The whole day is nearly over. All of that walking, and I’m near enough done. Finally. I can see the shop. I know I’m going to sleep well tonight. Even the ticking won’t keep me up. I’m just going to collapse on my bed and sleep until morning. But first I need a drink. That’s the first thing. A glass of water, and then sleep. I have a plan.
A plan, that is instantly ruined by my Dad when I walk in through the front door. He’s sitting behind the counter staring at me, His eyes staring right through me. I can see his body fidgeting as he tries to keep it still. His eyes stop me in my tracks, the ticking slows down and I don’t know what to do. He doesn’t say anything, and I just stand there. I shouldn’t have gone to the City. I didn’t want to face this moment, and now I have fight past it. It was worth it. I got to meet my family. Family Dad should have shown me much sooner. But he didn’t. Why am I the one who’s going to get a lecture. It shouldn’t be me.
“I can’t believe you,” he starts. “You’ve been to the City haven’t you?”
I don’t say anything. I don’t want to lie.
“I know you have. I went looking for you, just after noon. I was thinking of shutting the shop and going on a small trip. But I couldn’t find you. And everyone who has seen you, they tell me you were walking towards the wall. I go there and the guard tells me. I can’t believe you. How stupid. You’ve never been to the City before by yourself. You’ve only been their once in your entire life, and that was a short trip. Why?”
“I can look after myself. I’m fine aren’t I?”
“In the Village you can, but not in there. You can’t. You were born here, people know you. People would help you if you got into trouble. That’s what the Village is about. The City isn’t like that. People wouldn’t help you. You don’t know your way around and you could have got hurt, or worse. What would you have done if someone had attacked you? I wouldn’t even know where to start looking for you. Thank God you came back alright. I was going to have to start a hunt in the morning. I was so worried.” He pauses, and takes a deep breath. “I thought you were smarter than that. That you wouldn’t just wonder off without at least telling me where you were going.”
“I wasn’t trying to lie.”
“Save it. You lied. You don’t accidentally lie. You told me you were just going for a walk.”
“That’s what I did.”
“Yeah, into the City. That is lying. Making me believe something that isn’t the truth. That isn’t honest. Think about it for a second, and don’t be so selfish.”
“I wasn’t being selfish, I was trying to protect you.”
“Protect me? What are you on about?”
“I went to see Mazwell, and I know that you don’t want to talk about Mum anymore, that it hurts you. But I want to meet my family. I want to be a part of their lives. But I know it hurts you to think about.”
“Of course it hurts me, but this hurts a hell of a lot more. You will understand when you’re older, but I lost a hell of lot of my life when Maria died. It wasn’t just losing her. It was losing a massive part of my life. I miss her everyday. You don’t need to remind me of her for it to hurt. I don’t need reminding. I remember every moment, every second. Every time we spoke from the first time to the last. I remember her family, Mazwell. I remember it all. It’s going to hurt whether you mention it or not. That’s life. That’s something everyone will have to deal with eventually. But you are not old enough to know how to protect me. You can’t protect me from that. I don’t need protecting from that. I’m not a child. It’s not your job to protect me from things you don’t understand. You are not old enough to wander off by yourself without telling me. You have to tell me next time.”
His face was flaring, his eyes staring right down at me. His cheeks red, and shaking. I’ve never seen him this angry before. I know I’ve crossed a line. I don’t have anything to say, so all I do is stare at him, knowing it’s not over.
“Just go to your room. And don’t ever do that again,” he orders.
I walk past him, holding back tears and walk through the door. I take the stairs as quietly as possible, hoping not to anger him any more, creep into my room, curl up on the bed and let the tears flow. I can’t believe how angry he was. I’ve never seen him like that before. I can hear him downstairs moving around, thrashing his weight around as he moves around the shop.
I just lay there crying until eventually I fall asleep. I don’t even realise when I do, but the next thing I know the light coming through the window has been replaced completely by darkness. The stars are twinkling beyond the glass. I sit up, noticing a headache, and stare at the window. There is a knock at the door behind me. I freeze, hoping it will just go away, but there is another knock. After more moments of silence the door opens and my Dad walks in.
He sits next to me without saying a word. He puts his arm around me, but I don’t move. I stay focused on the stars, hoping he just leaves without saying anything.
“Look,” he starts, and then a long pause. “I know I was harsh. I was only worried. I’m sorry that I was that angry. I shouldn’t have just turned it into a shouting match. I want you to understand why I worry. Not just scare you. It’s a big world out there. You’ve seen so little of it, and this is a nice place. It may not seem it, but most of the people are nice here. There are other places, that are much worse than this. Scary places, with horrible people. Parts of the City are like that. I don’t want you to get hurt. It’s my job to protect you. I said I would help you with this, so you just need to trust me. I know why you didn’t tell me. Believe me it’s hard, for both of us. But that doesn’t mean I want you to leave me behind. That’s my job, to help you with whatever you need. I haven’t been very good at that, but I will be. Just trust me. You don’t need to protect me. That’s my job, not yours. So next time you go into the City again, just let me know so I can come with you. That’s all I ask.”
I slump into his arm, not wanting to stay mad. He holds me tighter, and neither of us speak. We just sit here. The seconds are passing, and I can hear the ticking from downstairs to prove it. And I just feel normal again.
Eventually he stands up, tells me he’s going to bed and walks away. I watch him leave the room and then say good night as he reaches the door, he smiles as he closes it, and I’m alone. Slowly my head hits the pillow. I’ll probably sleep straight through tonight, especially with all of that walking.
But I don’t. I just lay here, staring at random things around the room. If I close my eyes, then my mind wanders like crazy. I can’t focus on anything. Thoughts zooming past. I sit up. I can’t deal with this right now. My eyes scan the room, having altered to the darkness. They skip over everything and land on the pocket watch. It somehow stands out, like it’s calling to me. I just can’t stop staring at it. I want to touch it. Hiding it in my closed fist doesn’t help. I close my eyes and focus on something, anything. My mum flashses into my mind, I want to see her. When she was about my age. Just once. I’m curious. I focus on her at that age, and then open my eyes. I’m still in my room, but it’s different. The bed is different. It’s not mine. It looks shabbier. I sit up. There isn’t a table next to it, no books piling around the corners of the room. This isn’t my room. I’ve gone back to when my Mum was my age, but I’m still here. This is rubbish. I can’t believe I forgot that it won’t just take me to exactly where I want to be. Only though time. God I should stop complaining, it’s not like the whole time travel thing is so common I should be annoyed at being miles away from where I want to be.
Might as well not waste this trip. I stand up and walk over to the window. There is a small black cloth, blocking out the light. I move it, and see the familiar village. Not much has changed. There are unfamiliar people walking along the familiar streets. The rags for clothing looks similar, the sky looks the same. I could easily mistake outside for the same village. Well it is the same, but I know what I mean. I turn and see him. My dad, curled up on the bed. I must have been laid right next to him. How did I miss him. Thankfully he’s still asleep. I wonder if he knows about the pocket watch. Or if that’s in his future. I creep towards the door, not wanting to wake up.
If he’s here. Then his parents? They could be downstairs. This could be awkward. But they would know about the watch. I could just explain it to them. I’m sure they would understand. Maybe I should just go back now. That would make everything so much easier. Just go back to my time, sleep and then maybe go and see my Mum next weekend. Or after school some time, it’s not like I have time limits. Come on, I shout at myself inside. Don’t be a coward, just go out of the room, and explore a little bit. Everyone in this house will understand, and no one will care beyond. They are just living their life. I’ve never met my Grandparents so that would be nice. I slowly move the door handle and walk out onto the landing. No electricity. So complete darkness. Thank god I know this route like the back of my hand.
I take the stairs two at a time, and open the door to the crushing wave of ticking. There is a man standing right in front of me. He turns and stares at me.
“Hello?” I stutter. “I’m Nymia, Jikwin’s daughter from the future.”
“What are you doing here?”
“I used the pocket watch.”
“Bit young aren’t you?”
“My dad gave it to me, last week. Well my last week.”
“I know what you mean. What are you doing here.”
“I wanted to see my Mum but went wrong.”
“What do you mean?”
“I wanted to go back and see her, but forgot where I was.”
“Went back too far?”
“Something like that.”
“Umhmm, you probably shouldn’t be here. It would really confuse Jik if his daughter wandered in when he was barely thirteen.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to bother anyone.”
“Who said you were bothering anyone, it’s a pleasure to see you. I get the impression that you haven’t met me. Does that mean that I’ve retired to the glorious beaches of the Southern City?” He finishes speaking with a wink.
“Something like that.”
“Ah that’s all I could want, something like that.”
He laughs. A deep laugh that echoes throughout his body. Unlike my Dad who is thin and tall. This man is shorter, and more round. He also has a thick beard, but I can see his smile through the bristles. Laughing at his own death. Morbid.
“Don’t look like that. You’ll learn soon enough. With the pocket watch. You realise that time doesn’t just move in a straight line. I’m dead in your time, but you’re here now. And I’m fine. At least I feel it. And I was fine yesterday. The day before that I was a little under the weather, but then the day before that. Marvellous. You’ll see it this way too once you’ve used it enough.”
“My dad tells me I shouldn’t abuse it.”
“It’s nice to see that he stops worrying when he grows up. Of course you should use it. Not to gain things. But you can see the world. You can be in two places at once. You can solve problems. You can stop time and fix the clocks. That’s what gives us such a good reputation. How quick we are with it.”
“My dad doesn’t do that.”
“Maybe not forever, but he did at the start. Or that one upstairs, he will do.”
“I don’t want to be a clockmaker when I grow up. I want to live in the City.”
He looks kind of disappointed.
“That’s completely up to you. That’s the beauty of life you can do whatever you want. Just don’t let people stop you from doing it.”
“Thank you. I want to learn about History. And explore this world. There has to be more than just the Four Cities.”
“Of course there is. We may not know what lies beyond them, but the world doesn’t end. You can walk around the City and the world continues into the west. And that little thing you’ve got in your pocket. Will help. You can use it to get out of danger. To make sure you never miss a lesson at school. It’s a beautiful thing. Don’t let it go to waste. See your Mum, and find about her. Just realise how lucky you really are. It’s hard to believe you’re my Granddaughter. You’re growing up to be such a smart woman. Nymia. I truly am proud. But I suppose you should be going now. Don’t spend to much time in the past with us. We have our own lives, and so do you. It’s nice to see you, and I’d love to see you again, but don’t miss out on the future.”
“Thank you. I’ll see you again. Bye.”
“Bye bye dearie.”
I close my eyes and think of home. I’m there within a tick of the sea. Drowning in the moving hands around me. I turn away from the room and head towards my bedroom. My Granddad seems like a nice person. Like someone I would like to spend more time with. I’ve never even thought about him before, not really. Dad never mentions him. You just don’t think about what comes before like that. How many generations of my family have there been? Countless amounts.