and the cold breeze had been blowing on him all night. While there were blankets neatly piled on the chair, they had apparently just thrown him on the bed after bringing him from the party.
As he lay on the cold bed, he waited for the liquor sinews to release his thoughts. Last night’s words rang back and forth in his head. “It’s over!”
“It’s over,” he thought again. “What were they talking about?”
He tried to lift his hands to rub the sleep out of his eyes. Something was holding them back; he realized he was restrained face down, with his arms and legs bound to the bed frame. Twisting his head he could only see the white walls of the room and the stainless steel bars of the bed.
It dawned on him that he might not be alone. “What’s going on?” Tony rasped. “What is happening to me?”
A voice behind him responded. “You didn’t return at the appointed time! With so many waiting their turn, did you really believe the guardians would just let you stay?” “You bargained for and were granted the most precious gift of all… Time. Now despite your futile attempt to extend the bargain, your time is over!”
“Over, it’s over!” Those words triggered memories of a ceremony he had tried to forget for the last two years. Stark images of a darkened altar flooded back to him. Memories of the Temporal Guardian standing before his select group of Travelers, holding the ceremonial wine chalice in front of the golden pendulum which swang back and forth. Its movement and eerie swooshing reminded all of the meter of life’s paradox.
Behind the Travelers, stood the Collective who chanted their single message: “Tricks, ticks, and tocks of essential time, sink the spirits lower than wine.” In response we, the Travelers said. “While pinching and prodding may reduce life’s toil, the end arrives just as soon.”
“In us, with us, time must run its course” the Temporal Guardian exclaimed! “Those who challenge life’s repose must travel a final course.” “Travelers of the Tempus Optimum, drink from the chalice of your dreams. Journey sans the years of wear and port the earthy strife of stage” With that I drank deeply from the Chalice and received its’ golden spirit.
My head was clear as I lie here now, face down in the sunlight. “The time is over” the voice behind me said. “Return the golden spirit and join with the collective, to allow another their travel phase, to gain a time perspective.”
With those words the bindings fell clear and I sighed and united with the Collective.