Friday, 29 August 2014

The Orrery

Around the world all went on as normal; people died and children were born, some in comfort, some in squalor. Men loved women, men loved men and women loved women.  Some squabbled, some were loyal and loving, and some cheated on their partners. Each individual wrapped in their own soap operas of their lives, in the cycle of birth and death; while beyond the drama of their immediate existence, bankers cheated on customers, traders played the stock market, politicians lied and claimed expenses and warmongers sought justification for their actions under the influence of arms dealers and media moguls.

In other words it was a day like any other; the earth turned in its daily cycle, while it took its annual journey around the sun as it had since its creation. All was as clockwork, regular and predictable; tick tock, tick tock…


Hidden from sight, under the warm sun the children played in the garden. Their mother walked under the dappled shade of the apple trees, idly picking fruit and listening to the birds that serenaded her in the branches above. Her enjoyment however was increasingly becoming curtailed by the boisterousness of her children’s play.

“But I don’t want to play this game anymore.” The girl protested, trying to hold her brother at bay with the broom handle.

Her brother wasn’t listening; he had a play sword and shield and was eager to get to grips with his opponent and avenge the bruise he had just received to his side.

The girl swung the broom handle which made a loud knock as it rapped on her brother’s shield. Seeing his chance the boy dove forward under his sister’s reach swinging his wooden sword to smack painfully against his sister’s shins.

She gave a high pitched scream and cried as she fell to the ground clutching her legs, while her brother stood over her, his sword raised in triumph.

The birds in the branches took off and flew away, as the girl’s scream pierced her mother’s eardrums.

“Right, that’s it,” the mother said, her face angry and threatening, “Go inside and stop ruining my peace. It’s a beautiful day and all I can hear is you two shouting and screaming!”

“But mum,” the girl replied in horror at her mother’s lack of sympathy, “Ares hurt me!”

“So Hebe? What about that jab you gave him a short time ago?” The mother replied, in no mood for taking sides. “You’re both annoying me, put down your toy weapons and find something else to do, and stay out of your father’s study!”

Reluctantly the siblings left the garden to their mother and her precious birds and went through the ornate pillars, indoors into the villa. The walls were brightly painted with Arcadian scenes of long ago. Hebe span and danced her way through the corridors while Ares scowled; denied as he was his favourite game.

“Trust you to ruin our game,” he said sullenly, “Now I’m bored.”

“You hurt me brother,” Hebe replied, “You always take it too seriously. What are we going to do now? We could read or practise playing our instruments?”

“Boring and boring,” Ares said, “I know what I’m going to do.” With that he changed direction and stood outside a gold panelled door.

“Ares!” Hebe hissed. “You heard what mother said, we weren’t to enter father’s study.”

“Scaredy cat!” Ares hooted, “Hebe, the chicken!” He clucked.

“I am not.” Hebe replied, standing proud.

“Prove it!”

Hebe pushed her brother aside and drawing a deep breath, opened the door.

Inside were rolls of parchments and manuscripts set in alcoves in the wall, but dominating the room was their father’s orrery. It was made of brightly polished brass and was clockwork driven. It ticked and it tocked as the spheres, intricate balls of coloured marble, orbited the brass sun that seemed to shine of its own accord. Ares gasped at its beauty and went for a closer look.

“What is it?” He asked of his sister.

“It is a model of the solar system,” she replied, “It represents the planets orbiting the sun and models their movements exactly.”

“Isn’t it amazing?” Ares replied, “I like the way all the balls are coloured differently, look at that little third one, the intricate blue and green designs on… Whoops!”

His finger touched the marble and it fell off its mounting. It fell on the floor, chips flying off it and rolled unevenly across the tiles.

“Ares you fool!” Hebe hissed, “Now you’ve gone and done it.”

“We were never in here, let’s get out quick!”

“I’ll keep this a secret, but only if you promise to play what I want to play.” Hebe said.

“Agreed!” Ares desperately replied as they quietly closed the door behind them.

Under the dappled shade of the apple trees she felt her husband’s hands grab her waist from behind. She felt his beard against her neck as he nibbled her ear. She giggled and turned to kiss him.

“Husband, you’ve returned home early.” She said but she noticed he wore a sad expression. “Whatever is the matter?”

“Yes, I have returned early. I’m afraid there has been a frightful accident, our project has fallen into ruin.” He said, as he turned and walked inside, wiping a tear from his eye. She followed him closely.

“What, after all these years? Whatever happened?” she said as he opened his study door.

“It just broke into pieces.”

“And what of the…”

“Gone, I’m afraid. All of them gone.” He said sadly. “Oh look!”

She followed his gaze as he picked up the chipped marble.

“The children haven’t been in here have they, Hera? He asked suspiciously.

“No, they were playing in the garden and then were playing music the rest of the day. What are you going to do?”

“Oh well, accidents happen, I suppose. Truth be told, I was getting bored with it anyway, they were all self-obsessed and ignored us most of the time.” He rooted about a drawer and found a small marble of blue and green, “Ah, here we are. As to what I’m going to do,” he said, placing the marble on the vacant mounting on the orrery, “Well, I’ll just start again of course or my name’s not Zeus…”


… tick tock, tick tock… No one had expected the apocalypse, although it had been predicted by doomsayers since the dawn of time. When it came it was thankfully sudden; there had been barely enough time to scream.

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