Happy Monday, friends! Once again, I’m participating in a the flash fiction challenge Suzanne Burke is running on her blog. Below is this week’s photo prompt as posted by Soooz. I let my muse run with it and eventually came up with something that passes as a flash fic. Erm…more or less…
The antique store was small, tucked into a side street beside a dried herb emporium. Charlene studied the faded brick façade and low hanging wooden yardarm. The sign creaked in a slight breeze, its flowery blue script proclaiming Yesteryear Treasures. A man with long white hair greeted her when she stepped inside.
“Good afternoon.” He had eyes the color of midnight and long-fingered hands.
“Hello.” Charlene offered a smile then wandered away to browse aisles of pale milk-glass and cameo pins. Bone china teacups, vintage greeting cards, feathered hats and opera glasses, rag dolls with black button eyes. There was too much to take in.
She paused to finger an ornate four-sided clock.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?” The white-haired main appeared behind her.
“My great grandmother had a clock like this when I was a child.” Strange how she hadn’t thought about it in years, but now she could see it nestled atop a dresser in Nana Ruth’s bedroom as though it was yesterday.
“What are you doing?” The reprimand in her mother’s voice echoed in her ears. So long ago, yet powerful still. “You shouldn’t be in here.”
“But, Mama.” She couldn’t look away from the stark numerals and gilded brass casing of the clock. “It has four faces.”
“It’s not for you to worry about.” Her mother knelt in front of her, lightly gripping her arms. “This doesn’t concern you.”
“But I’ve never seen a clock like that.”
“And you won’t again. Forget this one while you can.”
Charlene drew a breath, a bird beating in her chest. The floor felt spongy, like she might slip through into a realm where matter weighed little and thought was tangible. “Why? Is it special?”
“In ways you can’t imagine.” Her mother stood. “Come, child.” Taking her hand, she drew Charlene from the room.
Charlene looked at the man beside her, his white hair a waterfall of ivory. She touched the clock, a barely-there brush of fingertips. “I’ll take this.”
“You should know it doesn’t work. The time has been stuck at 11:53 since I acquired it.”
“That doesn’t matter.”
His smile thinned, sliding into something liquid. Later, when she returned to her small studio apartment, she set the clock beside her bed. Weary, she made a meager dinner of tomato soup and olive toast, then settled in front of the TV. The day caught up with her and she drifted off shortly after 8:00 PM.
When she woke hours later, the apartment was dark, needles of moonlight splayed across the floor. Her bed was only a handful of steps away, the old clock on the nightstand stuck at 11:53.
She grabbed her iPhone, illuminated the face, and saw the time was an exact match for the bubble clock with four faces. Slowly, she stood—half of her drawn to the window overlooking the moon-silvered grass to the rear of her apartment, the other pulled by the clock. Four different faces, all reading 11:53.
She closed her eyes. Heard the sound of her great-grandmother’s voice. Her grandmother’s. Her mother’s. Three spirits bound together in a prison of brass and glass, collared and penned by time. Her mother’s voice was strongest. Not words as much as a sad, keening hum of regret.
“You wanted to keep me out of it.” Charlene set the clock on the kitchen counter, her pulse wildfire in her ears.
She grabbed a hammer from the storage cabinet beside the sink. Without hesitation she bludgeoned the time piece. Spurred by anger and fear—a malice so strong each strike grew in ferocity until there was nothing left but cogs, broken gears, and scattered springs. The spirits of her great grandmother, her grandmother, and her mother soared free.
Calmly, she rounded up the scattered pieces of the clock, then dumped them in the trash. The next day she returned to the antique shop, but found the place boarded up. She caught a stooped over gray-haired woman opening the herb emporium and asked about the shop.
“Yesteryear Treasures?” The old woman shook her head. “Hasn’t been here for over twenty years. Nothing has. The place has been abandoned for as long as I can remember.” With a tired shake of her head, she disappeared into her shop.
Charlene stared at the building. At the space where the weathered sign had hung.
As she walked away, she was certain she heard the old wood creaking behind her.
And….that’s a wrap!
I hope you enjoyed it. Many thanks for visiting and reading. If you’re ready to try one of these prompts, just visit Soooz’s blog for the rules. She posts a new image every Friday. Basically, any creative form 750 words or less is acceptable.
Thanks again for reading. I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to keep this up, but for now I’m having fun. Thank you, Soooz! 🙂