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When she was commanded to do so, she approached a small table that was laid out before the water-filled stage. Though she was over the initial shock, being so close to the giant, floating face still gave her gooseflesh and she had to fight back a sense of fear and dread just to come within thirty feet of it.
The table was covered over by a thick green cloth and held only one item: a solid-looking clock on a gold chain, resting on a marble slab. The clock, she could see as she drew nearer, was not a normal clock at all. It was set into a copper octagon that was about the size of her hand. It had any number of exposed inner workings, but had no winding mechanism that she could see. In addition, it had only one hand.
“Pick it up and put it on,” the face ordered.
She did as she told. As soon as the chain was around her neck and the clock rested close to her body, she felt a wave like hot, sticky water washing over her, accompanied by a profound sense of nausea.
“Do you feel it?”
“I do,” she nodded. “What is it?”
The face grinned broadly and grew larger, looming over her. “Time in a bottle. Freedom in a jar. I give you the gift of one week, and one week only. You must return to this place with your prize within that time or forevermore join the ranks of the cursed.”
“A week? I don’t know if that’s enough time!”
“Time is a gift. And yours starts…now.”
As soon as the face said “now” the clock began to tick and the hand began to move to the left, unwinding from the midnight position. Dorothy’s heart jumped in her chest. This was so unfair! It wasn’t enough time at all! And she wanted so much to say goodbye to Coreye before she left.
She started to panic. “But what do I do?”
The face drew back and raised one questioning eyebrow. “Run?” it suggested. Dorothy staggered backward. Her feet were lead and her hands began to shake. The face flashed bright red and the burning pipes before it burst into towers of flames. Behind her, the double-doors flew open and the face bellowed “Run!” As she flew from the palace, its eerie laughter still echoed in her ears.