The destination that Clytie suggested lied on a intersection by the narrow entrance of a dark alley in which she did not wish to find out what was inside, and although Hyacinth did it was better not to split so impolitely with his companion during a rarely happened rendezvous of them, even though he would not mind doing so since he was pretty much unable to keep his gasoline from her fire of arising tension most of the time. Moonlight shined softy on their indistinct figures within the fog under the midnight blue sky, casted down a pair of faint shadows walking down the dusty staircases on a vacant street in a quiet town when everyone was either sleeping or spending their late hours in the preternatural serenity, down and down and around as if they were going to visit Hades, but since this world was a purgatory anyway let's ignore that.
"Here we are." With a clammy steampunkish red-brown motorcycle (of at least 500cc in his estimation) parked on the mustard-colored bricked pavement - and Hyacinth liked the vehicle immediately, he just did not like the grime on it - Clytie pointed her index finger cheerfully at an antique shop with big wooden door decorated by vintage patterns of laurel leaves and golden rim, fancy much. "One of my little enjoyable heavens on this boring globe."
Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Tick-tock.
The first noise he heard entering the shop was this series of synchronized clocks running at the same pace, almost perfect. Hourglasses, another type of devices for the estimation of time also represented, and not only those that were filled with sand but also those that were filled with oily pigmented liquids of various colors in replacement for sand as material used for measurement. Music was also a significant element that enhanced the atmosphere of the scene, those soporific Bach's compositions somehow blended superbly along with the tempo of time as San Francisco fog permeating within the windy summer ether, everything was calm and moderate one might as well fall asleep reposefully there and never wake up again. The place was full of tidy shelves neatly aligned by one by one another and exceptionally clean, in opposition with the motorbike outside and also the streets, as if all filthy substances had been swept out to the external area and left behind a dimly shining state of interiors, even better under such gentle lighting condition that caressed his vision. That utter cleanliness made him comfortable, he took delight in it - cleaniness in general, he took delight in bleaching his jackets until they were completely white, he took delight in washing his hair until the natural glow started to fade, he took delight in scratching out the dirt and dead skin cells on his skin with his nails when he took a bath until his body was full of pinkish lines along with soreness - that would reduce the filthiness within him.
"I like the sounds." Hyacinth said while studying a metal clock radio with buttons painted black while its cover was painted white, the color complexion kinda looked similar to a panda in the book on animal kingdom he read, even the mechanical pulsation of the thing really made it seemed like it had a heart. "Really enjoyable."
"You know, usually people enjoy the sounds of pouring rain, as if there was any rain on No Man's Land," she sarcastically said, "or of someone whispering softly. But the sounds of mechanisms? Oh boy, those are just plainly annoying."
"The sounds of someone whispering? Now that is just creepy. Why would one enjoy having a stranger rambling trivially when he tries to sleep?" Hyacinth turned to her and beheld behind her a huge longcase clock with evenly swinging pendulum under its case of a castle design. He approached suddenly which surprised her a bit with their physical proximity when their shoulders accidentally collided as he moved forward and caressed the anachronistic beauty rooting there motionless like a secular tree, grandfather of the evergreens and grandfather of the timepieces, quite matching if one was made into another. Stillness was the best quality of objects; unlike humans who eventually initiated some inappropriate actions when they are placed on a cozy bed or even an uncomfortable one, objects just stay still and cause no consternation. "Listen to the ticks of this elegant thing. Harmonized, ordered, such attributes of sounds are simply... "
"Sure, whatever. Wait here while I talk to the craftsman."
He stood and listened to the rain of time that gradually poured into oblivion and then vaporized immediately, never getting back. Gazing up, trying to seek for something nice to observe and from above his head in the middle of the shop, a double-faced clock caught his sight, quite a rare one to exist, with both sides alike that he was unable to tell which one was the back and which one was the front, with its rim made it looked like a dimly blazing fireball especially when the gold-plated edges glittering under the amber light, twelve Greek metallic dials with four stood out from the rest, slim hands fluidly rotating nonstop instead of ticking for each second, all of that elegant structure hanged on a pair of shiny chains connected to the tall ceiling - which, by the way, was built from metal frames of several lengths nested among glass panels, such transparency allowed people inside to gaze up to the dusky yonder and have their sight flew up with the weakly shining stars. Such elegant tranquility of a supposedly ticking object, and his mind flickered in the thought that Apollo would like something like that, as He tended to collect souvenirs that were crafted based on the twin suns. Special meaning, huh? One could guess without asking and he oftentimes did, forasmuch as what He wanted was to be left by Himself until He needed assistance, which only occured occasionally, otherwise 'get the fuck out and let me alone'. What if I buy Him this clock? Looking at its exquisiteness and suddenly all other auditory stimuli disappeared, Hyacinth could feel the resonance of a million butterflies flapping in his abdomen as vague images lingered in the corner of his eyes, a droplet of crystal tear was about to fall for no specific reason.
For how long had he been happy like this?
He clenched tightly with the talisman of the necklace he was wearing as his consciousness floated along the auditory waves lapping on the shore of a strange paradise coastline called memory, inside his palm a tetragonal dipyramid with a series of mini skulls connecting to chaplet of tiny beads - all made of silver - was secured with the force of the grip. Hyacinth held it like he was about to lose it, as a casual feeling of how he was about to lose everything he appreciated. This, it was present from Him in which he begged for it - actually he begged for anything chosen by Apollo, whether it was a collar or a choker would also be fine - till the point his Boss got puzzled why he was so persistent. Back then when Hyacinth received it, it was a tenebrous afternoon with them sitting on a granite bench next to a water fountain in an empty parkland as he remembered, and the scene was indeed a painting of loneliness as the solitaires accompanied each other but their souls going alone. The Capo took out a tiny box in His gray covert coat's pocket then unpacked and dragged out an adornment, then He nudged Hyacinth and dropped the item on his palm, saying "I seldom see you ask for gifts." The older man glanced quickly at his henchman's cheerful expression before directed his sight up on the vast beyond above, gazing at the languish clouds with no shade of azure reflecting in his irises. "Besides, if it's just an accessory, you can buy it yourself." In a soft voice almost of a whisper as if his breath was taken away he replied, "I wish you to give it to me, hopefully that didn't bother you." He cuddled the periapt with tenderness, long fingers tracing on the refined details carefully like pythons slithering on an ancient sculpture. "This was to display my servantship, to present, myself as Master's follower."
"Or property." Apollo suggested yawningly with a bored expression. "But whatever."
By a joyous call from Clytie he lost his retrospective trail, "Hey, come here and pick up a gift for him too!", and he wiped the fluid on his face away - so it had fallen. She was standing by a clear showcase full of multifarious watches, next to her was an English-looking elder - unsure how old he was - with his white combed neatly into a beige flatcap, vest of the same matching color with the cap and white shirt below, ochre pants slightly wrinkled, well polished brown brogue shoes made from fine leather, a thick monocle partly hid his cerulean pupils - a stereotypical British man who mayhap was also the artisan. As he approached them Clytie was dashing around the vitrine like a squirrel hunger for chestnuts, fawning over the artifacts and made the store owner beamed with pride like a little girl complimenting on dolly dresses made by skillful tailor - it was no news that she loved dandy stuffs. With a cheery tone, she said, "I specially ordered him a present for his birthday but now I found even more of the things I want to buy for him. Check them out! Aren't they beautiful?" and grabbed Hyacinth's arm, pulling him to see what she was seeing. Sometimes she acted like an actual lovely lady although he still did not forget this 'sister' of him was a creepy aristocrat he as a baseborn servant was supposed to get along with for both of them being their Dominus's admirers, and like Apollo, she was hard to please but much less hard indeed.
"So, what do you think? Which of these are you going to buy for him?"
Glancing confusedly at each of the items and was surprised that timepieces were not the only things that were sold in the shop - aside from pocket watches there were sunglasses, goggles, wallets, handkerchiefs, belts, so on and so on, all being carefully placed on a secured layer of pelage (possibly artificial, it did not look like real fur to him). Hyacinth could not decide any to go along with but he was not interested in any of them anyway, hence he gazed at the old man and asked politely with semi-forced saccharine baritone "May I ask how much is that thing?" while pointing at the doublefaced sunshaped clock that was more eyecatching than the rest. The supposed owner of the shop waved his hand apologizing, "Sorry, it's a remarkable creation that was determined to belong here. It holds a very precious personal value to me I couldn't sell it away." Nodding lightly, he responsed with slight disappointment but still gently smiled as a gesture of politeness. "I see." As he catched the view of the senior directing his vision to that work (perchance of his), Hyacinth could somehow see the man's irises sparkling with an unidentifiable joy.
"Did you create that exquisite object, sir?"
"No, I made it with a friend, but that was a long time ago."
"Oh." So he was actually an artisan.
And he stood there immobile during a surf in undecipherable thoughts, as usual, with the glitter in those eyes sprinkled on his mind. Did he say he hate glittter, the modern plastic glitter? All those shimmery mirrors of multiple colors were basically like sand - extremely tiny one could get hold a handful of it and watch it slip from fingers as liquid did, but not wet - yet it could not be made into glass that would later be used to store even more sand and an embodiment of time in it, in other words, it was flamboyant and even after being executed did not turn much useful except for insipid baubles, like emotions, they might seem precious at certain times but had no values of practicalities unless they reminded him of something. Sometimes he wished he would stop feeling and pay more attention to work.
In a way, some people's lives would be easier being monotonous.
Like the rhythm of the clocks.
"That guy was of the best handicraftman I can find in this planet. It took quite a long period for him to finish an order but the result was worthy of the time he used, always."
Outside at the morbidly grimy streets full of ambiguous corners again, with Clytie chattering about her efforts to seek for a perfect gift, Hyacinth's inquisitiveness was reduced a bit, and although he could have queried more during the shopping he had decided not to since it would be trivial or insipid to dig information for nothing. While that place was actually like what Clytie had described - an enjoyable heaven on this boring globe - he had no reason to go there again unless somehow he could buy that outlandish clock. Well, unless his companion dragged him there for another occasion.
"Where are we going next?" As the question escaped from his mouth the effeminate business partner clapped her hands in gaiety, obviously she had set plans for how they would spend their date, if it could be considered a date but since she did not like him much, what happened next might turn rough quickly.
"To my house. Well, one of my houses." Without any implication in her speeches one could still tell she was rather wealthy, with her cultivated manner of speaking and a classy accent of Spanish language, or at least sounded like Spanish to him. How strange that he had never asked about her nationality but there were a lot of things he had never asked despite having curiosity, it just did not seem to matter much. Apollo used to comment he would survive just fine without being aware of too many trivialities, something among the lines of 'don't bother, you won't understand anyway' and 'as if a freak like you can get along with how humanity works, even I can't and I've enough with them already', and even before his boss said those he had swotting science and engineering books for a long time out of personal preferences - at least from those materials he could learn about how the physical world functioned and how to develop his skills to affect it, something philosophical books and novels did not help, or if they did he would not know anyway.
"So... What are we going to do there?"
"Get some clothes for the special event. I want us to look pretty in Knives's day." It was quite ironic for Hyacinth to hear that, considering everyday was the Lord's day for him, but then, Clytie probably had more people to associate with than him, she was a socialite after all. "Besides, you need decent clothes. Have I ever tell you I loathe your outfits and you in general?"
Yeah, technically in everytime they met.
"I feel just fine with my clothes."
"I don't. Just get a proper suit sometimes. At least dress in one that I can enjoy looking at." In fact, she could not understand why the two men of her interest were so passionate about spiky clothing that made them look as edgy as a hedgehog - maybe because like hedgehogs they were skittish as hell.
"Not one of those weird dresses you wear, right?" As Hyacinth spoke, Clytie was about to cough in embarrassment, why did he have to remind her of how inappropriately annoying he was?
There was an incident when they spent their days together back then, three of them in a vintage house far away from the metropolis and away from the mass otherwise Apollo would not-accidentally murder them (again), while their doctor returned to his own place to stay as he could not stand their zeal for violence. Their home was nice, Prairie architecture with cinnamon-colored walls and fences that stayed stiff against harsh weathers such as sandstorm, large windows that when opened were welcoming of the air outside, terracotta ornate trim decorated with delicate curves shaped like flowers and coffee rooftops above asymmetrical sections, a copper-tone metal swing in the quite unrelated Zen garden with dark gray rocks as outdoor seats and no trees because it was easier to find arenaceous matters than trees on Gunsmoke; she could describe it as the Barbie doll house of her dream (well, one of her dreams) except that her Ken brought along a pet that he kept very close to him, closer than her and she got jealous with 'it'. Anyway, during a night with Hyacinth walking down the hall - in which lied between their rooms and the garden, with silver tarpaulin covering above it instead of roof - to get to the kitchen and make a cup of tea for Apollo, although no one asked for it and she was sure the boy tried to pamper their boss to catch his attention, what a clingy and nasty brat. As he plodded pass her room, with the door still unclosed (because she wanted to feel some fresh breezes from the hall) he could see what was happening inside, a glimpse was all he did and catched the scene of Clytie stood there before a white makeup table with mirror above the shelves, wearing a scarlet nightdress, and she stopped midway while painting her glossy red lipstick. Immobilized by the sight, Hyacinth felt amazed, so Clytie was more unwell than he thought. Two steps was enough to approach the entrance of the room, without getting in, he closed the door for her.
And she got pissed off.
She dashed outside slamming the door behind her and hit him repetitively with her hands slapping on his left shoulder, pat-pat-pat.
"Ow! Ow! Ow! Why are you hitting me?" He got confused, one thing about Clytie was that she could be really hot-headed at occasions for bizarre reasons while being a rather collective and cheerful business partner most of the time. Guess crazy people were just crazy, and although he had spent years with insane individuals throughout his lifespan, it seemed like the peculiarities were never enough. He could not satisfy everyone or stop their dissatisfaction; this person might enjoy hardcore interactions right away but that person might enjoy a slow foreplay, one might request him to be a dead tuna and another might demand him to be active like a chipmunk begging to be fed, something like that. Quite off to think of those things while he no longer had to do those activities anymore, but those he mentioned were definitely more representative for crazy people than Clytie.
She shrieked her voice replying, "Excuse me! Is my interest too 'ugly' that you think I should keep it secretive so people won't have to endure that!?" "What?" Hyacinth talked back, feeling even more confused than before. "I was just closing the door for you. Ow! Why are you mad?"
From his own room not to far from their locations, Apollo could hear them bickering, the cacophony was louder than the gasps of the winds blowing over the window like Zephyrus was about to die from from a lung failure. Actually that quarrel was just one-sided and he was aware of which side was that, still, what the fuck? Guys, it was one o'clock in the morning and Apollo had just only finished his burden of paper works and turned on an album of classic tunes from 20th century's golden era of earth to call it a break; oh hey, Mack the Knife, this song could be used for people to make a pun out of his name, damn no fun but the melody sounded so good. "Hey, shut up!" Apollo shouted and the echo vibrated along the dimly moonshined hallway.
"We apologize, Master."
"Knivesss!" Her somewhat girly voice almost pissed Apollo off, oh shut up was she eight or something to scream like a little missy like that? These two ducklings, for the sake of the sun deity he swore if he could stick plastic tapes over their mouths to make them stay quiet he would. Maybe he should...
"Master, allow me to explain."
"Knives, he was disrespecting my personal interest!"
"No, I was respecting your privacy." Hyacinth recoiled as an involuntary reflex when Clytie almost hit him again, but she just kept her hand on the air menacingly instead.
"Chill the fuck down, you two! Listen, I don't care what your problem is, but if any of you think you should take the responsibility then do it now." Of course, with their personalities Apollo glanced suggestively at Hyacinth who got the signal right away. Say it, say the phrase I taught you to calm her down, although it might sound really cringey. It was very unlikely that she would step back and collect herself when it came to her colleague that was too familiar being together after all these years, thus she knew well enough his docile traits that she enjoyed to exploit and bully.
Hyacinth blinked, um, are you sure it'll work, my Lord? Apollo raised his eyebrows, go try and experience. Swallowing a choke, the guy said "I apologize. I... just can't understand a lady's mindset." reluctantly, anyone else thought this was weird?
Hearing this, Clytie had herself calmed down a bit. Whoops, if he said this in the beginning there would not be any ludicrous fight between them. Apollo nod satisfiedly, see, I told you. Hyacinth bit his lip awkwardly, the truth is, he could not understand anyone's mindset, including his master too. Why are people so eccentric?
Well, the house they were in was not that same house, this one looked rather Italianate with grayish blue wall and black roofs, and everything else else he did not know how to describe with their luxurious traits which suitable adjectives to refer to were unavailable in his dictionary.
"This is a blazer, quite similar to a sports coat or a suit jacket, but more casual." Clytie introduced non-stop about clothing terminologies, Hyacinth did not think he would memorize them too.
"Too many terms. Can I excuse myself from remembering them?"
"You can remember a bunch of complicated food names and can't remember a few terms about fashion?"
"Different people have different interests..." It would be quicker if he picked up and wore anything he found pretty.
"No. Damn, I wish you and master Knives would quit your hedgehog suits sometimes." To be honest, an chance of them quitting their suits was as rare as Clytie quitting her winter dresses that had no relevant to the climate of the planet but she gotta kept her fashion icon status, even when the style was off the theme. "Or at least change your hairstyles. Knives always looks stylish even when he's not groomed but your appearance is just absolutely gloomy." Intriguing how she pronounced the word 'stylish' as if her tongue was a snake twisting along the solidified vocable. "With his ungroomed appearance, he looked almost..."
And Clytie continued her sentence right after a hasty pause.
"Fragile you say?" Clytie rose her voice with Hyacinth's opinion. "Now that sounds more accurate."
She was not joking when she complimented Apollo to actually look like the sun god back then while she watched him from outside the bulb as he was newly healed, with curves of cascading hair the pastel color of delightful yellow - or as Hyacinth described, like lemon chiffon (why did he always have to relate such finesse with food?) - covered his face in a shade that would remain the same forever with that gorgeous ageless face which she adored (and secretly desired to plant a kiss on it). O'Lord, how her psche woud collapse under the weight of such heartbreaking beauty that never changed in contradiction with her maturity; and within her inner vehement urge she wanted to devour him whole inside her selfishness, to quaff such nectar of boldness and tame the thrist of novelty in this barren desert of her soul, to shallow every drop of her delusion fine as wine down her esophagus and cheer for the existence of such sophistication to be delivered in this poignant world.
With that fervor needless of reciprocity, Clytie wished Apollo would call her Daphne, but of course with their roles reversed, granted he was already a plant.
"I'm bored. Tell me a joke." Clytie initiated a conversation as they sat in a rococo bistro as flowery as her coat, with a forest of gleaming ornamental patterns on creamy walls that confused Hyacinth who was trying to track where the series of details ran to as she ordered him to speak.
"Your temper." He knew it was a bad joke, just like Clytie's temper, but it was not like he could provide any humorous joke anyway. Unsurprisingly she hit him, again. Did Clytie know she did not need to provide an example for what he just said?
Sitting on a couch of his own, Apollo meticulous studied the gift from his feminine minion, a chronograph watch of black leather strap with titanium case and the fluorescent surface was clearly shining below the sunlight glowing on them, the bezel was decorated with golden cursive strokes meandering along the circular egde and the subdial had its place at the second smaller sun from within. He was suprised to find himself enjoying such superficial property given to him, realizing his feelings of simplistic joys was not dead yet, although he used to believe they had died and buried, with a proper funeral given for each. Glancing down at his knee-high shoes, untied, but he continued to observe the present. Hyacinth caught the gesture of his boss right away and approach Apollo to finish his footwear for him.
When Hyacinth was still fastening the knots Apollo had enough of the watch already. Maybe he should suggest his Lord to wear boots to save time, but He actually looked great in shoes like those, shoes with every detail chiseled and sharply pierced his attention like blades. As he was done and was amazed how he even finished tying those laces, a shadow of something flew above his head as passing specter haunted the house of rising sun and Hyacinth rose his eyes up to the ceiling to check what it was. A bird, oh, unknown of what species, with its faint shape partly visible through the translucent rooftop and he could see the silhouette of a decayed fallen leaf landing above that semitransparent surface like a rotten carcass on a beach of white sand and he was under both; this somehow reminded him of the roof of antique shop he went to with Clytie, but the another one was rather fully transparent while this one was blurry, still looking like summer's fog diffusing on the Golden Gate bridge when the cool water below invited people to jump down. He was so indulged in comparing the similarities of those places he had gone to that Hyacinth dismissed the words of his boss saying something unhearable to his awareness, then Apollo who got iritated of being ignored stepped on his right shoulder harshly and said.
"You are too distracted."
"Pardon me?" Coming back to reality and that was all Hyacinth could say while the sole trampling on his scapula gave him an pulsing ache as he did not know how to react appropriately.
"You told me that you're here to serve me, right? Then don't lose focus." Apollo enunciate his words clearly and loudly enough to catch the attentiveness of his servant by the trap of his voice and unintentionally alluring syllables dropping as baits for the Mediterranean stray cat to follow and savor. "Focus on me."
El gato bowed down in slight embarrassment that he was once more distracted, and although he did not forget his vow to Apollo, he was easily pulled in and out of it with his common perplexities. Somehow Hyacinth felt like he had to fix this.
But Apollo, that oblivious guy, he tended to forget what he said really, really soon.