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The Pocketwatch

Once a man named Henry bought a pocket watch whose maker was lost to time. The watch could not tell time but could move time when wound. It had hung in Joshua’s Antiques and Trinkets for as long as Henry had worked there. Lynn, the owner, whenever she would reorganize the four rooms of the store every other year or so, would either on purpose or by accident, leave the watch hanging by its gold chain pinned to the back wall. It had a price on the faded white tag that was tied to it but it long been worn off. No one paid any attention to this pocket watch though it hung prominently. There were others she sold in the glass cabinet at the register, but this one never made its way over there.

On this particular day, the sun came through the window and lit the whole of the watch’s room, but the reflection off the watch blinded Henry enough for him to notice the watch. After his shift ended, he decided to buy the pocket watch from Lynn. Since the price was faded, she just told him to give her whatever he had in his wallet. He pulled out $18 and slapped it on the glass counter. The other watches shook underneath. She smiled at her faithful worker and bid him a good evening. As he walked home, he held the watch and felt a strange soothing warmth in his palm and up his arm. He clicked open the face and there was an etched inscription in the cover Don’t forget to wind me. He wondered why someone would etch something so meaningless into a wind-up watch.

He saw the time was considerably off so he began to wind the watch to match what he thought was the correct time. He thought it may have been about 8pm since he had just walked out of the store, but he was in reality over by a minute. He clicked the watch into place and felt a shudder reverberate through his body. He put the watch up to his ear and heard ticking. He was glad the watch worked. He then saw a squirrel zoom passed him. Much too fast. Then the squirrel jumped normally onto the trunk of a nearby tree. He didn’t know what to make of that, shook his head due to his supposed tiredness and walked home content with his little old-timey purchase.

The next morning, Henry was inspecting the pocket watch while eating his breakfast of buttered toast and over-easy eggs. He had cleaned the watch earlier that morning but just noticed how incredibly intricate it was in its beauty. Excellent craftsmanship, molded filigree on the gold face cover, precise black Arabic numerals on the face, and a delicate seconds chronograph, the likes of which he’d never seen. He clicked open the face again to view that curious inscription but was surprised that it had changed. It now said How about how fast that squirrel went? Henry blinked in surprise. “What the…” He flipped the watch over and over again. Everything else seemed to be the same but the etching was different. The time was still set to when he set it last night but the hand in the chronograph kept ticking. The squirrel did go beyond fast for almost half a minute last night then moved normally afterwards, all curiously after he wound the watch. Did setting the time mess with the squirrel? Henry hastily wolfed down the rest of his breakfast and started off to work.

It was summer and the street leading to the store was packed with kids and their parents. The park to the left was all a bustle with dogs and babies in carriages, happy families without a care in the world. Henry felt a pang of sadness at his own life. Why he for some reason didn’t have a wife or family. He stopped for a moment to gaze into the park. A ball rolled over to him and bounced off his feet and a small boy came to grab it. 

“Sorry mister!” His smile melted Henry and a tear almost leapt from his eye. 

The boy grabbed the ball and sprinted off back to his father. Henry took the pocket watch out of his pants pocket absentmindedly and clicked open the face. He looked down and saw the inscription, but again, was surprised that it had changed. 

You wanna see that smile again, don’t you? The words then changed in front of Henry’s eyes Go ahead

Henry wound the watch back one minute and the boy came back, at first his back was facing Henry then he looked up then ran back to his dad, facing Henry this time, the ball bounced away from Henry. The familiar shudder passed through Henry. The ball came back and bounced at his feet and the boy came to pick it up.

 “Sorry mister!” Henry got to see that smile again. 

This time he said “Not a problem son.” 

The boy ran back to his dad in the park. Henry was still conflicted about the significance of the device in his hand. Did I hit my head last night when I was sleeping?

Henry tested the watch throughout the day. He saw there was more to it than he even thought. When he wound the watch backwards, people in his general area would go backwards, when he wound it forwards, they would go forwards. He also realized he could move a certain limited number of steps before the activation began. So a customer asked him where they could find a lampstand, he didn’t know at first so after he was asked he would rewind the watch, go around and find a lampstand, then when the person “came back” to ask him where they could find a lampstand, he’d know exactly where to find it without a moments hesitation, at least not to the person. The pocket watch would almost taunt Henry to try things as well but never making direct statements, it was always coy, always evasive, always tempting, as if it was leading him not him leading it. The pocket watch voice would also be about Henry, always wanting to in some way lure him to aid himself. Henry noticed this substantially one day.

Lynn was aiding a man who wanted that white ornamented Chinese vase for his wife that sat atop of the armoire and while she was on the wooden stepstool, one of the legs snapped and she fell headlong into a chest of drawers. Henry had heard the snap and looked over just in time to see her fall. She hit the wood with great force and she cried out. 

Henry ran over to them “Lynn!”

 Lynn was a spry 60-something year old woman who ran the 5K or 10K or whatever K that the town had, but even being in such great condition for her age, a fall like this was dangerous and life-threatening. Her arm was black and blue, no external bleeding. She was in agony, the male customer was on their phone dialing 911 frantically. Lynn looked at Henry and through teary eyes and clenched teeth said


“Do it!” 

He didn’t know what she was indicating but he remembered the watch sitting in his pocket. While kneeling over her, he took out the watch and wound it a few minutes back. Things started going blurry. He had a short amount of time to figure out what to do. Then the world became clear again. Lynn was walking back up the stepstool and the man was looking at some other thing nearby. Henry ran over to her just as the leg snapped and she fell right into his already open arms. 

“Gotcha!” Henry said as he landed. 

“Wow, great reflexes mister!” The customer said “I would’ve caught her too.” 

Henry nodded to the customer “I bet you woulda.” 

Henry looked at Lynn and she brushed herself off him, flashed a quick glance and almost what he thought was a frown, and started tending to the customer again. “Let me get another stool and I’ll get that vase for ya.”

Henry didn’t use the watch the rest of his shift and once he said goodnight to Lynn and exited the store, he felt a queasy feeling in his stomach. He could hear a ticking as he walked down the street to his apartment. It grew louder. He pulled the watch out of his pocket and clicked it open. 

Why would you do that? Henry closed the watch and clicked it back open. Who do you think you are? The pocket watch’s comments haunted Henry. I’ve been given this responsibility but why is this watch not happy with me? 

Henry started seeing that the watch didn’t like when he used time to help others. The watch would laud Henry when he used time to aid himself however. Henry became acclimated to the sensations that would radiate from the watch. He would get nauseous when there was an opportunity to help others and warm when there was a time for him to help himself. Helping others started paining Henry. He almost through up after reversing time for a baby bird fell from the tree outside his apartment and died. The watch became antagonistic

 I am here for you and you alone. Henry started arguing with the watch audibly situation after situation.

The pocket watch’s influence started spreading throughout Henry’s life and mind. He was almost Pavlovian steering clear of any deed that would be considered “good” by the watch in the fear of the new avenues of pain and displeasure that would wash over him every time he even thought about engaging. Henry couldn’t sleep. On the way home today, there was a car wreck, two fatalities he heard on the news. He almost laughed, but he knew that’s what the watch wanted. He threw up at such a disgraceful thought. Henry had time in his hands but could only use it for himself. 

“I can’t go on like this.” Henry said one particularly painful night. 

He looked at himself in the mirror, large dark circles under his eyes, his skin bleached out, cracks on his lips, his hair disheveled and his beard growing in.

“What is your purpose? Are you made to ruin my life through my choices?” Henry yelled at the watch.

He had propped the watch on his nightstand and it answered with written letters on the inside lid

I’m here for you and for you alone. The letters would fade then others would appear I am a personal pocket watch, not a community pocket watch.

“Why can’t I help others?”

You can only help yourself and that is my law.

“I don’t care what you say, I must use what I have been given for the good.”

If you do, your time will run out.

Henry was puzzled but angrily closed the watch. He clicked off his nightstand light and lay away staying up at the ceiling until morning.

Days later, a careless mother was talking to the postman and her son step out into the street and got hit by a car. Henry had witness the whole thing from down the road and reversed time and saved the child. His stomach hurt so bad he couldn’t make it to work that day and he went home. He had what felt like a combination of the stomach flu and kidney stones and screamed into the air

 “Fine! I won’t any more!”

Henry was sitting on a park bench one night, despondent and sullen, when a hooded man raced up to him. He pointed a pistol at Henry and commanded him to give him everything he had on his person. Henry reached into his pocket and threw over the money in his wallet then reached into his other pocket and hesitated.

“Come on man! Give me everything or I’ll end your time on this dumb rock right here.”

Henry threw the pocket watch over to the man without a word.

“Oh nice! Ha ha!” The man shot Henry and ran off.

Henry slumped over with tears in his eyes. Moments later, Henry was upright, and the hood man was in front of him again. Knowing what had happened, Henry lunched himself at the man and grabbed the watch which was in his hand. Wrenching it from the other man, Henry, then twisted the time back. Henry was now outside the park. He looked into where he would have sat and kept walking back home. Tossing the watch into the park as he walked. He felt a weight lift from his shoulders and he smiled. He could now help others freely.

Later, a dark hand picked up the watch and the news a couple days later ran a story about the town’s first bank robbery, amongst a litany of other illicit non-specific acts around town. Years later, the newly elected mayor made his way up the stairs of the stage to give his victory speech. He smiled widely and his speech was the usual pomp that Henry hated. Henry really hated everything about this new mayor and wondered how he came to be elected, but democracy is democracy. After he spoke, the mayor put both his hands in the front pockets of his suit and made his way off the stage. Henry noticed something. A small gold chain looped from the mayors pocket into his hand. Henry felt the remembrance of a familiar tingle and closed his eyes.

“Nah, it couldn’t be.”

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