Today, The Infernal Clock hosts HorrorAddicts.net and their latest release Clockwork Wonderland, an anthology in which I am very lucky to appear. This is not your childhood Wonderland, this is somewhere much darker. Diving down this particular rabbit hole will take you places you never thought imaginable, including the dungeons where my own tale is set; you will find a short extract from my story, Hands of Time, at the end of this post. Want to read more? The book is available at amazon, link below.
Clockwork Wonderland contains stories from authors that see Wonderland as a place of horror where anything can happen and time runs amok. In this book you’ll find tales of murderous clockworks, insane creations, serial killers, zombies, and a blood thirsty Jabberclocky. Prepare to see Wonderland as a place where all your worst nightmares come true. You may never look at classic children’s literature the same way again.
Edited by Emerian Rich
Cover by Carmen Masloski
Cover by Carmen Masloski
Laurel Anne Hill
Laurel Anne Hill
With Foreword by David Watson
by Stephanie Ellis
The Apprentices stood up, fixing their eyes on the opposite wall, refusing to look at each other. On the long table in front of them, blade and razor, steel and skewer, cleaver and needle shone brightly, like an earth-bound heaven of fallen stars twinkling viciously. The Executioner approached, scanning the tools of his trade and then those who served him. Even down in the gloom of the dungeons, he wore his Death Mask, a leathern covering, roughly stitched with mere gashes for eyes and mouth. His huge frame towered over them.
“Hands,” he barked.
The five young men raised their arms toward him, hands extended over the savage blades that claimed their reflections. The Executioner examined each arm carefully, holding their too-soft flesh between his own heavy leather gloves.
Rab had never seen the man’s hands in the two months he had lived beneath the Castle nor an inch of skin to indicate he was a mortal like them. The Executioner’s hands held his own and he could feel the power and strength that lay within emphasizing how puny, how feeble, he was in comparison. He felt ashamed, a feeling made even worse by the strange tinge visibly creeping across his palms and knuckles, something he attributed to the metal which he had to burnish day and night—a never-ending supply of blood-stained steel.
One look at his handiwork returned a smile to Rab’s face. He enjoyed the ritual cleansing, felt in it a sense of purification. He knew his work was better than the others, their distaste obvious as they scraped off the congealed blood and gore. They did as much as they had to, but no more.
The Executioner stepped back and surveyed his small team. Behind him the fire spat and crackled merrily in the old fireplace. Above it hung the clock, their clock, a clock they avoided looking at if they could help it.
“Tonight, gentlemen,” said the Executioner, “the TimeKeeper will be visiting us.”
“Never heard of him,” muttered one of the apprentices.
“No, you wouldn’t have,” said the Executioner. “Not up there at least.” He jerked his head up, indicating their old world. “He’s a little secret we keep all to ourselves.”
“And why is that?” asked the Apprentice who had just spoken.
The Executioner winked and tapped the side of his nose. “You’ll find out,” he said and continued his inspection, slowly, methodically, silently.
Movement at the far end of the room caught the Apprentices’ attention and turned their thoughts away from the monster before them. All watched in fascination as a single flame drifted through the dimly-lit chamber, closing in on them as a spider to a fly. Hypnotized by the orb’s movement, they failed to notice the creature who carried it in his hand until the man, for want of a better word, stood right in front of them. A solid pulse throbbed beneath his feet, a steady rhythm, ticking and tocking making the air shimmer and sway. Rab could not look away as pendulum eyes held him prisoner.
“Good evening, TimeKeeper,” said the Executioner. “I take it you need new hands?”
“Always.” The TimeKeeper laughed. “The Queen of Hearts wants the clocks changed and the hands moved. Or the clocks moved and the hands changed. I forget which.”
“Forward or back?” asked the Executioner.
“Back again,” said the TimeKeeper. “But the old hands are worn out from this constant tinkering and I need new ones. I heard you had a few to spare.”
“Be my guest,” said the Executioner. They shared a laugh.
At mention of the TimeKeeper’s task, Rab turned his gaze to their clock, noticing for the first time the ivory trelliswork, how it had been crafted from bone. Limbs interwoven in a manner as masterful in its construction as any Carollian carving, perfect slivers of finger interlocked to hold the clock in place. And the hands…they brought back memories of his father’s textbooks with their pen and ink drawings of the human skeleton. He recognized what those hands contorted to track time really were, what he had avoided seeing ever since he’d arrived. Carpal bones and fingers twisted horrifically together, culminated in the deathly point dancing to the TimeKeeper’s tune. How anyone could see beauty in such a monstrosity was beyond him. He averted his eyes, unable to bear the sight of it any longer.
“That is my original clock,” the TimeKeeper said as he came up behind Rab. “The one on which all others are modeled. The Queen is very taken with this design. Now, show me your hands.”
Rab offered his greying hands for inspection. The TimeKeeper said nothing. He moved on and examined the hands of the others.
“We are in agreement?” the TimeKeeper asked.
The Executioner nodded.
“You four,” the TimeKeeper said to Rab’s companions, “swore the apprentice’s oath giving your hands to your Master, for him to do with as he would. And now that time has come. I will take them…” He turned to the Executioner. “You will prepare this young man for the task. No time like the present, eh?”
The ticking rhythm grew loud in Rab’s ears and his mind dulled. He could focus on nothing except the movement of the clock, the march of time. When he roused from his stupor, he was alone with the Executioner.
“Where have they gone?” Rab asked.
“The TimeKeeper will make better use of them than I ever can. You will be taken to them shortly, though. There is a job for you to do.”
To read the full story and more Clock-inspired, Alice Horror, check out Clockwork Wonderland.