At work in the orrery. Walls thick with charts, tables, diagrams: dense sprawl of their calculations, Jannes’ handwriting neat and precise, Mambres’ expansive and looping.

They have seen for millions of years in either direction, world without beginning, without end. Ink-stained lips on Mambres. Bad habit; Jannes has often reproached him for chewing on his nibs. Black teeth and tongue.

Mambres writes:

…our own eyes attest the constant flux of all things. Mountains erode, streams rise and fall, as do nations and empires, each in its turn. So to us time seems a straightforward journeying from the past to the present; but we see neither clearly nor far. Time’s arrow bends: an arc bending toward a circle, a serpent growing fat on the meat of its tail…

Comforting tick of gears. They have built heaven in miniature, traced its ellipses but not its distances. Inlaid in the stone of the floor, the equinoxes precess. They have figured a 26,000 year cycle as a summer’s exercise.

…for example, the phoenix; (he writes) forever ancient, forever new. Renewed in fire and rare perfumes, a solar bird… driven by the same mad passions, we are born again, driven to the same obscure ends. This, my complex mathematics: the world ends as it begins, forever…