The Chronographer (part 1)
The pale, vanilla splashed walls reminded the man of a place he had been before, but no matter how hard he tried he couldn't seem to place where or what made him feel reminiscent about the achromatic design of the room around him. The floors on which his feet rested gave back a slight reflection when he glanced down into it; the wax that had likely been applied to it last night was starting to give the man a headache from the malodorous fumes rising from the floor tile. The room felt cold. Not necessarily cold in temperature, for climate of the room was endurable, but rather the pleasantness of the room seemed to be lacking. This too reminded the man of something from long ago.
"D-d-d-did you s-s-s-see what happened this morning to Marcus?"
"Shut up, Chase."
"The g-g-g-g-guards really g-g-g-gave it to him t-t-t-t-this time."
The stuttering man licked his lips as he spoke. His arms were crossed at his chest, not to signify a sense of authority or power, but rather to keep himself from likely losing control over his limbs. The stuttering man was short in stature; his face was worn and strained, and showed advanced stages of aging. He couldn't have been more than 25 years of age, but his face was quite deceptive of this fact and made him look much older. His eyes shifted from one side of the pale room to the other as he finished his story.
"Yeah, D-d-d-d-don told me what happened. He said that M-M-M-M-Marcus asked for a piece of toast at breakfast right, b-b-b-but when he got his toast he started complainin’ that it was b-b-b-burnt. So he went up to the s-s-s-s-server and s-s-s-s-s-started complainin' bout his toast, and then started yellin' or whatever about it, and the next thing ya know he's gettin' his ass b-b-b-b-b-b-b-beat."
The stuttering man looked behind him after he finished speaking likely to check and see if any of the wards had overheard him telling the story. The stuttering man's wrinkled face seemed to accent the fear in his eyes.
"D-d-d-did you hear what I said, Al?"
The man's face was of cold indifference. He hadn't glanced at the stuttering man at all during their conversation. His gaze was fixed upon a lone clock that ticked silently in the corner of the room. The man's appearance was considerably more pleasant to look upon, and he looked half the age compared to his stuttering counterpart. The man sat upright in the semi-plastic folding chair, his back straight, hands upon his lap, giving off a sense of vigor and eminence. The man did not respond to the question.
"Al, w-w-w-why do you always do this to m-m-m-m-me Al? W-w-w-why do you act like you don't h-h-h-h-h-hear me sometimes, Al?"
"... Chase, didn't I tell you to shut the hell up?"
"C'mon Al, I thought you'd just w-w-want to know what happened. T-t-t-that's all Al. T-t-t-that's all."
"Stop. Just sit down."
The man's gaze did not fail to break as he callously ordered Chase. The stuttering man removed his arms from against his chest and began rubbing the cheeks of his face with both hands in a clockwise manner. He continued to do this for a few moments, and then stopped as he sat down in a chair parallel from the other man. Chase brought his hands back down from his face and crossed his arms once again. He then began to look from one side of the room to the other, his eyes darting from each living person in the room to the next in a frantic search to make sure that he recognized each person within the bone white walls. The stuttering man then began to rock back and forth uneasily, causing his bony elbows to knock against the back of the seat. The sound emanating from the creaking chair seemed to saturate the walls of the alabaster room. As Chase continued to rock in his seat, for the first time since the stuttering man had entered the room, the man broke his gaze from the mounted clock and gave a bitter look to Chase. The stuttering man seemed to shrink into his seat, and quickly stopped his incessant swaying.
The man turned his cold, hard stare away from Chase, and began to refocus his attention back upon the ticking of the wall clock. Reaching behind him and digging his hand into his left pocket, the man pulled out an ebony colored plastic comb. The man then began to run the comb through his hair in a right-to-left motion. As the man brushed his hair he quickly glanced down to the floor beneath him, and caught a slight glimpse of his appearance; his ashy brown colored hair which he had now parted to the side was being reflected back to him in the way of a distorted like image. The man peered at his image and stopped what he was doing for a moment. His arm fell to his side as if it had been paralyzed by some unseen force. He sat silently for a moment, and peered down into the contorted portrait that lay before him. Many thoughts ran through his mind, as well memories from long ago, most of which he could hardly remember. Others seemed to be nothing more than dreams that once existed, but were now all but lost.
“Say Al, w-w-w-why is it that you keep on lookin’ at that clock?”
The man’s head slowly turned away from the floor, and returned to face the direction of the clock once again. The man answered in a frigid, emotionless tone, and he made sure not to turn to Chase as he spoke.
“…Well whatcha waitin’ for, Al?”
“Something. Someone to be exact.”
“Well w-w-w-who is it, Al? Who’s it you’re w-w-w-waitin’ for?”
“I’ve already told you. You know who I am waiting for.”
“Aww, d-d-d-dammit Al, you knows I’m no good with rememberin’stuff. Does this have to do w-w-w-with you being the special person that you are?”
“W-w-w-w-well then… I think I understands now.”
An eternity seemed to past before either men spoke again. Chase had started to shift in his seat slightly, and began to watch some of the other people that were also in the room. Chase licked his lips, and gave a quick glance over at the man to see if he had moved from his statuesque state. The man ignored Chase’s glance, and refrained from moving his eyes. The stuttering man then quickly averted his attention away from his friend, and opened his mouth to speak. His arms and hands which had been resting at his side for most of their conversation were now placed into his lap. Chase’s eyes darted from corner to corner of the hoary room, until finally they became focused upon the floor just slightly above where his feet rested.
The man did not answer.
“… Yes, Chase.”
“I was w-w-w-wonderin’, if maybe, just maybe you could, ya know…”
“If you c-c-c-could maybe tell me the whole story again, since ya know, I w-w-w-w-won’t be seein’ yas anymore really.”
The man’s eyes turned away from the clock. He slumped back into the plastic folding chair and pushed back against the floor with both of his heels causing the feet of the chair to rise slightly up. As the man replied, his eyes met the table in front of them.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea Chase.”
Chase frowned and removed his hands from his lap. He made a motion as if he were about to stand up from his seat, but a further response from the man stopped him cold.
“… I’m afraid if I tell you again, it will only confuse you.”
The stuttering man shook his head violently.
“N-n-n-n-n-n-no Al, you w-w-w-w-won’t confuse me. I’m a smart guy, Al, honest. Y-y-y-y-ou know me Al, you can t-t-t-trust me.”
Silence filled the space between the two once again. The man sighed long and hard. He exhaled from his nostrils and breathed in deeply from his mouth, letting the warm air fill the very inside of his lungs. The air smelled funny, and to the man it seemed to even have a peculiar taste, if that were even possible for air to have a taste, the man thought to himself. The man continued to sit in silence, and chose neither to move nor speak. Chase squirmed in his seat, awaiting an answer from his elder.
“… If I tell you, will you still agree to go through with the plan?”
A look of exhilaration came over Chase’s face.
“Y-y-y-yes! Of course! Y-y-y-you know me Al. I’ll just sit here and listen, then I’ll do w-w-w-whatever it is you want, Al. Y-y-y-you can trust me, Al.”
The man leaned forward causing the front legs of the chair which had been previously suspended in mid air to touch down upon the floor. The legs hit with a crunching sound, and skidded slightly against the ground. The man then looked down for a moment, and caught yet another glimpse of himself in the waxed floor. Then, for the first time during both men’s colloquy, the man turned and looked Chase right in the eyes.
“…My name is not ‘Al’… It is Aldred Caldwell de Montfort. I was born in Leicester, England in the year of our Lord 1643. I was a distant relative to the 6th Earl of Leicester, Simon de Montfort, and as such I am of noble birth. I fought with him at the Battle of Evesham where he was famously slain by the army of Prince Edward. During the battle I felt a moment of cowardice, and instead of staying and dying a courageous death like my lord and cousin, I instead fled and hid like a peasant. Many years passed and knowing that I could not show my face again amongst my brethren, I instead lived amongst the poor and needy, tilling the land and working with my hands to sustain myself, trying to live an honest life to pay for the sins I had committed. Then one day while I was working the land, I saw a beautiful girl from afar. I later inquired of this woman, and shortly afterward she became my wife. The two of us lived in peace and happiness, or at least as much as a couple could during those times, however as time moved on, I began to notice something. I noticed that as I grew older, my face did not seem to show it. My wife, who had been considerably younger than I when I had first met her, now looked much older than myself. Even the children that we had together were beginning to look older than I. Time passed on as it always does, and before I knew it I was burying my wife. Then my children. Then my children’s children.”
The man stopped speaking for a moment, as if he were trying to bring to remembrance so many different things that happened so long ago. The man cleared his throat, and the sound seemed to echo throughout the ivory room. Mesmerized by the man’s words, Chase sat in a tranquil, sedated like state.
“… Since then I’ve been married thirty seven different times, have raised hundreds of children, and have had to bury every single one of them. I’ve fought in 16 different wars, two of them a ‘World War’, as well as countless battles. I’ve seen more men die than I care to recall, and I’ve killed more men than I’d like to take credit for. I’ve seen cities destroyed, towns rebuilt, and entire countries started a new including this one. I’ve lived more of a life than a thousand men put together, and yet all I wish is to sleep an eternal slumber like all of those before me… I don’t know why I have been chosen to endure this curse, perhaps it is because of my fearfulness so long ago. Perhaps it is because of my bloodshed upon the battlefield. Or perhaps it is simply a result of the sins of all those who came before me. Only God Himself knows. Regardless however, I am but alone in this dreadful walk that I have been irrevocably damned with. The only ally I have or have ever known is but the constant tick tock of time herself, and even then she has been nothing more than a cruel tyrant.”
The man glanced away from Chase. His words fell hard upon his own ears. Telling his story was the last thing he wanted to do for it meant reliving so many things that he had wished would stay forgotten. Chase started to try to speak, but the man cut him off.
“… I’ve been in this place for thirteen years. ‘Doctors’, therapists, shrinks, and other kinds of people have studied, questioned, and pricked me with God knows what. That’s why in exactly three minutes and nineteen seconds my time here will come to an end… and you Chase, are going to help me.”
The stuttering man jumped from his seat. He looked both startled, yet eager to help. He knew what he must do. He had been rehearsing the plan for the past eight months. Every night before he went to bed he went over his lines, remembering exactly what to say, when to say it, and then what to do after he delivered it. Chase walked over to where the man was seated and gave him a nervous smile; he then anxiously began to wring his hands together and took a step forward. With his back to the man, Chase spoke in a quiet tone that the man had to strain just to understand what had been said.
“I’m gonna m-m-m-m-iss ya, Al.”
The man gave a slight nod; his face remained emotionless, however. Chase began to walk. His steps were small and clumsy as beads of sweat began to run down the side of his ruddy cheeks. He could feel the perspiration at the bottom of his neckline, and he swallowed hard as he approached two men sitting down at a table. The men were playing a board game that Chase did not recognized, although the pieces from the game were made up of two different colors, black and white. Chase stood awkwardly in front of the two men whom neither seemed to notice that he was there. Looking behind him, he caught sight of the man and waited for his signal.
As the clock’s hands reached both the three and the nine, the man knew that it was now time. For the past thirteen years, the man had been making mental notes of precisely where every personnel was at during any given time. For example, on Fridays at 9:35 A.M. the man knew that both door guards at the east wing left their posts for exactly five minutes so that they were able to walk to the cafeteria and obtain their weekly coffee. He also knew that every Saturday at precisely 6 P.M., the head of psych ward B would receive an anonymous female visitor into his room. And today, the man knew that at exactly 3:45 P.M. inside the white room, the door guard leaves his post for precisely three minutes to walk down the hallway into the staff lounge area to pick up today’s paper, and then walk back down the hallway to return to his post.
The man thought to himself for a moment, and spoke silently to himself.
As the man spoke, a simple thought entered his mind. The next three minutes although seemingly trivial when compared to the length of the man’s life, will in fact decide his future. The man dismissed the thought as quickly as it entered his mind, and began to try and focus on the task at hand. He glanced over at the guard who was now beginning to stand to his feet, and the man could begin to feel his heart beat grow faster. The man looked over at Chase and nodded towards him. The plan was underway.