It was sunny when you left home, so you didn’t take an umbrella. An hour later, you’re caught in a torrential downpour. You run into the first store you can find — it happens to be a dark, slightly shabby antique store, full of old artifacts, books, and dust. The shop’s ancient proprietor walks out of the back room to greet you. Tell us what happens next!
“Good day, young man.”
I scour the place for the source of the voice. Shelves upon shelves of obsolete dictionaries and encyclopedias, albums filled with yellowed photographs, and crumbling magazines. Glass tables that displayed antique firearms, rusty spectacles, and classic silverware. Large wardrobes that held captive colorful fur coats, dark pants, stuffed toys that peek from the bottom, and an umbrella and a parasol that hooked to each other. I couldn’t seem to see who spoke to me.
“Here I am, young man, past the book case.”
True enough, there he was. Silver hair, grey beard and whiskers—all perfectly trimmed. Rectangular glasses rested on the bridge of his nose, which gave away his Scandinavian descent. When he lowered his gaze, I saw how bright his eyes were yet, strangely, I couldn’t tell what color they were. And just when I thought he stopped breathing while balancing himself on the wooden ladder, his cracked lips broke into a smile. He still had teeth. And a good set at that!
“So it began to rain again eh? How wet are your clothes?”
Only then did I take notice of the hoodie and the shirt I had on. They were damp but nothing a few minutes couldn’t dry. But the legs of my pants were muddied from the run I did to escape the downpour. I checked my pockets. My phone and keys were still there. And my socks were dry or at least it felt like they were.
He handed me some tissue for the mud on my pants. While I cleaned up, I watched him go ascend the ladder, only to descend so suddenly. A quick sprint to his stand and I was able to prevent a fall. He thanked me to whom I replied with a question: what was he doing.
“I’m fixing this clock.”
Boldly, I volunteered to do it, as long as he gave me instructions. He did confess that he would need a second hand for repair. So I walked up the ladder to face a clock stuck on the wall. It was late by 10 minutes. And the date was all wrong by three decades. I was about to ask how to fix it when he told me that the date must be corrected first, starting with the year. I turned the dial slowly and saw seasons pass outside the window. I turned it again. And it happened again. Just before I turned around to tell the old man about the hallucination I was experiencing, I heard him chuckle.
“That’s only natural. Keep turning.”
So I did. Snow, sun, and storms appeared outside in a pattern and without a pattern. Not only that, structures and nature outside grew or crumbled. They were fascinating to watch. Yet strangely, no matter how slow or fast I dialed, I never saw one living soul outside.
“Mind your turning. You might go past this year.”
Once I finished with the year, I worked on the month. I looked outside the window. Sun and moon were on an endless chase, with one hiding from the other. That was also when I noticed that—finally—there were creatures outside: pigeons, dogs, and cats plus other animals usually on the city street. Something was still missing.
“Do you know what day it is?”
I think I do. Once I began turning the day, I saw men and women, old and young outside. They seemed to have clothes on yet appear to be nude at the same time. Maybe watching the seasons change has done a number on my eyesight.
“I’ll give you the proper time.”
Personally, when resetting my watch, all I fiddle with is the hour hand. But he was exact, down to the second, which was what I had to move last. And when I did it, I took a look outside; it was as I last saw it: dark, cold, and muddy. It wasn’t a welcome sight. I carefully made my descent. My feet were on the solid floor. I faced the old man with resolve on mine. I looked at my watch. I’d hate to be late but the rain doesn’t look like it would stop anytime soon. He assured me that it would.
Just as I exited the door, I blinked. In that fraction, the clouds and the rain disappeared. Animals were on the street. As were people. And they were decent. I slapped my right thigh, making the keys jingle. Then I felt something else in my pocket. I fished for the object. I couldn’t believe what I was holding in my hand. Immediately, I turned around to look. The shop was still there. But it was now dark, cold, and empty. No shelves upon shelves of obsolete dictionaries and encyclopedias, albums filled with yellowed photographs, and crumbling magazines. No glass tables that displayed antique firearms, rusty spectacles, and classic silverware. No large wardrobes that held captive colorful fur coats, dark pants, stuffed toys that peek from the bottom, and an umbrella and a parasol that hooked to each other. But there was a clock on the wall, which was precise in date and time, down to the last second.