Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The 11th Hour

Time goes both ways, forward and back. For some reason moving forward comes naturally but moving backward is difficult. Certainly, some memory of backward movement is built into all of us but most never pay attention to it. Someone might, on occasion, recall lost images from their childhood, experience a strong sense of deja vu, or have a sudden moment of inspiration strike from seemingly nowhere. If they were to follow these streams of thought to their source they might find a way back through time. But few do. And those who do seldom find their way back.

Joe did. He was 8, almost 9, when it happened. The week prior to his experience he had found his hamster, Orpheus, had passed on. Joe dumped his super hero action figures from their shoe box, wrapped the stiff little rodent body in tissues, and placed it inside. He set the lid on the box and scrawled a sweet, misspelled eulogy on top. Joe retreated to the sanctuary of his comic book collection just as he had done when his dad and then Nana had died. After several hours of seeing beloved heroes run the gamut of death, life, and resurrection, Joe felt a bit better and set his alarm for school the next morning. He always set it an hour later since this particular clock only had 11 numbers on it. His Nana had given it to him shortly after his dad's death claiming the clock was good luck. It had never brought him anything but bleary eyes.

He blinked bleary eyes the next morning as the alarm rang. He looked at the clock. It showed 5:00 (6:00 in real time) and had Orpheus sniffing happily from behind. Joe blinked and lay back down. He was asleep still. This was a nice dream but he dreaded having to wake up from it. He sat up again with a start. The obligatory missing pieces of reality that accompanied all dreams were nowhere to be seen. He pinched himself. It didn't hurt much but he was awake. And Orpheus was back.

That night, Joe put some blue bottles next to the strange alarm clock. The next morning he was awakened by buzzing in the window. He repeated his experiment over the next few days with an assortment of dead bugs which awoke right on cue the next day. After almost a week of this, he tried his experiment on a large, decayed robin from the street. The next morning he had to open his window and chase it out for all the racket it was causing. The experiments worked and Joe knew exactly what to do with the clock.

The next day was Saturday but his plan was pushed back by his weekly downtown date with mom. It was already dusk when he returned home. Running to his room, he snatched the alarm clock, threw on a heavier jacket, and scratched Orpheus' back, barely noting the little hamster's peaked look. In a few minutes Joe was climbing off his bike in front of his dad and Nana's graves. Joe set the alarm for the next morning and placed it on dad's grave.

In that moment the world shimmered almost imperceptibly and Joe felt a sudden shiver run down his spine. He picked up the clock and another shiver took him. The world shimmered again and the feeling was gone.

He stood in front of the grave for several minutes gripping the clock and then, slowly, placed it in his pocket and rode back home. When he got back home he found Orpheus's cage upset and the little hamster battered and dead on the floor. The resurrected flies and insects were hammering the window recklessly and soon they too dropped lifeless to the floor.

Joe never wound the clock again. And he never felt the same shimmer and chill that he had experienced that day in the graveyard. It's for good reason that moving forward in time comes naturally. Time moves both ways, forward and back. But the past should remain where it is.

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