The Watch

in fiction •  3 months ago


artwork by @azbeen

The Watch

by @therosepatch

“When will you be home? Jamie wants to show you his report card. He’s really excited about it.”

Holding the cell phone to his ear with one hand, Andrew spun the steering wheel with the other, pulling into the parking spot. “I’ve just got this last stop to make, then I’ll be home.”

“The watch place?”

“Yeah.” He put the car in park and looked through the windshield. Rain splattered against the glass and the wipers worked double-time, but he could still make out the name of the store. “Everlasting Watches and Clocks.” He looked down at the picture on the business card again: a purple cat wearing a watch for a collar, with a strange-looking man on his back. The man had reddish-brown curly hair, and wore a green sweater. A thin purple hat sat on the top of his head with a four-leaf clover stuck in it. In his hand he carried a watch much like the one the cat wore. It looked like something you would see in a child’s cartoon. Not a business card.

Dishes clinked in the background as Amy prepared dinner. “I think you should just throw that watch away and get one that works.”

He moved the phone to his other ear and pulled the watch out of his shirt pocket. It had arrived in the mail unexpectedly a few days ago, the business card along with it. It looked similar to the watches in the drawing. Simple, with a standard face. Nothing too special or flashy about it. Except it didn’t work. Not a single tick or tock. There wasn’t even a way to take it apart to replace the battery. “I don’t know, there seems something different about this watch.” He slid the watch back into his shirt pocket. “Like I’m somehow meant to have it.”

“Whatever. Come home as soon as you’re done. I love you.”

“Love you, too.” Andrew shoved the phone in his pants pocket, grabbed his keys, and rushed inside, catching just a few drops of rain on his clothes. The bell jingled over his head as the door shut behind him, and a smiling, elderly gentleman greeted him.

“Hello! Welcome to Everlasting Watches and Clocks. My name is Charles. How may I be of service to you?”

“I was hoping you could help me.” Andrew removed the watch from his pocket and showed it to the man. “I received this a few days ago, and it’s a great watch. Except it doesn’t work.”

The old man’s grin vanished and his hands shook as he took the watch from Andrew’s outstretched hand. He shuffled over to a nearby chair. With a sigh he lowered himself onto it, his eyes still fixated on Andrew’s watch. “Oh my...could it be? Has my shift ended at last?”

“Your shift?” Andrew looked around at the clocks in the room. Four o’clock. “I thought you didn’t close till five?”

“Son, I’ve been living in this shop for over fifty years. I eat, sleep, and breathe here. I’m almost eighty years old and had begun to wonder if I was going to die here.”

“Why didn’t you just retire?”

“Retire? Hah! Don’t you understand?” He pointed towards the front door of the store. “I haven’t been outside those doors since the day I came in, just like you, with a watch that wouldn’t work.”

“What do you mean? You’re not restrained, there’s no locks on the door. Why can’t you leave?”

He held up Andrew’s watch. “It’s this watch. Once you put it on and accept your shift, it becomes your restraint and your lock. It keeps you here.”

“Have you tried to escape?”

He pulled back his sleeve, revealing a watch, very similar to Andrew’s, surrounded by burn scars. “Many times, my son.”

“So, what, I’m supposed to be next?”

Charles nodded. “And as soon as your shift starts, I’ll be free.”

Andrew stepped back, shaking his head. “No. I have a family to get back to. My wife...my son.” He turned and stormed towards the door. This was a mistake.

“You can’t leave!”

Andrew kept walking. “Watch me!” He grabbed the doorknob and a burning sensation filled his palm. Inhaling through gritted teeth, he released the handle and inspected his hand. Thin trails of smoke lifted from the seared flesh.

Andrew spun to face the old man. “What is the meaning of this? I haven’t accepted the damn shift! Why can’t I leave?”

“I’m so sorry, son.” Charles stood and leaned closer to Andrew, again holding out the watch to him. “The owner has strict rules about employment here. You either accept your shift, or you die.”

Die? There had to be a way out! “Who’s the owner? How can he do business like this?”

“Did you receive a business card with your watch?”

Andrew nodded. “The leprechaun riding the Cheshire cat? Yeah, I got that.”

“The ‘leprechaun’, as you call him, is the owner.”

“But how can he imprison people to work here? How can he kill them if they don’t? How does he get away with this as a legitimate business?”

Charles shook his head. “I don’t know, son.”

Andrew’s mind raced. There had to be a way out. There had to be! He ran through the store, checking the back door, the windows, even looking for secret passages. Each attempt resulted in more burns.

He cycled back to the front of the store, where Charles waited. Out of breath, his skin on fire, he sank down to the floor beside the chair. This had to be a dream. He slapped himself. Wake up! Wake up!

The old man sat down. “I know what you’re thinking. Fifty years ago, I thought the same thing. You’re not dreaming.”

Andrew lifted his head and met Charles’ gaze. “There’s really no way out?”

The old man shook his head.

He wiped at the tears that filled his eyes. “What about my wife? My son, Jamie?” With trembling fingers he freed his cell phone from his pocket. He pressed the power button but nothing happened. No! He had just charged this!

“No contact with the outside world, except the customers who come inside.”

“What kind of monster is this guy?” Andrew hung his head and entwined his fingers in his hair, hot tears running down his cheeks. He sat there for what seemed like an eternity when a gentle hand touched his shoulder.

“Son. I have not seen my family in over fifty years. Please. Please take your shift so I can go home.”

Andrew sighed. “On one condition.” He handed his cell phone to Charles. “Find my wife and son and tell them what happened. Tell them to wait for me?”

The old man smiled as he closed his hand around the phone. “I’ll do my best.” Charles gave the watch to Andrew, then rose from his seat and walked to the front door, his gait a little less burdened than before.

Andrew fastened the watch to his wrist. For the first time since he received it, the hands began to move. His shift had begun.

He looked over at Charles. The old man pulled at his own watch with shaking fingers. The watchband gave way, disintegrating as though it never existed, and the front door sprang open. Tears flowed down his wrinkled cheeks and his face contorted. He looked up at Andrew and smiled. “Thank you.” Charles turned away and walked through the doors, his shift finally over.


This is my entry for @gmuxx's Art Prompt Writing Contest! Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed it!

A huge thank you to @nobyeni and @damianjayclay for their critiques. I wouldn't have been able to finish this without your suggestions!







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Oh my, wow! This is absolutely fantastic, @therosepatch. You wrote this beautifully, and imaginatively. It's wonderful! Congratulations on the wonderful attention you are getting for this excellent work!

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Thank you, @jayna! I had a lot of fun writing this story. I actually feel like the story sort of told itself, and I just put the words down, you know? It's weird!

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Yes, I do know. 😁 It is so fun when that happens!

I thought this was a great story and a good take on the prompt.

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Thank you very much! And thank you so much for your help with it! :)

Congratulations @therosepatch, this post is the third most rewarded post (based on pending payouts) in the last 12 hours written by a Newbie account holder (accounts that hold between 0.01 and 0.1 Mega Vests). The total number of posts by newbie account holders during this period was 5120 and the total pending payments to posts in this category was $8376.70. To see the full list of highest paid posts across all accounts categories, click here.

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Wow! Lovely take on the prompt, Rose.

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Thank you @anikekirsten! I had a lot of fun writing it!

Oh my goodness! It's so dark yet homely. This is great stuff!!

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Aww, thanks caleb! I'm glad you liked it!

I like how it's dark but there's still that small tinge of hope, cause you get to see Charles freed. So maybe there's a chance for Andrew as well :)

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Buuuuut Andrew's chance would involve putting someone else through it :O

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Very, you fiendish devil you!

This is sooo nice...I would love to read a sequel on it.Congratulations @therosepatch, this story is priceless. I can imagine yourself sitting in your porch fronting greens, looking at your watch and start writing about it.Wondering what if a leprechaun shows up from the woods offerin a help in mending your watch that you don't even know its broken. You refused the offer but the Leprechaun insisted and left a bussiness card instead.- hence the story starta....whoaaa... oh! Well, hope to read a squel on this ,lol

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Thank you for your kind words! I don't know if I'll ever write a sequel to this, as it was meant to be just one story, but you never know!

Such a nice story, happy to have been able to help make it shine even more!

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Thank you for your compliments and suggestions. Work-shopping with you is fun cause you have so many great ideas :D

Just read it! Awesome dialog, I felt the atmosphere. By the way, I've also included 'fifty years' in my story and the context is similar.

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Thank you so much! And that's cool!

I really enjoyed reading your entry. It's interesting to see what others have come up with.

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Thank you so much! And yes, it really is. I love the differences in creativity to come up with so many varying stories from the same prompt.

Hi! Loved your story. I'm also a writer. Please check out my story and let me know what you think. https://steemit.com/fiction/@yourah/4kazzt-captains-of-vice

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Thank you for your comment. Just so you're aware, commenting on someone else's post linking to your own post is generally frowned upon here on Steem and could be considered spam.

If you would like help with your writing, I recommend joining us at The Writers' Block. We read and critique each other's writing before posting it to Steem, so that we can post something that's polished and of quality. If you would like to join us, just click the blocks image at the bottom of my post.

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Thanks. I didn't know that, but suspected that much but thought other writers might sympathize. I'm just trying to get some attention. I joined the Discord channel. Any other advice would be welcome :)

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No worries! You're new so that was more of a friendly advice kind of thing :)

Congratulations! This story has been curated by The SFT. :-) A small SBD reward has been transferred to your wallet.

https://steemit.com/curation/@sft/the-sft-curates-2-2-18

It has been added to the Fantasy Reading Room at the SFT Library.

http://sftlibrary.com/

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This is wonderful, thank you so much! :)

I really liked your story. I could see everything so clearly as you told it. I think it was a good selection of details that did it. I particularly liked the little touches of shifting the phone to the other ear and taking the watch out of the pocket and putting it away again that happen early in the story. These clarify your main character so beautifully, like quick flicks of paint in the right spots can bring a canvas to life. Well done.

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Thank you so much, @ducksaplenty! I'm glad you enjoyed the story! I always like adding little details like that, as a way for myself, and the reader, to get to know the character. Especially in a short piece, like this, where getting to know the character so early is essential.