The Broken Pocket Watch – Chapter Two

I dream about my mum, someone I try not to think about. It hurts to much. I didn’t really know her before she died, I was way too young. Dad doesn’t really talk about her, instead I let the faint memory of her smile, the hum as she cooked, the warmth of her hugs, be the only things I know about her. I try not to think about her that much though, it hurts to much. I miss her all the time, and I barely remember why.

Now I can see her, though. Now I can finally spend some time with her, and I’ll actually remember it. I won’t be a small child. The watch will make it all possible. My hand jumps to my neck, where I think the watch is, but it’s not there. I sit up in bed and look at the bedside table. Just the book I’ve been reading for the last few weeks and the candle I read by. I flip my legs of the side of the bed and stand up, creaking the uncovered floorboards as I do. There is a pile of books near the door, all ones I’ve read multiple times, and a wardrobe next to it. Apart from that the room is empty. Tiny and empty. Just the way I like it, the rest of the house is a cluttered mess.

From the moment I open my door, all I can hear is ticking. Enough ticking and tocking to drive anyone insane. Anyone apart from my dad, apparently. He tells me all the time, that I’ll just get used to it, that it won’t bother me when I’m helping him fix and build clocks of all sorts. I gave up complaining, I just sit with gritted teeth through it all.

Our family has owned this little shack for generations. A small little two story building, made of cranky old wood. Slanted glass pains, in every room. The entrance is the shop, a little area, where you can just about move. It’s crammed from floor to ceiling with just clocks. It’s not a busy shop, we very rarely have more than one person at a time come in. It’s usually people from the city who buy the new pieces, the local people can’t afford them. They normally just have dad repair one of their own clocks or watches if it’s broken. Not many of them even own a clock though.

He wants me to learn the trade, but I don’t really want to. The ticking, it just drives me insane. If I close my door, they become just a mumble that I can deal with, but whenever I help out by serving people, like when dad has errands to run, then I just want to shove my fingers in my ears until they bleed.

As I walk out of my room, my dad’s room to my left, I continue walking to the bathroom. I throw some water over my face and look in the crooked mirror. It’s so faded, and grubby. As if no one has cleaned it for years. Probably no one has. There is a small crack in the bottom right hand corner, that’s been there since before I was born. It’s only fortune that has kept the old thing together. Not that we really need one, we don’t exactly look prim and proper. The city people show us that every time one of them gallops up, gets off their horse and walks in. Most of them with an air of disgrace, even spending a second in the poor district is too much for them. But dad’s clocks are masterpieces. He sells them to the upper classes from the closest city and beyond. God knows why, but people actually travelling to buy from here. Maybe it’s because I’m used to being around clocks, but surely there must be another one in the city somewhere. Not that I’ve ever been to the city. As much as I’d like to.

The face looking back at me in the mirror smiles. Got to try and look my grubby best. I know that dad’s got to post some things today, which means I’ll be behind the counter for an hour or so before school. I have to walk downstairs to see the time, I don’t allow clocks on the upper floor of the building, if I did then I’d have shoved a screwdriver in my eye by now. Dad just laughs at me, and agrees. Apparently mum was the same. I walk out the bathroom, and walk down the stairs on the left. They sway and bow with each step. I’ve given up on worrying they are going to break. Everything in this house is made of old wood, probably from before my dad was born, so you just kind of get used to it. The creaking, the shifting, it’s all just part of life. I’m sure everyone struggles to get used to it at first, but as time goes on it gets easier and easier.

I pause at the door at the bottom of the stairs, not wanting to unleashing the hounds of ticking upon me. A little ritual I go through every day. It’s like a tidal wave as I open the door, waves and waves of ticking, just out of synch with each other, battering me. I just want to shut it again.

“Ah, Nymia, the princess has joined us at last,” my dad greets me with a smile. “And what time, does the princess call this?”

Stupid clock humour.

“Ha. Ha. Dad. Good morning.”

“If you say so, the morning has only just begun so it might be the worst I’ve had to date, but if you say it will be a good one, then I’ll trust your royal princess’s opinion.”

I just look at him, he’s like this most mornings. As if he wants me to get wound up. Just something else you have to get used to in this house.

“Don’t you have to go to the post office today?” I ask

“Not today, that’s tomorrow. Don’t worry about it. I plan on getting their as early as possible, so you don’t have to miss too much of school.”

“Thanks.”

I look at the sea of clocks, six in the morning. Or thereabouts. An hour until school. Normally I would spend this time reading, but today I have questions.

“That pocket watch you gave me, yesterday? Where is it?” I ask

He eyes widen, a moment of painful silence.

“What do you mean?” he starts. “Have you lost it?”

“What, no?” I cry.

“Didn’t think you did, it’s been with me all night. Here you go.”

I take it from him, and spend a few moments studying the small engravings, every single little mark was put there with reason. This would be worth a bit, even if it was just a normal watch.

“I don’t want you abusing that,” Dad says in a calmer tone. “It’s not a toy, and nor is time. So don’t muck around when you don’t need to.”

“I won’t. But why don’t you use it to get to the post office and back, that would save me from missing any school.”

“That would be mucking around with time.”

“How would it? How is that any different from last night?”

“I wasn’t using it last night to gain anything. It’s unfair that I could get to the post office before anyone else. It’s in the city. We aren’t the only ones who use it. We have to be respectful of others. It may seem like only a small thing, but small things lead to big problems. I don’t want you to cause anything like that. That watch is your birthright, I’ve used it well, and now you will too. But if you use it to make things easier for yourself, you won’t be just disappointing me.”

I look up at him, studying his face, there isn’t a morsel of anything but seriousness on his face. I can’t think of anything else I could do to abuse time.

“I mean things that will make your life easier. No breaking laws. I know your not a thief, but stealing money. Stuff like that. It shouldn’t be done. Not by any of us. Your not a superhero. Don’t think your better than others because of the watch. Use it to make the best out of your life. Extend moments, don’t miss a thing. But don’t mistake yourself into believing your a god. Don’t take things when they don’t belong to you. Don’t reverse things, if you mess up you mess up. Live with it, that’s a part of life.”

I stand there, feeling like I’m being shouted at, even though I’m not. I know he trusts me, it just sounds like he doesn’t. He’s just worried. I understand that it’s a massive responsibility. It’s not like everyone gets a watch like this when they get to my age. At least I don’t think they do. Maybe it’s a secret club you join as you get older. But somehow I don’t think so. The world would be caos if it was like that. Maybe there would be time police stopping people from messing up too much. But again, I don’t think so. That’s just my imagination getting away from me.

“Has anyone actually messed things up then?”

“People have come close. The stories have been passed down, but how true they are. I don’t know. It’s not like there is a public record about all of this. It’s still just as weird to me now, as it was thirty years ago. I think most of it is just down to being a good person. You wouldn’t want someone else to abuse a birthright into making your life worse, so don’t do it to anyone else.”

“But what about saving people?”

“No. Don’t get involved in things you’re not supposed to. What if something happens to you, when you go back and stop someone from being murdered. There is a good chance you will be dead yourself. Don’t mess around with things like that. There is a natural order to things, and that’s the way it must stay. Our place is here in this house, not anywhere else.”

I understand his reasoning but I don’t want to. If I was being murdered, and someone else could save me, I’m pretty sure I’d want them to at least try. Surely that’s the right thing to do. I don’t argue with him though, he’s had long enough to think about it. I know a fight I can’t win when I see it. I have other questions anyway, something I admit is a bit more selfish.

“What about going back, have you ever done that?”

“Yes, I have a couple of times. Not that many times. But for our honeymoon, I took your mum back to see her favourite band as a child in the city, when she would have been a child. It was one of the best nights of my life. Being able to give something to her, she never thought would be possible. She wasn’t rich either, but I saved up enough coins and took us. The trick is to make sure the coins have the right date on them, that’s what my dad told me the dates were for. Easier for us to use that way.”

“Can I go back?”

“Sure,” he said hesitantly.

“I want to see her.”

“I know you do.”

“Do you ever go back and see her?”

“I’ve had my time with her, it would be selfish to take hers away from her. Everything up to that point when we met was what structured her into the woman I love. I couldn’t take that away from her. Even though I want to see her. Sometimes I go back and sit outside the cafe she worked in when she as the city university. I watch her serve tables, but I never speak to her. But you are different. You wouldn’t be stealing her time. She would hate me if I didn’t tell you to go back, at least once.”

I don’t know what I should do. I don’t want to change history, but I want the chance to see her in person. Maybe just once. That would be enough, just enough to form my own memory of her, the way she walked, talked, her actual smile. Maybe I could go and buy something from the cafe she worked at, that would be nice. She wouldn’t even recognise me, would she.

“Have a think about it, don’t make any rash decisions. It’s your life, and this lets you make the most out of it. So enjoy it. But first you should probably head to school. You don’t want to be late.”

I blink out of my thoughts, and have to stand there for a second to think about what he just said. It makes sense. But I can’t not see her. It’s the one thing my life has been missing until now. She died when I was so young, I’m not sure if my memories are even accurate. Maybe it’s not her I remember. What if I don’t recognise her.

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The Broken Pocket Watch – Chapter One

The snow is static in the sky. Frozen around us, as we sit on the roof of our house, watching. The air was cold before, the harsh wind, but none of it continues. Everything has stopped. My dad plucks out a snow drop delicately, with his clock making hands, and brings it down to my face. I stare at the delicate design, the small pattern, that most people will never see. Once this drop has melted no one will ever see it again. The little fragile moment, gone forever. I’m amazed. I’ve never seen snow before, and to see it like this. Completely still and just in front of me, hovering. My breath fogs up, and slowly moves through the air in front of me, pushing the snow drops as it hesitantly stampedes through.

Our house is one of the tallest in the village. The wooden houses in front of us are crooked and stretch out in every direction. The pathways move around them, with no real sense of direction. As if generations ago people just stopped and built their houses and the streets just wind around them, curling up close to the buildings. The lamps are being lit, keeping the streets alive. The lamp-lighters are about halfway through their nightly routine.

The smoke that has bellowed from the cracked chimneys is frozen above the houses, the dark cloud mixing with the light snow, creating a barrier between the village and the sky. The snow would break through though. It must have, most of the houses have snow settled on top. I don’t know why everything has stopped.

I reach out and touch the snow drop, but with my clumsy fingers it melts. Gone forever. My dad laughs, it doesn’t matter. I’m just in awe of the world around me. So quite, still. I wish it could be like this all the time. I lean over on my dad, and wish I could just live like this. Maybe when I grow up I can. In my thirteen years, I’ve never seen snow. Maybe it can last forever. Thirteen more years of this white sheet, shining on top of everything I see. Giving new wonder to the world. My dad moves his arm around me, and holds me. Keeping me warm. We look out over the neighbourhood. In the distance, I can see my school, it’s a big building with two floors, echoing over the surrounding huts and cabins we call home. It’s the only building close to us made of brick. Everything else it wood and steel. Not as bad as it seems.

In the distance beyond the fog is the city. You can usually see it from up here, but the snow, just about blocks it out. If I strain I can see the tall buildings reaching up into the sky like stretching arms. I try to ignore that though, it’s the rest of the view. All of the small houses, and one room shacks around us. Simple.

“I wanted to give you this,” my dad said, while rummaging in his jacket’s inside pocket.

“What is it?” Trying not to sound to excited.

It’s not often I get random gifts. I’m aware that we’re not the richest family, so I don’t ever expect a new book sitting on the side when I get home from school, or anything outside of birthdays. That’s the one day my dad does surprise me. Every year without fail. He just gets the perfect gift. I have no idea how he does it.

“It’s something I’ve wanted to give you for a long time, but it seems, right, to give it now.”

He pulls out a gold pocket watch. I stare at it as he holds out his hand. Not able to look at anything other than the shining beauty. I don’t understand. I haven’t done anything to deserve it. Slowly I pick it up, my eyes darting between his smile and the shiny prize in front of me. I bring it closer to my face, running over the delicate engraved lines. A rose, engraved over the front case of the watch, with lines swirling around it. So perfect. I almost want to cry. I don’t even understand, it’s just overwhelming. I click in the little button at the top, and the front part of the watch opens. I gently flick it open with my thumb. Revealing the delicate arms of the watch under a thin layer of glass.

For generations my family had been clock makers. I’d seen my dad work on pocket watches, just like this. I know how fiddly the hands can be, how precise you have to be while touching them, especially with ones that are carved so intricately. Each hand, starts of fat at the bottom, and then thins as it moves outwards, with little engravings, making them look like tiny swords. The second hand was the thinnest, like a fencing sword, and the hour hand a dagger. None of them were moving.

I look up at my dad, surely he knows they’re not moving. He spends all his life around ticking, he wouldn’t miss that.

“I wanted you to have this, just as I have one. I know it’s broken, but it’s not for that. You don’t need to be able to tell the time, because there are more important things in life than time. I don’t know who discovered it first, but it was my dad who showed me. These snow drops, they’re not moving. I did that. You can too. No one else around us is moving. It’s just us. All you have to do is think, and then it happens. The watch, it’s been passed down for generations, and anyone who holds is can control time. It’s broken, but you need to remember that isn’t important. I want you to have it now, you’re old enough. Don’t abuse it, make sure others don’t find out about it. That’s all I can really tell you.”

I look down at the watch in my hands. I shouldn’t believe him, should I? I don’t think so. It sounds way to crazy. Maybe his brain has melted away with the constant ticking he surrounds himself with. But then I look up, at the snow around us. It isn’t moving. I’ve never seen snow before. It wasn’t moving, I could see that. I hadn’t questioned why, I was just mesmerised by the sparkling. How would some of it covered the houses? It must be true. The sun is setting, behind my dad’s head. But it isn’t moving, just sitting there, as it has done the whole time we’ve been on the roof. The red tint casting the last desperate rays over the day, before descending.

“How?” It’s all I could think to say.

“I’ll tell you how my dad told me,” he wrapped his arm around me. “Generations and generations ago. One of our ancestors, was working on a clock. Late at night. This very pocket watch to be precise. And while working on it, he nicked something in the insides. Sparks flew everywhere. He didn’t know what had happened. He covered the bare insides of the watch in the palm of his hand, hoping it would stop the sparks. It didn’t, he burnt his hand, quite badly. When the watch finally calmed down, he took his hand of, and found the insides of the watch had been marked on his hand, he probably thought it was from pushing down to hard, like when you do that with a toy or something you know what I mean. Like this.” He pulls out a coin from his pocket and squeezes it between two fingers, leaving a little indent in his skin. He cries out in fake pain, making me laugh, before continuing. “But anyway. After a few days he found it hadn’t disappeared. It had been burnt into his palm. And to top it all of the person who’s watch he was fixing. They didn’t want it back. Since it didn’t work. And he had to pay up for it. So not only was he burnt, he was out of pocket and had a stupid watch that didn’t work.”

“So what did he do?”

“Well he did this,” dad said while swooping his arm in front of us, pointing out the snow. “He froze time, robbed some banks, kidnapped his future wife, and had a great time. The End.”

“Seriously,” I cried, sitting up.

“No, don’t worry. I don’t know what he did, but he found out he could control time. He stopped worrying about day to day life and just focused on making the best life he could for himself and his family.”

I looked at the crooked houses around us, hardly the best life.

“Don’t think like that,” dad said as if he could mind read. “There are more important things than wealth and a big house, you’ll learn in time. The watch gives you those powers, and it also reminds you to never let time control you. You are in control of your own life, completely. Nothing else matters. Make the best of it.”

My dad slowly takes the watch out of my hand and holds it tightly. The snow slowly begins to fall again. As the flakes dance around in the air, he gives me the watch back.

“It’s yours now.”

I get closer and wish the moment would last forever. The darkening sky, the sheet of snow falling gently around us. The growing noise of wonder as kids run outside, crunching under their feet. Part of me wants to go down there and join in. But I really just want to sit here and watch the world.

“I remember when my dad told me that story. I would have been about your age. It genuinely only feels like yesterday, but so much time has passed.”

“Can’t you just go and change it,” I ask, while looking at the watch.

“It doesn’t work like that, I’m afraid. You will still age. And it’s not that I’ve had a bad life. Or that it’s right at the end of it, but I can’t go and change stuff. I wouldn’t want to. But I just want you to have the best life you can. And remember that. Don’t miss anything, you have the power not to. Just be careful, it’s your right to have the watch, but certain things musn’t be changed.”

The words didn’t make much sense to me. I have the power of time in the palm of my hands. I can do anything. Even if I do still get older, I will never run out of time to do anything. I can go and see so many beautiful places, so many different things, and people wouldn’t even notice. I could sneak into the city, and return without a second passing. I could freeze time and walk into people’s houses. Just to see what they’re like. No one would ever know, anything.

As the snow continues to cascade around us, I look up at my dad, wondering if we should go back inside. He seems happy. A faint smile hidden on his face. The rough beard, the tired eyes. Somehow it adds up to happiness. I lean my head on him, as he tightens his arm around me. Both of us just watching the world around us, the snow. The sounds of people playing, of the crunch underfoot.

I close my eyes, and try not to fall asleep, but somehow I just do.

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Spring is Here – Weekly Update

It’s been a pretty good week for writing. I hit my 2500 word challenge this week, no problem. Already 500 words into this week’s. I still have no idea where the story is going, in fact I’m starting to worry. Every scene that I come up with doesn’t fit. I have one idea that I’m heading towards, fast, and after that? I don’t know. Hopefully something comes along, otherwise this will get forgotten about like so many other stories I’ve started.

I’m feeling positive, though. I’ve not sat in front of the screen and written nothing, yet. The words flow, but only at a snail’s pace. It took me a lot longer to write the 500 words today, than it does normally. Hopefully it picks up again soon. If not, then I’ll head back to The Broken Pocket Watch. It’s close to being finished, and I have that pretty much mapped out. I just needed to get this idea down first.

I’m pretty sure I will be uploading new writing on here next week at some point. I’m going to start editing tomorrow, and then that should be well underway before next week so I can get ahead before putting it on here. I plan on writing a new post about that later in the week, once I’m sure of what’s going on.

My challenge of reading one book a week has really faltered. It’s only week 3. I did read The Trial by Kafka in a week. That one went well, it was only around 200 pages though. Last week I only read half of Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman, which I have now finished. I wanted to finish that and read the whole of A Monster Calls by today. I haven’t read much of the latter. I’m about a quarter of the way through it. My plan is to finish that and Moon over Soho by this time next week. I started reading Moon over Soho last year, so I’m cheating and hopefully will get to start a new book fresh next week and stay on track. Probably not though.

I enjoyed Norse Mythology quite a bit. It didn’t blow me away, but I enjoyed my time reading it. I knew nothing about the Norse Gods before, and now I know a little. At some point I would like to read more about them, but that will have to wait. I know about Ragnarok, which other than being the title to the new Thor film I’d never heard of before. That will have to do for now. I thought the collection of stories worked really well as it heads slowly towards the ever impending fate of the Gods. At times it is funny, others truly gruesome. I would recommend the book to anyone looking for a quick fun read.

Thanks for reading,

Ashley

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Update – Norse Mythology

I’ve already failed my weekly challenge. Week 2 and already faltered. I was aiming for 2500 words, but just missed the 2000 mark. Not that good, but I’ve already done over 1000 this week. So I’m ahead at the moment. I’m still in the post-opening slump that I suffer through on most of my stories. I have no idea where I’m going with it, less than last week. Some ideas that I had no longer fit into the story, which is often the case. I don’t know where it’s going, I’m just hoping it’s somewhere good.

My plan is to carry on writing tomorrow morning, and hopefully get close to another 1000 words. I want to get 3000 words this week, since that makes up a little for last week. I’m also hoping that if I can just keep writing ideas will come and It’ll start to fit into place. I’m also planning on putting some of my older stories on here next month some time. I have a plan, and will go over it more once it’s more certain. I have to edit things, which is something I always put off.

I didn’t read all of Norse Mythology this week, I’m just over half way through. So far I’m enjoying it, but I don’t think about it once I’ve put the book down. I then have to force myself to carry on reading, but once I start I’m engrossed. I know nothing about the Norse Gods, other than the Marvel adaptations. So I know nothing. Neil Gaiman’s book is definitely a work of love as he re-imagines the timeless tales. I definitely want to read more about them, and find out as much as possible.

So even though I’ve already failed my challenge of one book read and 2500 words written, on the second week. I’m still going to push forward and not give up, at least not just yet. My book for this week, once I’ve finished Norse Mythology is A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. The film adaptation is one of my favourite films of the year so far, so I’ll love the book even more. I hope to finish it by next Monday, but we’ll have to see how badly I fail next week.

 

Thanks for reading,

Ashley

 

 

 

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13/03/17

My  updates on here are pretty much non-existent. It’s not because I’m not writing, because I am (more than ever). It’s just because I don’t feel ready to share anything yet, since I don’t want to upload the start of a longer story when I’m not happy with where it’s going yet. I have two stories that I’m working on. The Broken Pocket Watch, which is nearly finished. I’m about 10000 words away from the end and have near enough every scene mapped out.

The other story is untitled, but currently saved as Forsaken on my laptop. It’s the one I’m putting my main focus on at the moment, I’m just under 12500 words on it. I have an idea of where it’s going, but it’s constantly changing as I write. I think that’s a good thing. I’m writing most days, and feeling good about the results.

I want to update this blog more often, so I’ve decided to challenge myself, in a way. I want to write 2500 words a week and read one book a week. Every Monday I will write a post about whether I hit these targets or not. I decided this last Monday, and managed to achieve it this week.

I only wrote on four days this week, due to late finishes at work. I didn’t think I’d gotten anywhere near 2500 words to be honest, but after I’d finished I found I was pretty close to 3000. I’m really happy with that, since it’s not taking that long. I’m playing music, and just writing. I’m trying to write solidly for the whole album, though I do get distracted often.

I’m just leaving the beginning stages of Forsaken, which is where I always start to feel nervous. For the first 10000 words I feel like the words just flow out so easily. Once I hit that mark, things seem to slow and the ideas stop. I always feel that if I can get passed 15000 words I’m going to make it to the end of the story. I know where some future scenes take place, but getting there seems to be turning into a struggle. I hope I get through this, since I’m really happy with the story so far.

The Trial by Franz Kafka was the book this week. It is one of the strangest and most confusing books I’ve ever read. I didn’t know much about it before I started, but had heard the term Kafkaesque used often and wanted to see where this came from. I chose The Trial simply because it was the only book of his I’d heard of. I’ve since looked into other stories by Kafka and will be looking to read them soon.

The whole story is set in a dreamlike world. Things feel familiar, although they are presented in alien ways. K, the protagonist, has been arrested yet is still allowed to go to work and move around freely. The freedom is a complete illusion though, as he slowly gets bogged down by his unknown case. He never finds out what he is accused of, and neither does the reader. The court is held in an apartment building, with the offices taking up the dark and dingy attics. Every one he meets seems to be connected to the court, from the painter he seeks advice from to the priest who knows about K’s case, despite having never met him before. The twisted story is full of striking scenes and is definitely going to stay with me for a long time.

I could probably write an entire post just about my thoughts on it, but I won’t. I’m going to think about it more, and let it settle in my mind.

The next book I’m going to read is, Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman. A recent book, that I bought at a talk Gaiman did in London. He read out a chapter and spoke about the reasons for writing it. I really enjoyed the talk, and hope the book proves to be as good as some of his earlier novels.

Thanks for reading,

Ashley

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