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When the desert falls away before you at the top of the hill, a blue seascape takes your breath away. Below you, a cliff-face drops down to groves and groves of deep jade trees flecked with oranges, and a port town of bronze and umber, leather-colored roofs creeps out right to the edge of the water. The town seems sea-hungry, with boardwalks and piers fingering out into the waves as if the whole brown port might just crawl out into the sea like an octopus going home. You can almost imagine it cluttering across the water towards the turquoise and rose-pink horizon, and then sinking to crawl on the bottom of the sea…
You look behind you, at the arid sand-dunes as their tips swirl into the dry wind. Melly comes up behind you, and then clambers up a rise above you. Her half-ponytail blows in the wind as she crosses her arms over her chest and strikes up a Captain Morgan, looking for all the world as if she just conquered all she surveys. "We'll stop and buy some tincture of time here," she says.
"Tincture of time?" You repeat, imagining potions that freeze the clock, or slow down your enemies…you hope it's not just an expression.
"It's a bit complex, y'see," Melly says, starting to climb down the cliff-face. "Humans ain't s'posed to control time, only control our selves, in time. We're its ally, not its master--think riding the horse bareback, instead'o'tryin' to beat it into submission with saddles and bits and bridles and clocks. The tincture of time's like the horse's carrot."
You don't understand the metaphor at all, but warm breath and soft little humid horse whiskers play in your memory over your palm. The last time you fed a horse was…when was that? Did that really happen? You distinctly remember a wide, green pasture, splinters in an old ocher fence, and the galloping of hooves, the musty scent of manure, and the slime left on the carrot as the huge teeth nibble and nibble away…
It's weird how you have memories that may or may not be yours.
"You comin'?" Melly calls from down below you.
"Why don't you use your jetpack?" you shout down.
"Shhhh! Swearing's illegal here!"
"Huh?" You glance down the cliff, and then left along the slope of the hill where the desert meets the edge of the sky-and-water view. Maybe it's time to put those long-distance hiking skills to the test, because you won't be climbing down after Melly any time soon.
"I'll meet you at the bottom," you say, and with that, you break off on your own.
Meet the Tincture of Time, and discover what swearing has to do with Melly's jetpack! Next week.