Flash Fiction: Bright Dreams & Clock’s Revenge

The flash fiction challenge over on terribleminds this week was a little bit different. Chuck Wendig gave us five titles to choose from, and then gave us the added option of mixing up those titles and using the words in any order to create our own title.

I vacillated about which option to go with for quite a while. Then I picked one (Dead-Clock’s Revenge). Then I changed my mind and picked another (Bright Stars Gone to Black). Then I wrote my story. That’s when I realised the story I’d come up with didn’t fit either of those titles.

I had no choice but to make a new title out of the offered words.

I give you:

Bright Dreams & Clock’s Revenge

Have you ever listened to a ticking clock? I mean, really listened. Try it. Close your eyes and listen to the dead spots. The spaces between the tick, tick, ticks.

###

“Marvin! Marvin, wait up!”

I ignore her and keep walking. What is it with little sisters? Every time I turn around, there she is. Marvin, Marvin, Marvin! I’d be happy if I never heard her shout my name again.

“Marvin!”

She catches up and grabs my backpack. “Marvin!”

I spin around. “What?”

“Can I walk with you?”

Rose is six years old, which is five years younger than me. I want to tell her no. I really do. But there she is, in her pink dress and pigtails with a hopeful look on her face.

“Please?” she asks, drawing out the word.

I sigh. “Fine. Just… don’t talk to me.”

Her expression brightens. “Okay!” Then her eyes widen and her hand flies to her mouth. “Oh. I’m sorry, I talked. I did it again. Oh, no. I’m sorry. I’m sorry, Marvin. I just… I just can’t—“

“Just stop,” I say, but I can’t hold back my laughter. She laughs too. Then she takes my hand. I’m too old for hand-holding. But I don’t let go.

“How come you left early?” she asks.

“No reason.”

“But you never go to school early.”

I pull my hand away. “I said, no reason. Okay?”

She clasps her hands together and looks at the pavement . “Okay.”

And now I feel bad. “I’m just meeting some of the guys. We’ve got a… thing. You know?”

“A thing?” She looks up at me. “What kind of thing?”

“Just a… thing thing.”

She keeps looking at me. I look away. The sky’s blue. No clouds. It’ll be a nice day. I glance back. Rose is still looking at me.

“What?”

“What kind of thing?” she says again.

Having a little sister is hard work.  “If I tell you, will you shut up?”

“Okay.”

“Mack – you know Mack? – Mack found this weird clock in the woods when he was hiking, and it’s got weird marks on it, and Jason says they’re Egyptian writing and he thinks it might be magic.”

She looks at me. “You’ve got a magic clock.”

“Yeah. No.” I sigh. It sounds stupid when she says it.

“That’s dumb,” she says. “And anyway, you’re not allowed to do magic. Mum says.”

“What?” I stop walking and face her. “What are you talking about?”

“Last summer when you tried to cut Fletcher in half, Mum said you weren’t allowed to do magic anymore.”

“That wasn’t real magic,” I say. “That was just magic tricks. And besides, I didn’t try to cut Fletcher in half. He was supposed to squash up in the box. It’s not my fault he got hurt.”

“Yes, but—“

“But nothing.”

She shuts up. That surprises me. When we get to school, she says, “Marvin?”

“Yes?”

“What are you going to do with the clock?”

I shrug. “I dunno.”

“But what if—“

“Go to class.” I use my best grown-up voice and she does what she’s told. I watch until she disappears inside, and then I race to the clubhouse and let myself in. The shed used to belong to the groundskeeper, but now it’s ours.

“Thought you’d chickened out,” Jason says.

“No,” I say. “Just had to take Rose to class.”

Jason makes a rude noise and Mack laughs. They don’t have little sisters. “We doing this or what?” I say.

Mack grins and pulls the clock out of his bag. “Let’s do this.”

We sit in a circle and Mack puts the clock in the middle. We think it’s a clock. It sounds like one, with the steady tick, tick, tick of time passing. But there are no hands and no numbers. Just weird symbols in a spiral starting – or ending – in the centre of what would normally be the clock face.

“What now?” I ask.

Jason says, “I stole one of my Dad’s books and looked up the symbols.” His father teaches history at the high school, and knows all sorts of cool stuff about Egypt. “I wrote down how to say them. I guess we just say them out loud.”

He hands us both a sheet of paper torn from an exercise book. There are thirteen words, but they’re not words I’ve ever seen. “What do they mean?” I ask.

“Dunno,” says Jason.

“Who cares?” says Mack.

Mack starts reciting the words, and Jason and I join in. Thirteen words. Thirteen words, and the ticking stops.

Silence.

The room goes dark.

“Who summons me from my slumber?” The voice is dark and deep and heavily accented.

Someone screams. It might be me.

Light blooms. There is no groundskeeper’s shed. There is just the sky, with bright stars and a crescent moon. And man who spoke. He’s a tall man with the head of a long-billed bird.

“Who summons Thoth?”

Mack starts to cry. Jason babbles. I say nothing.

The bird-headed man looks to the weird clock and then to us. “You have cast the heka of the Clock of the Dead. Why have you stopped the passing of time?”

We didn’t mean it! We didn’t think anything would happen! I try to shout, but the words stick in my throat.

“Time must go on,” the man says. He reaches with the rod in his hand and touches the clock.

It stutters then starts to tick.

Darkness.

Light.

“Marvin! Marvin, wait up!”

I ignore her and keep walking. What is it with little sisters? Every time I turn around, there she is. Marvin, Marvin, Marvin! I’d be happy if I never heard her shout my name again.

###

Have you ever listened to a ticking clock? I mean, really listened. Try it. Close your eyes and listen to the dead spots between the tick, tick tick. To the place where the past and future lay trapped, waiting for the present to set them free.

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9 Comments

Filed under Flash Fiction

9 responses to “Flash Fiction: Bright Dreams & Clock’s Revenge

  1. Good story. I like the ending, that they fiddled with the works of time but things just got fixed.

  2. Very enjoyable.

    For me it had echoes of Lovecraft, without the air of definite failure.

  3. Love this. I realized at the end I was holding my breath. The whole time I read it! I love how you kept that suspenseful pace up through the whole thing.

    See – you’re like…smart and stuff. 😉

  4. Pingback: The Next Big Thing: Blog Hop | Davetopia

  5. I really enjoyed it! But I want more… 😉
    Have you considered letting Thoth speek Egyptian at first untill he realizes in frustration that he isn’t understood???

    • Thanks, Judith! Yeah, I had that scenario in an earlier draft, but it’s one of the parts that was cut out in edits when I brought it down to 1000 words. If I was rewriting this story without the word limit, I’d definitely include it.

      Thanks so much for the feedback! 🙂

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