"Once we get inside the temple, extinguish your torch," Hiram said.
"Why?" asked his apprentice, Joseph. The pair walked up a small road in the dark, lit only by Joseph's torch.
"Because the chronocyclops lives in darkness and the blinking of his solitary eye controls the flow of time. If he winks, blinks out of time, or so much as squints at torchlight then there will be disasterous consequences. Thank the chronocyclops pater familias for passing on his terrific rhythm to all of his grandsons."
"How will we find our way into the inner sanctum if we're not allowed any light?"
"Ropes will guide you. The ancient supplicants strung them throughout the temple and encoded a map of the temple into them with knots. You will learn how to navigate only by feel," Hiram said.
Joseph nodded, enjoying the last time that he would be able to communicate to his mentor with visual gestures for a full year. After he served in the temple for a year, he would assume the full honors and obligations of priesthood.
"You will also learn how to prepare meals for the chronocyclops in total darkness. You will learn to listen for soap scum on dishes. Knives will sing in your hands as they dance across vegetables and meat."
"Wow," Joseph said. "I can cook pretty well already. I have my first offering in my pack, as you had instructed."
"Good. You will do well in the priesthood."
They turned the corner and Joseph saw the temple of the chronocyclops for the first time. The facade stretched far above the light of the torch, up into the starlight sky. The ancient builders had carved an unblinking eye into the sandstone above the arch. Two hooded priests stood in front of the doorway. Both of them shielded their eyes from the light of the torch.
"The starlight is more than enough," one of them said as Joseph and Hiram approached.
"We are sent to take on the honor of serving the chronocyclops."
"And we willingly relinquish that honor. Have a good year, brother Hiram and apprentice Joseph. Let your heart beat in time with the rhythm of the eye."
"And yours as well."
The two priests moved off down the path that Joseph and Hiram had just followed.
Hiram placed a hand on the iron handle of the door and turned to Joseph.
"Extinguish your torch now, apprentice, and enter the temple of the chronocyclops."
Joseph stubbed the torch out in the sand and left it standing like the gnomon of a sundial in the ancient starlight. He entered the temple.
He saw Hiram's silhouette for a brief moment as the latter closed the door and shut the world out from Joseph's eyes.
"Your year in supplication begins now. Our first task is for me to introduce you to the chronocyclops and for you present him with your offering. Give me your hand."
Joseph stretched his arm out into the darkness. Hiram's hand clasped onto it, and Joseph was glad for the touch. Hiram moved Joseph's hand onto a map rope. The braid felt soft and smooth, worn down from centuries of priests passing over it with their hands. He felt his place in the continuity of time, as a living representative for all of those who had come before, and considered himself, just for a moment, as his successors might think of him, the faceless brother from a another time yet bound together with a common goal.
"Give me your other hand. At first, I will lead you."
Joseph stuck his hand out. Hiram held onto it while they walked and switched into his you-are-being-mentored voice while Joseph stumbled in the dark.
"Follow me. Let the rope slide underneath your hands. Feel each bump and valley. Eventually the knots that you encounter - there's one - will be unnecessary and you will know, down to the stride, where you are in the temple by the touch of the rope. Here we pass by the kitchens. Smell the food? Here we pass the sleeping quarters. There are no doors, for no walls are necessary where none may see. And here we arrive at the altar of the chronocyclops, who spends his life blinking in time with the universe."
Hiram stopped moving and talking. Joseph did as well, and as they stood there in the darkness, he felt a shape looming in the dark. Its eyelashes whispered together every minute, as it had since its birth, and would until its death, counting the heartbeat of the universe. Now Joseph could feel the heat emanating from its body.
"I present to you, O great one, a new apprentice who seeks to supplicate himself to your ineffable greatness! Joseph, please make your offering."
Joseph unslung his backpack. He had not been sure what to make and had asked Hiram. Joseph had been told to make his own favorite dish. The chronocyclops, according to tradition, wanted to learn about the new apprentice by way of food. So Joseph strained every culinary muscle in his body to produce the finest specimen of his absolute favorite dish.
A dish of black pepper beef.
The smell of savory beef, potatoes, carrots and peppers filled the room, followed closely by a stinging duststorm of black pepper that had been sprinkled across the top.
Joseph sneezed, as he always had whenever he smelled the dish.
They both realized at once what had happened.
"The chronocyclops must not sneeze! Remove the dish at once!"
Joseph didn't need to be told twice. He dashed towards the exit. Unfortunately, he had not learned where the exit was and could not see it in the pitch black. In two bounds he did, however, find a rope. It caught him across the chest, flexed, rebounded and caught Joseph under the bicep to catapult the black pepper beef into the air.
"Ah," said a deep, trembling voice. The chronocyclops.
"No!" Hiram said.
"Ah," said the chronocyclops again.
"Should I take cover?" Joseph asked.
"Can you take cover from nonlinear time?" Hiram asked.
"CCHHOOOOOOOOO!" said the chronocyclops.
Joseph sat in a lush green field, covered in black pepper beef. A few decaying towers of sandstone poked out of the ground like rotten, yellow teeth. He blinked in the sudden sunlight. So did the chronocyclops. For a moment, time stood still. Joseph and Hiram were the first two priests to see the chronocyclops since its lineage went into seclusion. He was about twice as tall and three times as broad as Joseph. Muscles rippled under its skin, made even more visible by the skimpy loincloth that he wore. Two sharp tusks and a row of jagged teeth poked out from its protruding lower jaw. Then the chronocyclops sneezed.
Now Joseph sat on a dinosaur that was currently being hit by a meteor. As interstellar rock started to turn them all into puddles of jellied carbon, the chronocyclops sneezed again and so Joseph only suffered a minor concussion.
Joseph found himself in a vault that was filled with strange green stacks of rectangular paper. All of the paper appeared to be identical. A few people in masks were stuffing it into sacks. Or they were, until Hiram, Joseph and the chronocyclops landed on top of them.
One of the people pulled out a gun and held it to the chronocyclop's face. The chronocyclops blinked, and his assailant turned into a skeleton holding a piece of rust.
"We've gotta go straight," said one of the other people.
The chronocyclops sneezed.
The same people were in the same positions, except this time they sported fine suits, white hair, no masks, and were stealing money with pens rather than guns.
"You really made a great point four decades ago," one of the people said, signing a contract to complete the purchase of the bank.
The chronocyclops sneezed again.
Joseph couldn't see. He heard sniffling, but no sneezes.
"Are we back in the temple?"
"Yes," Hiram said. "It was prophesized that you would come. The chosen one!"
"The chosen one!" Joseph said. "What does that mean?"
"It's mean that you're chosen by the stars themselves to stay the hell out of the temple of the chronocyclops!"
The Moral: you don't need math to understand time, you need an opthamologist