BY DR. AGONSON
All around me the cogs turn in their distinct rotations, feeding each other, spinning madly, parts incomprehensive of their whole, their purpose, or why they turn. And somewhere, deep in this machine, the ticking, incessant, perpetually driving, echoes out from its heart into all the faintest corners of reality. The sound has driven men mad. I knew one. One day he woke up, and it was night. He heard the ticking, and knew he had always heard the ticking, that everyone has always heard the ticking, but all refuse to listen. He heard the ticking, he listened to it, and the sun never rose again, at least not for him. The sun was another cog, one on the outside of the machine, but still, just driven, madly moved by some other reason than its own.
So some stop their ears, and some go mad. But I went into the machine. We are engineers. We followed the ticking into the machine, and follow it deeper, searching for the source that drives all the world, which always must tick.
Last night—deep down in the machine it is always dark, but night is darker still—I walked until I could walk no more, but the ticking drove me on; I’d given myself to it. As it were, I awoke, and knew not where I was. This is a place beyond reality where metaphor is substance, so understand what I say. I was in a place I’d never known before, and none of the engineers were there beside me. I was alone with the ticking, someplace deeper, darker, than any of us had ever found before.
Sometimes it happens, the ticking grows louder and overcomes you. When that happens, you do things for the machine. There are levers here, and none of us dare touch them—what should happen to the machine of the universe were we to pull one at our fancy? I imagine the gears would grind in a tremendous cataclysm, all the ends of the worlds would in that moment commence, and the ticking would cease. But it happens that the ticking grows louder, and an engineer will be overcome and pull a lever. Nothing we know changes, but somewhere the lever is felt, a little steam relieved, a sudden change of rotation somewhere.
And the ticking took me here. It is so dark in the machine, and I cannot see. The cogs turn incessantly, the ticking driving the world in madness, perpetual madness. The deeper the darker, and I’ve gone darker than any other engineer I know. Here the ticking is louder than I ever knew it to be, and it drives me mad, it drives me deeper into the heart of the machine.
There is time here, but no change. You never grow old, or wise. It only grows darker; the deeper I’ve gone the darker the machine. There’s a boiler room I found. An engineer had died there. He was from some other world than me, and I cannot describe him well. It must have been from a time before, long before. He died in this deep darkness, but I can still hear the ticking.
Wherever this ticking is driving me is far more ancient than those parts of the machine where I first entered, when I met the other engineers. The cogs are rusted; I spy them slipping. The ticking is so much louder here, and I know I must be close to the end. I have not stopped since the ticking took me over, and by my reckoning that was nearly an hundred lifetimes ago. When the ticking is over, an engineer dies; if my ears are ever stopped I’ll die. The boiler room, when it ran, must have been loud, it must have deafened that strange creature to the ticking. When I was there, it all was dust, dried dust. The engineer was dust, and the boiler was dead. Only the ticking remained.
Is there never to be light again? All I know is darkness, ever swelling darkness as I traverse this wheel, these interlocked gears, this descending spiral of madness. I’m driven by that ticking. It ticks so loud. It reverberates in my bones. My fingers are broken and disjointed by the waves of its echoes.
There is a depth to the depthless, and I found it. No further talk of darkness, this was beyond darkness. No light could ever be here in the heart of the machine, in the very ticking center of all the worlds. Its ringing madness cannot drive me further, there is no place deeper to go, nothing blacker than this pit. Nothing here has reason. Malformed, it is all taken over by rust. It moves in a crazed, meaningless purpose, direction without design. And at its center, the ticking.
It is now I know why we engineers dive into this darkness, why we enter this realm searching for the ticking. I have found it, and it drove me here, that I might fulfill a purpose outside its mad ceaseless ticking, might bring reason into this broken watch, might bear some light into the lifeless void. So I spoke the words of God:
Let there be light . . .