Friday, October 12, 2012

Not Quite #Fridayflash Fiction: The Hours of Chronopolis

No one knows the hour... but if you have lived within the city of Chronopolis for a some time, there is a good chance that the hour knows you or at least has brushed past you in a busy street or waited behind you at the ice cream parlor or bought the last half dozen of freshly baked rolls just before you entered Maria's bakery.

This is your first lesson when arriving in Chronopolis. Each hour will surprise you.

There are hours that will fill you with unexpected melancholy for the boy who sat next to you in the ninth grade, you know, the one you last saw five years ago unpacking sacks of fertilizer in his dad's hardware store. Other hours will bring sudden inspiration about what to wear for the Halloween party in two weeks time. You get hours that will see you stripping off your coat to hand it to the woman begging outside the Fried Chicken joint and hours that will make you grasp your shoulder bag a little tighter for fear that it may be snatched away. Each hour is different.

No one is born in Chronopolis. That is your second lesson and it will take a while for this to sink in.

At first you will not notice this peculiarity, but when you do, it becomes a quest to find the one person that disproves what you suspect. You will search relentlessly, interrogating friends, acquaintances and even strangers, and they will smile tolerantly, as they too went through this stage. After a while it consumes you, wears you out and eats you up inside. The quest always remains bigger than you are. It is never met.

Nothing will prepare you for lesson number three and this is that everyone has their hour. No one knows this beforehand, but one day, a knock will come, or a nudge or a wink or a hand beckoning to you.

Whatever you were about to do, you will feel compelled to answer the summons and it will lead you towards the Tower of Chronopolis.

This building is perhaps the greatest of the city's mysteries. It dominates the skyline of Chronopolis from each wind direction and is impossible to miss. Everyone you know will have planned to visit it at some time, but to your knowledge no one has ever done this.

You will climb the tower, light-headed with wonder. You will admire the strange, gothic reliefwork carved into the walls, and secretly plan to return at some later date to make a detailed study of it. You realize instinctively that this is not possible now. Later, the need to return will fade like from your memory. No one comes to the tower of Chronopolis a second time.

You will arrive just before the hour at the summit and be welcomed. This is the last memory most people have before coming to their senses in the street below, roughly sixty five minutes later. One or two may recall being strapped into a pod-like column, but they are the crazy ones, who harbour other memories even more suspect.

No one remembers their hour.

This is the secret magic at the heart of Chronopolis. Each hour has a different soul. It may be a soul that delights in feeding ducks and swans in the pond at noon, or an hour that lights the next cigarette with the butt end of the previous one and then gulps down scalding black coffee to get rid of that dry, dry taste. You never can tell beforehand.

The final lesson of Chronopolis is that everyone goes home after their hour has come.

This is not the home you left behind when you settled in Chronopolis, or the home of your childhood. A key turns, something shifts and you are standing within the home that has always been there, at the very edge of your consciousness, the home you carry deep inside of you, always.

No one knows the hour...


  1. Well said Carine. Somehow, everyone is connected in Chronopolis. The realization is always startling...

  2. Thank you. In a way, we are Chronopolis, often without consciously knowning that...

  3. Wow. Beautiful and wonderful and I love it.

    Liana Mir

  4. Thank you for reading and commenting, and also for sharing your own magical writing on the internet.