In the middle of Tantum town stood a tall tower and atop the tall tower was a huge clock. On each hour when the clock was struck it would play a happy tune which could be heard throughout Tantum town. For most in the town, the clock’s tune brought feelings of warmth, comfort and contentedness. It had done so for many years.
If you were to climb the tall tower, you would see a small guardhouse with two front doors. Above the door on the left side of the house the name “Mrs Tock” was carefully written with gold and above the right inscribed with emeralds was the name “Mr Tock”.
On every odd hour, the mechanoid Mrs Tock would excitedly stand and with an android’s approximation of a smile, fling open the doors of her side of the guardhouse and begin the walk towards the clock’s bell.
Halfway towards the bell she would always meet Mr Tock walking towards her. This was the only time that they ever saw each other and if Mrs Tock had a heart, one would swear that it could be heard to beat faster for a fleeting moment as they passed.
Shortly before some hours they would tentatively clink their hands together as they met. On other occasions each would quickly lean in till the metal surrounding the lip-like holes in their heads clanked together in a brief but touching android approximation of a kiss.
“Love you, Mr Tock”.
“Love you too, Mrs Tock”.
You may recall that I said “most” in the town. That is because in Tantum town lived one creature who had recently scurried into Tantum and who was tormented by the clock’s chime: a half-man, half-spider named Scrax.
Scrax blamed his insomnia on the clock’s loud, merry tune. A more rational mind might point towards the teeny tiny incident which had resulted in Scrax being solely responsible for the extinction of every other member of his species as something which could be playing on Scrax’s mind and keeping slumber at bay but as Scrax preferred to keep himself to himself, there were no rational beings close to him who could suggest as much.
One night as Scrax lay awake, a twisted echo of the clock’s tune was playing on repeat in Scrax’s mind and it was this which finally caused Scrax to snap. Screaming, he swiftly rose onto all eight legs and scampered towards the clock tower.
It took mere seconds for Scrax to reach the towers and only a few seconds more till Scrax had climbed the tower to meet the one he held responsible for his torment. Atop the tower, Mr Tock had recently said his farewells to Mrs Tock and was standing by the bell with hammer raised preparing to play their favourite tune.
One may wonder why Mr Tock didn’t use the hammer to swat Scrax away as Scrax launched himself towards Mr Tock. One could also be forgiven for assuming that he’d at least use said hammer to fend Scrax off as he repeatedly tore into Mr Tock’s body with each clawed leg. Truth be told, Mr Tock had never experienced violence before this savage attack – he hadn’t even seen a living being up close before and such a chaotic act of carnage was simply beyond his processor’s comprehension.
Finally when Scrax’s fury was all but spent – after over a hundred blows had bore down upon Mr Tock’s body in quick succession, Scrax took one final strong swipe at Mr Tock’s neck which took Tock’s head clean off. Once he was satisfied that the being responsible for playing the clock’s tune wasn’t going to hammer it out again, Scrax slowly climbed down the tower and slower still began the walk home to rest his now aching, exhausted limbs.
All the while whilst this savagery had ensued, Mrs Tock sat inside her guardhouse, door closed as usual and had been bemused to hear Mr Tock play a tune far removed from their usual merry melody – he had played a clanging, shrieking, torturous tune which instead of warming what passed for Mrs Tock’s android approximation of a heart had sent it cold.
When the tune was finally finished, Mrs Tock waited inside her guardhouse until shortly before the next odd hour and like clockwork she rose and approached the door of her guardhouse – albeit with more apprehension than usual (or as close as an android could get to apprehension at least).
Mrs Tock tentatively opened the guardhouse door and began her walk towards the clock tower’s bell. Instead of being met halfway by a kind word, a kiss or a held hand she met pieces of Mr Tock all along her path. A mangled leg which had been lying even more lifelessly than usual in front of Mrs Tock’s gatehouse door had clinked and clattered as the guardhouse door was opened. Next Mrs Tock had to raise her now trembling legs higher than usual to step over Mr Tock’s pulverised torso which was now barely recognisable as such.
She brought her foot down upon bits of shredded metal which had once passed for Mr Tock’s arms (for the latter part of the path was so strewn with parts of Mr Tock that she couldn’t help but step on some of it). Finally as her walk ended before the clock’s bell, she saw Mr Tock’s head. Mrs Tock’s hammer fell from her hand with a loud thud and she dropped to her knees, picking up the head.
Holding Mr Tock’s head before her eyes, she marked this odd hour with an android’s approximation of a scream which could be heard throughout Tantum town. Upon hearing this metallic, mournful moan, most citizens of Tantum town were struck with wave after wave of anxiety, anger and hatred. For every ill thought which had been kept at bay by the tower was unleashed upon them.
At first most citizens of Tantum town just yelled out at the world at large, cry after cry joining Mrs Tock’s mournful moan to make a manic melody filled with roars, rage and regrets. Finally, their anger became focused on the one being in the town who hadn’t joined in their chorus: Scrax.
Scrax was still slowly crawling his way home when the citizens of Tantum town surrounded him. Lacking his usual strength and speed, he was powerless to prevent them from pouncing upon him and ripping his body apart. The tattered ribbons of the last of a species were scattered across Tantum town square like gory confetti.
This aggressive act complete, the citizens of Tantum town ceased roaring and ripping and instead stood still and looked at each other – each one as bemused as the next, all lacking in leadership and purpose.
Mrs Tock had now also ceased her sad song and with Mr Tock’s head safely tucked under one of her arms was now carefully climbing down the clock tower. She knew that most of Mr Tock’s body was far beyond repair but her processor had finally calculated a way that his head may yet live again.
Once Mrs Tock reached the ground, she wended her way through crowd made up of the still stunned citizens of Tantum town and finally reached her destination – the clock maker’s workshop.
The clock maker was another android, albeit far older than the Tocks. Mrs Tock held Mr Tock’s head in both hands and shakily held it out to the clock maker.
“Please. Fix his head to me. His body is no more.”
It took hours for the clock maker to finish work on the Tocks, during which time the citizens of Tantum town remained stationary, only their eyes moving about wildly as they desperately sought somebody – or something – to tell them what to do next. Finally when the clock maker had finished, Mr Tock’s head was working once more and stood next to Mrs Tock’s, atop her body.
Mr Tock opened his eyes and turned to Mrs Tock. The metal surrounding the android’s approximation of a mouth clanked together as they kissed once more – albeit not quite as briefly as before.
Mr/Mrs Tock made their way back through the stunned crowds and returned to the top of Tantum clock tower. Upon reaching the summit, they picked up both Mr and Mrs Tock’s hammers and played a tune which was more joyous, louder and longer than any tune that they had played before.
It could be heard not only in Tantum but all across the land and as the tune was heard, beings in all the villages and towns put aside their grudges and began a happier, more productive life and all looked forward to the next hour’s arrival when they would hear the sweet music once more.
Their playing done, Mr/Mrs Tock returned to the guardhouse and tore down the partition between Mr & Mrs Tock’s side of the guardhouse. Mr/Mrs Tock entered the guardhouse and the doors closed after them.
Sitting in the dark as they waited for the next hour, each head turned towards the other and the android approximations of mouths said their familiar lines:
“Love you, Mr Tock.”
“Love you too, Mrs Tock”.
Copyright © 2015 Philip Craddock. All rights reserved.