Noon at the Clock Tower

This is a story based on my adventures with a couple friends at GVSU, with some fantasy and some alchemical journey symbolism added. I hope they find this an interesting interpretation of our time together, and I hope the rest of you enjoy this as well! Next week, I’ll be posting the second part of my Werewolf Septology and then, due to college orientation, I may or may not have a post on Friday. Anyway, without further ado…

Zach and Phil chatted amiably as they walked toward the great clock tower, built as the focal point to the large park it resided in. The two friends had not seen each other in some time, and were anxious to catch up on things. When they reached the clock tower, they saw another friend, Laura, who stood at the tower’s base, glaring at them.

“About time you showed up.”

“Hey, we were talking,” said Zach.

Laura rolled her eyes. “You’re an hour late!”

Before they could argue further, they were startled when, above them, the clock rang out that it was noon – the familiar Winchester quarters song. As the main tune finished, and the twelve bongs started, Phil noticed a blue light emanating from the side of the tower.

“What’s that?” he asked. The others followed his gaze, and saw a door in the center of the tower..

“I don’t know.” Zach walked forward, toward it.

“Don’t open it!” Laura grabbed his shoulder, pulling him away.

“Was it here when you got here?” Phil asked her.

“No.”

“Then we should check it out.”

“Yeah. For science, or whatever,” added Zach.

Phil made another go for the door, breaking loose from Laura’s grip. His hand closed around the door handle, turned it, and thrust it open, blue light blinding the trio. Laura managed to glimpse through the light, and saw Zach following Phil through the door.

“Shoot. Well, here I go.” She ran in, just as the last note echoed through the park from the clock, and the door vanished.

 * * *

Some time later, after an existential journey floating through psychedelic images and odd colors, they found themselves at the end of a long, stone corridor. Laura looked behind her, and found, to her astonishment, that the door had vanished.

“Uh oh.”

“What?” asked Zach.

“The door’s gone.”

“That might be problematic,” said Phil, before turning toward the passageway. “Let’s see where this leads.”

He began down the corridor, the other two quickly following behind him. The passage led to another door, though this one was much less ominous and magical than the last one. It was just a plain, wooden door. Phil opened it.

“Welcome, heroes!” said a man on the far side of the hall the trio now entered. “You’ve come just in time!”

“Who are you?” asked Zach.

“I am the king of a powerful realm, but we have been struck by a terrible curse. My daughter, the Princess Shu, has been kidnapped, and I need you to rescue her.”

“Um, we’re not heroes.”

“We’re just kids,” added Laura.

“Then why are you here?” asked the king. “You would not have been able to make it here if you were not meant to help. Now go, there it your path.”

He snapped his fingers, and, at the end of the hall, a door sprang open. The three looked out, to see a dark tunnel, lit dimly by torches. Phil took the other two by the shoulder, leading them slowly down the hall and out into the tunnel. As the last of them stepped out, the door behind them closed. Zach looked back, but the hall had vanished, with the tunnel leading behind them into the blackness.

“Guess we keep going,” he said.

They followed the tunnel for some time. After almost half an hour, they entered a small room.

In the center lay a large, black funnel. A door stood across from them. As they came into the room, there was a sudden snap, and they jumped, turning around, only to see a door close behind them. It was a stone door, and, attached to it, was an old man, with a long grey beard.

“What is this place?” asked Laura.

“This is the first test,” said the old man. “Many have tried to pass, but none have yet succeeded.”

“Succeeded at what?” inquired Phil.

“Once a coin touches the funnel, it must travel for ten seconds before it can enter the hole in the center. Only then can I be released and give you the key to the way forward, or the way back.”

Laura glanced at the old man. His body was covered in rock, trapping his legs and his left arm. Now he held out his right hand, which held a gold coin. Phil reached out and took the coin, turning toward the funnel. Zach knelt down and looked at the hole, which was filled with the same stone that covered the old man.

“This is tricky,” muttered Phil.

“And totally impossible,” added Laura. “I mean, sliding down this, the coin’ll only take a couple seconds.”

Phil tapped the ground with the coin, pondering for a solution to the puzzle.

“Wait,” said Zach. “What if this is one of those Gravitron things?”

“Those whats?” replied Laura.

“You know, those things at science museums, where you launch the penny down the vortex and it spins around and around.”

“Huh,” said Phil thoughtfully. “Let’s try that.”

He launched the coin on its edge, and they watched it revolve around the funnel, Zach counting down quietly to himself. Ten seconds passed, and the hole suddenly opened, the disturbance shaking the funnel enough that the coin promptly left its route and fell right in.

The room shook, and they looked behind them to see the old man now free. He stumbled forward, and presented the key to them.

“Now go forth and save the kingdom!” he said as the door behind him collapsed and he walked into the tunnel.

The trio turned toward the forward door. Walking to it, Phil slid in the key and unlocked it, pushing it open. Outside was starkly different from the tunnel they had passed through. Instead, they now entered a bright mountainside, following the course of a road that winded around it, toward the other mountains. The mountains were largely devoid of life, only populated by white rocks. Below them, a river ran between the mountains, and that seemed to have a concentration of trees around it.

Soon, they came to a rope bridge, wide and narrow, spanning over the river from one mountain to the next. However, in the center of the bridge stood a man, robed, leaning on a staff. The trio approached him.

“Welcome!” he said. “If you wish to pass, you must pass my test.”

“Alright,” replied Phil.

“You must take that key you possess, and you must touch it to me.”

Phil pursed his lips. “So that’s why you have the staff.”

He took out the key, but it had changed form. Now it was a dagger, and was growing into a sword. The man stepped back, wielding his staff in two hands. Phil attempted a few slashes and thrusts, but the man easily repulsed them all. It was only when he accidentally nicked the rope handle of the bridge.

“Guys, hold on!” he exclaimed to his friends behind him.

He swung down on the rope, severing it. Instantly, the bridge collapsed, the two halves plummeting toward the cliff faces. The man with the staff flew over the trio’s heads. The trio held on with all their might as the bridge rebounded off the cliff face. But instead of settling, it continued, moving all the way back up. The cut sealed.

“Congratulations,” said a voice behind them. It was the man with the staff. “You have passed.”

They stood up and crossed the bridge, returning to the road, now on the opposite side, following it through the mountains. And then they came to a huge cavern, lit red by some mysterious internal fire.

The trio walked inside, Phil still holding the sword at the ready. After some time, the red light becoming deeper the entire time, they found a glitter. Approaching this shimmer, they found a large pile of gold. And, upon this gold, a girl.

“Oh, thank goodness!” she cried. “At last I can escape this beast!”

Laura looked at her, shocked. “What beast?”

There was a low hiss, and over the gold came a terrible beast. It was red and reptilian, long, walking like a lizard, but built like a snake. Smoke issued from its nostrils, and fire from its breath.

“Leave,” it hissed. “And I won’t kill you too.”

“Ha!” laughed Phil, though he was feeling terrified.

“My armor is totally impervious to magic, and I don’t expect you could even beat a page with that sword. What other weapons has that foolish warlock sent against me?”

It continued talking about how powerful it was, and how weak the king was, while Laura suddenly turned to Phil.

“Give me the sword.”

“Why?”

“I have an idea.”

She took the sword from Phil, and hurled it at the dragon. The sword spun, moving with far more force than what Laura had used to throw it. The dragon glanced at it, mid-sentence, just before it planted itself in the dragon’s mouth. And then the dragon lay down, dead.

“Oh, thank you!” exclaimed the princess.

“You’re welcome,” replied Zach, who hadn’t really taken his eyes off her the entire time.

“Come on,” said Phil. “Let’s go.”

They left the cavern. Upon coming out, they met the king, waiting, smiling, for them.

“Thank you for rescuing my daughter,” he said.

“Sure,” replied Phil.

“Do not feel disappointed. Some quests are meant to let us grow, others are to test what we’ve learned. And perhaps you will return here, and grow. In the mean time, I shall send you back to your own world.”

He clapped his hands, and the trio felt as though they were falling back, back through the existentialism of trans-dimensional travel, until they came to a halt beside the clock tower.

“I do hope we go back,” said Zach. “That princess was cute.”

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