Clockwork. Short Story.

Again, I’m writing this from the past. I’m kinda digging this idea. It makes me feel surprisingly accomplished!

My week has been fairly boring. Class on Monday was really tiring so I was glad I didn’t have to write a short story when I got home, I didn’t sleep well the night before so I was pretty out of it when class was done, couldn’t really do much apart from wait to go to bed. Class itself was pretty enjoyable, but then I do really like the course. I’ve started to enjoy poetry. That isn’t to say I didn’t like it before, more that I didn’t feel too comfortable doing it. I never really wrote poetry and never considered it to be thing that I would do, but I’m finding it fun now, though I still don’t know what I’m doing. It’s an interesting experience and I’m enjoying it.

On with the show!

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Clockwork. Short Story.

He shook the watch lightly, just to make sure. No. It wasn’t working. Damn. He looked at it for a moment, then tried to wind it again. It had been given to him by his grandfather, not too long before he died. He stopped winding, the hands remained still. Shit. As far as he knew it had never broken before, and, if his grandfather was telling the truth, it had only stopped once during its lifetime, when his grandfather was sick and hospitalised. He had left the watch at home where it had run down, it had only stopped for twenty minutes by the time his grandmother had brought it to the hospital. All that and now it was broken. He was looking forward to giving it to his own child, not that he had a child yet. Or even a girlfriend. He took a deep breath. It was fine, it wasn’t ruined, he would just go and get it fixed, that was all. It would be easy. Sure it made it all less impressive, but he could make a little legend about it, like it stops once during its owners lifetime. His grandfather had said he had almost died when the watch stopped. He had laughed about it, claiming that when it was wound again he felt better and left the hospital a few hours later. It was an old watch, though he wasn’t really sure how old, his grandfather had only said he had it for many years, nothing about when or where it had been bought. Do places still fix watches like this? He had never seen another one like it. There must be somewhere that would fix it. He thought for a moment, then caved and went to the computer. He could think of no jewellery shop he would trust with it. He’d find a clock shop. That was it. After a few minutes search he found what he was looking for, at least, according to the website it was. A shop, running since the early 1800’s specialising in clocks, a family business. It seemed good online and it wasn’t too far away, maybe half an hours drive at the most, he could go, see what the place was like and what they say about it, then make a decision. He had some stuff to buy out in that direction anyway. It wouldn’t take him too far out of his way.

The drive was shorter than expected, there was very little traffic on the roads. It was a pleasant day out, the first nice day in a while, people were probably out in parks enjoying it. It always seemed to be the way, for the first week or so of good weather people would be out in droves and then it would die down until everyone started to complain of how hot it was. Still, less people on the roads was good for him. He calmed as he drove, driving was always a relaxing experience for him. It had been a shock finding that the watch had stopped. He noticed it almost immediately. The old familiar ticking stopping suddenly, the silence that replaced it. As he drove he decided that even if it couldn’t be fixed, he would keep it. The watch meant a lot to him, after all it was the only thing of his grandfathers that he owned. His own father had died when he was still young, his mother had gone a few years before. It was really the only thing he had that linked him to family. As he got closer he slowed and kept an eye out for the sign, and after a bit he found it. He pulled into a spot out front. The shop front was exactly as pictured, the walls were painted black, the writing in gold, a large window taking up most of the wall, inside there were watch displays and clocks tacked to walls, all ticking in unison. It looked like a pretty good place. It seemed like they knew what they were at, at least going by appearance. He got out of the car and closed the door, locking it behind him. He’d leave that car here when he went about his errands. He stepped into the shop and was immediately greeted by the sound of ticking, surprisingly loud and surprisingly comforting. He felt himself relax slightly. He moved deeper into the shop, every surface and wall was covered in clocks and watches of every design imaginable, he paused at a display case and gazed at one watch, its straps were leather and the case was metal, at least, what little case it had. The metal ran in thin lines at the edges, the rest was made of plastic or glass, and inside you could see the clockwork moving steadily, the only thing obscuring the view was the watch face itself. He moved on going to the main counter. Behind it was a girl who looked to be in her twenties, she wore a light blue t-shirt without a name tag, if she hadn’t been behind the counter, he would have assumed she was just another shopper. As he approached, she smiled. “Hi, how can I help you?” “Hi, I’ve a watch here that’s broken, I was wondering if anything could be done with it?” “I can take a look, where did you get it?” he was unstrapping it from his wrist. “My grandfather gave it to me before he died, I don’t know where he got it.” He put it on the counter, “Hopefully it will be an easy fix.” She looked down and frowned. He looked at her, “Is everything ok?” She picked it up, “I know this from somewhere.” “…Maybe it’s a common design for the brand?” “No. That isn’t it.” She put it on the counter. “Hang on for a second.” She disappeared through a door, he stood, looking around nervously, feeling guilty despite innocence. She came out a few seconds later carrying a large book, she dumped it onto the counter. The cover was made of black leather and unmarked, he could see the end of a bright red ribbon coming from the pages. She opened it and started flicking through the pages, frowning again. Finally she stopped and smiled triumphantly while tapping the page. “There. I knew I recognised it.” She studied the picture again, then turned the book around. There was just a single picture, it was in black and white, there were no markings on the page. “Um. I don’t get it.” “Oh, yeah, sorry. It’s a book of watches my grandmother made. We each get one, it’s like a family tradition, we take pictures of the watches we make, if we make any, and keep a kind of scrap book about it. Who better to fix it eh?” He looked at the picture, it was the same watch, or at least it appeared to be. “That’s crazy, what are the chances?” She shrugged, “We are pretty much the best watch shop in the area, the next best one is about a six hour drive from here.” “So do you think you’ll be able to fix it?” “Definitely. There’s probably a schematic in the back somewhere and we have a fairly large collection of spare parts. If something vital is gone I can replace it, if the entire thing has stopped I can use the watch casing and build another one if you want.” “That sounds expensive.” “I doubt it will come to that, my grandmother made really good watches.” She picked up the watch, “Hang on a second.” She disappeared with it again before he could reply. A few moments later she came back, the watch in her hand. “Ok, I see what the problem is, it shouldn’t take too long to fix, but I’m the only one here at the moment so I’d have to do it after the store closes, so the fastest I can get it back to you is tomorrow” “Ok, how much would it cost?” She considered it for a moment, “with everything included, it’ll be two fifty. I know it sounds like a lot, but the part that’s broken is hard to get these days, the company that made it went out of business. A new one wont fit it.” He considered it for a moment, “Will it get worse if I leave it? Will it break anything else?” “No, its pretty much shut everything down.” “I don’t think I can afford it this month, could I bring it back another time.” “Well, my grandmother did make it, so I could do it for two hundred” He thought about it for a moment. There were a few things he could cut out this month, it might be a bit of a stretch, he could change his food budget slightly. Live on noodles for the last few days, it wouldn’t be the first time he’d done it. “Ok then, two hundred.” She stuck out her hand and he shook it. “Perfect. I’ll have it ready for you to pick up tomorrow ok?” She reached behind the counter and took out a pad and started filling out a sheet, then she tore it off and handed it to him. “Hang on to this, I need it before I can give the watch back. I’ll be working tomorrow but it’s policy. So keep it safe.” “Ok. Thanks.” “No problem.” She picked up the watch and pulled out a drawer, carefully she placed it inside. “See you tomorrow then.” “Have a nice day.” “You too.” He turned and left the shop. Outside he wondered if it was too much, he should have gone to another store. Still, she did have a picture of the watch. It was the first time he’d seen another like it, even after hours of internet searching when he first got it. Well it didn’t matter too much now, it was done.

He picked up the few things he needed then drove home, his wrist felt strangely light without the watch, something was missing. It was unpleasant. He missed the noise as well, it was always there, comforting. He’d have it back in the morning though, good as new. During the night he had nightmares, harsh, horrible dreams that morphed and shifted constantly, pulling him down as he began to wake. He woke the next morning tired, and a little off. He didn’t remember any of the dreams he had had, but he knew they had been bad, he felt uneasy. Off. As though something had changed during the night. He discarded the feeling, it was just a bad night. That was all. He didn’t have to be into work until three, he had enough time to get the watch before that. It would probably be a late one in work, the watch shop would be closed by the time he usually finished. He showered and got dressed, then ate a small breakfast. He was never that hungry in the morning, eating anything heavy usually left him feeling sick and that was the last thing he needed. The drive to the shop was easier this time, mostly because he knew where it was. He pulled into a parking space, the same one as the day before, and got out of the car.

Inside the watches and clocks continued to tick away, the place appeared empty, he panicked. The paper, did he bring it? He searched his pockets, there, a piece of paper, he took it out then sighed. He had stopped at an ATM yesterday so he had the money, all that was left was picking up the watch. He walked up to the counter and waited. After a moment, he called out, “hello?” “Hi, sorry, I’ll be out in a second.” “Take your time.” He looked around at the watches. The door opened and the girl walked out. “Hi, sorry about that, I didn’t hear you come in.” He handed her the slip, “It’s fine.” “Ah, you remembered, awesome. Thanks.” She took it from him and rammed the paper over a metal spike, it joined the others. “My dad does the books and if they aren’t all there, there’s hell to pay. I’ll get it for you now.” She went through the door again. There was a loud crash. He looked around nervously. “Hey are you ok back there?” There was no answer. Shit. He moved around the counter and knocked on the door, speaking louder this time he called out again. Nothing. He opened it tentatively and stepped through. The room was large, much larger than he had anticipated, there were no shelves of boxes, no walls lined with spare parts. The room was dark and empty. “Hello? I heard a bang?” He looked around, nothing appeared to have fallen down, turning, he reached to open the door but his hand hit the wall. The door was gone. “The fuck?” He felt along the wall, hoping he just missed it, there was nothing there. Nothing to even indicate a door had been there at all. There was a noise behind him, he spun. The girl was there. “I’m sorry about this.” “About what? What’s going on?” “Well, that watch is sort of like an IOU and its time was up.” “What do you mean?” “Well, your grandfather got something else along with the watch. I don’t really remember what it was that I agreed to give him, the only clause was that he, or someone that would take his place, would return here when the watch stopped working. It was supposed to run out a long time ago, but he found a way around it.” “What are you talking about? That’s crazy.” Her skin started to ripple, her hair was lengthening, turning grey. Her body continued morphing, her clothes ripping as spikes sprung from her flesh, the tattered remains fell away revealing old, sagging breasts, her teeth grew from her mouth, ripping through her lips, her skull elongated, cracking the skin, tufts of hair appeared on her chest, her pale stomach drooping down towards her knees. “Your grandfather and  I had a deal and now you have to pay.” He shouted in pain, his wrist was hurting, it felt as though it was on fire. He looked down to where he had worn the watch, in that place there was a brand, shiny and fresh, the skin around it red and angry. “You belong to me now.” She moved toward him, he shrunk against the wall. Beneath the horror, beneath the pain, he wondered why his grandfather would betray him like this.

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About Alan James Keogh

I am a 24 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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