Memories, like produce, have a certain shelf life. They’re clearest when fresh. Time blurs them with a generous spread of sepia toned patina.
I press the rock firmly in my palm. My hand tingles as raw energy flows from my head through my veins and into the stone. The lifeless gray rock glows like a mineral in the dark. My work here is done. It’s time to leave. I look around for it, but I don’t see it. I almost never see it at first sight.
“Look with your eyes, Kai,” my father whispers to me from the ether. A gush of cold air makes the hair on my neck stand up and take notice of his spirit. He’s the only one who called me Kai.
In my mind, he’s at the rosewood desk by the window with random clock parts spread over it. It was his workplace, his temple. “Papa, I can’t find my toy,” the five year old me would whine to get his attention.
“Papa, look at me. I can’t find my toy.”
He would turn towards me, his dark hair disheveled like a mad scientist. With a black magnifying eyeglass sitting snug on his left eye, he looked like an android. “Look with your eyes, Kai, you’ll see it.”
I’d ask him for a snack only to make him come away from repairing his clocks and spend time with me. He always left his work for me. His bony hands would prop me up on the black marble counter while he made me a sandwich, cutting the crusts off with the precision of a scientist.
“Tell me the wormhole story, Papa.” I’d ask while my dangling legs made rhythmic thuds against the wooden kitchen cupboard.
“You’ve heard it a million times, Kai.” He would laugh. “Aren’t you bored?”
“No, Just one more time, please!” I knew it was his favorite story too.
He would start the story the same way every time. “It was late one evening when my Grandma Lily was servicing the old Shepherd Gate Clock.” Goosebumps inevitably formed on my skin every time the story began.
My great grandmother Lily was a horologist at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. With the setting sun,the throng of tourists had made their way to their night halts. She loved that time of the day, when the observatory quieted down after a busy day. It was the perfect time to give the old Shepherd Gate Clock a once over.
The clock’s complex gear system and 24-hour dial never failed to amaze her. She opened the clock face. Everything looked good, except for a black spot between the solenoids. Was it a speck of dirt? She tried to wipe it away with a rag. But it moved away! It was alive. She had never seen anything like it before.
It was three-dimensional, its surface glistened like an amoeboid blob of black ink freshly out of a dropper. There seemed to be a light coming from its insides.
She gingerly placed her finger over it and then it happened. Her entire body vibrated. Her head was spinning. There were pixels everywhere, moving in full speed in the opposite direction. She felt like she was in a tunnel of some sort.
She was abruptly dropped in the midst of a large cheering crowd standing outside the Buckingham Palace. The crowd roared when two figures appeared in the balcony. She couldn’t believe her eyes. It was Prince Charles and Princess Diana! How was this happening?
Confused and disoriented, she looked around when she saw the dancing ink blob again. This time on a tree. It brought her back home. She found a blob in every clock from then on because she was looking, with her eyes.
Why can’t I see it? Every additional minute I spend here is dangerous. I’m still looking around when he sees me. The guard. Irene and Jacob’s cupid. “Fraulein!”, he calls out. I pretend not to hear him and start walking at an unsuspicious pace. My eyes are nervously scanning the place for the wormhole. He’s getting nearer.
“Show me, Papa”, I whisper in desperation. I see it then, a bright black blob, in a pole where the barbed wire loops through it.
I break into a run. He makes a grab for me, but the wormhole sucks me in right in time.
I fall out of the clock and into the familiar darkness of the basement of Madame Ripple’s Timepieces. The timepiece I made for Eliza is still in my hand. I take a few moments to calm my frayed nerves. I’ve never been happier to come home. I close my eyes and breathe in the familiar musty scent of antique clocks around me.
A loud thud makes me turn around in fright.
A man in a grey-green uniform is on his knees on the floor. His head is bent down and he’s breathing in deep swigs of air, like he’s drowning.
His peaked hat is lopsided, but still hanging on to his blonde head. A sinking feeling takes over me. Two thunderbolts on his collar patch, signifying the SchutzStaffel punch me in the gut. I’ve just made the biggest mistake in time travel.