Ray Daley

I am alive

The Man Who Borrowed My Clock

Of course, I can remember when it happened! I recall the whole thing like it were yesterday. And not a mere three hours previous.

It had been one minute to twelve. I recall pulling the beauty from its velvet-lined box, to check it tallied with the one hanging on the wrought iron pole standing proudly in the street. And of course, it did. It was a Mills IV. Hardly ever needed winding, just a little oil every fourth month of the year. Ran like a gazelle, so it did.

Then he came right up to me, brave as you like. “Excuse me, young man, do you have the time?” Even now, I recall every little detail, the excessive hair in his nose, the greying of his right eyebrow.

I proffered my clock forward on my palm. “One minute to twelve, sir. Do you not have the time yourself?” It was an innocent enough question, from a young man barely out of school. Everyone carried their personal timepiece, it was unthinkable not to do so. Unless…

No! I put that kind of thought out of my mind right away. He looked like a stand-up kind of fellow in his maroon knickerbockers, the type who would happily front his round at the bar, when it came to his turn to buy.

He smiled at me. “Is that a Mills/Watson, young lad?”

I shook my head. “No, sir. That’s a common mistake most people make, on account of the similarly styled carriage, it’s a Mills IV. The finest timepiece they made at that particular factory. Gifted to me on the day of my birth by my ailing grandfather, may the gods rest his eternal soul.”

He raised an admiring eyebrow, the greying one, as I recall. “I’ve heard tell that was the lightest movement they ever made. Is that true?”

I held the clock out at arm’s length. It barely weighed anything in my hand. “I could stand like this for an hour, sir, or more. Nothing built since has come close to the Mills IV. It’s an honor to own one.”

“A greater honor to even see one, young man. Might a fellow be so bold as to ask to try her weight, just the once?” Then he held out his hand. Such a simple request, from a well-dressed man. How could he possibly be one of—them? The clockless. Those without the time.

I placed the Mills on his palm, he lifted and dropped his hand a few times, clearly enjoying the sensation of its lightness. Then he did the unthinkable. He turned and fled without any notice or warning. He high-tailed it down the street, taking my beloved Mills IV with him.

I was shocked and devastated in equal measure. So shocked that I didn’t even think to give chase, or cry out for a Timekeeper. Then I heard the clanging of hand-bells approaching. “Time check! Have your clocks at the ready!”

I knew I couldn’t be found clockless, no matter how that situation had come about. So I quickly set off in the opposite direction, heading away from the Timekeepers.