Day 23: The Timekeepers

Baku trudged up Mount Seloom, even strides up the stone stairs, clean swept, bordered with groomed juniper. His violet ceremonials flapped in the breeze carrying the honey-like smell of ice plants, and he gripped the trumpet slung over his shoulder. The cool air invigorated him, though the impending equinox excited him more.

As the trail leveled off for a stretch, the pounding of the timekeepers sharpened. —tap-tuh-tap-tuh-tap-tap-tap-tap-tuh—tap-tuh-tap-tuh-tap-tap-tap-tap-tuh— The temple came into view, the great arch open so he could see sunlight on the opposite side, it’s walls sandy red with bold diamond patterns carved into the stone.

He approached the the entrance. Each side of the throughway was flanked by fifty timekeepers dressed in blue. Winter’s color. Perfectly assembled, they stood upright, stared forward, nothing moving but the arms holding black staffs with which they continuously struck the floor in perfect sync with each other. They were unrelenting and tireless. Baku once saw a wasp sting one of them under his ear several times, but the timekeeper did not flinch, and did not miss a strike.

A timekeeper in white moved around the men in blue on the circle of the hour, stepping into the next block with the beginning of each cycle. Two hundred twenty-five blocks. —tap/step-tuh-tap-tuh-tap-tap-tap-tap-tuh—tap/step-tuh-tap-tuh-tap-tap-tap-tap-tuh— Another dressed in yellow stood near the end of the line of the day. Waiting for the white one to complete a circle before stepping to the next block.

Baku bowed before them, then continued through the temple and out the other side, once again ascending toward the overlook. The path was well-worn, but white yarrow and purple firewitch grew wild among sparse shrubs. The sun neared the horizon on the hazy plains of Chandeen.

Near the top of Seloom he reached the dolmen, a bolder between its uprights, and a flat stone behind it. He took off his trumpet and sat as he was trained on the flat rock, putting his lips to the mouthpiece and leaning forward until the top of the bolder lined up with the horizon just beneath the sun. He waited as the sun crept lower.

The priests calculated today as the equinox, but they would mark the time when he sounded his instrument, study the timing, and verify it for their annals.

The sun touched the earth and he blew into his trumpet, first the signal notes, then the song of spring, lively notes bringing joy to his spirit. The echoes of the pounding stopped and he finished the song.

He savored the moment, embracing the breeze, then started back down. When he reached the temple, some of the timekeepers milled around chatting, but most had gone home.

“Baku!” called one named Kaloda. “Join us for spring libations.”

“It will be my happiness to do so.”

The priests can scratch Spring’s beginning in their histories with punctilious accuracy, but for the rest of us, Baku muses, it begins now regardless. For our lives are ruled by time, but not our hearts.

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