V – Next Departure

Radio stations across the globe had their feeds hacked by some kind of cyber breach. No one understood how. The stations weren’t networked across time zones and continents.

“Once upon a midnight dreary, did I ponder, weak and weary,

Over many a quaint and curious sigil of forgotten lore—”

The gruff voice recited some bizarre rendition of Poe’s famous piece.

“And the Hours, never flitting, are back to sitting, back to sitting

On the pallid Circle above forevermore…”

In the background, the twang of strings added a melancholic air to each line as the voice droned on.


By means of Fourth’s computer, Midnight had downloaded his recording into the webbing of the wide world. And his recitation invaded a multitude of radio airwaves like spidery tendrils.

Thumbs hooked together, an amused Midnight splayed his gloved fingers and flapped his hands. The shadow puppet’s wings flew darkly along the length of the bus station platform where he stood.

The sun shone bright overhead, and Midnight soaked up the rays with giddy delight. He’d been relishing the true light of day ever since sunrise. It was why he’d spent most of Fifth to Tenth’s watches simply being outside.

He pulled Tenth’s cellphone out from behind his breast pocket silk square.

[Text not delivered. Try again?]

So far, every Hour but one had possessed a cellphone. And just about every mortal Midnight observed this morning had one as well. The reverence afforded these devices by humans astonished him. They were the talismans of communion of this so-called modern age.

It turned out the ever practical Tenth’s sleek and streamlined phone was also her Clock. Sleek and streamlined… much like Tenth herself in the sham of a mortal existence she’d been living as a professional athlete —a marathon runner in New York City to be exact.

The fleet of foot Hour’s attire had been sleek and streamlined as well. Engineered for peak performance, Midnight read off the label of the neon green visor he’d acquired from her after indulging in a little cat and mouse game through the streets of the city. Alas for the Tenth Hour there was no outrunning Midnight calling. He’d ended the game in an alley behind a bodega on 21st Street —Best Sandwiches in Queens! —though Midnight could have done without the pickles in the Sub Haven.

He gave a quick swipe to his chin where crumbs lingered still in his beard.

The Hour without a cellphone had been Seventh.

Flickers of sun and starlight sparked behind Midnight’s lenses as he rolled his eyes. A pot-bellied street mime performing in Prague? Of all the indignant buffoonery.

But oh, Seventh’s Clock. Magnificent. Midnight had been most impressed. The silent clown of an Hour had made the towering, baronial clock of the old town square his own.

A shame.

The clock was reminiscent of the Circle given the presence it commanded… was, that is. Now? A ruin gutted by feathered cadavers after flock upon flock of convenient pigeons had launched from the town square, and like the good little commandeered suicide bombers that they were, flew hell-bent into the tower’s works in barrages of explosive splatters.

Midnight held Tenth’s phone at arm’s length, the sole Clock he had yet to destroy because of the message on its screen.

A group of teenage boys waiting for a bus behind him murmured amongst themselves.

“Nice hat, grampa.”

“Yo, is that a 12 Pro Max?”

“Looks legit.”

“How come some whack job boomer’s got one?”

Whack job? Midnight thumped his walking stick hard on the platform, then raised the tip to peer at it.

“Hmm, whack job. Perhaps that’s not so far off.”

The Supreme Hour spun on his saddle-shoed heels to face the group. “Gentlemen.” He politely tipped Tenth’s running visor that was on his head.

The boys eyed Midnight warily as he waved Tenth’s Clock before them.

“There’s something I can’t figure out with my new phone. If one of you can explain it to me, I’ll give you…” Midnight fished in his breast pocket once more to magically pull out two fifty-dollar bills.

“Straight up?” one of the group exclaimed.

“Mmm, straight up.”

The boys looked at each other. Finally, the biggest who stood a full head and shoulders over Midnight shrugged. “I’m down.”

He strutted forward.

“What do you need figured out?”

“There’s a message on the screen that states ‘Text not delivered’?”

Midnight handed the phone to the teen.

“It’s fingerprint locked, man.”

“Ah, so that’s it.” Midnight slipped off a glove. Flicking the tip of his forefinger with his thumb, he pressed finger to screen which came to life and handed back the phone.

The teen started swiping.

“There’s a bunch of speed dial calls made to…huh…what are these? Look like gang tags.” He held the screen up for Midnight who recognized the sigils of some of the early morning Hours: First, Second, Fourth, Eighth.

My, my, Tenth, you were certainly multi-tasking while running away.

“Mm, yes, tags for a gang. You could say that.”

The teen huffed. “Whatever. They’re all no answers.”

“The text?” Midnight prodded.

“Yeah, the text you wrote for…” the teen raised the screen up to Midnight again. Midnight chuckled. “That’s Noon.”

“Noon?” The teen grinned over his shoulder at the others who were all laughing and shaking their heads. The old man with a cane in the dapper suit and Nike visor was definitely whacked.

“Yeah, ok, Noon. The text didn’t get sent. It’s in the outbox.”

Midnight smirked. “Outbox? Is that like an outhouse?”

“A what?”

“Nevermind,” Midnight sighed. “What does it say?”

When the teen cocked his head at him, no doubt suspicious as to why Midnight wouldn’t know what he’d texted if it was his phone, another fifty-dollar bill was produced.

The teen grinned as he read off the screen.

[Midnight gone insane. chasing me. cant get away]

“The text didn’t go through, yeah.”

“I got a bounced text before too,” one of the other boys said. “Someone posted on Facebook there’s a problem this morning.”

Midnight nodded quietly to himself.

“So I get the money?” The tall teen was all smiles when Midnight exchanged the bills for the phone, only to hurl the latter full force onto the platform.

“What the fuck?!”

Midnight crushed the phone with a twisting heel then kicked it onto the road in time for a bus to drive over it. Lowering his glasses, he was now the one to cock his head at the boy.

“Oh fuuccckkk!”

The entire group of teens collectively turned tail and ran.

Midnight pushed his glasses back up the bridge of his nose. Passersby ignored the goings on. Another day in New York.


Midnight was keen to pay a long overdue visit to his diurnal sister. But before he could get to her, he had to call on another first.

The electronic schedule overhead flashed.

“Next departure, 11 o’clock, sharp,” he said to himself, and with a bounce to his step, melted away in the flow of passengers who’d just disembarked from the 10:21 AM Midtown Express.

⇛ Next part: VI – Of Two Worlds

⇚ Previous part: IV – The Past of Yesterdays

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