I: The Hollow Rose

The clock, having recently found itself in the habit of waking early, opened its single eye and surveyed the small, shadowy world in which it lived.

“It's morning. Time to wake up, mistress Maya," the clock declared, quietly and evenly. The machine could not view the entire room in which it lived, as it occupied the same space perpetually. Upon hearing no reply, but still sensing the emotional state that it called wakefulness in humans nearby, it cleared its ersatz throat, and spoke again, this time with more conviction.

"As I am an artificial construct," the clock continued, officious and bubbly, "and not subject to the vicissitudes of human error, I can therefore assert, with a reasonable degree of surety, that it is, indeed, time to wake up."

“It’s too cold in here,” another voice said, groggily. This voice was organic and female, with the natural syncopation given to all living creatures. “My feet hurt. You know that a cold floor makes me disagreeable, and no one is going to hand over their hard-earned cash to a nettlesome fortune teller."

“I am well aware of your numerous infirmities. Lights and heat coming on, presently," the clock said. Although incapable of autonomous thought, the machine still laughed inwardly to itself at the notion of its creator skating over an icy floor, like a moon-pebble tumbling down a lunar hill. 

And with that, a bedside Tiffany lamp winked on, and a parabolic space heater, parked safely away from Maya's dolls and books, began to glow.

Maya sat up in her bunk, kicked her sheets and blankets aside, and folded her arms. There were often more days than not when she almost despised the clock for its saccharine candor and artificial decorum, despite the fact that she had constructed it with her own hands, and bestowed it with life.

“Where has the wind dropped us today?" Maya asked, directly addressing the clock. "Wait a minute. Strike that question. I’ll know soon enough.” 

More lights, made to wring the last bit of life from a dying sun, winked on in succession. Maya mentally recited one, two, three, go, as she did every morning, and after arranging her cotton shift, walked to a cheval mirror.

“Anything different today? Any nascent changes? That is, anything that I should be concerned about?" Maya went on, although she knew that the clock, nor anyone else, could see her standing before the looking glass.

The clock mumbled something pithy about the ambient temperature and humidity level within her incommodious little caravan. Maya ignored the machine and continued her examination, taking note of her appearance; her face, body, limbs, and her lustrous, blue-black hair still retained their preternaturally youthful appearance, as they had, and would, for decades.

Maya then turned from the mirror, walked to the window directly above her bunk,  moved a curtain aside, and surveyed the trailer park outside.

Ah. Look at this place. Just another pit stop on the interstate. You know, sometimes I wonder why the world doesn’t just give up on itself already,” Maya said. The clock, unable of see the what, if anything, was beyond the closed window, chose to remain silent and withheld its opinion instead.

Maya turned her gaze to the fairground just beyond the trailer park. The roustabouts were at work there, she reasoned, as she saw a scrim of dust rise into the greenish sky that loomed over all of Ravenback, Michigan.

Then she closed the curtain and returned to her solitude and shadows.

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