The Clockwork Tower
Alright then, here is a small project of mine called, you have guessed it, the Clockwork Tower. It begins as a survival game, which quickly devolves into political intrigue.
Here is a draft of the first chapter:
If there was some respite in this hellhole, Hamilton couldn’t claim to have known it.
His gaze swept the room with all the weariness of a man who doesn’t hope for much. The walls, of a pearly whiteness, were in such a state of conservation that finding the smallest fissure was impossible.
The bars of the cell were screwed to their support with such a carefulness that it belonged to the realm of abstract art, rather than human workmanship and knowhow.
With his back against the wall, John “Two-Fingers” Baker was watching him fixedly. Oh, that nickname didn’t come from a lack of digits, but rather from his multiple near-death experiences, according to him.
It was from the French expression “to be two fingers away from death.” He loved France, and his dream had been to be an artist singing in cabarets in Paris. Well, before being thrown here, that is.
“Two-Fingers” was staring at him, a jeering smile stretching his lips into a rictus which did not move the elder whatsoever.
“Well, old-timer? Still hoping to get out of this shithole after all this time?”
Hamilton deigned answer, even though a strong desire to ignore John was nagging him. “When you’ve lived as long as I have, brat, you’ll know that no system is infallible. The slightest fault, the slightest gear off-axis, and the machine breaks down.”
“Bah, don’t bother!” snickered the other, the derision making his features look even more juvenile, “Here, we’re in the Clockwork Tower. Built especially so people like us can’t go out. Designed by people way smarter than you and I both combined. You’d have more luck crossing the desert of Sahad without food and water than escaping this cell, let alone the tower.”
Hamilton was about to let out a scathing reply, when a muffled sound echoed, stealing the breath from his lungs. He shivered, the color draining from his cheeks as blood left his face. A succession of similar noises, equally spaced with one second of interval, resounded in their pad. The Metronome had just been set in motion, heralding the start of what would be the most terrible twenty-four hours of the year.
Even “Two-Fingers” had lost his smile, replaced by a visage full of a dread which Hamilton could only share.
“Fuck,” wailed John, vocalizing both of their thoughts.
Hamilton got up with some difficulty, his joints creaking and protesting vividly the harsh treatment they had just been subjected to. It was much easier for John, who sprang to his feet with a feline nimbleness.
“What do they want from us this time, you reckon?” asked John, his tone fearful and hesitant. His eyes were darting left and right as if he were expecting an assault on his person at any time.
“Hard to say. I dunno what’s going on in the head of these loonies,” Hamilton growled, the fear having been superseded by a seething hatred. It was boiling inside, only waiting for a catalyst to erupt.
A vertical slit two meters high was drawn on the wall they were facing. Then another one, two meters to the right, perfectly parallel to the first one. Then, a last one, on above them, linking both ends. A door had just materialized in front of them. The section of wall fell down like a curtain having lost its rods.
A digitalized voice echoed. It is a great honor. It is a great honor. It is—
“A great honor, I know. Asshole.” Spit Hamilton, not bothering to hide his irritation.
A long corridor, just as immaculately white as their cell and twenty feet wide, led from their location to the refectory. John “Two-Fingers” walked gingerly, still expecting to be assaulted by who knows what. Hamilton knew, however, it was not the corridor one had to fear, but what lied beyond.
The refectory was a two-thousand-square-foot room, so ten times bigger than their cell. It was painted light yellow, or the widower’s yellow as his fellow inmate liked to say.
The last time they had been there, their trial had been to screw nuts and bolts to small pieces of clocks. The trial before was a death match between inmates. That’s why they put John in his pad; to replace the other. This time, the trial would be…
Survival Trial. Survival Trial. Survival Trial.
“Fuck, no!” Screamed Hamilton, his fists clenched so hard it was painful.
“What, what?! What is it? Answer goddamn!” Two-Fingers asked hurriedly, panicking.
“Move! Move, I’m telling you!” Hamilton hissed, rushing to a corner of the refectory.
John took two seconds to gather his bearings. It was seconds he did not have. Time here was precious, as he would soon discover.
A slight shuffle reached their ears and pieces of machinery became visible in the otherwise bare room. It stopped John dead in his tracks.
“Don’t you dare move!” Hamilton shouted, having turned around very slowly.
“Move, don’t move, I don’t understand shit!” John wailed, his right arm rising mechanically to sweep back strands of blonde hair.
Ploc, ploc, ploc.
Three fingers of his right hand fell from the limb, staining the white marble below. John, a short moment dumbfounded before this horrendous spectacle.
“aaaaaAAAAAAH !” John’s voice was piercing Hamilton’s eardrums.
“Don’t move!” Screamed Hamilton once more.
“Do something, mother of fuck!” bellowed Two-Fingers, whose moniker was now well fitted. He was holding his wounded hand with his other one. The right one was gushing blood.
“Shut your trap! Whatcha want me to do? I’m not a surgeon! I told you not to move! You move, you die, get me?”
Two-Fingers suddenly bent forward and threw up his noon meal.
“You dumbass…” Hamilton whispered, his gaze containing only an infinite pity.
The hardest thing was not watching the head roll, or the body flop uselessly. It was the eyes. These eyes filled with pain and incomprehension.
“Goddamn,” lamented Hamilton.
The corpse melted until nothing, not even bones, remained.
First step over. First step over. First step over.
No matter the number of times it happened, the pain was as vivid as ever. And he was so young, the boy. Barely twenty. Shaking his head to dispel his sorrow-laden thoughts, Hamilton managed to get a hold of himself. It was only the first step. There was still more than twenty-three hours to go.
Three doors materialized simultaneously. A middle-aged couple, shaking, though physically unharmed, walked toward him gingerly.
The second door revealed a young man, no older than poor John. Tousled, ebony black hair crowned his head while a pair of keen green eyes glanced at the refectory and its occupiers surreptitiously.
The third door… No survivor, huh?
“Sir, do you know where we are?” The woman asked, her quaking voice easily reaching Hamilton’s ears. There was only one appropriate answer.
I'm not quite satisfied at how that turned out, even though I can't put my finger on it.
I actually wrote it in french, first, and it turned out much better. The problem is, for instance in dialogues, I can't write slang to save my life. And it is a great part of Hamilton's character, this way of speaking.
By the way, if anyone is interested, I still have the french version.
If anyone takes the time to read, that would be one of the best things I could ask for.
PS: Now that I think about that, it does seem like Cube. It wasn't on purpose, though.