QuillShiv’s Flash Fiction Faction Prompt this week was inspired by the soundtrack of a P J Harvey recording, The River. It’s not one of my favourite pieces of work; it makes Leonard Cohen sound positively euphoric. I took what inspiration I could …
When Jason came into my life I didn’t notice it at first, this thing he had about time.
I bought him a watch for our first Christmas together, realising that I’d never seen him with one. I’ll never forget that look on this face, when he opened his present. For a moment he seemed petrified, and then, hands shaking, he pushed it back into the box, almost as though it were burning his fingers.
He never wore it. When I asked where it was, he said he’d lost it but I knew by then that he was lying; he had an issue with time.
One by one the clocks in our house would either disappear or break. My own watch would never work when he was around, and since he was around a lot, I soon got fed up of resetting it and just went without. You can do that, you know – just stop taking any account of time.
We rose with the sun, and went to bed sometime after it went down. We ate when we were hungry, and since we both worked the farm, and we were miles from anywhere, we had no need to be punctual for anybody else. We had no needs at all, in fact, except for each other. And such a compelling, all-consuming need that was.
And then that last night …
I’d been restless throughout the night, tossing and turning.
Eventually I woke up for good, no longer tired. These were the only occasions I missed timepieces, when I couldn’t sleep. I needed to know how long it would be before dawn.
I lay looking at the patch of moonlight reflected on the wall, thinking that I could monitor time by its progress towards the door. I’d been lying there for what seemed like hours before I’d realised that the patch hadn’t moved, and puzzled, I slid quietly out of bed hoping to see dawn on the horizon. Jason slept on.
But the night was black; the only light came from the full moon, a gleaming perfect circle set in a pitch black sky, throwing its silvery light onto the river that ran through our land. I couldn’t even see any stars, and certainly no light out towards the east.
I had a real compulsion then, to find out what time it was and tiptoed into the back bedroom where I kept a whole heap of junk. Rummaging through, I found an old watch that he’d missed, one he hadn’t managed to throw out or hide. It said 13.15. No wonder I wasn’t tired; if this was right, it was the middle of the day. Surely not…
I went to the window again. The sky was still dark, the moon was still high and the river flowed on, a winding silver ribbon on its way to infinity.
And then I saw Jason, walking slowly towards the river. I flung open the window and called him, but he didn’t turn round. I raced out into the yard and stumbled through the fields, following him by the light of the moon, a moon that hadn’t changed position in hours.
I was about a hundred yards behind him when he waded into the river, raised his arms towards the moon as if in supplication, and was then swept swiftly downstream. He didn’t struggle, but he did turn to look back at me. Just once. I thought perhaps he waved, but I couldn’t be sure.
A few seconds later the moon swept smoothly and majestically across the black arc of the sky and disappeared quickly behind the farmhouse. Almost simultaneously a cyan strip appeared across the eastern horizon, and the sun climbed swiftly until it was high in the sky above me, flooding the fields with daylight. It all happened in a few seconds.
I was still clutching the watch, which now said 13.30.
I never saw Jason again, and I’ve lived alone since then. Over the next few weeks all the lost clocks and broken timepieces that he must have hidden around the house gradually re-emerged in their usual places. To this day, each and every one functions perfectly.
I don’t though …