Father gave us one non-negotiable rule when we moved into the seaside town of Meridia: do not go into the watchmaker’s shop.
The Chronos&Kairos is off-limits.
Father said it in his voice that he used when he told us to stop using real arrows to perfect the shoot-an-apple-off-the-head trick, to stay away from strangers (especially strangers wearing top hats or monocles), and to quit jumping off our roof.
So we, of course, have one mission this summer: make it into the watchmaker’s shop.
“Three days and nothing,” Caleb says, rubbing his wild red hair. “We should just go in, Susan!”
I don’t take my eyes off the Chronos&Kairos. No one’s gone in and no one’s come out. “We have to be careful. Maybe you were right about it being a front for something illegal.”
I take out my binoculars and peer in the windows. All I see is a statue of a bullfrog. As the hour turns to three o’clock, its tongue sticks out three times; I wonder if it ribbits.
Scanning the front of the store, I spot the door – finally! – opening. “Hide!” I say, and we duck behind a trashcan. My binoculars are zoomed in; I see a man emerge, wearing a top hat and a monocle. But even more alarming than his accessories is his face –
I pass the binoculars to Caleb. “Look!”
He squints through the lenses. “He looks just like an old man version of Dad!”
“I know,” I say, confused. “Okay, that’s it. We’re going in there.”
We wait until the man has gone into a nearby store before we dash across the street, pushing the door open. A chime rings; my eyes adjust to the dim light.
The room is totally empty.
“This is weird.” Caleb says.
“This is bizarre,” I answer.
“This is private property,” says a voice behind me.
We turn to see the man in the top-hat.
“I’m glad you found the courage to come in. You’ve been spying on me for days.”
I cross my arms. “If this is your store, where are your watches?”
“If this is my store, aren’t you forbidden from coming in?” he asks.
“How do you know that?” Caleb asks. “And how come you look like our father– except with gray hair and wrinkles?”
Close up, I see he even has the same spring-leaf-green eyes.
“You’ve got that backwards. It’s your dad who looks like me.” He grins. “Gerald Horaz, at your service.”
My stomach does a roller-coaster drop. “Our grandfather is dead,” I say.
“Did your Father say that?” he asks.
I think it over. “Well – he said you’d passed over into a place we couldn’t follow.”
“Yes, I’ve passed into all kinds of places. But you certainly can follow me there.” He walks through the room and taps on the wall. He looks at us as a door appears. “Well?” he asks. “Are you coming?”
The room’s entire ceiling and all three back walls are made of glass; I see that we are near the edge of a bluff overlooking the sea. Our maybe-grandfather presses a button and the back wall slides open, letting sea-breezes in.
“What is all this?” Caleb asks, pointing to the mechanisms scattered everywhere.
“Tools of the trade,” he says. “Sun-dials, chronometers, clepsydras, telescopes. It’s horology, children, but you have to do more than study time.”
“What do you mean?” I ask, wondering if he is a genius or a lunatic.
“We – you – are time-keepers. Your father knows it’s time for your training, but he’s scared to let you begin. He’s always been afraid when I’ve had to go outside of earth to tinker with things.”
Caleb and I look at each other. “Is this a joke?” he asks.
Gerald points up. “The original time-pieces – sun, moon, stars – need maintaining. Since the beginning, every other generation in the Horaz family has been responsible for making sure the orbits stay on track, ensuring time keeps moving forward. People try to change it, you know. Brilliant minds have attempted to control time for their own gains.”
“And we do what, exactly?” Caleb asks, cynical.
“We protect time. We reverse it, slow it down, destroy space-rubble that would knock us off-course – whatever we have to do to keep the frame-work of history intact.”
Gerald pulls something from his pocket – it looks like a watch, but it has layers of dials and switches that are unlike anything I’ve ever seen. “I know you don’t believe me; I’d like to get past this doubt so that we can begin your lessons.”
He walks through the open wall and through the field. He turns, does a little tap-dance, makes a sweeping bow, and leaps backwards completely off the cliff.
No sound comes out of my throat when I try to scream; I run to the edge of the bluff and look down –
“Susan –“ Caleb says, his voice shades of wonder – look!”
Gerald Horaz is lying on his back in mid-air; his ankles are crossed, arms behind his head, hat over his face.
He lifts up the hat and winks. “I’ve slowed down time. I’m falling so slowly that I’m really not falling at all.” He does a backstroke through the air and lands next to us on his feet. “It’s more like taking a swim.”
I look at Caleb. “I guess you were right about the shop being a front for something else,” I say.
“Is this our new mission?” he asks.
“More like a whole new life,” I whisper. I look up at Gerald Horaz in his top-hat and monocle; if Father Time is my own grandfather, who knows what else is possible?
I grin at Caleb. “Wanna’ try it?”
His eyes widen, but he nods.
With the sound of Gerald’s cheers in the wind, we grab hands and take a running, spinning, cannonball dive over the edge of the cliff, trusting that time itself will catch our fall.
“Chronos&Kairos” is the second installment in a writing challenge that passes prompts from one in-house author to the next on every other Friday (though last week was skipped due to the release of our newest book “This Never Happened“…get a copy!) The challenge? Authors are limited to only a 1,000 words or less. Can you guess the prompt given to Christie? She was challenge by Jon who wrote the first installment, “Kello’s Jello“, and his prompt to Christie was- “Write a children’s story that includes a scene with a man jumping off a cliff into the sea.” How do you think she did?
Christie has singled out R. Tim Morris as next up in line. Ryan, you ready for this? Your prompt is- “Write a scene that incorporates the following three things: espionage, a bagpipe player, and bacon.” (Bacon is a Ryan specialty, as proven in his book- “This Never Happened“.) Ooo, that post is going to be delicious! *rubs hands together with an evil glint in the eye*