The Lion Doesn't Sleep Tonight - A Very Roman Holiday
The Skin Traveler
© 2001 Laura Fink / All Rights Reserved
http://www.clockdomain.com Episode One - The Lion Doesn't Sleep
The sculpted bushes and phosphorous fountains of Shiver Tower
Gardens began to fade, and Tock felt a strange buzzing in his
head. He saw his hand reach in slow motion for his mouse, but
before he could touch it, he found himself sitting in a dim
corner of a dark enclosure. It smelled musty, like a cave.
Beside him was his laptop. Although his cell-phone was nowhere
in sight, the computer appeared to be still on-line. Tock
puzzled over this for a moment, and then began to look around.
He heard voices speaking quietly in a foreign tongue. As he
strained to listen, he found that gradually he was able to
understand their language. The voices came from the center of
the room, where a group of simply clothed men and women sat on
the floor, their heads bowed.
"And Father, please take away all fear, so that we may give
honor to Your Name," one man said. "Amen!" the other voices
added in unison.
With shock, Tock noticed that he was dressed just like the folk
sitting on the floor. Quickly, he stuffed his computer into a
spare corner of his shell, as the sound of clanging metal filled
the room. It was then that he noticed the bars that closed off
the far end of the room. A key turned in a lock, and the bars
swung open. The shadow of a very big man with a serious case of
body odor filled the room. "All of you, rise!" he bellowed. The
small group stood meekly. The brute with the key pointed his
truncheon at Tock. "You, too! The lions are especially hungry,
Tock froze, sweat running down his face. Mamma mia! This was not
the trip he had planned! He wondered vaguely where the Tourist
Information Office was located.
The beastly smelling, over-muscled Roman guard led Tock and the
others into a small holding pen which led, through a gate, into
the open coliseum. A faint roaring sound came from the arena.
What, the lions were out there already? Tock wondered. His
stomach tightened. But no, it was just the roar of the crowd.
They wanted to see blood, guts, and ripped flesh. Tock wondered
if he had time to download the trailer for "Gladiator" from the
Net. Would that satisfy them?
Behind the back of the guard, who stood Rambo-like at the gate
to the arena, Tock edged nearer to investigate a foul-smelling
hole in one corner of the room. Phew! The removal of human waste
products certainly had improved in the last millenium or two. A
little standard lo-tech hygeine would be good for these folks.
One of the prisoners drew close to Tock and leaned down to
whisper in his ear.
"Brother, I see you have noticed something of interest." Tock
looked up at him quizzically, then down at the primitive loo.
Ah, of course! "Being of such small stature, you could find your
way through this fissure down into the sewage tunnels that
criss-cross this city. And from there:"
"The catacombs! Yes, I could do it! But what about you and the
The prisoner shook his head. "We each will serve God in his own
way. But you - take this to the brethern." From within his cloak
he drew a small scroll made of some animal skin. "I thought it
would have to be destroyed with me, but now it seems that is not
so. It's a first generation copy of a letter from our brother
Paulus to his friends in this city. Give it to the others - they
will treasure it well!"
Tock tucked the scroll into his shell with reverence. Then,
before he could think twice about it, he hopped into the slimy
pit. Oh, the stench! At least he had a soft landing. (He tried
not to think about the reason why.) Tock crawled away as fast as
his legs would take him. He made mental note to thank George,
his personal trainer, for working him so hard on the treadmill
in recent weeks.
The dark passage twisted and turned. Tock passed through a
broken cistern where he was able to wash off most of the muck
covering his body. After more wandering in the dark, Tock
entered a cavernous room dimly lit by sunlight shining through
cracks in the high ceiling. There were signs that people had
been there recently, but not a soul was to be found. Alone and
lost, Tock sat down in despair. From within his shell, he pulled
out the scroll and his laptop. "I wonder how long I've been down
here", he muttered. Then, for the first time, he noticed that
the label on the center face in his Clock Domain.com Trizoner
clock read "Italy".
"Of course!" Tock slapped his shell with the palm of his hand.
He remembered now that he had set one of the three clock faces
for Shiverbrook time, one for Eastern Standard (he often phoned
his sister in Virginia), and one for the corresponding time in
Italy (Trik-Tech was sending him there next week on business).
He tried to activate the Shiverbrook clock face, but it didn't
respond. But the clock face labeled "Virginia" was active! With
a quiver in his green belly, Tock clicked Apply. Immediately, he
felt a buzzing in his head again ("Got to cut back on coffee
after 10 p.m.", he thought) and his surroundings began to fade.
"Oh no, the scroll!" Tock cried. Drat. It would probably sit in
that cave for all of history. Nothing to be done about it now.
In every issue of "Just a Minute", join Tock the Turtle for an
adventure in time and space. No one knows just where or when
he'll find himself next, not even the folks at Clock Domain .