time thief

A few hours ride via a decommissioned train over unknown tracks, there exists a small town that overlooked the indigo seas of the Indian Ocean. A stroll on its cobblestone streets, lined with quaint lil shops and aged wooden doors leading to secrets unknown, was enough for one to believe in miracles. At least that’s what an old pirate once told me.

The people of the town lived simple lives; small town lives. There’s a town baker who carefully fashions bread that brings back ones most vivid memories. There’s a flower shop at the corner, selling wreaths that call to one’s childlike innocence. But probably one of the most interesting shops was the one housed between two trees at the end of a small street, called Nostalgia.

The shop enjoys the shade provided by the twin trees. Its stained glass windows reflect colorful patterns on the stone floor when the light would dance on it. Inside, the roof resembled a glass dome which illuminated the shop with daylight and starlight. Here, there lived an old man. And interestingly enough, he was the only old man you’d meet in town.

The shop sold watches. And the old man, known only as Mr. Ry, was the watchmaker. It was the only one it town, and since no one had reason to leave town, everyone had their watches made at the shop. On top of that, the story goes, everyone who reached the age of 18 would visit the watchmaker and have him make a unique timepiece. It was tradition; a right of passage.

The watchmaker, unlike anyone else, took long trips out of town. No one knows where he goes or what his business is, but every now and then the old man would close shop for a week or two and would be seen leaving town with only an empty crystal vial, no bigger than a wine bottle, a candle and a box of matches. Today is one of those days.

It’s Sunday, and the crowds are gathering in the square. Flowers of all sorts are on display for the weekly festival- a festival where people literally stop and smell the flowers.

A tourist, one of the very few who are able to find this place, saw the watchmaker making the lonely journey towards the town’s end. Curious, he decided to follow the old man. He paced himself, careful not to close the distance between them, and, walking at the path’s edge, used the thick foliage for cover.

Once at the train station, he took his time and crept in an empty train car, careful to remain unseen. The journey was long and his legs were getting cramps from sitting on the floor so the top of his head remained hidden.

The train made 3 stops, each time the door would open and close with no one boarding or leaving. At the fourth stop, a crowd came rushing in, and the tourist almost missed Mr.Ry as he alighted. He trailed him with a bit of difficulty as the crowd pressed in. It was almost 7pm and the sky was in all its pink and purple twilight glory. The watchmaker walked through the crowded station, into the town’s center, the residential area, and still kept walking. The houses soon became more spaced out, the people less, and the town’s chatter turned to calm.

A graveyard.

Mr.Ry went through the gates of the town’s graveyard. It was dark now, and overhead, the moon rose and the stars faintly twinkled. He approached one grave and placed his crystal vial on the ground. On top of it, he lit a candle. The smell of used matches mixed with the smell of green and decay. He whispered words no one would hear and the vial slowly filled with glowing blue green sand. The tourist, hiding by the bushes, shivered as a cold breeze enveloped the little hill where the graveyard lay, and fog slowly accumulated.

The watchmaker did the same strange ritual on 4 other graves, filling his vial with glowing sand like material. He finished close to midnight and simply got up and walked away. The tourist did not have the courage to follow. He knew where he was going and he would wait.

Hours later, after regaining feeling in his legs, as well as his composure, he walked towards the gates. On his way, he lost his balance and leaned against the cold iron column that framed the entrance to the graveyard. He cut himsef on something. Letters, and then words, all hidden under years of grime. He cleared it off to see what was written… “Graveyard for the Damned. Suicides and The Unborn.” A tingling in his nape and a strange feeling in the pit of his tummy after, he ran. He ran as quick as he could.

Mr.Ry arrived back in town. He unlocked his shop and took off his jacket. He placed his vial of sand in a glass shelf. The bell on his door chimed as a customer arrived.

“Ah Jack! I forgot you turn 18 today.”

“Yes, Mr.Ry.”

“And you’ve come for a watch.”

“Yes, i’ve been dreaming of it for quite some time now.”

He sat the boy and proceeded with measuring his wrist, showing him straps and velvet pouches as the boy excitedly described the watch of his dreams. Mr. Ry asked him to come back after a day to recieve his unique birthday gift.

That night, a small light can be seen from outside the watch shop as the watchmaker worked on his craft. He was bent down on his desk, hard at work with only a lamp to accompany him. He was putting the gears together on the watch that would be Jack’s. When it was all done, he carefully took a few grains of the bluegreen sand he has collected from his previous trip and sprinkled them into the watch’s inner workings before he sealed it.

Years after, we see a graying figure walking down the trail towards the old town. The stranger was not a stranger to this town.

He knocked on the watch shop’s aging door.

“Good day sir! How may i be of service?” Mr. Ry greeted.

The stranger’s shock cannot be denied.

The watchmaker, old as he was, did not age a day from the last time this stranger saw him last.

“I would like to know what you were doing in the cemetery those many years ago” he asked.

“So you were the young fellow following me. I wondered about you” Mr.Ry said

“And i never stopped thinking about what i witnessed that night” the stranger returned.

“Come in dear sir.”

The two old men sat at a table under the domed roof. The watchmaker told him everything. How he was placed in charge of keeping a small piece on earth untouched by the worldliness that consumes it. By taking the time that was wasted or unused by those that gave up or weren’t given a chance he can reallocate time for the townspeople, himsef included, stretching the time infinitey longer so that they may have the time to enjoy, do what they wanted in life, find happiness, love, and live.

“But i’ve become tired of this life and feel the need to move on, and it is the town’s rule that if one should decide to leave, a replacement must be found. I knew you were following me that day and i knew you would return seeking for answers. All the answers will come to you in time if you wish to take this responsibility from me,” said the watchmaker.

The stranger who was indeed the tourist many years ago, was amazed to say the least.

He has had a troubled life since that night at the graveyard. The thought of having more time to actually live and discover life brought tears to his eyes.

“What must i do?” he asked

“All it takes is four graves for every four months” the watch maker said.

“I accept.”

What happened next i do not know. That was all the old pirate told me. he left the docks that day but before he left he gave me a watch and said “this is my gift to you. Take your time and regularly stop to smell the flowers.”


This post is in response to the Daily Post prompt


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