Trickling Time

Trickling Time: Author Jenna Eatough 's Flash Fiction Blog 10th Anniversary Short Story 6-4-2024

I didn’t know what I’d had begun when in the very late hours of the day I began my flash fiction blog. That fateful choice occurred 10 years ago to the day. This year, however, instead of posting it just before the days end, I bring you a special anniversary story just after midnight.

For ten years now I have explored realms through brief glimpses. Some lasted the length of the tale. Some continued across multiple weeks. But some give you glimpses into the larger universes I am working on.

This year’s celebration story is a continuation of Erieri’s tale again. Only this year she refused to be contained within the length of flash fiction.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these years of flash fiction (or for those just discovering my blog) and will enjoy them as much as I have. On to a new year of stories!

Erieri sat in the Plains of Time’s grasses. The blades had grown tall and waved languidly about her, obscuring her view of the horizon. Not that the plains generally contained much to observe. More since her guardianship. Neither the ruins nor hillock faded though her need for their presence had ended. Rather she hoped her need had ended.

The plains were gratefully quiet presently. Hendat and Cormac had ceased their endless bickering for the moment. How Hendat had survived his training beneath Cormac Erieri could not image. Now as retired Guardians the only time they didn’t argue was when they went their separate ways. Hendat had stalked off and Cormac remained nearby, likewise concealed within the grasses. Erieri knew without asking him, he’d sensed the same tension which held her motionless.

She didn’t know what she waited for. Nevertheless, the intense pressure of air choking her lungs echoed the air before a storm broke filled Erieri. Something approached, and Erieri, as the guardian of the time, needed to stand ready.

Well, sit anyway. Erieri didn’t know nor did it matter on the Plains of Time how long she’d waited. Long enough her legs had grown weary though. Her patience finally paid off.

The grass swirled about her, bent, and brushed against Erieri as if the still air had been drawn in by massive lungs. Such intense movement did not belong on the plains. Standing, she turned toward the wind and saw Cormac move likewise.

A new ridge marred the horizon, and along its length a clockface appeared. Not Erieri’s clock. As guardian that shoe would have recognized without hesitation no matter what form it took. Nor did the presence resemble when her time had tried to envelope another as the archer had claimed. This clock was something else.

Footsteps approached her, with unhurried heaviness. “Have you seen or heard of this before?” Erieri glanced at the man who seemed no older than herself and had arrived here by her actions. As odd as it felt asking Cormac, once she’d completed choosing him, his memories had merged with those of his time serving as Guardian of the plains. The guardian which had trained her trainer.

Cormac shook his head. “I’ve never seen it before.” He paused and scratched the underside of his chin. “Nor did my master speak of such a thing.”

Erieri shrugged and turned from Cormac. Her hands went to the weapons she carried, a bow gifted by the archer and the fragment of time sword Cormac had forged once before and lost. Hendat had told her the plains were a quiet service once. Except for the Allurer. Except for Hendat and Cormac’s return. Except for… Erieri tired of encountering every exception.

A third figure stood at the base of the clock. Not Hendat. He would never stand with quiet solemnity. He’d be pacing and muttering to himself. Erieri clutched her sword as the air changed yet again with her approach. The winds drew a grey sodden mist about the clock. The plains disappeared a few paces behind her. Only Cormac, the man near the clock, and the clock itself remained clear. The mist seeped into the clock turning whatever color it should have gleamed a dull grey as if the clock lay disconnected from her reality.

“Who are you and why have you brought this clock here?” Erieri demanded reaching calling distance with the man.

The man twisted to face her. He stared at Erieri with vaguely too long feature features and structure. One which mimicked what Erieri expected, but off. Not in the eyes though. Those gazed at Erieri with an intensity she had not felt since her earliest Guardian days.

Cormac stopped beside her, growling slightly. He saw the figure as well. Erieri’s vision doubled, and a woman appeared overlaid with the man. Commonality remained in their eyes and clothing though, gray with vest and pants varying in their femineity or masculinity. Still Erieri knew him. “Allurer,” Erieri slurred.

Anger rose in her, and her hand tightened on the hilt. The Allurer carried no weapon. He never had.

Nor had a Guardian before Erieri. Cormac had confirmed he’d lost the blade promptly after its forging. Yet, just as Erieri had marred the planes, she’d broken this tradition as well.

Raising his hands the Allurer spoke, “This is not my doing.” The voice slid over Erieri with a familiarity which wrapped about her as if that sound alone could grant her comfort. So few words, and still he pulled at her. The tones whispering for her to surrender her charge to protect to relax instead.

He hadn’t been inappropriately named.

Cormac snorted beside Erieri. “You’ve always lusted for our time. After trying to steal it so many times and ways do you expect any of us to believe you now?” Erieri heard the bitterness in Cormac’s voice. She’d yet to tease tales of his encounters with the Allurer from him. Hendat had been similarly recalcitrant. Someday, she’d get them both to speak.

Erieri shoved the thoughts away and refocused on the Allurer. His features had softened, deepened. The impression he gave spoke of sorrow, but Cormac was right. The Allurer used every tactic to gain his desire. Her eyes twitched as she allowed her concern to twist into rage.

“This is not my doing.” The Allurer said, turning away before Erieri could speak. When he continued, he spoke sop softly Erieri would not have heard him if she’d spoken. Or Cormac had stirred the grass. “But I know this.” If she’d thought his expression sorrowful, his voice would make a statue weep.

“Then tell us what it is,” Erieri demanded. The Allurer turned back, glancing at her sword. Erieri forced herself to release her grip on the weapon.

“It is the end of time” the Allurer said.

Erieri looked from him to the clock. Looked as it cut into the ground and felt the rightness of the Allurer’s words. Time was ending. But this couldn’t end her time, could it?

Glancing at Cormack, he shrugged at Erieri before moving past her and the Allurer. He paused at the base of the hillock. Grasping a handful of dirt, he allowed it to drop to the ground in a poofing billow, and the clockface there. Too dry for the plains.

Erieri joined him and reached to press her fingertips against the clock’s glass face. “I would not,” the Allurer said. Erieri turned and scowled at him. If he didn’t want her to, then she certainly should. Turning away, she touched the glass and cold seeped into her. Erieri cried out and fell to her knees.

“What have you done?” Cormac thundered. His voice sounded strange in her ears. Quieter. He grasped her arms pulling her up to sitting from the ground. She felt the pressure, but not the warmth of his skin. Whatever heat her body contained the clock drew toward itself.

“I did nothing.”

“Erieri! Erieri!” Cormac’s hands tightened on her, shifting her, but the clock held her gaze. “What have you done?” Cormac demanded again.

“I have done nothing,” the Allurer said. His voice sounded dim as if daisy fluff stuffed her ears. Erieri heard the distant thud of a footstep behind her. Heard Cormac growl. The muffled words barely reached her. “I have done nothing, but I have seen this,” the Allurer said.

“Then how do we stop it?”

An empty chuckle, and the Allurer spoke again, “I saw this. I did not stop this. I cannot stop this. Only she can.”

“How? You claimed you failed. How can you know she can?” Cormac’s hands tightened on her, and she felt his panic. He held her closer as if to lend her strength, but nothing reached her.

“Because I am here to aid her.”

“Aid her?” Cormac scoffed. “More likely twist this to your advantage.”

“No, I am only here to help–”


“Let him.” Erieri’s voice ground within her throat, as if the words struggled to creep through thickening glaciers which sealed her voice within. An Ice the Allurer never carried.

Cormac remained still a moment before the pressure of his hands released her arms. Another hand with just too long fingers touched the back of her head, soft and light.

Erieri felt the Allurer enter her mind.

Her mind tensed, ready to refute the Allurer’s touch. Ready to believe the touch vial after the unknown time he’d haunted their plains attempting to destroy them. The touch was not.

Her presence beat equally against his, neither dominating nor reminding her of nothing more than dirt and river water mixing into a slurry. Unexpected. She decided the word was Unexpected. But not. Unpleasant.

The Allurer moved within her mind. His presence slid about her, sliding but never connecting. The male version of him she’d known entered her mind, as did the woman Cormac saw, and more. More versions of the Allurer, male and female. Erieri knew the faces he’d worn were both his and not.

Gasping, she pulled back from him as realization of his familiarity struck her. He knew where to strike them because he was a guardian himself. As quickly as Erieri gained the realization, his mind slid about her and formed into the man she’d known. They stood on an open, unending plain. Here, though, the colors surrounding them had been stolen leaving behind nothing but grey.

“None of that,” the Allurer growled. His clothing thickened, turning into armor and covered every bit of him. Every bit but his head. He held the helm in his hand and stared at her, leaving the barest trace of connection between them.

“I thought you meant to help me.” Erieri wrapped her arms about herself. Her own clothes remained the same ones she’d worn on the planes. Familiar to her life before becoming Guardian. Before becoming Hendat’s apprentice.

“I said I would aid. I did not say I would surrender everything to you.” Erieri sniffed, realizing she had invaded his mind. She’d ploughed through his thoughts, grasping, learning, taking all he’d been.

He had not done the same.

She took a step back and shook her head. “I did not mean too.”

“I know. If you had, we both would have lost.”

“Both lost?” Erieri asked.

The Allurer shrugged. “How did my presence feel to you?”

“Like thick riverbed clay?”

“Silica then. You felt like water to me. Quick, fleeting, strong,” the Allurer said. He turned away. “Water and silica mixed becomes clay and undistinguishable. Do they not?” He turned away and started striding through the non-plains.

Erieri pressed her lips tightly. Silica and water may combine into a beautiful clay, but eventually it hardened when the water evaporated. What did he not tell her?

Whatever didn’t matter at the moment. Presently what mattered was stopping this time ending hers. Erieri recalled enough of his thoughts to see him standing before his own time’s clock. That had been the memory which caused her to realize what he was. No had been.

Erieri was equally certain he no longer acted like a guardian. He had stood before his own clock and nearby the death clock had glowed. That had killed his guardianship.

That would not be her times fate. Nor Erieri’s She dashed after him. “Where are we going?

“To the Center of Time.”

“The center? Don’t you mean the beginning of time?” Erieri grinned trying to turn solemnity to humor and thereby lesson and her nerves.

The Allurer shook his head. “The beginning of time? Foolish nonsense. Time does not begin. It is.”

“If time does not begin and just is, how can it end?” Erieri asked.

The Allurer’s step hesitated a moment. “It does not end, but that would have been hard to explain there.” The clearing changed ahead. Still grey, a pool appeared suddenly. Above it uncountable circles glowed at varying heights. Though most soared high above the waters as if they’d escape the pool. “But not so hard here.”

Erieri crept forward, her steps light and careful as if expecting something to notice her if she moved too rapidly. Lines stretched from the circles about the pool, drawing from its depths. Erieri scowled shaking her head. No, the pool drew from the circles. The pool glowed darkly and joined them all.

“Time does not end,” The Allurer said. “Time returns to the center. There it is wrung through it until what was is no more. What may be becomes.” The Allurer stopped next to her and glowered at the waters. Erieri gasped, looking at the lines attached to the circles. Those were times, clockfaces. Looking into the pool, she saw more clocks glowing within. No, on the other side. The pool bore no depth in itself.

“Times begun. Times end. All of it occurs here.” Erieri said. The pool glowed dimly, grey. “The end of time,” she said.

The Allurer nodded. “The Center of Time.”

Erieri watched time trickle toward the pool. Disquiet settled over her, and she knew not even a guardian should see this place. But what of a chooser? The thoughts tickled her brain, and she shrugged it away. She could tease that thought out that later. Assuming she had one.

Assuming she could return. Erieri could not say how she’d gotten here beyond the Allurer had brought her with the promise of aid.

“We’re here. Now what?” She grabbed his arm jerking him about. “And how did you know to get here?”

He turned and pointed his finger pointing toward the water. Or she’d thought it the water at first, but peering as he continued not moving saw one circle nearly to the water’s surface. Dim. Nearly as dim as the end of time itself. Time flowed from it, each ripple pulling the clock closer to the center in movement she could see. Movement every clock shared. She watched the other clocks see the slightest pull on each. Each drawn ever toward the center. But the one he indicated lay nearly at the center. The end. Moving faster to its demise.

The Allurer’s time.

“All right,” Erieri licked her lips. “I suppose that answers that question, but what do we do now?”

The Allurer pointed turned to point at a circle lowering from the rest. Slowly, barely perceptibly, but lowering. Erieri did not need to ponder what clock that was. Her own time.

“You must shore up your time.” He turned to her. “The sooner you do, the easier the task will be.”

Erieri scrunched her brow confused. “Shore up time. How do you shore up time?” Erieri said. “Time is.” She turned toward him and saw solemnity in his expression and understood. “You’re not here to help me with this task.”

“No, I am not,” the Allurer said.

“Bringing me here was the aid you promised. Bringing me because you knew the way here.”

The Allurer nodded, saying nothing.

Erieri turned from him and looked at the clocks. The myriad of faces all connected through the Center of Time. A final realization tugged at her consciousness, persistent no matter how much she did not wish to entertain it.

The second hand on her clock moved, and a tremble sounded throughout the area. Time rippled between her clock and the center, pulling her clock lower. She did not have the time to hesitate.

“You mean for me to become like you. You mean for me to rob other times to save my own.” Erieri turned back to the Allurer, and still he said nothing. Instead, he took his helmet and placed it upon his head.

The certainty of the knowledge faded slightly as if it had become long ago learned, a concept she had grasped once and left long dormant. A concept he had given her. A concept he now returned to himself. Erieri turned from the Allurer back to the Center of Time and the other times there.

Those times hovered strong, buoyed by the time they held. Time and time to spare. She could siphon from them miniscule amounts. Amounts they would not notice. A practice which bought her time and would make her the same as the Allurer. Trapped. Trapped and always searching for more time causing other times to tumble sooner to the center. All would end and begin anew alone.

There was no answer there.

Shaking her head, she turned back toward the Allurer. “I cannot do that.”

“Then your time is doomed.” His voice echoed within his helm, and the Allurer turned back to his own time. “I failed to act sooner myself. If I had acted, so little time would have been needed… now so much.” Erieri understood his desperation. His time was ending. And yet.

Her gaze moved back over the clock faces. Brilliant, beautiful. Each reflected a different hue, a different reality. Which one belonged to the archer, her nameless friend? Could she risk taking her time? Robbing from one who had helped repair the damage Erieri had caused by her own self bending and twisting time. Looping it so that her past, present and future selves might coalesce at once to see, understand, and pass judgement.

And all clocks were bound by threads to the center. Threads which drew them down. Each Alone in their shared fate.

The word shared caught in Erieri’s mind, and she spun toward the Allurer. Alone, and yet she was not alone. The Allurer had invaded her plains, her time, trying to draw out some for herself. His presence there echoed with every guardian before him.

Alone and not.

He’d meant her time to keep his aloft.

Could his time do the same for her?

Erieri licked her lips and folded her arms tightly looking at the Allurer. “I have an idea,” she said. The Allurer turned from his contemplation of the waters to face her again. She could feel his eyes move within the slit of his shadowed helm.

Erieri pointed at her clock still hovering high in the air. “Go there,” she said simply.

The Allurer shook his head. “Why? Do you feel guilt for my time’s death and wish to offer up yours now?”

Silence stretched between them. Brief or long, Erieri could not say and knew did not matter here. “In a manner, yes.” Erieri shrugged and looked back toward the center. At his time and at hers. “Do either of us have time to argue?”

The Allurer chuckled softly. “Not what I expected, Guardian.” His words echoed harshly. Removing his helm, the Allurer grinned at Erieri. “Though I will accept your donation.”

“Then let us do this.”

The Allurer stepped back, his armor changing again. Wind spread from the back of his suit, sharp and metal. They screamed twisting, no beating the air with enough force to lift him from the ground.

Erieri watched him sail upward before turning her back on the Allurer. She moved to the edge of the center and walked out. Her feet didn’t sink into the water. She strode across the pool to where the Allurers time sank.

Erieri was convinced that her idea was mad. Convinced that she damned her time all the faster. And the Allurer? He had nothing to lose from her attempt. If she were right, even slightly right, this bought him more time. Every inch of the Gaurdian within her screamed against the idea. But she was desperate.

They were both desperate, and Erieri did not wish to become like him. This was at least a different path.

Reaching out, she touched the flow stretching from his center. Like water sliding into silica at a rivers bank, she felt herself connected to his time.

It yanked her forward. Power lashed about her shoulders and pulled her in. Erieri cried out, a cry which echoed angrily above her.

She halted with her face a mere breath from his clock. Straightening, Erieri turned and looked back to the sky. The Allurer hovered beside her clock. He had placed his hand upon it, and she saw new lines forming. A line to his time, and a line to hers. Each a thread but a trickle of time. Each feeding new time into the other as the other siphoned off in exchange.

Neither fell further as they stood staring in silence. The Allurer’s rose slightly, buoyed by her time. Neither dependent on the center alone anymore.

A slow grin crossed the Allurer’s face, and he nodded to her. The Center of Time faded from her vision.

“How could you let the Allurer near to her?” She heard Hendet bellow loudly.

“Do you think I saw another choice?” Cormac said in angry defense.

“So, you granted her approval?”

Erieri opened her eyes in time to see Cormac, gestured toward the clock. The clock wavered even as she glanced at it, dimming as if unneeded.

But not disappearing.

“She needs approval from neither of you,” Erieri said. Rising, she dusted grass and dirt from her knees.

Cormac and Hendat turned toward her, their mouths both opening to argue with her. Both stopped staring behind Erieri.

She twisted, but the Allurer was gone. Mostly. A light shone behind her following as she turned. A trial of light.

“What’s that?” Hendat demanded.

Erieri didn’t bother to look at him. She didn’t want to see their expressions or care about what they thought of her choice. She’d become something neither merely guardian nor chooser. Those roles only concerned themselves with their own time for all she’d chosen this fate.

She shrugged. “It’s a trickle of time.” And time was but both she and the Allurer had needed, and what they’d found. Erieri left the oddly silent pair and marched across the plain. She didn’t know how much time she had, but, however long, she’d guard.

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2 thoughts on “Trickling Time

  1. I enjoyed the story. What an interesting concept you explored and I particularly enjoyed the mind sharing.

    1. Thank you, Cherrie. I am glad you enjoyed the story. Exploring the mind sharing was fun this year, and I’m sure in future stories what this means will be explored further.

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