The Broken Pocket Watch – Chapter Twenty-One

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…

 

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Goodbye 2017

Another year has come and gone. 2018 is here and it’s time for looking back and also looking forward. A lot has changed this year. I live in my own house, which is slowly sinking in. This time last year seems more than a year ago. It’s hard to believe it was only twelve months ago that I was desperately awaiting Resident Evil 7’s arrival. It seems like this year has gone quickly, but those first couple of months seem more than just a year away.

Every year I set myself aims for the next year, and every year I fail on most of these. Doesn’t stop me from doing it all over again though. Like every year, the main aim of 2018 is to write more and read more. I didn’t fail at this completely last year, I was writing more consistently. Finished A novel, wrote half of another. There is still room for improvement though. Reading, again a mixed bag. There weren’t as many long stretches where I wasn’t reading as the year before. But I didn’t finish as many books as I would have liked. Hopefully that will change this year.

I want to get my work out there more. I have a decent amount of stories which still haven’t been seen and I want to make sure there is a consistent output. Also hopefully share my stories to more people. Maybe start uploading on different sites, or make more of an effort to publicise this site. I don’t know. It’s something I’m thinking about, but not coming up with much.

I also want to write more on here. I have a couple of ideas for posts that aren’t just updates and chapter uploads. Also maybe a few more book reviews than in the past as it’s more relevant to my passion. I think it’s important just to get as much stuff out there as possible.

Outside of writing, I have a few more aims this year. I want to get on top of my backlog of games, books and films that have piled up over the years. I’ve already started on this, but want to continue and hopefully get back to a point where I can buy new books without feeling guilty about the ones I haven’t read.

Limit the amount of time on social media. Again I’ve already started this. I deleted Facebook from my phone. I barely use twitter. I want to just use them to promote work and also speak to friends who I wouldn’t have another way of contacting. I think mostly it’s a time waster that doesn’t really achieve anything.

Another aim that I want to work towards is watching more classic films/read more classic books. Again this is something I do every year. This year I watched a lot of early films, Nosferatu and Citizen Kane. I read some of Franz Kafka.

We will see how many of these get forgotten about, probably more than I want to admit.

Thanks for reading,

AShley

 

 

 

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The Broken Pocket Watch – Chapter Twenty

I get up, and the world is still. It’s dark outside. The moon greets me as I stare out of the window. The whole house is quiet. Dad is probably asleep as well. I must have slept for hours. Maybe everything will be alright now. Standing up, I fling the quilt around. Hoping not to find a bishop flying across the room, or hidden somewhere in the bed. Nothing.

The world is normal again. I curl back up on the bed and grab my book. I fly through the pages. The story of pirates and new islands, loves lost, battles won. I forget about my world. I forget about chess. Everything is about this book.

I finish a chapter and flick the page over. Pausing for a second. The house is too quiet. There is no noise at all. Not even the ticking. I’m so used to blocking it out, that I don’t notice. I place the book, slowly, on my bed. Pausing before I move. Hoping deep down that the ticking continues and that I just completely tuned it out of my brain. That would solve pretty much everything in my life.

The ticking doesn’t return. I kick my legs of the bed, with great reluctance. My feet reach for the floor, the wood creaking as I take the first step. The wood is cool and refreshing to my bare feet. With each creak, the door gets closer. There’s not one bit of me that wants to reach the door, to admit that this whole thing is real. That the ticking has stopped, and I have to find out why.

My hand reaches out and opens the door. The ticking isn’t there. I would hear it here. I know I would. There is no need to go further, and yet I do. Going down each step one at a time. Maybe Dad has stopped all the clocks. Maybe he’s admitted that it’s annoyed him as much as it does me and stopped them all. Maybe tomorrow we will move to the City with my uncle and live there forever and forget that we left the pocket watch here and never think of it again and then maybe if we do we won’t come back for it and we will be happy and never have to think about the ticking or chess because we don’t like chess not really and maybe the world will be a better place and we can help and maybe I’ll never reach the bottom of these stairs and this will never be a problem and I’ll wake up in bed and nothing will be different at all.

I reach the bottom and take a deep breath, knowing what’s on the other side of the door. Slowly my hand opens the door. Inside the clocks have not only stopped ticking, they’ve also all been broken. Each face has been smashed, the arms snapped, some ripped off the wall completely. Were we robbed? No. No one would do this to us. Would they. Did they blame us for Tobi’s death. Why would people do this. The windows are smashed as well, the glass scattered around on the floor creating a maze of safety. I can’t believe it. Someone did this to us. How can we be blamed for that. I don’t understand.

“Dad,” I shout. “You need to see this. Dad. Come down now.”

He doesn’t hear me, and I don’t want to shout louder. Leaving the door open I take two steps at a time and throw myself at Dad’s door. He shoots up in bed.

“Nymia, what’s going on.”

“Dad, we’ve been robbed. Someone has destroyed the shop.”

“What?” he says, while sweeping the quilt off him and standing up in the same movement.

He doesn’t say another word, and I don’t need to. He takes lead and I follow him down the stairs. He reaches to open the door at the bottom and swings it open. The ticking greets us, and inside the shop looks the same as it always does.

“This all looks normal,” Dad says. “Maybe you were just having a bad dream. Come on, lets go back to bed.”

I let him pass me on the stairs and continue staring at the shop. Everything looks the same, nothing is different at all. I walk out, and lean on the counter. Everything is perfect, as it always is. Nothing has changed at all.

What is happening to me?

Nothing in the shop has changed. I inspect every corner, hoping to find something that’s different. Something that has changed. Just something to prove I’m not going insane. But I’m not going to suddenly find the shop in tatters. The windows can’t just fix themselves.

In the middle of the small, cluttered shop floor, I find it. The bishop. I pick it up and rub my fingers over it, rotating it in my palm. It feels so real, but I know it can’t be.

“Aren’t you going to go to bed?” Dad asks.

I didn’t even realise he was standing in the doorway. I look over at him, still rotating the piece.

“Soon. Do we have a chess set?”

“A chess set? Why would you want to know that at this time? No we don’t.”

“Did we have one?”

“Your Mum did. But I got rid of it. I donated it to the school actually.”

“I’ve never seen it there.”

“Sounds about right, but come on now. Get to bed. It’s late and you need sleep.”

I think about showing him the piece. But I don’t want confirmation that I’m going completely insane. That the world around me is falling apart.

“Okay,” I say.

I follow him up the stairs and go to my room. Collapsing on the bed, I create a fist around the bishop. Even though I need to figure out if I’m insane, I fall asleep. I feel my body slump into dreamland. I couldn’t move if I wanted too.

When I wake, the first thing I do is check my hand. It’s still there. The bishop. Maybe I’m not insane, maybe someone dropped it earlier, maybe that’s why I’m focusing on it so much. I picked it up and can’t get it out of my drowsy head that I have little control of. That isn’t much solace though.

I stand up and stretch, keeping hold of the bishop at all times.

“Sorry, I didn’t realise you were in here.”

I turn to find my Mum walking into the room.

“What are you doing here?” she asks. “Were you asleep?”

“I think I fell asleep yeah, it’s been a long couple of days.”

I don’t want to worry her, even if I’m not convinced this is real.

I blink and she’s gone. The bishops gone, and I don’t know what to do. I want to hope that everything is back to normal, but I know that isn’t going to happen.

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My Top Five Games of 2017

As the end of the year approaches I’m looking back at what I’ve experienced this year. How my life’s changed. I live in my own house now, which I still don’t really believe. I’ve been writing more and more. Seen some great concerts. Lived through more superhero movies than I wanted to. My job is the same, but still all in all it’s been a good year.

As December rattles on towards its end, I wanted to write some posts summing up my year. Starting with my top five favourite games of 2017.

 

5 – The Evil Within 2

This was a big shock. I enjoyed the first game. It felt like a nice nod towards Resident Evil 4, and I liked it. I wouldn’t say it was spectacular but worth a look at. I wasn’t expecting a sequel. But here we are, and it blew me away. An open world horror game is pure genius. I absolutely loved it. This beats the first game by a mile and a half and I can’t recommend it enough. The first hour feels like more of the first game, which I was expecting and wouldn’t have complained about. Then the game opens up. Side quests, collectables. Hidden stories. So much to find.

There is an optional bit in the game where you can read a diary in a woman’s house. She writes that she is being haunted by something, and once you read it you also become haunted. You don’t have to read it. But for the rest of the game you are haunted by a ghost who will lock you in rooms, transport you into another realm and make your life hell. It’s completely optional. I only read the diary because I like getting all collectables, but this one has consequences. Stuff like this feels original, and changes the way I approached any other collectable in the game.

 

4 – Super Mario Odyssey

Way back in January when Nintendo went and officially announced Super Mario Odyssey at their Nintendo Switch reveal event, I knew I was going to love it. I love all the Mario games (Apart from the soulless Mario Bros Wii U). It feels like Mario 64 and Sunshine with a side of Galaxy. A love letter to every game that came before while also adding more than enough new things to make it stand by itself. A seriously good game, that I wish was higher on this list. One of the funnest games I’ve played in a long long time. I’m at about 600 moons, and counting. I’m going to get them all.

The only reason it isn’t higher in the list, is the mini-games. Jump-rope, volley ball and all of those races. They are so insanely difficult to get the second moons on. Not so much the races, which I just hate in general. They are doable. The nightmare begins with jump-rope. jumping 100 times seems easy enough, until you add a jump-rope. They aren’t essential, which is good. But a stupid annoying anger-inducing waste of time on the way to 100%

 

3 – The Legend of Zelda – Breath of the Wild

What a masterpiece this game is. I completely understand why it’s been voted Game of the Year. A launch title for the almighty Nintendo Switch, and what a way to start a system’s life. A game that had so much hype, I honestly know 2 people who took time off work to play it.

You don’t get more open world that this. After a mini tutorial-ish beginning which teaches you how the open world works, you are set free and everything is possible. There isn’t much I can say about this that hasn’t been said before.

The only reason this isn’t higher, for me, is because once I beat the main game (40 hours), I didn’t feel the need to continue. My girlfriend however, has over 220 hours on her file.

2 – Resident Evil 7

This is the game I was looking forward to most this year. When it was announced at E3 last year, I went into hype mode. I was a little concerned that it was a PT clone, but when I finally got to play the game I was reassured. A seriously good horror game, that is actually scary for the most part. The ending gets a little weak, but those opening 3/4 hours are spectacular. Finally a return to form for the long and disapointing series.

I actually did a full review of this game when it first came out, you can find that HERE 

 

1 – Nier Automata

I don’t even know how to describe how much I love this game. I bought it on a whim and now it’s in my top 3 of all time. I’d seen a few trailers and thought it would be an enjoyable hack n slash game. When the first level is a shoot em up, I knew this was going to be something different. The music, the game play, the plot, tone, characters. Everything perfect.

Once I’d finished the game, I wanted more. I read online, that the game continues after the credits, and that’s why this game takes the top place. I was happy with what I played. It was a decent length and enjoyable. Then in continues and everything I thought I’d know about the plot changed. I don’t want to spoil anything but the twists that come along took me by surprise and really hooked me. By the time I got to the actual ending of the game, I’d experienced something that felt important. Anybody who doesn’t think games can be considered art, will change their minds after playing this.

 

Biggest disappointment of 2017

Kingdom Hearts 2.8

I already knew 3D: Dream Drop Distance was a bad game, and had no plans to re-buy any remaster. But throwing it together with a 0.2 A Fragmentary Passage as a prologue of such to KH3 made me buy it. 0.2 was a waste of an hour. Nothing of substance and ultimately pointless and I felt ripped off. I started 3D again, maybe it’s not as bad as I remember. No it’s worse. I only remembered being annoyed with the stupid switching characters mechanic. I didn’t remember the equally annoying pet simulator they threw in there as well. At this point I’m not sure whether to be excited for KH3 or not.

Thanks for reading,

Ashley

Games I feel like I’ve missed.

Cuphead
Persona 5 – I’ve started it, just haven’t played it enough to count as played it.
Splatoon 2
Yakuza Kiwami
YS VIII

 

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The Broken Pocket Watch – Chapter Nineteen

I take my first steps back home, hands in pockets clutching the watch. Squeezing it so tightly that my palms hurt. Why did Dad give me this. He didn’t want me to use it. He told me not to. I did anyway. Why didn’t he just keep it. I would never have known. Who would have told me. It couldn’t be just so I’d see Mum again. It’s too risky. Look at what I’ve messed up now. Tobi’s dad is going to die. And I helped cause it. Maybe that’s what actually happened. I don’t remember that smiley face in my room not being there. Maybe there wasn’t a change at all, and it’d always been there. What’s happened has happened no matter who goes back and changes whatever. I wanted it to be proof, so I believed it. Maybe Salime would have sobered up in that bin, and then gone back to the village. That would have made sense. Instead, I awoke him and he’s going to die.

Before I realise it, I’m back at the outskirts of the City, that pristine wall standing ahead of me, casting its shadow down on me. The darkness is welcoming. I can’t even remember what day I’m on. I skipped around so much. I think it’s Saturday. I should be fine getting through the gate, and then go back to my Saturday. No I’m on Friday. That has to be the day. I feel sick. I hate this feeling. Everything is wrong.

I don’t remember walking through the gate, but here I am outside my house. What day is it? I wish I could remember where I was jumping to and from. If I just think back to waking up. It feels like months ago now. How long has it been? Four hours? That’s nothing. It feels so much longer. Why have I done this. It isn’t natural. I feel so sick. I’m going to throw up.

I close my eyes and steady myself. I’m not going to be sick until I know I’m in my own time. A phrase everyone has to tell themselves from time to time. It’s just part of growing up. Focus. It’s not the time. I pull the watch out and think about waking up. That glowing hopeful feeling hadn’t been squashed yet. That should be enough, I’m sure of it. I open my eyes and everything looks the same. The empty village street is no different, but that means literally nothing. I have never seen it look any different.

I fall on the front door as I walk in, the ticking spins around me. I hate it so much. Dad’s behind the counter, tinkering away. He looks up at me and our eyes lock. He knows what’s happened and comes around to steady me.

“Are you okay? You’ve been going back too much. Leave it for a few weeks. Your mum will still be there. She doesn’t need to see you like this.”

“I’m fine,” I say while trying to push him back.

I’m not angry with him, it’s more aimed at me. He’s so optimistic about where I’ve been. I can’t tell him though. I hate myself enough, without adding his hate on top. Especially with the unknown damage I’ve done to Salime.

“Hey, what’s up? Sit down. I know something’s wrong. Come and sit down here. Lean on me. There, now tell me. What’s going on. Don’t just sit there. Please. I thought you knew what would happen if you go back to much so quickly. You’ve been getting better at balancing it, what’s happened?”

“Nothing. I swear. I’m just tired. Let me get some sleep. I’ll feel better in the morning.”

“Morning? It’s barely the afternoon. What’s happened?”

“I just went back and forth too much. Like you said, I need to get better at it. I’ll get used to it eventually. Let me get some sleep.”

“Fine, but give me the watch. I thought you were ready, but you’re not.”

“No, I’ll stop using it. I promise. I don’t want to feel like this again.”

“Give it here, it’s not like I’m trying to hurt you. I’ll give it back when you’re feeling better.”

“You won’t. Leave it with me. I know what I’m doing. I’m not a child anymore. I’m more than that. You would know that if you looked away from your clocks for five minutes.”

“Don’t speak to me like that, you know that’s not true. I’ve done everything for you. I provide for you. I didn’t want to give you that watch, but I knew you needed your mother. I wanted to throw it away. It’s a curse. But that’s our family. Cursed by time. Never enough of it, is there. Don’t get angry with me because I wanted you to see your Mother.”

“Just to get rid of me, have her do your job.”

“What is your problem all of a sudden.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I don’t actually feel like that’s good enough. Why are you talking to me like that? It’s not like you.”

“I’m just feeling like crap. I shouldn’t have gone back so many times. I want to go to sleep.”

“Give me the watch, that’s not a question.”

“Here.”

“Now, go and get some sleep. I need to talk to you in the morning. You’re not getting away with this that easily. You don’t get to speak to me like that, whatever your reason. I’ll talk to you in the morning.”

I don’t remember what happens next. Nothing maybe. Maybe the world really does dissolve around me, like it just did. Or maybe it won’t. I’m not sure. I saw it happen though. Dad lead me to the door and it crumbled away in my hand. My dad starts to speak and his words echoed through my body. Asked if I’m okay. I try to respond, but something stopped me. He walks towards me, I remember that much. I’m aware of that. He puts one arm around me and held me up. The world fades.

I’m falling, into nothing. I’m not sure if I’m even falling. Fleeting images spin around me in this vortex. I feel sick if I keep my eyes open, but I can’t shut them. My stomach seems to be moving, readying itself for something. Lurching around inside me, I try to curl up. My hands cover my stomach. I cry out in pain. No one hears me. The world spins. I clench my eyes. I gag. And then I nothing. I’m asleep I think. But I can’t be. I’m not normally this aware in dreams. Calmness floods me.

My room is dark. The moonlight seeps in, and creeps over me as my eyes slowly open. I have no control, but at least I know I’m here. I’m not dreaming. The heavy feeling is telling me so. I feel the weight of my entire body, my eye lids, my arms. I don’t want to move, which is a good thing since I can’t. The ceiling looks the same as always and the faint ticking of clocks is welcoming. The world around me is real. I wish I could jump up and celebrate but I just can’t be bothered. As bad as that sounds.

Laughter takes over. I was beginning to think I was never going to regain control. I can’t remember feeling like me for such a long time. I turn on the bed and laugh more. I’m crying. It feels so good. The quilt is so real, the sheets feel so good. I can’t believe I’m real again.

It’s been a weird couple of days. I’m not even sure what day it is. I’m assuming Sunday, but who knows. I’ve probably missed a month and don’t remember any of it. I don’t care, it feels so good to be in control again. Those nightmares have stopped.

The silver glare of the moon shows me my bare room. The dim light makes me squint, taking everything, just to make sure it’s all real. Slowly, I bring my body to sit up. It takes forever. I can’t believe how tired my body is, yet I’m so awake. Mind rushing around me, spinning. I take one heavy foot and thump it on the ground. The rest of my body follows. The floorboards creak heavily with every step. My hand lurches onto the door handle and swings the door open. I fall down the stairs, one step at a time. The ticking getting slowly louder. Dad better be in the kitchen, I can’t open that door right now. I know he’s going to want to see me. Maybe a week a has passed and he’s done being angry. I’m not that lucky though.

I throw the kitchen door open and walk in. Dad is sitting at the table, drinking some of his home-made coffee. Hot water, essentially. He looks up from his newspaper and looks at me. It’s the village newspaper, published once a month by volunteers. It’s given for free, and supported pretty much solely by my Dad.

“Good morning, sit down.”

I swallow nothing and sit down. My whole body shaking. I fidget around with the ends of my sleeves while trying not to look away from my Dad’s eyes. That always makes things worse.

“I know we have things to talk about,” he starts. “But other things have happened. I need to tell you something. Salime. He killed Tobi and his wife.”

“What?”

“Apparently ever since he’s been back from the City he has been violent towards them. He had that drunken weekend last week. He snapped last night and killed them.”

“No. No.”

“I’m sorry, I needed to tell you.”

“No, this is my fault.”

I can’t stop the tears, and look down at my lap. My hands won’t stop shaking. Please, stop.

“What’s happened? Nymia? What are you talking about.”

“I’m sorry.”

“What?”

“I should have listened.”

“What did you do?”

“I went back and tried to change things. It made things worse. I’m sorry. I didn’t think I changed anything, but I killed them.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I killed them.”

“What did you do? What did you change?”

“I went back. Because. Something was going to happen. Wasn’t it? Something was going to happen. What was it?”

“You don’t remember? Are you sure you didn’t dream it?”

“I did it. I swear. I went back and changed something. I just don’t remember why. I know I did it though. I remember doing it. I think. Why did I do it?”

The tears dried up, and I regained control. I almost start laughing. Maybe I had dreamt it. It had been a long couple of days. Or maybe more.

“Start from the beginning. Nymia. Tell me what happened.”

“I don’t remember. I went back. To the city and I saw Mum, she figured out who I was. Told me about the time you went to see that band, I can’t remember their name.”

“The Ferrets. They were big in the City. She got into them at University. We don’t have records in the village. You would love them.”

“I remember that, and then I came home. I don’t remember much else.”

“Come here,” he said, while standing up and walking around the table. “I’m sure you didn’t do anything. You would listen to me. It’s just a bad dream. People don’t get murdered around here, it’s just a shock.”

“Maybe,” I whisper, quietly enough so Dad can’t hear me.

He lets me go, and I sit there still. He can’t stop moving though, as if he took the panic from me.

“Do you want anything to eat?”

“I’m okay, thanks.”

“Really? You’re not okay if you’re not eating. That’s you all over. Let me go out and grab us some cheese toasties from the cafe. I’ll show them how to make them.”

“Sure, thanks.”

Dad leaves, his coffee half-finished. Did I really change anything? I remember being in the alley. That was real. I’m sure of it. But what did I change? I can’t remember why I was there. It’s faded from memory. I can’t believe it. And Tobi. He was such a sweet one. I can’t believe he’s gone. I hope Salime gets the same. I don’t know what the punishment for murder is in the village. In the city it’s death. I’ve heard about that from time to time, but it never happens out here. He’s not okay, he’s never going to be okay again, I can’t believe it. Tobi is gone. He’s never coming back. I never even spoke to him, that much. He’s gone though. Never coming back.

I changed it I’m sure. Something changed, whether I remember it or not. I have to believe it. Something changed. I know that much. I caused their death, in a way. I’m not sad though, the alternative must have been worse. But that means I can change things.

I leave the kitchen and go back to my room. The smiling face is sitting their etched into the wall. I run my fingers along the groove, as I have done since I was a child. This is something I did. I changed it and gave myself the memories of changing something. I know that much. I wasn’t sure before, but I know now. I know I changed something with Salime, even if I don’t remember what. Memory is so hazy.

I sit on the bed and sigh. I wish I knew what was going on. Everything is so fuzzy and hazy. I can’t keep track of what’s going on. It’s infuriating. I should have just listened to Dad and not changed a thing. It would have made everything so much simpler.

Mum walks into the room. She sits next to me. Puts her arm around me.

“How you doing sweetie? I heard about Tobi. It’s not your fault.”

“I don’t know. I did something.”

“Maybe. But you didn’t kill him. You didn’t stab him. Did you?”
“I don’t know how he died.”

She disappears. I don’t feel anything. Did that just happen. Or did I go back and see her again. If only for a moment.

I don’t have the watch. Dad has it. I must have just dreamt that. I must have nodded off for a second. It has to be that. Would Dad have left the watch in the house? No I’m sure of it. He would have taken it with him. Kept it in his pocket or something.

I stand up and scan over the bed. It’s definitely not there. What happened there then? I must have just fallen asleep, must have done. Nothing more. Can’t have been. I don’t feel like I’ve slept, but I definitely must have.

I sit back down on the bed, feeling something hard under my leg. I shift and reach for whatever it is. A bishop chess piece. How did this get here? They move diagonally, my mum’s voice echoes inside me.

I place the bishop in my pocket, and leave the room. Dad should be home soon. Pacing around the kitchen, holding the bishop as if it’s the pocket watch. Why isn’t he home. He should be by now. It doesn’t take that long to get cheese toasties, does it? Is he going for a different reason. He’s going to get the police from the City isn’t he? He believes I killed Tobi.

No that’s stupid. He wouldn’t do that, what would he tell them? None of it would make any sense, would it.

What happened to Salime. Did he kill himself, or is he in custody. The newspaper is still sitting on the table, where Dad left it. I go over and pick it up. The story on the front has nothing to do with Tobi. Even though it’s a village newspaper. Something’s not right here. Was Dad lying to me? Does he know what I was doing. Is this his attempt at punishment.

I throw the newspaper at the wall and push myself out of the kitchen. Up the stairs and into Dad’s room. I don’t go in here, even if he’s here. It’s an unwritten rule, give him his space. I throw the quilt off the bed, empty his clothes chest. Nothing. No watch.

I go through the cabinet draws in the shop. Nothing. Just his tools, nothing out of the ordinary. Maybe he hid it behind the clocks. I can’t throw them on the floor though, and it would take forever to check them carefully. I look outside the window, into the still dark night. The stars, hung above the neighbouring houses, each one of them shining down on us.

Wasn’t it morning a minute ago? I leave the shop and head towards the cafe. That’s where Dad should be. There’s no one on the street. The whole world is quiet and perfect. My heavy footsteps rip through the silence as I rush through the streets.

I burst in through the door.

“Sorry, love. We’re just closing.”

“What about my Dad he said he was getting food?”

“I haven’t seen him for a while, you came in with him a few weeks back. He hasn’t been in since then. Sorry love. Maybe he got distracted on the way. I can make something for you two though. He’s always so nice.”

“That’s alright, thanks. I just need to find him.”

I don’t wait for an answer, I just leave. The streets are even emptier, somehow. The air isn’t moving. Have I frozen time? How could I have done that. I curl my hands into fists and start smacking my legs as I turn the next corner. The shop, my home is in front of me. I slam the door open. No one is inside. I walk straight through to our kitchen. Nothing. The newspaper isn’t on the floor, where I left it, or on the table.

I take the steps two at a time, and reach Dad’s room. Inside, everything is back in place. Mum is folding clothes to put in the chest, which doesn’t have any of the scratches on it that I’ve come to know so well.

“Nymia,” she says. “I wasn’t expecting you.”

“Hello,” I say, stiffling my shock.

“Come here, give me a hug. Are you back for another game of chess? I beat you last time, but you’re getting better.”

“Sure. That sounds nice.”

“Let me put these cloths away. Be quiet though, your Dad is downstairs. Working on those clocks. God knows how he can put so much effort into it. I could watch him do it all day.”

“I couldn’t. I hate that sound. Tick, tick tick tick.”

She smiles.

“This was a wedding present, from my parents. Isn’t it nice. I can’t believe they got us one. It’s the nicest thing we own.”

“It is pretty nice.”

“I’m sorry. I know that must sound so boring. I just miss them sometimes, this makes me feel closer. There. Grab the board out, and we’ll have a quick game. I think I’m starting to get used to seeing you so often.”

I pull the board out from under the bed, I’ve played with her before, I think. I know I have. The bishop is still in my pocket, I can feel it as I sit down cross-legged opposite my Mum. I stare at her, knowing this can’t be real. She takes out the bag with all the pieces inside, she pours them out and starts arranging them on the board. All of them, but the white bishop.

“Where has that gone?” she asks.

“I think I have it.”

“Why is it in your pocket,” she says with a chuckle.

“I don’t know, maybe I took it back with me.”

“You couldn’t have done, we played earlier with it. We had it then. Even if you took it from another time. One of those things?”

“Maybe.”

“Anyway, you move first.”

I go to make my move. Middle pawn forward as always. But I can’t move it. It’s stuck to the board, as if it’s been nailed down. Even though I just saw them tumbling on the board. I can’t move it at all.

“What’s going on,” I ask.

Mum’s gone. I hadn’t noticed while I was looking down. She’s just disappeared. I’m sitting in Dad’s room, a complete mess, with the bishop sat in front of me. What’s going on. I can’t stand it. I curl up and start screaming. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it. Stop it.

This is real. It has to be. The bishop has gone. I’m real. The world is real. The room is a complete mess. I jump up and throw the quilt back on the bed, as neat as possible and straighten up the rest of the room. I then dart downstairs and fling the newspaper back onto the table.

Dad enters a minute later and hands me a bag. I can feel the warmth through the creased paper. It’s a cheese toastie. I can smell the singed melting delight inside.

“Thanks,”

“No problem. Now sit down, we need to have a word.”

I sit at the table, and take the toastie out of the bag. Dad does the same. We both take a bite, our faces churn in delight.

“What were you going on about earlier?” Dad asks, while still chewing.

“I don’t know. Honestly. I was just tired. It really took it out of me yesterday.”

I wasn’t lying. I truly remember nothing, about why I went back, if I went back or what had actually happened.

“Salime, he killled his family. He’s in the city now, locked away awaiting trial. He will probably be executed. No one really cares outside of this village, even the other villages don’t seem to care. I know this must be difficult, but that’s just one of those things that happen in life. It isn’t fair, and bad things happen. But you need to be a good person. I know you are. I just need to make sure you’re okay.”

“I am. At least, I think, I am. I’m just tired.”

I look down at the toastie, it doesn’t feel warm any more. Not even remotely. The bread doesn’t even look slightly toasted. I peel back the near frozen bread slices and the bishop falls out into my lap. I look up at Dad who is still munching away, without a care in the world. He doesn’t even seem to notice me.

“This is the good stuff,” he says.

“Mine’s not right.”

“Really? Looks fine from here. Just eat it. You’re probably not used to something so great.”

“No seriously, look.”

“I’m looking at it. Nothing wrong with that. Eat it while it’s still warm.”

I don’t answer him again, he doesn’t understand. He can’t see it. My mind is broken. I’m ill. That watch has done something to me. I don’t know what, but it’s destroying my mind.

The toastie looks like a toastie again. I take another bite, and everything tastes good, exactly as it should.

After I finish eating, I go back upstairs. I don’t say anything. I just get up and leave. I know if I do say anything, to anyone something will happen. Something will change. The chess pieces will come back. I don’t know why. I’ve only played it with her once. Why is that the thing that’s coming back to me. What about anything else. Why the chess pieces. Tears well up in my face, I’m too tired for this.

I fall on the bed, and try to sleep. I feel like I could sleep forever. It’s still morning isn’t it? I don’t know any more. The world is spinning, I just can’t telling which way and how fast.

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