Braxton didn’t overreact when the hands of his pocket watch started running backward. Like most things in his life, he thought it was a curious phenomenon that needed investigation. At that same moment, a woman passed him on the sidewalk. She nodded with a smile and said something and while her lips moved to the melody of “Good morning”, the words came out of her mouth in reverse.
The woman’s eyes went past Braxton to an approaching man. She waved and called out a greeting, or maybe a name, Braxton couldn’t tell because all of the words were backward. Now alarmed and on the verge of overreacting, Braxton rushed the last few steps to his shop and hurriedly let himself in. Once safely inside the Hands of Time Clock Repair and Curio Emporium, Braxton locked the door and took a deep breath. The sound of his own strained breathing eased and gave way to the most horrific sound of all: silence. Dreadful, terrifying…silence.
In a shop full of hundreds of vintage clocks, there was not one tick, not one tock. Nothing. Braxton shuddered and ran to the back of the shop.
A door led to a dark hallway which took Braxton into the deepest recesses of the Emporium. He burst through a last door and there in the center of a high-ceilinged room loomed a massive clock.
The clock towered high over Braxton. It had the gnarled face of an ancient being that seemed almost human but entirely something else. Huge, mutant gears encased in flesh turned in a tired, wheezing rhythm.
“I’m tired,” the clock said to Braxton, its voice a creaky drone.
“What’s wrong, Father?” Braxton asked.
“I’m tired,” the clock repeated.
Braxton hesitated, then said, “I saw them outside, speaking backward, and all the clocks in our shop have stopped.”
“You can fix me,” the clock said. “You know what you must do.”
With a deep sigh, Braxton unbuttoned his shirt. With pain in his eyes, he worked his skilled hand through his skin and into his chest. A moment later he pulled out a blood-covered gear. Seeing this, the Father smiled with his crooked mouth.
Braxton went to the back of the massive clock. Climbing a tall ladder, he searched through a section of the gears until he found a small cog with a broken spoke. Braxton removed the fractured gear and replaced it with the one from his chest. He climbed down and stood in front of the clock.
“Try now, Father,” Braxton said.
The clock took a deep breath. Braxton waited. The gears began to grind… backward.
Every clock in the shop started screaming. A high-pitched, metallic wailing filled the air.
Braxton grabbed his chest. “No!”
“Yes!” Shouted the giant clock. “It is the end!”
Blood filled Braxton’s eyes. “Please Father, no!”
The clock let out a rumbling laugh that shook the shop. The clocks, watches, and time-keeping devices that filled the shop kept screaming. Glass casings shattered. Gears were pulled backward. Time was erasing itself.
Braxton fell to the floor. The pain of all of his gears working against themselves filled his body. He collapsed and his life seeped out of him.
And all of the clocks in the world cried out in fear and pain as their gears wound in reverse, and then came to a dead and quiet stop.
With no gears turning, the earth stopped spinning and drifted off into the deepest darkness of space.
And the Father clock smiled and went to sleep because he was very, very tired indeed.