Saturday, 26 February 2011

The Horologium

It's just after Earthturn, the skies have darkened and the streetlights have come on. There are people on the streets still -- this is the centre of London after all, and the West End still attracts people at night -- but not so many as there used to be. Just visible in the sky, hovering over us all, is the Horologium.
From this angle, sat out a café on Charing Cross Road trying to enjoy an overpriced, bitter coffee, I can see the clock-face that gives the Horologium its name. The entire side of the Horologium is an analogue clock-face, huge roman numerals indicating the hours and two hands that must be over a mile long each pointing to the time. It's eight-fifteen. That's the time that it's always been. The clock-face is faintly luminescent, but as it gets darker it will glow more strongly and become more visible in the air. After midnight, which it will of course not acknowledge, it will slowly get fainter and fainter again until the sun rises. The Horologium is almost invisible in daylight; you have to know where it is in order to see it.
The unchanging time has puzzled many people; the cruel say that the Horologium, whatever it might be, is broken. The fearful opine that it may not yet be started or switched on. For everyone else, it's a clock in the sky that might be a doomsday clock, indicating how close the end of the world is, an apocalypse clock indicating how close humanity is to ending the world. Then there are those who suggest it's just a publicity stunt for Lady Gaga's new single, which led to NME publishing a picture of her stood in front of the Horologium titled "Overdue?"
I sip my coffee and wonder if it would taste any better with a flavoured syrup in it. I doubt it. Nothing's tasted anything other than bitter since I discovered what the Horologium is.
It had another name, a proper name: the Chronostat. It's where time stands still and they do things to your memories. I've never been tortured in my life, but I can remember weeks and weeks of it, I can remember the pain I've never felt, and how much I wanted it to stop. I can't remember leaving the Horologium, but clearly I did because I'm sat here now watching it.
I remember the woman in the Ozwald Boateng suit, sitting across a walnut desk from me, smiling with thin, bloodless lips as she told me that all my memories would be bitter from now on.
I push my coffee away, and get to my feet. I have a man to meet at the British Library who claims he can tell me how to get back to the Horologium.

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