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The Timekeeper's Watch

        On March 25th a peculiar event took place in St. Petersburg. It was a typical spring day, the swallows chirping as they dashed among the branches of the old oak trees, the sun replacing the dreary winter clouds that wept instead of gleamed. On this cheerful day, Adelaide strolled down Main Street, her book bag bouncing on her shoulder as her auburn hair danced in the light breeze. Almost all the buildings which surrounded her boasted newly polished wooden beams and freshly painted facades. Out of the bakery, the smell of freshly baked piroshkies wafted from an open window, so strong she could almost taste the savory pastry melting in her mouth. Like a cloud in a clear blue sky, one shop stood out from the rest, its century old coat of cracked skin tone paint and splintered beams worn proudly. It was her favorite—the horologist’s shop.
        Ever since she was six, Adelaide had taken to clocks and the concept of time like a pianist to his piano, an innate love that could not be overcome. Turning the rusted handle, she listened for the faint twinkling of bells, breathing in the aroma of dusty mildew combined with the stark oils that coated the gears of the many clocks. Covering the walls, they were of all different shapes and sizes, round clocks, circular clocks, cuckoo clocks; all of them clicking in sync hypnotically. Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock. But it was not the clocks which she was interested in, but a beautiful watch she had desired for many months.
        “Adelaide, my darling, how may I help you?” a gravelly voice called from behind the counter.
        “Norman, oh Norman, I finally earned enough money to buy the beautiful crystal watch!” Adelaide shouted, not able to hold her excitement in any longer.
        “Ah, yes, that old thing, a gorgeous piece if I do say so myself. Did you know it belonged to the old timekeeper at the train station before he disappeared, never to be seen again?”
        Yes. Of course Adelaide knew the story, Norman had told it to her numerous times. Some say the timekeeper left to escape a bitter love, others say he still remains, trapped in an alternate dimension, unable to return. Nodding, she shoved an envelope, stuffed to the brim with bills and coins, towards Norman. Chuckling, he removed the watch from its case, handing it to Adelaide with a sigh.
        “Remember, whatever you do don’t…”, but it was too late. Adelaide had already bounded out of the shop in jollity. “Don’t turn the watch beyond half past nine”, Norman finished to himself, settling back into his chair, worry plaguing his aging mind.
        Full of excitement with her newfound treasure, Adelaide raced down the cobblestone streets, fastening the watch around her wrist as she did. Stopping at the bell tower in order to read the time, she turned the hands of the watch. Nine. Half past nine. Quarter to ten. A sharp squeal pierced the air as Adelaide winced, pressing the palms of her hands against her ear, willing the noise to stop. But once it did, she instantly noticed something was wrong. No more feet click clacking against the cobblestone tiles. No more swallows chirping. Everyone was still as if they were frozen. The window washer, dangling precariously up in the air, had stopped, a boy playing basketball was hovering two feet in the air, even the hands of the clock in the bell tower were still. Time was frozen.
        As fast as her feet could carry her, Adelaide dashed down the lane and through the open door of her house, running straight into her mother who toppled over like a statue off its pedestal, a look of shock plastered on her unresponsive face. Smoke drifted from the direction of the kitchen, where Adelaide found a pan of bacon burning and charred pancakes. What is happening? Why am I the only one not frozen? Streams of questions flooded Adelaide’s head and racked her feeble mind, none of which she could answer. It must be the watch. Howling in agony, Adelaide hurled the watch across the room, shattering its crystal face against the plaster wall. The hands of the watch clattered onto the tile floor, its powers of telling time broken.
        “Adelaide? What is going on in here?” her mother shrieked, dashing to turn off the stove. Without responding, Adelaide embraced her mother, silent tears streaming down her desperate face. Her mother would never believe what happened, she didn’t believe in magic. But the magic was gone, the curse disabled, and in the train station across town a man dressed in full timekeeper attire had appeared, asking puzzled passengers if they had seen his watch. And in his shop the horologist smiled, a sigh of relief escaping his chapped lips, grateful to have witnessed and survived yet another magical occurrence. For no matter what others may say to the contrary, such strange events do occur in this world—rarely of course, but none the less really.






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