|Drawn by Francis Law and Meg|
In a small house on Lantern Street, The Grand Meister of Timekeeping inspected himself in the mirror. He looked at his scarlet waistcoat, his black tie and his white dress shirt. Spotless. He ran a comb through his black, glossy hair. Not a hair out of place. Satisfied, he draped his long coat over his shoulders and, with infinite care, lowered his top hat squarely onto his head. He brushed an invisible speck of dust from his shoulder, fastened his monocle and turned to leave. He paused and turned back to the mirror with a frown. After a moment's deliberation, he gave his mustache an extra twirl. Perfect.
The Grand Meister of Timekeeping, or Bernard Pleasant as he was commonly known, was for all intents and purposes a perfectly normal gentleman. He got up at a reasonable hour every morning. He put on his pants one leg at a time. He worked a decent job for decent pay. He addressed his betters with just the right amount of polite respect and those less fortunate than him with aloof disdain. He was completely and wholly unremarkable. Except, of course, that he was anything but.
The Grand Meister of Timekeeping fished a small, delicate pocket watch out of his pocket and flipped open the beautiful, engraved lid. The inside of the golden timepiece was a jumble of intricate metalwork. Four arms moved, one at a time, emitting a constant tick tick tick tick. They moved both clockwise and counter-clockwise, jumping from one number to another. The numbers weren't the usual one to twelve. Eighteen seemingly random numbers, ranging from zero to 824, lined the outer rim. Around the center of the watch, the numbers zero to five were arranged in a circle. Today was the day.
"I say, Bernard, you look positively dapper today!"
The Grand Meister of Timekeeping snapped shut his watch and looked up with a pleasant smile. An enormously fat man had emerged from the crowded street and now stood smiling before him.
"Thank you, Jenkins," The Grand Meister of Timekeeping said. "A gentleman should always look their best for special occasions, do you not agree?"
"Of course, of course." He gestured at the empty spot on the bench next to The Grand Meister of Timekeeping. "May I?"
Jenkins groaned as he lowered his not inconsiderable girth onto the wooden bench. He dabbed at his sweaty face with a tiny handkerchief.
"I really shouldn't be walking around in this weather," he said. "This blasted heat could rightly kill a man if he weren't careful. But," he said, gazing at a woman walking past, "It's not all bad, eh?" He nudged The Grand Meister of Timekeeping with his elbow.
"How's that?" he said without much interest and stole another glance at his watch. It was almost time.
"The women, of course!" Jenkins laughed.
Any other day, Bernard Pleasant would have been just as excited about the prospect of scantily clad ladies as his fat friend was. But today he was The Grand Meister of Timekeeping. Today, his mind was occupied by something of much greater importance.
"I must be cruel only to be kind," he muttered. "Thus bad begins, and worse remains behind."
"Shakespeare, Jenkins." He made to stand. "I'm afraid I must leave you now, my dear friends. I have important matters to attend. But before I go..." He searched his pockets and produced a pair of silver coins. "Take these."
Jenkins looked from the coins to The Grand Meister of Timekeeping with puzzlement.
"I... Well, thank you, Bernard. May I ask what they're for?"
"Why, the ferryman, of course." He smiled, tipped his hat and disappeared into the crowded street.
He pushed his way through the great unwashed, grumbling and muttering. Shoving a woman aside, he emerged into the city square. Normally, the square would have been filled with thousands of people going about their lifes. Lords and ladies. Beggars and whores. Liars and murderers. The air would be filled with the hollering of merchants and laughter of children.
But today, the crowd formed a massive circle around the very center of the square. They stared, wide-eyed and gape-mouthed, at the great, golden disk that hovered above them, revolving slowly. It gave off a soft hum. The Grand Meister of Timekeeping grinned. It was magnificent. I was three times the height of a man, shining like a miniature sun. He tore his eyes away from the incredible sight and, with trembling fingers, opened his watch. Now was the time. Tick tick tick tick.
He whirled around and threw out his arms.
"Ladies and gentlemen!" He roared. His voice carried to every corner of the square. "Sinners and heathens! Today is the day of reckoning! The day of judgement! Today, you look upon the face of your maker." He jabbed an accusing finger at the throng of people. "You have lived out your pitiful lives in sin, and the great creator is displeased."
Behind him, the golden disk started spinning faster and faster until it was a blur. The humming rose in sound and intensity.
"Today, his judgement descends upon you!"
Lightning flashed across the disc. Thunder rumbled in the distance.
"And here..." He faced the disc. "It..." Lightning jumped and flashed from the disc to the ground. "Comes."
With a deafening boom and a blinding flash of light, a tear in reality appeared where the disc had been. From the tear streamed pure, white light. A few people screamed. Most remained silent.
"Yes," The Grand Meister of Timekeeping hissed. "Yes!" Something was emerging from the tear. A single figure, tall and gaunt, descended slowly. When it came to rest on the ground, it raised its head, and The Grand Meister of Timekeeping saw it for the first time.
It was half again as tall as he, and made entirely of golden metal. It resembled a skeleton, but inside its gleaming ribcage, where its heart should have been, hung a large, golden pocket watch. He could hear it tick. The creature was beautiful. A white and unmoving metal mask rested on the metal skull. It was of such brilliant beauty that The Grand Meister of Timekeeping knew what the creature truly was.
"The angels have come." He whispered.
With a soft whirring sound, the metal angel unfolded its wings, row upon row of gleaming, metallic feathers spreading out behind it in a great arc.
With a swift beat of its wings, it moved to stand before The Grand Meister of Timekeeping.
"Thank you," it said, a voice like a thousand people whispering. "Timekeeper. Your task is done." It held out one of its delicate hands, palm up. "Give me the heart."
Head spinning and hands trembling, he took out his watch and placed it carefully in the angel's hand. Its fingers closed around it softly.
"And now," it said. "The judgement will commence."
It was then that Bernard Pleasant noticed the other angels. Hundreds of them, rank upon rank, emerged from the tear. A thrill of fear flashed through him. They didn't look as angelic as they had a moment ago. The metal was grey and dull. The masks were cold and unfeeling. He could hear their hearts ticking in disconcerting unison. The angels stood in perfect circles around the portal. Like a ripple in water, they moved as one, gliding slowly towards the throng of people surrounding them. A man near Bernard stumbled towards the angels, breath shuddering in his chest. He let his cane drop, clutched his hat in his hands and fell to his knees before one of them.
The angel placed a gentle hand over the man's heart. "Greed." it said. Bernard heard a sharp click. The man coughed once and collapsed. A pool of blood formed beneath the limp body. Confused, Bernard looked from the dead man to the angel. From the delicate, metal hand protruded a blade. It was stained red.
Moments later, he heard hundreds of angels speak. Every one of them stood before an awestruck man, woman or child, metal hands over human hearts.
"Lust." One said. A sharp click followed, and the man fell to the ground.
"Envy." Said another. Click. The woman let out a ragged sigh and fell at the angel's feet.
Then the screaming started. People were starting to regain their senses. Some cried out. Some tried to help those in front. Most simply fled. Bernard saw one man try to bludgeon one of the angels with a brick. Gently, and without fuss, the angel grabbed the man's arm and placed its hand above his heart.
"Wrath." It said. Click.
The next hours passed in a blur of violence. Bernard saw thousands killed at the hands of the angels. Not a single man, woman or child was spared. He saw Jenkins kneeling before an angel, crying and pleading to be let free. The angel paid his blubbering no heed. Gluttony. Click. He saw desperate soldiers fighting the angels with blade and rifle to no avail. Wrath. Click. He saw people trying to flee the city, only to be swept into the air by angels, great wings beating. Greed. Click. Lust. Click. Sloth. Click. Pride. Click. Envy. Click.
Tick tick tick tick.
Finally, the city fell silent. The only sound to be heard was the angels' hearts. The golden angel swept down to stand before Bernard. Blood dripped from its golden fingers.
"What happens now?" Bernard asked. He felt very tired.
"We proceed." The angel lifted its head toward the sky. Bernard did the same. Far above them, he could see the angels gliding out of the city like a great flock of metal birds. "Man will be judged." It said and placed its hand over Bernard's heart. In the other hand, it held his watch. His heart. Tick tick tick t-
Music of the now: By The Wall, Imaginarium Soundtrack