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It was an honor of a lifetime, Constance’s father having been awarded the prestigious job of building a new astronomical clock for the Cathedrale Notre-Dame. It had been his dream since childhood, during which times he would stand for hours on end, staring up at the remarkable timepiece and all the intracacies which surrounded it. A practice that had stretched on into his adulthood, whenever Jean-Baptiste was nowhere to be found he was certain to be under Strasbourg’s grandest measurement of time.
For fifty years he had done this before his dream had come true, nearly a half of a millennium since the clock had first been constructed. Five decades of yearning, four of putting forth requests to the church, three of hobnobbing with those who currently ran it, and nearly two of raising the asset they wanted in exchange for the privilege. That asset being Constance herself, to be turned over to their authority on her seventeenth birthday, to serve their god as a nun, or as she saw it, to attend to the men and women who ran the church.
Constance had known of the arrangement since her mind had formed long-term memory, and hated the idea from the start. This was the source of most of the arguments that would arise between her and her father, she wanting to follow the lead of him and her older brother Charles in creating the hands of time. So stubborn she would prove herself to be that Jean-Baptiste had given up trying to get her to stay alongside her mother by the time the little girl had reached the age of nine, somewhat accepting the fact that she insisted on being under the feet of the men at work, with her constant questions, ideas and the like. A part of him even looked proud every now and then when she’d have a breakthrough, but nothing would change the fact that above all she was the ticket to his dream, since his had come before hers.
This had been Constance’s last line of defense only hours earlier, their most heated debate to date. Being the dreamer he was, knowing the passion of creating pieces that so eloquently represented time, how could he sentence someone who truly embodied such to a lifetime of servitude that would take them away from the joy of timekeeping? And on top of that, his own daughter?!
“My job is to represent time,” he had replied, “yours, to represent Christ.”
There were no more words, no more trying to reason, the only thing she could do was give voice to her frustration by screaming and running away to his workshop, the place she would always go for solace.
It was here where she now lay, even refusing to open the door when her mother had tried bringing her supper, the hundreds of clocks tick-tocking all at once always reminding Constance of the infinite stars above, nature’s clocks, alongside the sun and moon of course, echoing down like counterparts through these devices of delight, dials of destiny.
Destiny. Why did hers have to be so sad? What if she were to change it, right here, right now? Within these last minutes before she would essentially become the property of the church. The thought had crossed her mind on more than one occasion. To spoil herself by going out and having someone from the opposite sex ruin the priceless purity that the church wanted so badly for themselves. Finding such a person wouldn’t be so hard, for the streets always seemed to be full of hot-blooded eager men.
But to give her purity to a stranger felt more like a betrayal to herself than to those who wanted to control her future, and so Constance had decided against this course of action. Then a thought crept into her mind as stealthful as the corruption of the church; what if she were to do it by her own hand?
Upon inspection of her body they would learn she was not so innocent, the result being freedom as they would no longer want to accept her impurity. But this would almost certainly forfeit the arrangement between them and her father. But did he not deserve it? Who was he to throw her life away?
Almost certain, but maybe not quite. The church had already spent a significant amount of money in preparation, the materials, the manpower, waiting for tomorrow’s sun to rise to be put to use. And all the town’s people had known for years that the clock’s next timekeeper would be that of Jean-Baptiste. It was only the details that had never been made public, for such specifics would be looked upon as morally reprehensible.
So yes, most likely the church would still go ahead with the arrangement, maybe at most penalizing her father by withholding some of his payment. An amount no matter how big Constance already vowing to herself to one day pay him back.
These thoughts gave her the curious courage to place a hand to her inner thigh, a region which proved to be stimulatingly sensitive when stroked with soap bubbles during bath. With a feather’s touch she ran her fingertips over the softness of her skin.
The sensation produced shot straight up.
Not really believing she’d follow through all the way, Constance thought she’d just ride the threat a little further, pulling her night gown up a little higher so that her hand would be in reach to the little garden of chastity her father planned to use to pay for his dream.
Enjoying the tickle they produced, she allowed each stroke of her fingertips to glide down further with each tick and tock of the clocks, matching the distance those second hands travelled with her own.
But before she knew it she was on the fold she had never dared to pass before, four seconds away from reaching the lips of the mouth that had never spoken, now moistened and ready to sing.
Just a little further and then she’d stop, or so she promised herself.
But the touch to those hidden lips shot a wave of pleasure throughout Constance’s body, placing her into somewhat of a tantalizing hypnosis as she continued to slink towards the forbidden.
And thus she arrived, making contact with only the most delicate of pressure. So this was the danger zone she had been warned to never go near. The gates of purity that once opened could never be closed again.
These gates, this wall was now pulsating, creating within Constance a deep yearning she had never experienced before.
Still believing she could turn back at any time, that she would at any moment, the girl who was only seconds away from midnight, from turning another year older and therefore entering a lifetime of servitude allowed herself just a little more flirtation with destiny, a fingertip ever so gently testing the strength of that wall of purity with every second that ticked by, with every star that simultaneously palpitated high above, representing the pulse of the universe, of her universe.
As that second hand struck twelve hundreds of times at once Constance’s wall tore open, the blood which spilt forth like countless droplets of stars, of tick-tocks, of atoms. Yes, atoms that made her into who she was, now separating, scattering, into time itself, her being amongst the universe in all its infinity before condensing back down to the compacted form of a human being.
But not the one she had known for seventeen years. No, this one was a bit older, the breasts a bit larger, as they shook with the pumping of her hands and arms, as she performed chest compressions, about two per second, like a tick-tock, onto a lifeless body of a girl no more than nine years of age.
“She’s gone, doctor, you did everything you could,” someone said while placing a hand atop her shoulder to signal her that she could stop. A shoulder that was covered by the white coat she wore.
Constance looked around at this strange place she would later learn to be a modern day hospital. At the dead child she would later learn had been a patient of the woman whose body she now possessed. Knowledge of this body, of the human body in general, still within the circuitries of the brain left behind now to be shared with Constance’s mind, soul.
This young body of twenty-one, having spent its adolescence and first years of adulthood under the strict regimen of medical studies, preventing it from having time to socialize like most its age, as a result its hymen yet to be penetrated.
Another wall of purity. By no means could it be a coincidence, Constance not needing the advanced IQ of this new intelligence to understand that it was linked to that word. Destiny.
What she did not understand is who was overseeing it all. Had God done this to her, for trying to use her own hand to redirect what he had already planned? Or had the universe really given her a new path to follow, as a reward for having the courage to take control of her own dial of destiny?
Like the hands of the countless clocks ticking from the past, present, and future, like the infinite stars which matched their ticks and tocks, like the heartbeats of all human beings that did the same, only time would tell.