VIII – Deep into that darkness

Midnight stormed off Eleventh’s sigil.

Nearly half the Circle was now obscured in shadow. Turning once he reached the centre, Midnight glared deep into that darkness peering.

“Who else knew? Who among you knew about this supposed child of Twenty-third’s?”

There was no reply from the morning Hours. Each stood upon their places with eyes closed, asleep in suspended animation in what should have been their shining robes of ethereal light, now dimmed.

Midnight swung back around. What had been a leisurely stroll through the morning had now become a race against time. 

How annoying.

How invigorating.

Even if he was Supreme Hour, Midnight could not jump to the Future. He could not take over Twenty-third’s watch until it was time. He had no choice but to progress through the Hours of the Day one by one, for each was interconnected in a temporal chain. He could not skip a link to reach the end faster.

What have you done, Twenty-third?

The Hour to hand off the end of day at the last minute so he may commence the next. And yet, he had never been close to her. Not that he’d ever been with any of the lesser Hours. Only Noon ranked somewhat in his estimate; shifting ante to post meridiem. Even so, the Twelfth Hour was beneath him.

Midnight recalled how Twenty-third had always been one to enjoy watching humanity. She’d been among the first of the Hours to leave the Circle, not long after her diurnal twin Eleventh. Midnight threw a frown at that guardian’s face. Uncle Kanje’s deep umber complexion was ashen in the shadow.

Twenty-third has a child. How? Could she have adopted a mortal’s get as part of her existence in a Here and Now? He had to find out for himself.

And therein lay his current dilemma. To ensure the smooth takeover of the Circle, Midnight had been subduing the Hours just before their watches commenced. To seek the child now would mean seizing Noon’s watch while she presided over it, when she would be at her most powerful. He scoffed. No matter. Let his sister believe she could oppose him. It had been so easy so far. Too easy. A little mock showdown would relieve some boredom. 

So, how to find Twenty-third’s child in her Here and Now without it being her watch next on the Circle? The cosmic wind ruffled the silver locks of his pompadour as he stared off into the distance, tapping off the seconds with his cane as he focused his thoughts.

The tip paused in midair.

A slow smile snaked across Midnight’s lips as he looked to First. The good doctor in his robe standing guard as he always should have did not react to Midnight walking towards him to step onto his sigil.

Midnight may not be able to jump ahead in time, but he could look back through the morning Hours’ watches of the Day he had presided over.

“Let’s see where you were and what you’ve been up to since the calling of the new day, Twenty-third.”


‘Here it is!’ the student had scribbled. The curvy-tailed arrows he’d drawn looked like a cluster of sperm all vying to fertilize an egg where the circled ‘x’ marked the spot.

Math teacher Virginia Smith pinched the bridge of her nose under her gold-wired reading glasses.

‘Find x’ was a straightforward enough question to calculate the hypotenuse of a right triangle, no? But in this early 21st century, there was always the odd joker of a student who loved to plug their favourite web meme answer.

There were times when Noon really hated the Internet.

“Nice try, Grady,” she muttered. “If this were Sex Ed instead of Math, I could give you part marks.”

‘See me after class’ she penned in elegant script at the top of the page.

What would Pythagoras of Samos have written if he were stuck correcting these geometry tests on a pupil-free day in a high school in Sydney? Educate the children and it won’t be necessary to punish the men? Anger begins in folly and ends in repentance? Do you have a few roos loose in the top paddock? Stop faffing around?

Noon smiled. The delightful Aussie vernacular of her Here & Now never ceased to delight her.

She’d been rather disgruntled earlier, having totally forgotten about the tests she’d planned to correct first thing that morning. It had taken a bemused reminder from the other grade 10 math teacher to trigger her memory –as well as trigger a round of good-natured ribbing from their office mates. They could never resist the opportunity to tease their most regimented colleague who was infamous for being punctual and prepped for all her classes.

Since semester grades had to be entered before the end of the day, she’d ended up foregoing a lunch outing with the staff to catch up.

A final page graded, she set her glasses atop the completed stack of tests. It wasn’t that she required them for reading. This particular pair appealed to her vanity was all, clear lenses framed by a metal of sun. Quite suited for the temporal guardian of the highest point of the Day.

With her colleagues out, she could take advantage of the quiet to call back… to call back… She pressed her lips together in a tight line. For Time’s sake, what was wrong with her today? First the forgotten tests and now she was blanking out who she was supposed to call.

Her gaze dropped to her notepad.  The figure eight she was absentmindedly tracing over and over with her red pen was smudging on the paper.

Eight! That’s whose call I need to return.

What was it he’d blurted in his rather cryptic message earlier? Something about recognizing the voice from a hijacked radio signal? Her first few tries to call him back didn’t work.  She got a busy signal each time. Figured. The smooth-talking Eighth Hour who hosted a popular Hawaiian morning radio show in his Here and Now was always fielding calls from listeners.

“The number you are trying to reach is no longer in service.”

The joints of Noon’s chair creaked as she leaned back.

One of the secretaries had mentioned earlier that communication networks were experiencing issues. Supposedly it was all over the news. Were global phone networks down to that extent?

She drummed her pen against her desk, the rapid-fire ticking reverberated loudly through the empty office. A gnawing unease she couldn’t explain had Noon reaching for her cell once again.

Every Hour but Midnight resided on Earth. And though they led separate lives in their Here and Nows, they all remained interconnected by their Watches. Noon had made sure they all had each other’s contact details using the earthly channels of communication available to them. Most had cellphones, a few kept to landlines. Then there was Fourteenth who fancied his ham radio in his stone house in Nepal. Her Nineteenth sister who lived in a lighthouse in Iceland kept an old telegraph. Calling her was always a joy, listening to dots and dashes.

Random calls to the ever reliable First and Ninth yielded similar out of service messages.

The school’s PA system buzzed. A series of tinny, electronic chimes began to mark the hour. Her hour. Was it her watch already? When had she ever lost track of the time? But glancing up at the familiar rattle and grind from the wall above, she sighed in relief. The PA system was off by half a minute. Her little friend was right on time. 

Pendulum swinging, both hands pointed straight up, the tiny door of the wooden cottage that had caught her eye back in 18th century Bavaria swung open and its occupant popped out. Clanking wings flapped, a mechanical beak opened wide, and the sunbright yellow herald of her Clock cuckooed the arrival of midday.

I finished my corrections, mate. Fancy nipping down to the pub for an early coldie? My watch ain’t beer o’clock, but I know the other teachers are making it a booze-up lunch.

Noon looked at her phone she held. Who’d she been calling again? Ugh, nevermind. If she hurried, she could maybe meet up with her colleagues before they ordered a second round. 

She stretched out her arms and stood, briskly smoothing out the creases in her skirt and starched blouse. Her reflection in the office window frowned at the stray coppery wisp of hair from her prim chignon. Patting the unruly strand back into place, she made her way to the window to take a quick peek at the winter weather outside… only to suck in a startled breath.

In the parking lot below stood Midnight, gazing calmly up at her.

A warning shivered down her spine.

Something’s wrong.

The Einstein bobblehead on her science colleague’s desk nodded when she bumped it leaning closer to the sill.

Something’s very wrong.

Her twenty-fourth brother, her nocturnal twin. The lofty temporal god who considered himself above all the others. The “Supreme” Hour as he liked to consider himself. In the long ago, she’d returned to the Circle several times before giving up, to try and convince him to come down to Earth and live a life like the other Hours. Noon had felt sorry for him remaining alone. The Circle could go on whether the Hours stood upon it or not. Their interconnectedness held no physical boundaries. Time flowed as they lived and breathed, after all.

But Midnight had steadfastly refused. In fact, he’d become livid that last time, insisting they’d all abandoned their calling and would come to regret their decisions. Except it had been ages. And none of the other Hours had ever returned to the Circle.

She would have materialized directly outside but couldn’t risk being seen by the few maintenance staff milling about. There were also the senior students who’d come in to use the library walking around the grounds. Instead, she walked out the office and through the hallways to the stairwell descending to the parking lot. 

The steel exit door boomed closed behind her when she stepped out.



“Nice glasses and suit.”

Midnight gave a faint smile.


The sunburst-like rings about Noon’s sky blue pupils flared as she hardened her gaze, scrutinizing the shimmer of air about Midnight.

“What’s wrong with your aura, brother?”

“Have you spoken to Twenty-third lately?” Midnight ignored her question. He leaned forward on a cane which Noon sensed to be his staff in disguise.

The shimmer expanded out from Midnight to stretch between them. And the dreary June clouds of the winter afternoon sky began to darken.

“Twenty-third?” Noon crossed her arms casually, doing her best to ignore the gooseflesh erupting all over her skin. “No. I haven’t spoken to her in about 300 years. She was working as an auctioneer in her Here & Now of then. Why?”

She gasped when the first wave of Midnight’s power swept over her which she blocked with her own.

“What are you do–“

Laughter from a group of oblivious students walking on the other side of the lot’s chain fence stilled her question. “Crikey, what’s happening with the weather?” a girl said. “We’re getting a storm?”

A low rumble of thunder rolled through the atmosphere as roiling black clouds began to amass. Every subsequent wave of power a calm and collected Midnight launched at her, Noon matched but with jaw clenched tight. She watched as Midnight glanced at the students then back at her, the corner of his mouth rising. The waves buffeting her abruptly stopped.

“Hmm, I find it surprising, sister,” his tone was relaxed, “that you who like to mother the lesser Hours is unaware of the trouble the last Hour of the Day has created.”

“Trouble?” She did her best to keep her voice steady. Until she could determine what was wrong with Midnight, she would play along for now. “What trouble?”

“What if I told you she gave birth to a child? One from a mortal father?”

“Wha–” A bolt of lightning cracked through the sky. “That’s not possible.”

“It surely isn’t. And yet it is.”

Noon braced herself when Midnight reached up to remove the dark glasses he wore, then raised her trembling fingers to hers.

What was usually radiant warmth from the twin suns she hid behind human shades of blue was cooling. Her vision was darkening, just as Midnight’s current eyes of blazing stars began coalescing into twin suns themselves.

“It would seem I’ve come here none too soon.”

Enough with this!

“What the hell are you up to, Midnight?” The atmosphere thickened further. More lightning flashed in the clouds. Midnight’s power came rushing at her now, a crushing current weighing her down, wrapping about her limbs. Streams of it clamped down hard on her arms, coiling downwards to her hands. Gritting her teeth, Noon flicked her wrists and the shackles of energy winding about them shattered.

And for the first time, Midnight’s smile faltered. “I’d forgotten how strong you are.”

Forgotten? Eighth, First, Ninth…the Hours she’d tried calling and then forgotten.

“You did something to the morning Hours, didn’t you. Did you think you could do the same to me on my watch?” Noon hissed. Midnight’s force was suffocating, making her sleepy. It was taking all she had to resist.

“The Circle has been abandoned for too long, sister. I am taking over every watch and bringing the Hours back, whereupon I alone will seize the coming of the days.” Midnight shook his head with a chuckle. “I know, I know. Carpe diem is so cliché.

“I would have been here sooner to take over before your watch but I had a pickup to make,” he continued, raising his face to the churning storm overhead. “Rest assured, sister. I’ll hand off properly to Thirteenth when his time comes.”

“What have you done, Midnight? What have you done to the morning Hours? Where are they?”

“Come with me, Noon. I have much to show you.”

“Have you gone insane? You can’t take hold of all the temporal forces yourself. The Clocks will shatter.”

“No worries. I’ve been shattering them myself one by one. Except for yours. I need you to bring it in order to prove a point to someone.

“I sense your Clock inside the school, sister. Summon it here.”

She stared at him in defiance.

“Unless you prefer I take a stroll inside and take it myself? Whatever shall I do if any of the mortals I’m sure to encounter try to stop me?”

When her cuckoo clock appeared in her hands, Midnight smirked.

“Bring it along, Noon,” he said. “I need to show it to someone who’s waiting.”

“Brother, listen to me. If you try to take over all the Watches, you will unleash chaos on Earth and the Heavens.”

“Try? Oh, I’m not trying, sister. I’m doing. It’s just taking me a little longer with you but you won’t be able to resist me for much longer.”

A warm trickle on her lip made Noon reach up. Her fingertips came away bloody. Dizziness set her off balance.

“Stop fighting me, Noon, and surrender peacefully.”

Of all the thoughts racing through her mind, the silly Einstein doll in the office came to the forefront. What had the genius mortal once said? Time isn’t constant, it’s relative? So what to do when a relative goes mad? Didn’t Midnight understand he would only get his one turn of the clocks before all existence ground to a halt? Perhaps, he did know. He just didn’t care.

“Oi, Mizz Smith. Everything ok?”

A grizzled-hair Reggie, the school custodian, stood at the school doorway with a pipe wrench held in his thick hands. His gaze was fixed on Midnight.

“Don’t be a dickhead. Piss off. I called the coppers.” Reggie brandished the wrench at Midnight.

Noon staggered when the pressure about her lifted. The asphalt beneath her feet seemed to sway as she clutched her clock to her chest with one arm.

Seizing her chance, she gathered her strength and hurled a blast of power at Midnight. The Twenty-fourth Hour stumbled back and with a growl lifted his cane which transformed into his staff.

“Virginia? What’s going on?”

“Mizz Smith, are you ok?”

At the street entrance stood her colleagues back early from lunch. More students who’d come in to study were now gathering behind Reggie.

And the sounds of sirens in the distance grew louder.

“Come quietly with me sister, and there needn’t be any…collateral damage.”

“Reggie, stay back,” Noon cried when he stepped out to head towards them. He came to a dead halt as he squinted at hers and Midnight’s faces.

“Your eyes… the two of you. What the fuck is going on?”

A blast of howling wind had all the humans grabbing for support. There were gasps and shouts when a fissure cracked open in the asphalt.

Lightning streaked across the clouds then in one brief flash, a blazing sun in a blue sky appeared before winking out to a starfield lit night.

Shouts turned into screams.

Midnight raised his staff over his head. Noon could see the power aimed straight at the group by the entrance.

Bystanders jumped out of the way when a pair of police cars swerved into the lot, officers jumping out with their sidearms drawn.

‘Tick tock, tick tock,’ Midnight mouthed to Noon over the howling winds.

“Freeze! Drop your weapon!” an officer yelled. Midnight’s staff swung sharply round.

Guns opened fire, their bullets screeching to a halt mid-flight before dropping like dead flies to the ground… the ground where had stood the man now vanished, along with the woman.

Overhead, the dreary winter afternoon clouds drifted lazily by.

⇛ Next part:

⇚ Previous part: VII – Nevermore

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