The sky yawned with him as he was rising from under thick covers of warmth. It was the first time he slept so well, without worries and concerns about the next day's work. He squinted through sheets of lights streaming through the openings overhead, and gasped for the view was breathtaking. He was looking at the glass ceiling of a dome above him, and even though the glass had no tint, it spoke of shapes and stories that pique and feed his imagination. The sky was clear blue and unblemished, a token of purity. The wind whispered tales long forgotten and the sun wrapped him in its welcoming warmth. Everything seemed perfectly in place, but for one thing. Quint didn't know where he was.
"I must be dead," he whispered. He slowly got to his feet and wandered around the sun-lit room. The walls of the room were of glass, offering a 360 view of the lush green countryside and a forest nearby. He felt naked and exposed, but the sun somehow assured him that everything would be okay. The room lacked furniture; there was only a bed, the one he had been sleeping on, in the middle of the room, and a stairwell at the far end of the room. Quint immediately walked to the opening of the stairwell, which its darkness contrasted with the brightness of the room. Quint didn't want to know how it felt the night in this room.
He climbed downstairs cautiously. It was funny, he always imagined heaven to be a peaceful and fearless place, but he was shivering and nervous. The stairs seem to wind downwards for eternity. For several minutes he could hear and see nothing, until finally, he spotted a light in what might be the bottom. He stepped on the landing and gasped.
The room was tickling with life, like a literal clock of nature because indeed, there were many cogs, clockworks, and clocks sitting on the shelves that made up most of the wall space. Wires were whirring in the ceiling, a fan was turning with a small hand-made water mill, a ballerina automaton with a windup key in the back was turning on its place to the rhythm of soft music coming from a music box, and a toy train was running on its track around the room. These, among other things, fascinated Quint. His mouth dropped opened and his heart swell of joy. He was in heaven.
The music fainted away. A long shadow overpowered his small one and he remembered the incident of last night and the train. He turned around and saw the tall figure he saw last night standing behind him. Quint could see the figure clearly. The figure didn't have the bowler hat, his shoulder-length hair was white, his face gaunt, and his eyes of a lively red-brown color. Quint forced a smile and uttered, "have you followed me to heaven?"
The figure laughed condescendingly. "You're not in heaven kid, this is reality, though a different reality from where you come from. This has become your reality for the time being."
Quint gulped, his tiny existence trying to understand everything that the stranger implied. Silence fell upon them like a third companion.
"What do you think of my workshop?" The stranger asked, trying to break the silence between them.
"These are your creations sir?" Quint asked incredulously. "I think it's a fine craftmanship and exquisite sensibility."
The stranger snorted. "Those are very intelligent words for a street urchin."
Quint flushed. "Who are you?"
"My name is Drelain and I was appointed by the stars to be your councelor and master. You'll be my apprentice for until your times comes up and you shall leave."
"But...what exactly am I going to be learning from you, sir?"
"Everything I know. You're to train with me to improve your physical abilities and I shall teach you my art and magic." He extended an arm to the eastern side of the room, where the walls were made of glass. "You and the others wouldn't understand this right now, but in due time, you will learn your purpose of being here."
"The others? Are there other children like me in here?" Quint's eyes grew with wonder. He didn't feel so forlorn as he previously had. "When can I meet them? Where are they?"
"They're waking up to their new life, just like you. They're being explained by their respective masters their tasks and obligations in this new world." Drelain place an arm around Quint's small shoulders and turned his attention once again to the magnifiscent scenery and extraordinary showcase of nature. The sky was different than Quint had remembered, there were three orbs lingering on the sky. The skyline was dotted with towers among the trees.
"What are those orbs, and those edifices?"
"Those three orbs are our moon, your moon, and your Earth. And those towers are where the town is located."
Quint's eyes grew with amazement. It felt so strange to stare at his planet. It felt even stranger to talk about his planet without being in it. Everything felt strange. He could not believe he was in another place other than Earth.
"This is an alternate reality. We're not in another planet," said Drelain, guessing Quint's thoughts. "The orbs you see there are just a reflection, something to remind you that you can go back some day."
"Why would I want to go back?" Quint asked innocently.
Drelain just smiled.
"What are my obligations?"
"To learn and obey." Drelain then took him to the clockworks. "I will teach you the mechanics of life." He tapped his finger on a brass toy turtle and the cogs immediately started turning; the turtle was in motion. "And time," he snapped his finger and the air around him froze. He snapped them again and the tickling started.
Quint grinned from ear to ear.
"For now, we should go into town for you to meet the rest of the children and the other pupils. Once there, you'll be explained further about the reason you're here."