The first time I saw the clock, I was seven years old. It was my grandmother’s. It wasn’t anything overwhelmingly grand; it was made of brass, and the face rotated up or down. Roman numerals displayed on the front, but the glass that protected them was scuffed past the point of visibility. Not that it really mattered, because the silly thing didn’t work. I’m not even sure why my grandmother had it in the first place, but it was displayed on the mantle of her timeless stone fireplace next to pictures of me and my sister. I’m not sure if she had found it in the attic as she went through my late grandfather’s belongings, or if she had purchased it from a yard sale on the way to pick up some milk at the store.
It was April 19th, and it was the day my life changed. Was it for the good? Well, I’ll never truly know that. My sister and I were with my grandmother that day because my parents had to run an errand or two, and they didn’t feel like dealing with bratty seven-year-olds tugging on them. My grandmother had insisted on us waiting in the living room until dinner was ready. Both of us groaned at the idea. There was nothing to do in the living room of my grandmother’s house besides experience the smell of old throw blankets. If we were really daring, we would pick out one of the dusty books in her mahogany bookshelf, one that hadn’t been touched for centuries it seemed, and sneeze our way into madness.
This day, however, was different. The moment my sister, Bree, and I stepped into the musky room, our eyes landed on the most peculiar object. It hadn’t been there before today; we would know. We were too familiar with the room. We knew every crack in the original hardwood floors, every tiny strip of peeling wallpaper. Neither of us said a word as we made our way over to the unlit fireplace and stared at the worn face of the clock. We never spoke about it, but I knew that we both heard the foreign and distant whispers that came from it. When my grandmother called us for dinner, we nearly jumped out of our skins. Reluctantly, we moved away from the clock, even though it quietly longed for us to stay.
The next day, we had begged our parents to go to our grandmother’s house, to their great surprise. They welcomed the break, however, and I know our grandmother was delighted to hear that we wished to spend time with her. I’m sure she thought it was the new cookie recipe she had tried the night before that had us crawling back for more. Little did she know, it was the clock that we wished to converse with.
Bree and my first order of business was to take the clock down from the mantle. We, quietly as possible, pushed over the heavy chair that sat next to the ancient couch. With care, I reached to take the clock. It was heavy in my hand, and the brass barely reflected any of the overcast light from window. We sat on the ground to examine the object. As I set the clock down in front of us, I could understand its language – the language of time itself. I instructed my sister to hold the item too, so she would hear with me.
Whatever possessed this clock was not of this time, but a time long ago, yet so infinitely far into the future. To this day, I’m unaware if the clock possessed a spirit passed, or if it had a soul of its own, but it didn’t matter. My seven-year-old brain couldn’t comprehend this. The only thing I knew was how safe I felt with the clock, and how wonderful its life had been.
The clock spoke of beautiful things. We didn’t understand the words it whispered, but we experienced the inner visions it gave us. It had seen the birth of souls, it had seen joy in times of war, it had seen life that lived in the stars. It longed to show others the beauty of existence, yet none had the willingness to listen to it. Their stubbornness and fear of the unknown had kept them from seeing the true joy of time and life.
When my sister and I were called to dinner, we set the clock back on the mantle and promised to return the following evening.
“I will not be here. You have seen all I wish for you to see,” it said in its own strange language we could only understand through mental comprehension. “I must give my stories to someone new – someone else who is willing to listen. Think of my stories I have revealed to you and remember to always listen to the tales of the past, no matter how worn by time. For it is you that will pass on the tales of your time, and those tales will help shape the future.”
This does relate to my upcoming short story, The Three Keys. Consider this a teaser!
Thank you to Eve Davidson for the prompt!