Chapter Eleven / A Bird, a Woman, and the Strike of an HourMature

            Inside the shop it was dark and smelled of dust.  Ms. Barrowman led him to a table in the back, where she sat down, indicating that he should do likewise. 

            “So,” said Seymour.  “What sort of a person was he?”

            “Friendly lad.  Talkative, but soft-spoken.  He seemed a bit shy, really.  He liked to be around people, but he never wanted to be the center of attention.  Smart.  A bit odd.  They called him mad, you know, ever since he was small, but when you think of a madman, you think someone violent, or at least unruly, but he wasn’t.  He never acted out or made any unexpected moves.  Of course, you could tell there was something off up there.”  She tapped her head.  “More than once I heard him talking to folks that wasn’t there.  And sometimes, he’d get started thinking about something, and he’d just stop whatever he was doing and stare off into the distance a while, and you’d be hard pressed to get him back before he was ready.”

            “You said he came here often.  Did you speak with him much?”

            “Oh yes.”

            “What about?”

            “Clockwork, time, what it would mean if mortals could create from gears and levers something that might imitate life.  He wanted to learn the trade.  I taught him some.”  She stood up, opened a cabinet, and pulled out a small, standing clock.  It was about the same size as her head and adorned with a painted wood carving depicting an immediately recognizable figure leaning against the face.  “He made this.  Well, most of it.  I did the decorating, as he wasn’t much of an artist.”

            Seymour reached out and took it out of her hands, suppressing a shudder.  “This is Moriba, isn’t it?”

            “Ah, so you know the old stories?”

            “I’m familiar with some of them.  The more well-known ones, I guess.  How she cut out her heart and sewed it into the body of a raven, and how she slaughtered the entire population of Moribinu when they converted to Rezynism.  Those sorts of things.”

            The old woman laughed.  “Oh yes, the popular tales sure tend to paint her as evil, don’t they?”

            “Is she not?”

            “Evil?  No.  She’s certainly not exactly good, either.  She is the Queen of the In-Between, after all.  But if you look into the legends, you’ll find she’s said to have saved more lives than she ever ended.  Many a person who got lost on the way to the Land of the Dead and wandered instead into Moriba’s realm—she’d find them, and she’d give them what they needed to go on living, and she’d send them back to what they’d left behind.”

            Seymour set the clock down gently on the table.

            “Give it a wind, then.”

            He looked up at her.  She smiled and nodded at the clock.  Hesitantly, he twisted the key that protruded from the back, then let it go.  It began to tick.

            “Just wait,” she said.  “It’s nearly on the hour.”

            In silence, they watched the second hand move steadily around the clock face.  Then, with a click, the minute hand moved to twelve, triggering a hatch to pop open at the top.  A wooden raven emerged thrice, accompanied by a croaking sound, then vanished once more into the inner workings.  The door snapped shut.

            “He figured out the mechanism for that all on his own.  That Simon sure was a clever boy.”

            Seymour couldn’t help but chuckle.  “Indeed.  I know you did the artwork, but did he suggest the theme?”

            “Oh, yes.  He was very specific.”

            “Why did he choose Moriba for it, do you think?”

            Ms. Barrowman nodded.  “Well, for one, the Magrams thought her to be the goddess of all things mechanical, as well one of the three queens of Time.  But I think Simon felt a sort of kinship with her, since they’re both twins.”

            “Moriba has a twin?”

            “Of course!  Mortua, Queen of the Dead.”

The End

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