Never try to cheat Father Time.
In a time not unlike our own, but, familiar enough that we may just see ourselves in the inhabitants, there lived a man named Perseus who was charged with killing a female gorgon named Medusa. It was not an easy task for Perseus to accomplish, for Medusa was a hideous female with scaly skin and a nest of serpent hair. In fact, she could turn a man to stone if he so much as looked directly upon her in any way. As far fetched as that may seem in this age of incredulity, I want you to just think for a moment. I'm sure you've known a few women like that in your own lifetime, right?
Perseus was able to defeat Medusa however, by using a shield as a mirror, which, with a few lucky blows, he was able to chop off the head of the dreaded Gorgon. A stroke of luck don't you think? Have you ever tried wielding a longsword backwards, using just a mirror as your guide?
I know you've seen those horror movies where the victims' heads get chopped off their bodies, thus you know that there are major arteries that supply blood to the brain. I don't mean to be graphic but, when Perseus cut off Medusa's head, blood splattered everywhere: oozed onto the ground, onto the nearby flora and fauna and most certainly all over brave Perseus. Medusa was, after-all, a monster full of evil humors, she must have sprayed a lot of blood, phlegm and bile.
Now, being a modern, rational thinker, you are certainly not going to believe this part, but you can look it up in an encyclopedia or on Wikipedia, for such veritable portals of history are assuredly true: As the blood gushed from the poor beast's neck, a large pool of the dark red viscous liquid gathered upon the ground near the sandaled feet of the hero, Perseus. If you are feeling a sudden twinge of compassion for the beast, don't be alarmed at your liberal emotions. In this day and age where there are more gray areas than black and white, I think we are allowed to feel sympathy for the defeated. Yes, I think we can even be openhearted toward a wretched beast with scaly skin and snakes for hair (which I guess is good news for mother-in-laws.)
Now if this were a work of fiction, I would obviously end my story here. After-all, the evil gorgon was vanquished by the brave Perseus. That is a nice, clear-cut, heroic story – what more could any reader want? That is how life should be, right? But this is a true story, and whether that is a good thing or a bad one is not for me to decide – I am just the chronicler and I refuse to add a romantic tint to truth.
After the beheading, the blood from Medusa's body seeped into the top layer of the soil and there it dried into grainy clots where it was soon forgotten. No one then or later marked the spot as a historic site, maybe because, back then killing gorgons wasn't a big deal. You've read mythology, I assume? It's littered with such heroic deeds. So it shouldn't seem strange to you that many centuries went by and people forgot the spot where the great Perseus defeated the wretched Medusa.
Many years later, the rains fell like never before. It was a torrent so great, that it swelled the earth beneath it, forcing the soil to give up secrets that it had long held. When this deluge ended, the sun returned, slowly dried the soil, and quite without explanation, a Pegasus, formed and rose from the spot where the blood from Medusa's body had dried.
Phoenix-like, Pegasus came to life and leaped into the sky soaring off into the distant constellations. If Pegasus had not risen that day, it would not have, on another day, flown past a majestic clock tower. And if it hadn't flown past the tower, it would not have noticed a man with green suspenders and a ski mask hanging by his braces, from the hour hand.
Some people may call that luck, some may call it fate, but it was a propitious moment for the man, who seemed, nevertheless, to be having some minor difficulty extricating himself from the clock's hour hand.
Pegasus soared around the clock tower several times, observing the situation. A creature born from centuries of gestation, he didn't believe in making rash decisions. Finally allowing his curiosity to sway him, he hovered before the dangling man and asked calmly, "Are you in trouble, may I be of service?" The man grew angry and shouted back sarcastically,
"What, me, what makes you think such a thing? I don't need help, I'm just here hanging out for my health!"
The winged horse blinked. The Pegasus was of a breed that is easily offended and it didn't think the man was in any position to be indignant, still, it ignored the man's irony and replied, "Well, in this age of independence one dares not readily jump in to be of assistance. Human's are a prideful lot, and well, as silly as you look hanging there, the peculiar situation assures me that you are indeed a human.
The man, knowing his situation and not wanting to incite his lone source of hope, ignored the insult to his race and responded simply. "We could argue all day as to the nature of pride and superiority, but since it's already 4:30 in the afternoon, and since you have fortuitously stopped by, I could use a helping hand – not that I was worried mind you, after-all, why worry about what you can't control? As long as I remained still, I wouldn't be going anywhere right away. There would be plenty of time to worry at five when I would have probably begun to slip off the hour hand, but until then, life is too short, why fret and waste precious time?
"I see," lied Pegasus, not comprehending the logic of this strange human. "So, sometime at or after five you'll slip off the hour hand, down below onto the pavement. That wouldn't be good for you, would it? So, what would you expect me to do?"
"Well rescue me of course. While I'm poor and cannot repay you or make you a Prince like in fairy tales, you will have a great story to tell your children; and of course a great sense of pride for having saved a man in peril."
Pegasus smiled wryly at the man and said, "Oh, I'm glad you mentioned remuneration because I was about to get to that point...that is, What exactly is in it for me?"
The man pulled his ski mask from his face, resting it upon his forehead, and reasoned, "Well, now that I have shown you the intrinsic value of rescuing me and having been enlightened to the emotional and social benefits to you, I'm sure you'll be helping me down any second now, won't you."
"Well, see that is the thing.” Pegasus replied, “A circumstance like this doesn't come along all that often. In fact, I'd wager that it is a once in a lifetime opportunity. It's not like I fly by this clock tower everyday finding someone just dangling by their green suspenders in the air. I need to have a full grasp of the situation before I can act-- for example, how did you get in such a predicament?"
"What is there to think about?" The man asked, trying to remain calm. “As for my predicament, well I fell. I was trying to get at the mechanism within the clock tower. Why is not of your concern, but when the clock struck noon, I slipped from the top and the horizontally aligned hands of the clock nearly impaled me. As tragic as that nearly was, I'd be a stain down there on the pavement had the hour hand not caught me by the suspenders...by pure chance of course."
"Well," began Pegasus. "It might be pure chance, or maybe it's Karma, destiny or fate. You can't make blanket statements about life and death."
The man looked bored and impatiently waited for the horse to finish his speech, "So, are you going to preach all day or are you going to help me Mr. Horse?"
Pegasus winced at the insinuation that he was merely a horse and responded somewhat harshly, "Well, it isn't a simple thing. Rescuing you will take time, and any man of business will tell you, Time is money. Why just talking to you these last few minutes may have cost me dozens, nay, hundreds of dollars. Then there is the risk to take into consideration. There is risk you know, for what if, at the moment I lift you, the hour hand moves from four to five and smashes on top of my head? I could be seriously injured. I have a wife and children to feed. Would you take care of them should something happen to me?”
Pegasus looked seriously at the man and continued, “And that isn't all; it seems only fair that there be a mileage charge. You are, if I presume correctly, not exactly as light as a feather, and I am, after-all, not young anymore."
The winged creature paused again but spoke up before the man could interject, “Yes, you look rather heavy and I believe I'd exert a lot of energy carrying you safely to the ground. A mileage fee would reimburse me for my strenuous efforts. As you assuredly know, there is the risk that after I make such a magnanimous gesture, you might wake up with a stiff neck or an aching back and then try to blame me. Its been done before you know! A fellow helps a lady out of a burning car and she sues him for whiplash. I have to be careful with humans, your gratitude is sometimes repaid in strange ways. I think it only fair that before I help you, that you should sign a waiver absolving me of any injury that you may incur."
"A waiver?" shouted the hanging man."OK, whatever, I'll sign your stupid waiver."
"Well it's not so easy as all that," spoke the Pegasus, scratching his chin with his right wing. "First I need to get an attorney to work up the papers, then after you sign, I'll need a notary public to stamp his seal, making it official. Then I'll have to have the document entered into Probate. That all takes time, but more than that, it all takes money, mister. Not all of us can just hang around all day doing nothing, some of us have to do gainful work for a living!"
"OK, OK, I promise I will not sue you. Even if you drop me carelessly to the ground upon landing, even if you could have landed me more gently than you do, I will not sue. Let's shake on it and that will be a binding agreement."
"We'll need a witness." Insisted the winged horse, looking around. “And well, if you haven't noticed, there aren't a lot of people just hanging around up here.”
"I know!" the man spoke excitedly, a light bulb possibly flashing above his head. He pointed to the face of the clock and said, "Why not let Father Time be our Witness!"
Pegasus backed up slightly to gather in the entire face of the clock. He thought for a moment, again scratching his chin with the tip of his wing. He then nodded and responded, "That's good by me. The old man's always been a trustworthy enough fellow."
He then proffered his front left hoof for the man to shake. It was a majestic scene, one that should have been photographed and put on the cover of Life magazine...or maybe painted on the Sistine Chapel, or at least on a commemorative plate; and who knows, it might have happened, except just as they were about to shake hands, Father Time interrupted, just as the man had feared, moving his hour hand forward by one digit to five o'clock. The dangling man gave a low groan and looked up at his suspenders which had begun to slowly slide down the hour hand. "Help me, help me!" he said, lunging for the hoof of the winged equine.
"Well you certainly seem in a hurry all of a sudden!" offered Pegasus, backing away slightly from the man's grasping hands.
"Please, I'll give you anything..."
"Anything?" questioned Pegasus. "Would you give me your dignity, your soul, the lives of your wife and children? Would you give up your freedom and live as a slave? Allow the damnation of all the innocent on earth? Would you give me all of that, so that you may live?”
The suspenders slipped closer to the end of the hour hand and the man cried desperately, "Yes, yes, I'll give it all to you, take them all, do what you will. Take my wife, my kids, my money, my soul, just save me from falling!"
Pegasus looked hard at the man and then at the suspenders which were now within four inches of slipping off Father Time's hour hand. Pegasus watched as they slipped to within three, then two and then...Father Time rang out...
The man appeared weightless, to be but a feather after-all. He fell from Father Time's safety, his ski cap floating listlessly after him. He waved his arms wildly, trying to grab for what did not exist, hoping to find a foothold within nothingness. His screams sounded hollow, but his mouth stretched widely, genuinely, as only one does when in dire peril. Pegasus watched as the man slowly became nothing but an ant; his shrill bellows fading to nothingness. The winged horse gazed even when the man no longer could be seen, even after he'd obviously hit the pavement below. The winged horse stood still, nearly statuesque -- only his wings gently fluttered, and at that moment, maybe, just maybe, he appeared angelic.
Angel or not, Pegasus shook his head and uttered into a gentle breeze, "Wrong answer."
He then looked at Father Time. At his long, sleek black hands, at his impassive face that gave away no hint of the tragedy. Pegasus thought to soar down below to view the scene, but reasoned that what made the man who he was, no longer existed and as such, his sins were absolved and so now he again deserved respect.
Pegasus, as if on land, reared back on his hind legs and with a quick surge, flew off toward the heavens and to his small, humble abode, snug between the constellations Andromeda and Pisces. There, somewhere within the Milky Way, his loving family awaited; munificent gifts that no man at any price could bargain away from him – not even the temptations of Father Time.