It was a hazy afternoon. The clockmaker just went upstairs to his so-called "time tower", hidden between the trees in the upper part of town. He was about to get his son outside again.
"Tony, it's time to go home."
"Yes, father." the boy said obediently as he tightened his coat, which somewhat grew small on him.
The clockmaker was careful not to let his son be seen by a lot of people and wrapped a scarf around him. As they have reached their humble house, they started discussing results inside the underground laboratory.
"Alright, let's see how much you've aged..."
"...approximately 3 years in 8 hours on the time tower, huh? That's something."
This is how Tony’s life went each and every single day of his life. Time went faster for him than anyone else in this world. He felt special, and yet, he felt miserable.
During his stay-ins at the time tower, Tony would just sketch things on his table. Often times, he would draw a picture of a woman – his ideal one.
“I’ll name you…Paige.” Tony held out the drawing towards the sunlight, realizing his voice has gotten deeper over the course of idle time.
And just as if he imagined her, that night when Tony fell asleep, he dreamt of Paige. She was a lovely woman whom he saw on the kitchen decorating food with colorful spices and garnishes. She painted the walls in different vibrant colors.
Tony would strangely have constant dreams of Paige every night. With each dream, his perception of the woman would become more realistic as he grew older with each session in the time tower. He was slowly falling for her.
“If only you were real…” Tony still kept his drawings of Paige in the time tower, realizing he’s gotten gradually better in sketching as he aged. He felt a beard growing on the edge of his face.
“…I would marry you.”
However, something was wrong on that day.
“I wonder why father hasn’t arrived yet…”
“…well, he did tell me to go by myself with the scarf on, just in case.”
And so, Tony decided to head home, completely wrapped in thick clothing to prevent him from being distinguished by everyone in the town who knew him and his father. Just as he opened the door, a shock came into his eyes.
“Father, get up! What’s wrong? Are you hurt?”
His father, the clockmaker, was catching his breath.
“…my heart…can’t…it hurts…”
“We have to get you to the paramedic then…! C’mon, no time to waste!”
“It’s okay…son.” The father smiled. “If I don’t make it then…I have something important…to tell you.”
“But father I—”
“You don’t have to go to the time tower anymore, my dear Tony…I’m sure you’ll take over my clock shop and experiments…I’m already proud of you…as my son…”
“Father…” Tony shed manly tears and sobbed as if he never did grow up physically.
Tony tried to lift his father to take him to the paramedic but he was declared dead upon arrival. He was buried a few days later, where Tony brought him some flowers and reminisced beside his tomb.
Suddenly, along with the gust of wind, a hooded figure stood by Tony near the clockmaker’s tombstone.
“Excuse me…do you know my father?” Tony politely asked.
“Why, of course, dear!” The figure had a feminine voice, much to Tony’s surprise. “I just heard from the folks around that he’s gone so…I’d like to pay him a little visit. He’s one of my biggest influences.”
Tony went closer to the woman in the attempt of knowing her better. “Are you, by any chance, his fellow inventor?”
“No, I’m actually…a painter.” The woman unveiled her hood and revealed her face. Tony was completely terrified, as if he saw a ghost in front of him.
“…the girl from…my dreams? It can’t be! Must be some mere coincidence!”
The woman caressed Tony’s beard and drew in closer to him. “Ah yes, I am. My name is Paige. Pleased to meet you in the real world, Tony!”
“B-but…it’s impossible…how did you come to life?” Tony was puzzled, intensely sweating over hearing those words.
“Simple…but don’t tell this to anybody.” Paige softly whispered into Tony’s ears. “I have psychic abilities. I was able to control your thoughts and dreams, making it seem that you ‘created me’.”
“But what for?” Tony asked.
“You were lonely, weren’t you?” Paige smiled, as the leaves from the trees rustled with the wind. “My abilities can trace the people who need love and affection, and I’m sure you were one of those who needed it the most. Sure, I admired your father for his bravery in revolutionizing how we view time itself, but he wasn’t that creative in raising you…”
Tony paused and looked down for a second. “Well…father did use me for his own personal gain, so I guess I disliked that part of him. But on the other hand, he shared with me precious knowledge about time and space. I’m going to use it to, as you said, revolutionize the world as we know it.”
“Well, since he IS gone…” Paige went closer to Tony and he blushed. “If it would be okay for you…I would like to be your assistant.”
“W-what? Well, sure…I guess.” Tony smiled for a bit, scratching his head. “I guess that’s what father would’ve wanted for me as well, to have a female partner.”
“I assure you, I’ll help finish what your father has started!” Paige said with a bright smile on her pale face.
The days went by, as Tony and Paige became partners in assembling clocks and those other unfinished inventions of the clockmaker. One day, Tony took Paige to his old time tower. They didn’t get in, but opened the door.
“W-what…happened here…?” Tony saw the inside of the uppermost room in ruins, with a note on the floor, in black, dripping ink.
You know the price to pay
Of those who defy His Holiness
“Tch…I know this handwriting.” Paige slightly crumpled the paper. “It’s that hopeless fellow. I hate him to the bones!”
“C-calm down, Miss Paige…” Tony patted her shoulder. “Now, tell me…is he after you?”
“Y-yes.” Paige looked back at Tony. “H-he’s just an obnoxious cult person. Nothing of your concern, I can deal with him.”
“Ah, but as long as I’m with you, everything about your safety is my concern.”
“Look, Tony…this is…a bit personal. C’mon, we’ll talk somewhere else.”
“As you wish…” Tony replied.
And so, Paige took Tony back to the cemetery, to see the tombstone of another person. Tony carefully read the name on it.
“Shrig…Shrigina? Who’s that?”
“That’s the name of his ‘special one’. This guy, Shrignold…he loved Shrigina so much but she didn’t return her love. Since Shrigina was my painting and psychic apprentice, I knew everything that happened on that day – how she jumped off the cliff to escape being bugged by Shrignold. It was a sad sight, and now, Shrignold insists that I pushed her off…that I should replace her as his ‘special one’…what an imbecile.”
“T-that’s pretty harsh…” Tony sighed. “But you did tell me he was part of a cult. What’s that about?”
“Well, you see…in their cult…it’s a requirement to—”
A sharp object hit Paige from behind. Tony was trembling with fear, but decided to fight back whoever that culprit was.
It was a hooded figure.
“HOW DARE YOU HURT MY WOMAN? YOU FIEND!”
Tony drew his specially-designed sword (given by his father) and engaged in a duel with the hooded man, who was rather short.
“You see…everyone in this world…has a SPECIAL ONE!”
“BUT YOU TOOK HER AWAY FROM ME! ALL OF YOU ARE THE FIENDS!”
Tony’s arm was severely cut, but he was still able to get up for battle. Paige on the other hand, drew one of her brushes and converted it into a knife. Despite her wound, she also fought the man.
“This is none of your business, Shrignold!” Paige yelled at the hooded figure. “Leave us the hell alone already! It’s your problem, not mine and not of Tony!”
“Shrignold…?” Tony was surprised. “Look, I don’t know why you did all those things to Paige’s assistant, but please keep in mind that you are hurting people and it’s not good. The past should stay in the past – don’t you know how to move on?”
“I…JUST WANTED TO BE LOVED…YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND!” Shrignold was pretty psychotic.
“Indeed, I do.” Tony was still calm during the duel. “If you just give me a little more TIME to explain it to you, I would—”
Before he could say another word, Shrignold had stabbed him, taking advantage of his weakness. In turn, Paige stabbed Shrignold as well, but only to be stabbed back brutally and successively. It was a blood feast for the three.
Tony wanted to get up and help Paige but he lost one of his eyes and couldn’t get up anymore. Only Shrignold stood victorious, having a few damages due to his ability to quickly dodge attacks and excellent assassination abilities.
Before Shrignold left, Tony was able to catch his attention again, barely breathing.
“You know…I was…unloved, too. All of us…are…even Paige…”
“This is why I…Paige…I loved her with all my heart…and you…took it away…just because you lost someone…”
“Tsk tsk tsk.” Shrignold sighed. “You’ve no idea, Tony. If you were to marry this woman…it would be sacrilegious. Do you want to know why?”
Tony fell silent.
“His mother is also your mother. Yes, the wife of the clockmaker.”
“Shrignold’s right, Tony…” Paige was surprisingly still alive, although barely breathing as well. “We’re siblings…so we can’t be together…”
Tears came out of Tony’s eyes. “This is…ridiculous…what kind of stupid cult would…disallow marrying your own family? I…I don’t have anyone else…Shrignold…Paige…why is my fate…”
Shrignold walked away without a word. His heart was heavy, as the fled the murder scene quick.
“Paige…I…didn’t know…why didn’t you…”
“Tony…” Paige smiled. “I didn’t want to get involved with you…but I made a promise to our parents…that I would take care of you when they’re gone.”
Tony was slowly losing his breath.
“Paige…if only…we had more…”
Meanwhile, Shrignold went back into the woods and off to the mountains, on their cult’s sanctuary. He was to report his great accomplishment of killing the sacrilegious couple.
“King Malcolm will be so pleased!”
But to his surprise, the mountains had smoke on top. The sanctuary was filled with angry arsonists who burned all that there is and killed the cult members. Shrignold couldn’t believe his eyes, as he charged away and murdered everyone he saw who was destroying his home.
“I need to find King Malcolm!”
“Your selfish king is dead!”
“That’s what you get for executing people!”
“You’re nothing but a bunch of demonic wretches!”
He heard the people say these painful words against their cult.
Still, Shrignold went directly to the topmost chamber where the king’s throne was located. He saw King Malcolm already surrounded in flames.
“Your Majesty!” Shrignold tried to save his king but he couldn’t get near him due to the burning flames. He cried so hard.
“My dearest Shrignold…I have sinned against you and the people. I was selfish for love. I saw myself in you when Shrigina rejected you and when I heard that Tony and Paige’s parents divorced, and especially when you told me how Tony was overprotected and used by his father…”
Shrignold’s eyes widened. He could not believe what he was hearing from the king.
“W-what are you trying to imply, Your Highness?”
King Malcolm smiled. “Didn’t I tell you about my past? Of how I was rejected by the people and my parents forced me to live in a cave?”
“I don’t want you to…be trapped in the past…”
“…I will always love you.”
Unfortunately, as the flames have engulfed the king to his death and just as Shrignold was about to make a run for it, a large pillar crushed him to his final hour.
Forty-nine years later, it was June 19, 1955. Three citizens, going by the names Harry, Manny and Robin, were unknowingly abducted.