Time stood in front of the grand clock and smiled silently. It was good to hear the constant and never ending ticking. This clock was and will always exists as long as anything else will exist in Underland, and so will he. But in this very long span of eternity he really never ever thought, that he himself or his machine could be in mortal danger. How wrong he had been, he now knew. Since the incident with that particular girl which almost destroyed everything, he was more thankful for the sheer fact that he still existed. Or as she has wisefully said:
"Every second counts."
And also that you should be thankful for every hour, minute and second, that he gives. Yes, he has learned to cherish them, too. His little tiny seconds and helpful minutes, just as much as the big hour. They all had been here for him when he had needed their help so desperately. Fortunately since their darkest hour nothing comparable has happened. In fact everything was going as it should, steady and never too fast nor too slow. It was exactly this 52 second of the 34th minute that he heard a strange noise. It was a ticking yes, but he has never heard this one before in his castle. And yet it sounded like something that belonged to him but also alien and which wasn't from this world. Another thing he noticed was, that the ticking was not steady like you would think of a clockwork. It almost sounded like it was staggering? A strange behavior for a timepiece.
"Time", called a female voice and he instantly recognized it, although they haven't spoken in ages. He quickly located her call from one of the mirrors near the grand clock and went in front of it, bowed down to the person on the other side and smiled mildly.
"Time", he repeated and looked into a pair of shining golden eyes. Yes, Time was not only a he, but also a she. She herself was the guard and representative of the other world, the one above Underland. Her dark brown face was beautiful as ever and her black locks were falling gracefully around her silhouette. She was his counterpart in every aspect with her golden and silver dress, she seemed more like the sun while his dark and pale appearance could be her moon. And like him she was of course immortal, or at last as long the world existed. Both of them were very powerful creatures, however they also had boundaries. They could travel trough themselves, the time, but they could not go to the world of the other. From the first second they came into existence they only communicated through their looking glasses.
"What can I do for you?", he asked with hidden joy. It was rare that they talked and he was happy to see her face after he nearly had died.
"I think I have something for you... No, more like I have someone, a soul and her remaining time, that belongs to you."
"Pardon?" Was that even possible? How could someones life clock get into her hands without him knowing? His blue shining eyes focused on the silver piece she held in her delicate fingers. He couldn't read the name on it, but he could see, that it was barely ticking. Or so it seemed on the first look, because he heard so much more ticking from it than the needles showed. It seemed like the person it represented, was slowly dying but he couldn't explain the extra ticking. A very strange behavior indeed.
"Do you remember the man, whos beautiful golden clock turned silver over the years and finally you entrusted him to my care?", Time asked him with a faint smile.
"I tried to not think about it and forget this... this shame." It was decades ago and still it felt like a failure. He didn't like the feeling of failing and so he didn't wanted to remember his name, but he still knew how it sounded. The fine differences of the ticks and tocks of every living being was more rememberable than their names or looks. And it did not sound like the one in Times hands.
"But what does this have to do with the situation now? I don't see that this one has changed like his."
"You're right, but she has a secret."
She opened the clock and pulled out another smaller one from the inside. This one seemed not only to be the source of the fast ticking but was also golden like an Underlandian one. Time was fascinated by it, her pure sound was intriguing like a fine melody in his ears.
"How's that possipel?"
She laughed a little.
"It's the most natural in the world of humans. He, who left your world, to live in mine, found a dashing young lady. He fell in love with her and so he decided to stay with her, that's why his life was transferred to me. And of course they married, they also had a child, a girl."
"And his daughter was born as a human in the world above, but is an Underlandian in her heart?"
It was so simple and yet a little wonder. They never have seen anything like this before. It was so exiting and he wanted to meet this special person as much as to lay hands on that unique clock.
"You know, Time, the name of this man was Charles Kingsleigh", this name seemed more familiar than he thought, "and as I heard you've already met his daughter some years ago."
His blue eyes became big when realization hit him hard. He began to search through his pockets, before he finally pulled out the old and used pocket watch. The fallen soldier with the name Charles Kingsleigh engraved on it. It belonged to her father, she had said and that he may had liked Time.
"Alice..." The only girl from above he ever knew and which was also the more or less direct cause of his nearly death. Not to mention the destruction of whole Underland and its residents. But also their rescue when she brought back the Chronosphere to its place. That remarkable young lady with yellowish hair he promised to remember. And now he felt a bit pride, that she also had her roots here in his world, that some part of her belonged to him. Even when she was still fully in the hands of his female counterpart.
"Her time in the world she was born in, is up for her. There are only a few ticks of her life left. So I ask you, Time, would you take her heart and soul into your custody? Would you watch over her, so that she can spend the remaining of her time in Underland?"
"Of course! But where is she, how will she get here, before it's too late?"
"Don't worry about the how. At the moment she's drowning somewhere in the ocean but I can rescue her. The moment you accept her, I'll send her to your castle."
She was still very calm. He on the other side was not, he felt like the gears inside of him were moving faster than normal, making himself go faster.
"Hurry, give her to me!" he shouted.
Again she smiled and seemed relieved when she threw the golden clock through the looking glass. Indeed she hasn't lied. The second he caught the timepiece, he heard and felt a gush of water from behind. A woman with yellow hair was washed with some liters of ocean water trough another mirror on the opposite site. Time turned around quickly and looked at her unmoving body, holding her precious life span in his hands. He was so happy to see her again, even when he pleaded that she wouldn't come back again. But here she was, where she truly belonged.
"Just one last thing", Times light voice said and let him turn around a second time.
"Everyone she was with on that ship of hers... her crew and her mother... is in the land of the deceased. No one survived but her."