Once the mechanism, the work of his last 50 years of life had been completed, Herr Uhrweiss wound it and presented it to his client, the Margrave of Zeitz. It would, he said, run for a thousand years and each time the clock chimed to mark the number of a certain passage of years, it would reveal an extraordinary secret.

Uhrweiss died the next day, and the Margrave did not survive the year; his grandson and heir nevertheless had the magnificent clock displayed in his great hall. One year to the second after it had been wound, the clock tolled a different bell than the one it normally used hourly, a dark and sepulchral tone that unnerved all who heard it. The next day, the young Margrave was found dead in his chambers, passing the throne to a distant cousin. This cousin eventually rose to be elected Holy Roman Emperor, and in time would lavish Zeitz with the attentions befitting an imperial province.

Two years after the clock was wound, it chimed again. A powerful thunderstorm swept through the area the next day, killing scores through flooding. It was not until years later that flecks of gold were uncovered in the debris, revealing a new vein that had been uncovered by mudslides.

Further bells rang after five, ten, twenty, and fifty years. Each seemed to usher in a new misfortune that, in the long run, was beneficial to those who survived. The bell rang at seventy-five years in 1943, just before the largest city in what had been Zeitz was leveled by Allied bombers. It rang again in 1993, when the lavishly rebuilt city was struck by a terror bombing. The tolling of the 175th bell approaches, and all Zeitz lingers in unease over what ill effect it will have.

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!
Advertisements