CONTENT WARNING: Esoteric horror, potential unreality sensitivity Audio data from various sources, detailing… some things ENTITY2 said on day 974.
MINOR INSIGHT INTO:
- ENTITY1 history & memory
- ENTITY2 deep knowledge
MINOR INSIGHT INTO:
- ENTITY1 celestial aptitude
- Relationship of ENTITY1 & ENTITY2
- By my marrow, you can be so reckless sometimes. You swore up and down he wouldn’t remember!
Mayfield and Belov presents: Camp Here and There.
Episode Twenty Seven: The Clock of Meantime
There’s an apple on the table in front of you.
Bring your hand close — but don’t touch. Do you feel the tingle of the blood gathering in your fingertips? The bridge of electricity connecting them to the surface of the object? Is your hand heavy? The truth is that it longs to make contact. It can’t tolerate the precipice you’ve set it on; it wants to jump. Gravity works harder on an empty hand.
A hand left empty quickly loses its sense of self. Have you ever awoken from a deep sleep and found yourself unable to make a fist? Somewhere between your brain and your fingers, the signal is lost. Your hand isn’t listening. It forgot itself.
I can’t make a fist. My fingers won’t curl in far enough. I’m out of luck if I need to punch something… haha. I don’t know if I’m just weak, or if my hands have been left empty for too long. I think it’s the second one, because I can still… reach out. It’s all I do. My fingers stretching and twisting and impotently flexing — brushing against the skin of the apple on the table — snatching at comfort, but never closing around it. My brain sends the signals, screams them, screams “grab it!”… but my hand isn’t listening. It’s forgotten how.
Mm… grabbing, reaching… stretching, pointing… moving, ticking. Two hands per person… two hands per clock. Now there’s a pair of hands that are never empty: they carry knowledge.
…the sky is spinning. Do you see it, too?… swirling clouds and technicolors, a whirlpool of stars… the air rushes through me, churns my blood. My desk falls from the ceiling, smashing the light fixture on the floor. Try not to think about it. Keep your heads down. Spin. Blink. Spin.
But this is worse! Before, I was dizzy from the motion. Now, I’m dizzy with fear! I hate the quiet. I hate the calm. At least when you’re spinning, you know whether you’re gonna be spinning — I.E., you will, because you are. The quiet leaves you no such assurances. There’s a swelling tension in the still… electrons begging to orbit. Hands begging to make contact, to wrap around me, to rip me apart. To tick. To tock. To measure the passage of time by the droplets of water that fall out the faulty faucet. Those empty moments inbetween just seem to taunt me. It’s fucking anxiety inducing. If the tap would just run, would just wash me away already…
I must be sick.
…There’s a clock on the table in Jedidiah’s office.
It’s hewn of pale green quartz, lightning-struck with veins of gray and hugged on each side by petrified wings. There’s a jagged, circular sort of crest at the top … and the clock face is like a window to the sky. I imagine it’s spinning now. The look of it is burnt into my mind, its body shimmering dully in the low light, starlight bursting forth from its face. I can’t… get it out of my head.
At what age do they start giving timekeeping classes in school these days… ? Ah, just in case… let me tell you a bit about clocks. It’s impossible to build a clock out of anything other than quartz. Any other substance simply… doesn’t tick. Human ingenuity means we live in a time where clocks can be convincingly carved and colored to resemble any material under the sun, but they all feel the same to the touch. I don’t think scientists agree on why that is, but from what I recall of Jedidiah’s theory, it’s something to do with quartz’s… flexible attitude. No other mineral is willing to try and keep up with the ever-shifting lengths of our modern 25-26-100 hour days.
Clockmakers sure have their work cut out for them, huh? I’m sure that’s why Jedidiah wishes he was one so badly.
Anyways… this pale green clock with the clouds floating across its face. Jedidiah once called it the Clock of Meantime. I wonder what it says right now?
Jedidiah told me, once, about how he got it. The Clock of Meantime, that is.
It was a dull, menial night about a year ago. We were sitting together in his office, chatting warmly and sharing a cup of hot milk. I remember the way Jedidiah’s office smelled; like wood dust, papers, and extra-strength antiperspirant. I loved these nights. Generally, on nights like these, he’d be pretty quiet and rub my shoulders while I would run on about the events of the day, or my newest record-setting gardening accomplishments, or my arts and crafts projects. But nearing midnight, on this night, he curled his fingers around my wrist and murmured this story. All the while, I lived in his voice, staring at the hands of the clock and the starlight they held, letting his tired murmur massage the wrinkles in my brain. I remember every word.
“Do you want to know how I got that one?” he said.
“Oh, yes,” I nodded. The only times I ever really get to hear Jedidiah talk is when he volunteers to tell me a story, or asks if I want to hear about something he finds interesting. In this case, it was both. It was rare Jedidiah would ever confide things in me. I was always immensely grateful when he’d start talking. I remember every word.
“It was two years ago,”
“It was back when I thought I’d never see you again. I’m… floating through my existence. No anchor. My hands empty, my fingers limp. The days blend together like… gummy bears left in a hot car. Just a sticky, sickly-sweet chunk. I stuff it into my mouth all at once just to get it over with, and it makes me sick.
[AS JEDIDIAH TALKS, DISTANT TRAIN HORNS SOUND QUIETLY BEHIND EERIE MUSIC]
I’m in a wheat field with a man to my left. He’s big, slightly taller than average, a little more so wider than average. But strong. He’s buried in trench coats and scarves and the smoke from his pipe, but you can tell he’s strong by looking at his hands and his eyes. Fist-forming hands. Railroad-uprooting eyes.
I don’t know who he is, but he acts like an old friend.
‘Beautiful sunrise,’ he remarks.
There is no sun. The sky is just cracked, like a clock on the floor. I try to remember how long I’ve been sitting here in the shadow of the fractured moon, but all I can think about is the railroad. It cuts through the crops, weaving and winding in and out of sheaths of wheat. The same day train has been rushing by for hours now, ringing and rattling in the fuzzy night. I try to count the train cars.
I lose track.
Strong man won’t stop looking at me with his railroad-uprooting eyes. Uprooting me. I want to fight, but I can’t make a fist. My hands have been limp for too long.
Look at the sky. Don’t look at him. Don’t give a shit what he does in my periphery. Nod and agree — oh, lovely sunrise — blame the trembling on the chilly air.
The man blows smoke out his teeth. ‘Y’like pork?’ he asks.
No. I don’t. I can never eat pork again. I feel sick. I nod at him. He’s making me dinner later. I look at the sky. The stars look like traintracks. I try to count the stars.
There are only two that matter.
Strong man got me a gift. “Saw this and thought of you.”
It’s a green clock. Atop it, a cardinal dances, singing and tapping at the clock face with its beak. The hands wind together as they spin. I think of train tracks. The cardinal sings louder.
I remember why I’m here. I want to cry.
“Thank you very much, sir,” I say.
Strong man laughs out smoke. “So formal… Well, I’ll see ya later. Don’t lose track’a this, then.” He taps the clock’s side and stands back up. The cardinal sings louder.
I stick my fingers in my ears. It’s ringing. I can’t make out what it says. Strong man looks at me. I look at the sky. A horn sounds. The sky finally shatters, and I slip through the cracks.
[THE DISTANT TRAIN SOUNDS AGAIN, NOW LOUDER. THE NOISE OF THE PASSING TRAIN OVERTAKES JEDIDIAH’S WORDS, BEFORE QUIETING]
And next thing I knew…”
Jedidiah tells me
“I was alone in an empty room, cradling the clock to my chest… I remembered the strong man, and I remembered my father. I reached for my phone, and my fingers curled around it.”
He didn’t talk much after that. The night became my voice once again.
Wanna know what it does?
It counts down the time remaining until the next big event.
Jedidiah told me. There’s little to parse from that. The next event relative to whom?
[distressed] I never know. It could be me. It could be you. It could be… I don’t know! I feel like I could if I just… focused. I used to be so good at reading clocks. But it’s always counting down, Sydney.
I remember when I got back home, Sydney. I remember my father’s strong hands folded across his stomach. I wanted to think he was sleeping… but he was so cold. His skin felt just like… there were more stars in the sky than I remembered, and my mouth tasted like copper rails.
[A CLOCK TICK GROWS LOUD]
I’d given him sips of my story like pokeweed juice. I knew it. I knew it. And that goddamn clock… was… ringing. Maybe if I’d have been able to read it . . . . but I can’t, I still can’t read it. I hear the way it whispers to me… it’s taunting me, Sydney!
I sit next to him for hours, frozen, just like with… there were more bushes in the front yard than I remembered. I heard horns sounding from the abandoned train track. And I hear the clocks whisper. Everything was wrong, I got wrong… I should’ve known. But I didn’t! I don’t know it! I could. I have to…
His skin turned as gray as… I swallowed the acid I’d coughed up, and relished how it burnt my throat. I’d never spit this up again. I’d let it dissolve me before I let another heart stop. Sydney, listen to me. I love you. I’ll dissolve, okay? I’ll shatter like glass. Like the face of a clock, and it whispers, Sydney, so please don’t listen… I love you…
I couldn’t handle the body. I can’t handle the body. I walk away from the body. And most nights I don’t think about it… but sometimes there’s a rumbling under my desk, cold and distant like metal wheels through the mountain, spinning like the hands on the clocks that — if I could just know if I could just know if I could just know if I could just know if I could just know if I could just know—
[NIGHTTIME FOREST AMBIENCE]
[HESITANT STEPS IN THE GRASS]
There you are, darling, kept me waiting! Behind the trees, now, behind the trees — wouldn’t want anyone seeing us, now —
Nobody’s gonna see us, Elijah, it’s like 3am.
You never know, honeypot, you never know. Your co-nurse and your camp director, I never catch them sleeping, and they’re the last people we’d want on your case right now. But I digress — have you brought the texts?
Right… about that. [breathes] Jedidiah caught me in the act.
He got mad. Really mad. It… hurt. The way he talked is haunting.
Oh, sweetheart… oh, pumpkin. Don’t fret so. All is never lost! Not for you; not for one so loved by the world… by me. If you stumble, there will always be a tree to lean against … if you fall, the soft soil of the Earth will catch you. You are always fine. You can stand up, dust yourself off, and get back to walking, hmmmm? So that’s what you’ve got to do. For now, don’t worry about what that man thinks. A foolish clockmaker who can’t comprehend his own words doesn’t deserve your fret.
No, that… he moved the journals to a secret location. I can’t just go grab them now, I have no idea where they are! And wherever they are, Jedidiah is probably going to be standing guard.
Aren’t you an oracle? The smoke gives you knowledge, of the sort which the clocks pointedly refuse to give me?
It doesn’t work that way. The smoke — it — it just kind of carries knowledge — in it, so when it wafts through me, so does the knowledge. But it’s — incidental. Passive data about the world around me. I can’t just get any answer I want, and I definitely can’t use it to ferret out information that’s hidden from me.
But you’re you! You can figure it out, I’m sure.
I… you’re sure?
I have faith in you, dear. Feed off of that, and have a little faith in yourself…
[HE BEGINS WALKING AWAY]
… Alright. If — hey! Where are you going already!? Hey — come back!?
Today’s episode was written by Blue Mayfield and Nicholas Belov. The part of Sydney Sargent was played by Blue Mayfield. The part of Jedidiah Martin was played by Nicholas Belov. The part of Elijah Volkov was played by Ryan Henning.
Camp Here & There is the sole intellectual property of its production company, Mayfield & Belov. All music composed by Will Wood, and produced by Jonathon Maisto. Sound editing by Emily Safko and Blue Mayfield. Special thanks to our Patrons: Tunny Parrish, Dharma, and Teddy Odrhan.
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Thank you for listening to Camp Here & There! And remember: hot tea with honey is good for sore throats.