Chains of Time I

I needed a job. Work was hard to find, and handing out newspapers on the corner of the street wasn’t going to cut it. I rifled through this morning’s paper, looking at the listings. There weren’t many listings out there at the moment. And most of them required either experience or skill – neither of which I had excess. I turned the page, glanced up and down the columns, hoping to find a job, but no luck – and turned the page again. And by now I was on the last page of the advertisements. Candlemaker, brickmaker, blacksmith, cobbler – all required far too much experience and paid far too little. But, ho! I stared at the last listing on the last page of all the advertisements. Irony, perhaps, that the last listing out of all of them – and, also it appeared the most inconspicuous listing, was the richest and most promising.

Learn trade while making money – antique shop in need of an apprentice located at -745-13. No experience required. Payment of 54.3cY at weekly intervals. Inquiry due to Mr. Jacob Mullins.

Well now. Mulling over the numbers in my head, I felt a surge of elation course through me. Yes. Yes, that would do just fine. Rounding down to fifty-four, times four, subtract rent, and taxes, and money for the food access card (or the FAC, which it is known better as) – well, it still left me with a whole 17cY…each and every week! That would be more than enough to get by. A tinge of uneasiness grappled with the elation as it fought for control over my emotions. But what if I was too late? What if another unemployed had beaten me to the job? I tore the listing out of the paper and handed my FAC to the bartender. Grabbing my handle-bag, I rushed out the door of the tavern where I had been scavenging through the newspaper. Bang! The door slammed shut behind me, and I squinted my eyes as the bright, golden sun pierced through the air with that cursed savagery with which it batters those who have stayed indoors for too long. Holding my hand over my eyes till they adjusted, I sprinted along. The birds chirped from the trees which grew along the cobblestone street. Glancing down at the torn newspaper in my hand, I looked at the address. -745-13. That wasn’t all too far from where I was at the moment. Give or take a few hours, I could make it there.

And indeed, in exactly 3 and ½ hours, I had arrived. Glancing around, I now registered the subtle changes which were apparent in this part of the city. It seemed dimmer. Perhaps the overhead lighting had not been funded as well, I thought as I glanced up at the gigantic domed ceiling which rose above our city. It hardly seemed to portray that it was daytime. Certainly a cloudy, even partially evening in appearance type of day. The gigantic sun which still loomed in the sky appeared lack-luster, and distant. How far I had come from the central district of the city. And here now, in front of me, was the very address which the advertisement had indicated. How the owner of this dejected antique shop was going to pay what he had offered was a mystery to me, for the building itself looked the part of an antique better than any of the objects which lined the windows. The building was but a single story, with a flat roof and mossy cobblestone walls. In comparison to the several story business highrises which rose on every side of it, it looked ridiculous; the black sheep of the family.

I did not permit myself long to ponder over the apparent poor quality of the abode in which my potential employer might be waiting – I still needed a job, and I was prepared to work anywhere and in any business. Pushing open the double doors set in the middle of the small house, I entered the room. And I paused. Perhaps the outside had not been artificially lit as well as in District 1, but this was much darker – compared to outside, it was nearly pitch black. I could barely make out the odd objects which were scattered along the shelves by the light of two small windows located on both sides of the building.

As I stood round, looking at the objects, I noticed a counter at the back of the building. A bell stood on it, labeled “ring for service”. I rang the bell, and soon, out of the darkness behind the counter, appeared a man. He appeared to be in his 40s, with a graying, brownish, haggled beard, and a ragged mop of hair. He wore round spectacles, and was mopping his brow with a green handkerchief. But I noticed the clothes he wore the most. A green, fraying, suit, complete perhaps, but nonetheless much worse for wear. Multiple stains were scattered across it, and several patches had been sewn upon the elbows. The outfit was completed by a pair of vivid, shiny green gloves which he wore.

The man glanced at me, peering through his spectacles. “Hello son. It doesn’t seem you’re here to buy anything. What can I do for you?”

“You’re right, I’m actually here because I saw your listing in the paper. Is the position still available?”

The man grinned suddenly, and it was as if a spark had lightened his eyes. “Why certainly it is! Come, come. When can you start work?” He gestured for me to follow him, and bustled into the darkness beyond the counter. Several seconds later, a candle flickered to life, illuminating a small room filled with boxes, with several doorways leading out of it. “Come on, right in here – my office, you know,” he said, as way of introduction to the small room into which he now lead me. His office was cluttered. I didn’t have any clue how somebody could work in such a mess, but I wasn’t about to say that out loud. Shelves lined the walls, with massive, dusty volumes filling most of them. His desk was scattered with papers, notes, pens, pencils, and several strange looking objects which I deduced were new arrivals to the store.

Once he had plopped down behind the desk, and indicated that I do the same in the chair in front, I resumed my conversation with him. “You were asking when I could start, right?”

“Yessir,” he replied, “The sooner the better, I’ve got more work than I know what to do with!”

“Well, I could start today if you needed. I don’t have many other things going on at the moment…”

“Perfect! Perfect! Now, if you’ll just sign here…yes, right on the dotted line…”

“Oh, I don’t think I’ve introduced myself yet, sir. My name is Daniel Brown, but you can just call me Dan.”

“That sounds wonderful, Danny-boy! Oh, and my name is Jacob – Jacob Mullins – but I rather believe that you already know that.”

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