Once there were a boy and girl who lived in a temple with tall, golden walls. They each had soft, scarlet lips. They stayed inside the temple and spoke words of love and caressed one another with touches as light as the breeze. They occasionally gazed out the temple windows at the round, gleaming moon - and then just went on as before. No one kept time; they were too busy loving to bother with numbers and schedules and rotations and other such nonsense.

One day the girl went into the attic. Everything inside was covered in a fine film of dust except a tiny white clock in the corner. She ran her hand along its face and felt how smooth it was. Lovely. She carried it out of the attic, into the hall, stood high on her tippytoes and hung it on the wall. Satisfied, she wandered off to find the boy and go back to loving. She soon forgot about the clock.

Some time passed and one twilight the girl awoke to a tic-tic-tic-tic. She nuzzled into the boy’s ear. ‘Don’t you hear that?’ she asked. And then fell asleep again. They slept soundly for the rest of the night.

More time passed and again she awoke in the twilight. Tic-tic-tic-tic. She lie in the bed for a while and listened. Silence. Silence. And then, tic-tic-tic-tic. Silence. Tic-tic-tic-tic. Eventually she fell asleep.

Soon after she was wandering down the hall and saw tiny flakes of gold flitting to the ground. She went and found a broom and swept them away. Then she asked the boy ‘Did you see the gold is flaking off the walls?’

‘Nonsense,’ said the boy. ‘Gold cannot just flake away.’

Again, time passed. And again, she awoke in the night to a tic-tic-tic-tic. The next day she found more gold flaking off the wall. She fetched the boy and led him into the hall, tugging at the ends of his fingers, gently, the way lovers do. ‘Do you see?,’ she asked. ‘Do you see the gold?’

‘Oh,’ said the boy. ‘Oh.’ He paused. ‘Well, it’s only the wall. It’s only the gold. This is still our temple and we still love here.’

‘You’re right’, said the girl. ‘At least we have our temple. At least we have love.’

The days and nights passed. The round, gleaming moon appeared, then disappeared, again and again. The boy and girl loved. And sometimes little flakes of gold flitted to the ground and the girl swept them away. She did not care for the flaking, or for the sweeping, but she swept and went on with loving.

One dark twilight, the girl awoke with a start. Tic-tic-tic-tic. Silence. Tic-tic-tic-tic. She leaned over the boy. ‘Do you hear it, the tic? Listen.’

He rolled onto his back, lie in the dark for a moment gazing at the round, gleaming moon. ‘I hear it. But what shall we do? It’s just a tic.’

‘The tic wakes me up’, she said. ‘I don’t like the tic.’ He wrapped his arm around her and pulled her close, and they soon fell asleep.

On the darkest twilight of the year, the girl awoke again. The bed shook ever so slightly, echoing the tic-tic-tic-tic. She glanced toward the window, but there was no moon. She lie very still, found the boy’s fingertips in the blackness. She listened to the sound of her own breathing, focused on the slow inhale and exhale. But there it was. Tic-tic-tic-tic. And again. Tic-tic-tic-tic. Growing louder and louder. Tic-tic-tic-tic.

She finally rose from the bed and felt her way outside the bedroom, down the hall. At first it was very black but the hall grew lighter and lighter as she approached the clock. As she neared, she saw it had grown as big as the moon, a bright light looming high on the wall. With each tic-tic-tic-tic, the moon-clock shook. And with each shake, little flakes of gold flitted down to the floor.

Tic-tic-tic-tic. Shake-shake-shake-shake. Flit-flit-flit-flit.

She stood up high on her tippytoes and reached for the moon-clock, stretched her fingertips until she just brushed it. And with a flick, she hit it. She thought it would fall to the floor with a clatter, possibly break, but then, that wouldn’t be so bad, would it? She could put it back in the attic. And sleep. And love. And not have to sweep any more gold.

But the moon-clock did not fall. There was no clatter. Silence, for a moment. And then… Tic-tic-tic-tic. Shake-shake-shake-shake. Flit-flit-flit-flit.

She tried again, but could not reach. And again. And again. Her lip trembled, the first time such a thing had happened inside the temple. She bit her lip, rose onto her tippytoes again, stretched farther than she had ever stretched. And then – she felt two strong hands slip around her waist and gently lift her. She pulled hard on the moon-clock and a stream of nuggets broke loose from the golden wall, falling all around them. They toppled over.

She pulled herself up to a sitting position, smoothed the hair from her face and looked up. And there was the boy, sitting in a pile of gold rubble, bits of the wall crumbling behind him. Holding a tiny, broken clock. And grinning that grin of his.

She smiled, stood up, dusted the gold flakes off her nightgown and said ‘I’ll sweep in the morning.’ And then she padded down the dark hall back to bed. He followed soon after.

 

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