Of all people Julius Monrey knew that things were lost when locked in towers. The Clock Tower, jutting tall from the landscape, ticked every minute, every second on its large clock face. So useless. Time meant nothing in Wonderland, and keeping track of it was a sensible act in a senseless place. Julius considered himself a sensible man, even, as sensible as the hands on a clock. But, truly, what did that mean? When time was so scattered and random, what did it mean?

The Tower was imposing. During the day clouds gathered round its peak, and at night stars reflected on every window. Inside stairs circled around and around, leading to Julius's room. There he would sit every day, repairing broken clocks, collecting their pieces and putting them together with impossibly small tools. His skilled hands worked with each delicate part, his mind sharply concentrated on the task. He was so in tune with his work that thoughts of the task were like music in his head, soft and soothing.

He would fall asleep wherever he was, finding no real use in his bed. When he woke up the process would begin again, only broken for bathing or food.

Nothing changed, nothing shifted. He was the hermit lost in his tower, locked from the world with only hopeless time to keep him comfort. And so Julius was a prisoner.

X

Sometimes he had to leave the Tower, and these were hard times. As he strode through town, clock hanging on his side, faceless watched him pass with drawn brows. They feared, hated him. One woman spat at his heels, but scurried away the moment he turned to face her. Gripping his bag of purchases, face turned down, he ignored them.

But how could he ignore the way crowds separated as he passed? The way they feared to even touch him, or look him directly in his eyes? His eyes, the unique feature of all Roleholders, and somehow that frightened them even more. There was fearful power in meeting the gaze of a man like Julius. He had beautiful eyes, cold and pale as the ocean, but lovely all the same. Still, his face contained lines of tiredness, and was unnaturally pale from years of not living well.

His feet carried him down the street, an outcast, and he felt but one thing: loneliness. As his footsteps echoed back to him, all conversation ceasing as faceless stared, he felt the crushing feeling weigh on his shoulders.

He stopped in the park, resting on the bench for but a moment, when an apple fell from his bag, rolling across the ground. He sighed, reaching to pick it up, when he found another hand on top of it. A faceless child handed the fruit to him, smiling.

"Here you go, sir!"

He took it back without even thanking the boy, the situation deeply disconcerting him. The child unflinchingly met his gaze, and Julius wanted very much to crawl back to the Tower and never leave.

Without a word, Julius briskly stood, throwing the apple back into the bag, and left, long coat trailing behind him as he returned to his home, his prison.

His life continued in this way for a very long time, until a very special person came into it.

Alice.