This is a story that I wrote as part of CWWC. You may have noticed the banner on the sidebar, and this is for that. The good stories will be posted on the blog, but if you’re brave, you can read the others, which will be posted on the CWWC tab on the menu.
I’ve never liked time travel stories. (I don’t know why, I just don’t like them.) This is as far as I’ll go when writing time travel. So… enjoy.
The house was white. It was a little rundown. To be honest, most of the houses on our street were a little rundown. The man who lived in the house mostly kept to himself. He never was outside, and most people thought the house was vacant. A few older people knew that the house was occupied, and they remembered the man who lived there. But no one ever visited him, and he never went out of the house.
I lived in the house two doors down with my aunt. My parents were long since gone. Aunt Matilda tried, but she didn’t know much about raising an adventurous little girl. She enrolled me in my local girl scout troop, and soon enough, they sent me out with a clipboard to sell cookies. It didn’t take much work on my end; those cookies practically sold themselves. But there was one house in the neighborhood that never bought any cookies, and I was determined to change that.
Most people stayed away from the “haunted house.” But the plucky child I was strode up to the door, and rang the doorbell. It broke off the side of the house and fell to the ground. I sidestepped the doorbell, and knocked. There was silence. I knocked again, louder this time.
I was about to give up and walk away when I heard footsteps. I turned, and the door opened. An older man stood in the foyer, staring down his glasses at me.
“Would you like to buy some girl scout cookies?” I asked, smiling at him.
“No, thanks.” He shut the door.
I knocked again. The door opened. “They’re really good,” I said.
He sighed. “I’ll take the cheapest one you have.”
I beamed up at him, and he filled the paper, and shut the door. I skipped down the stairs of the rotting porch, and back to my house.
A few months later, I went back to him to deliver his box of cookies. He opened the door, and invited me in. I left my wagonload of cookies at the street, and walked into his house. I was a naïve child, and didn’t think often.
All around me were large, ticking clocks. They ticked in perfect unison. Some were large, some were small. Most were wooden. Some were grandfather clocks, some were tiny little bedside clocks. There were clocks on the walls, clocks on the tables, clocks everywhere.
“Why do you have so many clocks?”
“I’m a time traveler,” he said, with a slight twinkle in his eye. It was a strange twinkle, and I couldn’t tell whether he thought he was being funny or not.
I decided to play with him. “Where do you travel?”
“All over the place,”
“I’m searching for someone.”
“Who is that?”
“A missing person.” He would tell me no more. I thought he was pretending. He led me to the living room, which also had clocks in every space possible. I ran around, looking at all the different clocks. Some were painted with pretty designs, and some were plain.
After a while, I looked up at the man, who was watching me intently. “I should probably go and give the rest of the cookies away,” I said sadly.
“Come back again, will you?”
I promised I would, and then I left.
A few days later, I went back to the clock man’s house. I visited with him, and he told me stories of faraway lands, and other cultures. He would make funny accents for me, and speak in different languages. It became habit to visit with the clock man every week after school. He would make up stories of his time traveling adventures. I knew they weren’t real, but he was an amazing storyteller. In return, I told him about my day at school, and about life with Aunt Matilda. I confided in him about my friend troubles and grades.
The years went by, and I was in high school. I didn’t have time to visit him every day, and I was lucky to see him once a week. But however few those visits were, he still acted like I was a little girl, and told me stories.
One week I opened the door to find him peering intently into an older clock. He set the clock on the table when he saw me. “Once they find me, it’ll be all over, and you’ll be the new clock master.”
I smiled and said, “How do you become a clock master?”
This time there was no smile. “When the old clock master dies.”
I swallowed, and said, “But you’ll live much longer.”
He raised his eyebrows, and said nothing.
The next time I saw him, he was tired, and I had to leave early.
His condition worsened every time I saw him, but he refused to see a doctor. “They would say there’s nothing wrong with me,” he said.
“Are you sure? Maybe you need to stop time travelling.”
He shook his head. “I can’t stop, not now. I’m so close.”
There was no talk of other countries that day. I left soon after.
The next time I went over to his house, he didn’t answer. I opened the door, which he never locked. “Clock master?” I called.
There was silence in the house.
I walked into the living room. He was sprawled out on the floor. I cried out, and started dialing 911. There was a rush of activity, which blurred together, and they rushed him to the hospital.
He died a few hours later.
They later told me that they could find no cause of death. He seemed to be in perfect health, and nothing was wrong anywhere. A puzzle, they called it.
A few days later, one of the paramedics that answered the call stopped by my house.
“We found this in his hands, in the ambulance. Since you’re the only person he knows, we figured we’d give it to you. I’m sorry for your loss.”
He handed me a sealed envelope.
“Thank you,” I whispered. The man left me standing on the front steps.
I went to my room, and slit the envelope. A key tumbled out, alongside a piece of paper. I read the paper first.
Dear Clock Master,
The house and clocks are now yours. The deed is signed and in the safe. The key will fit in the back of every clock. Turn it once, and you will be transported back to that time. Drop the key on the ground to return to the house. You must search for the girl. The fate of history rests in her hands. -the old clock master
I looked at the key. It was plain and simple, like a key you would get at the hardware store. I scanned the letter again, wondering what he meant. I lifted the envelope, and a piece of paper slipped out of the back.
It was a photograph of a girl.
And that girl was my mother.