Extra, extra, read all about it! Mental's back with a brand new story~

Welcome to Borrowed Time.

I've decided to take a breather from the Fawkes Verse to bring you all a Quell I've been planning for a while in a new Verse ft Remus98. More on that at the end. I think this is a fresh thing for me and it allows me to write something different, which is nice.

Shoutout to symphorophilia (Haiden). This iconic dude was kind enough to beta read this chapter with me to make some much-needed adjustments. Let me know what you think, and go give him some love too!

I won't ramble on about things – all the details for this story will be below. I hope you enjoy; I've been so hyped for this, it's unreal, so I hope that you all enjoy it too :D

on the lips of my love, i'm alone again.

betray me with a kiss.

Seiko Ridgeway, Seventy-Two, Timekeeper.

Tempus fugit.

Time flies.

Seiko thought about a lot of things. How many years had her knobbled fingers grasped onto this crooked key, rusted at the edges, bent out of shape? How many minutes had she wasted fighting against the worn lock to the clock tower?

Seiko didn't know.

Even with every minute detail that was stored away in her extensive memory, Seiko couldn't quite recall the number of the times she'd scuttled her way into the back of her shop to find the ragged entrance to the Capitol's tower. From the outside, the tower's face was occupied by digital hours, glittering numbers in a twenty-fourth helix, counting on down. It was made from hand-carved stone, patterns ribbing its light exterior as the clock face glowed vibrantly from day to night. How ironic it all was, for her to see its breaking heart every morning. As a testament to the past (and to Seiko), the President had been kind enough to let her 'maintain' the clock tower. Panem did need its history after all.

How typical. Seiko had thought.

Capitolites had always been into their foolish celebrations and outlandish brilliance, yet Seiko felt so isolated from it all. Ringing the clouded bell in the clock tower at six in the morning was her only grounds for sanity. The air was still cold, the day was still blue, and while the breeze bit her withered bones on the way in, Seiko continued to persevere.

If age was a petty thing, then Seiko was like wormwood. She was bitter, but only with herself; she'd wished her days away without a second glance. Now she was the one to watch every ticking hand of every ticking clock, her shop a monotonous record of seconds past. If all of time had been wasted, then she was the most frivolous of them all, but oh did she always forget that you can't borrow time back.

So, Seiko rang the bell in the clock tower six times. She shuffled her way back down the dusty steps, decorated with grey cobwebs and the smell of damp degradation, and into her shop. The ticking greeted her once more, an ever-present reminder of how many moments she'd soon be wasting, waiting for someone to drop in. Ridgeway's was by no means the most popular place in the Capitol, but she'd had buyers that recommended buyers, which then recommended – you guessed it - more buyers. The steady stream of traffic had kept her interest long enough to ignore the parts of herself that had already become dust. As for the rest of her...well, that was only a matter of time.

"Bertrand, do tell me the time, won't you?"

This particular morning brought Seiko a rather unexpected guest. The person was dressed lavishly in leather high-heeled boots, hugging the lip of some black and white checkered pantsuit. They seemed glamourous in their fashions, their outfit complete with black leather gloves, a black corset, domed sunglasses and a black and white feathered hat. For a Capitolite, they were dressed down, and nonchalant about it too. Despite the simplicity of such an outfit, it demanded such presence without needing to be extravagant or excessive. Few things impressed Seiko when it came to fashion, but even her paling eyes could admit that such a sense in style only meant the best in the business. Anyone could recognise the finest cashmere from a distance.

A single glance at the clear skin and the pop of red lipstick drawn over ample lips could not deny the presence that was Echo Epithet.

Echo was an infamous fashion guru in the Capitol, yet their rise to become one of the nation's most respected Gamemakers pinned them to be the successor of the current Head of function. The majority of people were shocked to think that Echo had chosen to take such a position, yet Echo was never one to be predictable.

"It's 6:04 am, Mx."

Echo's assistant Bertrand was a wiry, well-dressed gentleman, who sported a caterpillar moustache, greying hair and a black and white tuxedo. Having a personal assistant didn't seem all too bad, Seiko noted. Any assistance with her old age was something she wouldn't mind too much of herself. Regardless, as Echo drew closer, the ticking almost grew louder. Seiko bared her teeth in an awkward, wrinkled grin, displaying incisors faded into a light beige-brown. Seiko knew she screamed of age, but somehow, she was too over it to bother.

Nothing could slow time.

Even fashionable, beautiful, alluring Echo would crumble and fade into the dirt one day.

"Good morning, timekeeper," Echo nodded, their voice an even blend between low and high. Echo's air of indifference, combined with their mysterium, was one of the many quirks about the professional. "I'm looking for an ornate grandfather clock. Dark oakwood. Preferably something archaic, with character."

Seiko smiled despite herself; she knew every clock in her shop from head to toe, and the one Echo wished to purchase was the one she'd hidden right in the very back corner of her store. Such a design was quite valuable and simply perfection to the trained eye - Seiko had secretly wished that she could take the clock for herself. Alas, what would an old woman do with something so grand, when she could only gaze at it for a couple of years before her passing? Such an expense wasn't worth it. But for Echo…yes, this one would be perfect.

"Right this way," Seiko rasped and shuffled her way to the back of the shop. "It's quite the piece, this one. I hope you'll enjoy it."

"I will," Echo remarked. Their tone was determined with an edge of confidence, almost as if they knew that they would purchase this very clock from this very shop at this very hour. "I just know it."

Seiko merely smiled and drew the dusty velvet cover off of the large clock to reveal a beautiful masterpiece.

Dark, rich oakwood stood sturdily at six feet tall, complete with delicately painted silver trimmings and argentum borders. The glass itself was stained and patterned, but mutely so, not to the point of ridicule. Shadowed tones worked their way across the glass, displaying only a ghost of the swinging pendulum and the glowing ivory-white of the aged, fine clock face. The hands themselves were even in character, woven with intertwined silver and carbonite, numbers etched with the finest and most exquisite precision – oh, how Seiko loved this job!

She'd wasted so many moments, but this was why she lived. For her passion.

She loved the awe on Echo's face, the feeling of how right this all was, and how she knew that this would suit Echo's particular tastes. It was so perfect, in fact, that she doubted that even the President would find little to criticise. It was stylish yet aged, filled with character, yet oozed modernity. Yes, it was perfect.

"I'll take it," Echo breathed, spellbound. "May I have a minute with it?"

"Of course."

Seiko moved back toward the front of the shop but paused for a second. A moment ago, she was sure she heard rattling. Or was it shaking? Or tremoring? Perhaps it was an old woman's imagination.

It didn't take long for Echo and Bertrand to return to the front of the shop, Echo pinching the bridge of their nose in what appeared to be pain.

"Headaches, again, Bertrand," they sighed. "I don't know if I can continue doing this. They just don't stop coming. The nightmares, the dissociation…"

"I'm sure it's just the stress, Mx," Bertrand reassured them. "If you like, I can arrange some time off?"

"So close to the announcement of the Quell?" Echo gasped dramatically. "That won't do! I wouldn't be seen dead in kitten heels, now you suggest this? Bertrand, are you sure you don't need a few days off?"

"Well…" Bertrand began, but Echo held up a hand, silencing him. They weren't rude about it; it was more or less a sign that the conversation was not something to be discussed in front of Seiko.

"Now, timekeeper, I'd like to purchase that clock you showed us if I could?"

"I can put it under reservation?" Seiko asked. "I can send you the bill on its arrival."

"Done," Echo nodded. "It's always a pleasure! You haven't aged a day."

Seiko could have choked at the ridiculousness of the saying. Her wrinkles had deepened into valleys, and the skin hung from her bones like aged parchment. No, she had aged many days, but she was too polite, too hopeful to deny it.

"Oh you," Seiko cackled. "Thank you for coming."

"Thank you for your incredible wares," Echo smirked, and offered the older woman a wave before almost waltzing out of the door with Bertrand, clearly in high spirits.

With the shop descending into silence once more, Seiko sighed and bowed her head. Another happy customer, another normal day, but wait - what was that?

The ticking had stopped.

Seiko's eyes darted up as the walls began to vibrate. From outside a car alarm set off. Even with her hearing, Seiko was sure she heard a cat screech. She could hear the rattling of the clocks and their glass cases, the trembling beneath her dusted shoes on her swollen feet, and for the several seconds it happened, Seiko was sent into a panic. Was this the end? No. It was not. It couldn't be. She hadn't lived this long for her to not die amid peaceful sleep.

As soon as it began, it was over.

A blip. A memory. A fracture in time.

Sighing in relief, Seiko clasped her arthritic hands and rubbed her purpled knuckles together, looking at the clock.

7:04, already? A whole hour hadn't passed, surely? A mere exchange with a customer that barely took ten minutes, and then this…earthquake? Unbelievable!

Seiko huffed, shuffling to go and get herself some tea. As she did, she noticed an old copper alarm clock, its case stained and scratched, the glass face broken. It was a keepsake from her father - left to her before his death so many years ago. The clock face held her favourite words, and so she'd kept it stubbornly, refusing to throw the old thing away.

Tempus fugit.

Yes. Seiko thought sourly, looking at her ticking shop once more.

Time really does fly.

Theme for Borrowed Time: Quantum Immortality by Crywolf.

Welcome to the Echo Verse! It's a collaboration between myself and the wonderful Remus98 but from different perspectives. Yes, a Verse collaboration. I don't know if that's been done before, but we came up with a cool idea and here we are. There'll be some weird moments in this story that'll become more and more pronounced as we progress. You'll get a little more info if you wander on over to Remus98's profile and read his side of the story, Echos Between Worlds. Don't you worry, all will be revealed!

Looking for the twist? (no, not twistedservice, as brilliant as she is). That'll be revealed during Chapter 5, so you'll have to stick around until then to find out! Sorry 'bout it :/

For now, though, what did you think of Seiko and our Gamemaker, Echo? I hope my third-person writing is okay, I haven't done it for a while.

Oh yes! What was that? Submitting? Right, let's do that!

How to submit is on my profile! I'm doing something completely different from the norm with blind submissions (credit to Firedawn'd and ladyqueerfoot for the idea!), so it's all very exciting. You'll find more details there. Please make sure to read the guidelines on my profile as well, as they're very important!

This SYOT is going to be a partial, and I aim to accept eighteen tributes. The deadline for submissions will be on my profile - my next update will give you some info on the availability of any remaining spots, so keep an eye out for that!

Besides that, I hope you have a great day. I look forward to seeing your creations :)

Over and out!