Dad’s already made an egg sandwich for breakfast. I ignore the blue spots and take a bite.
“You feeling any better this morning?” he asks.
“Yeah, I think so.”
“Good. Salime was executed last night. There wasn’t much of a chance of anything else, to be honest.”
“Good. He deserves it.”
“Cold. I don’t expect that from you.”
“I can’t stop thinking about Tobi. He was such a nice kid. I want to go back and do something, stop it. But I know it doesn’t work that way.”
“I know you want to, so do I. But that’s not the way the world works. I’ve taken the pocket watch from you, but I think you can have it back. I’ll keep it a couple more days, just until you’re feeling fully yourself. But I trust you.”
“Thanks,” I say while looking down.
I can’t meet his eye. I don’t even want to eat any more. I don’t know what I’ve done, but I’ve changed something. Maybe he doesn’t know it, but I have. I know it.
“Are you going back to school today?”
“Is it Monday?”
“Tuesday, you didn’t go yesterday.”
“I can’t keep track of the time.”
“You’ve been asleep through most of it.”
“Yeah, I’ll be going today.”
“Good. Don’t fall behind, you need to get into that scholarship.”
I finish eating and head out for school, with plenty of time to spare. The streets are all empty, no one walking around. The sun is high above me, casting shadows on the streets around me. Looking up the sky is clear, blue skies in every direction. But down here, the wall and the houses block it out. The mud is still slightly damp from the last time it rained, whenever that was. No grass or flowers grow around us at all. It’s all just plain mud, with little patches of dead grass.
A cloud passes overhead and darkens my walk even further. I know every turn so well. No one is around. I look up, it’s not a cloud. It’s already grown darker. The world is near enough pitch black. What’s going on. Why won’t this stop.
Rain starts hammering down on me. The lamps have been lit. It’s night-time. I turn around and try to head back home. I don’t know where I am. The village looks different. I don’t recognise any of the buildings around me, even though I know these streets like the inside of my bedroom.
I wander around, looking for anything I recognise. Everything seems twisted. There’s the cafe, but it’s not next to Bradford’s house. The school, it’s on the edge of town, nowhere near its usual place. My mind is completely broken.
The rain stops as I reach Tobi’s house. It’s got to be this house, doesn’t it. It couldn’t have been mine. It has to be this one. I stop moving and stare at the entrance. The door swings open, there’s no one inside and no wind blowing. Great. Not only am I insane, I’ve entered a ghost story.
I walk to the doorway. I’ve never been in Tobi’s house before. It’s small. The area in front of me is bare, apart from the fire place. A pot boiling. The smell of boiling potatoes greets me. I haven’t smelt that in ages. On the floor, are two bodies. I was almost expecting them, so I’m not surprised at all. I don’t even need to look at them to know who they are. It looks as if it’s been raining in here as well as out there. The pools of blood have faded and joined with the rain, covering the whole floor. It’s dark, I can barely make out the bodies.
I walk towards them and the whole world brightens up around me. The sun starts to shine through the doorway. I turn and check, wincing as my eyes hit the sun. The bodies have disappeared. The floorboards have seeped the rain away. My rags still weigh me down, drenched and clinging to me. The house is empty.
I leave, the village looks normal again. Even my clothes feel dry. I start heading to school. That’s got to be where I go, right? Even though I can’t handle this any more. I wish I’d never seen that pocket watch. When I get home I’m going to take it and smash it. I’m going to destroy it and never be able to use it again. Dad won’t mind. I’m sure he won’t. Then this will all stop. I’ll live a normal life. I’ll get that scholarship and go and live in the City with my Uncle, together we’ll change the world for the better. That’s what I’m going to do. There is nothing stopping me, apart from that watch.
I don’t remember if I attended school, or if my mind has skipped again, either way I’m heading home. Everything blurs together. One moment I’m walking towards school, and the sun is high in the sky. The next moment, the winter moon is shining down on me as I turn the last corner home. It doesn’t matter. I’ll go home and destroy that watch. It’ll make everything normal again, and then I’ll focus on school.
Dads working, like he’d be doing anything else, when I get home.
“Evening, honey. Bit late aren’t you?”
“Sorry, wasn’t keeping track of time.”
“No problem, I didn’t think you’d be getting into trouble.”
“I’m boring, I was definitely not getting into trouble.”
“Boring, is one thing you’re not,” he says while looking up at me.
I walk around the counter and hug him. I won’t ask him right away, about the watch. I’ll leave it until later and sort it then. I don’t want this moment to end. He reaches his arms around me and holds me back. This is what I want. Even though I miss Mum, it isn’t worth forgetting this. All of those things I could do, changing the world with that watch, it would never work. This is what I would be giving up, and no one would ever see a difference.
I let go and head upstairs. Maybe I don’t need to ask for the watch, he can keep it. I’ll never be tempted to use it again and I won’t have to destroy it. That would be brilliant.
The door to my bedroom is already open. I just want to throw on some fresh clothes, lay down and read until dinner is ready. But it’s sitting there. Right there on my bed side table. Just laying there waiting for me, almost staring at me. The pocket watch. I can’t believe he gave it back to me, and today of all days. Couldn’t he have just kept it. Now I have to touch it. I have to pick it up and hold it. Maybe I can resist using it, and just keep it next to me. Maybe I can do that.
It’s cold to touch. The metal casing is smooth. I run my fingers along the engravings on the back. The swirling patterns. I can’t believe I’m holding it again. Looking up, I see specks of white out of the window. Is it snowing? Again? Twice in one winter. It’s cold out, but this is weird. I’ve never seen it snow before this year, and now again. I suppose that’s to be expected.
I head downstairs to find Dad. He’s not in the shop, or the kitchen. Maybe he’s gone out, can’t believe the snow either. I pull the door open and let the fresh blast of icy wind hit my face. I don’t remember it being this cold. I can see my breath forming in front of me. Dad isn’t there. I take a step out into the cascading glistening sky. Stretching my arms I twirl around, letting as many flakes as possible fall on me.
I didn’t get to do this last time, take that first step into the crunching depth. It feels so satisfying. I’m glad no one else has come out yet, I walk to the end of the street, and then turn and walk along side my own footsteps. I can see them, parting the snow. And then they’re filled in by more of the falling joy. I can’t stop smiling. The world is so beautiful.
I walk back to the end of the street and then turn and walk away from the shop, my head down focusing on the crunching snow. I turn, but the footprints aren’t being filled in, not even slightly. Has the snow already stopped? It was so heavy a minute ago. I look up from the ground, it’s static in the air. Just like before, but this time I understand. Have I stopped time? No, I didn’t mean too. I left it in my pocket didn’t I. I don’t like this. My feet start without me thinking, heading back to the shop. But I stop at the corner. There I am. On the roof with Dad. He’s holding me, both of us staring forward. He’s talking, but I can’t hear what he’s saying. I know though, I remember. He’s telling me about the watch. He’s telling me the story. I could stop it right now.
I would never have to deal with this, if I told him not to give it to me. I could go back, just a couple of hours more and tell him to let me run in the snow, but never tell me. I could stop my brain from melting. That would solve everything. I wouldn’t meet my Uncle, or Grandparents. Or Mum. That would be worth it wouldn’t it. Not to be haunted by this, not meeting them? I can’t do it. I have to deal with this now, rather than stopping it from ever happening.
I don’t move from my spot, hoping they won’t see me. The snow starts slowly drifting down on us again, the crooked chimneys are sprouting out from their white fields. I never want to forget this moment, it’s worth everything else. Everything will be alright. I’ll stop using the watch and everything will go back to normal. I don’t need to destroy it. I’m stronger than that. I’m not going to move, I’m going to stand here and watch every snowflake touch the floor, I’m going to watch myself fall asleep in my Dad’s arms. He’ll carry me down the ladder and take me to bed. And this will all start over for me. But I’ll stay here a moment longer, before heading back. If my brain lets me. Maybe I’m not even moving through time right now, just through my own mind. Who knows. I’m enjoying the snow though. Shifting slightly to enjoy the crunch.
To Be Concluded…