Another Time by Stanlei Bellan

Another Time
Stanlei Bellan

Another minute, another jump.

It’s been three minutes and Ollie still hasn’t woken up. Granted, he is extremely aware of his surroundings, and doesn’t feel like he’s dreaming at all, but it would be great if this was a nightmare.

From what he can gather, from his underinformed point of view, he is inside a clock. Not a clock tower, or a cuckoo clock; not even one of those large, standing clocks you see in old haunted houses in horror movies. He is inside what appears to be a plain, round, white wall clock, with big black numbers, made of cheap plastic and cheaper glass. Ollie thought of them as office clocks for people with no imagination.

Another minute, another jump.

This clock is not on a wall but sitting face up on what Ollie assumes is a table. Which is why he has to jump every damn minute. The second hand is so long that it leaves no space whatsoever between its point and the wall of the clock; therefore, every sixty seconds, he has to jump so the hand doesn’t hit him.

It is true that instead of jumping he could just keep walking, following the second hand around. But then, every minute, he would have to jump twice: Once every time he crossed paths with the minute hand and again with the hour hand. Not to mention the energy he’d burn walking.

Another minute, another jump.

Much better to stand still, pondering his situation, and jumping once per revolution of the second hand. But maybe it is time to end the pondering – and start the pounding.

Ollie jumps and punches the clock’s glass face, which is just a few feet above his head. He is finally putting his class ring, a heavy and pointless metal monstrosity from his obscure university, to use. The transparent dome doesn’t break, as he foolishly expected, but he can see a small crack where he hit it. He has something to work with.

Another minute, another jump, another punch.

The glass shatters, sprinkling pain over him. If this is a dream, it is the most uncomfortable one he’s had in his life – also the most colorful, as bright red blood blooms from his cut arms.

Colorful, but not serious.

And with the pain comes the gain. He is free. Free from the clock, that is; not from his quandary. For some irrational reason, he expected that breaking the glass would end this hallucination. It has not.

As a matter of fact, not much has really changed. He is still inside the laid-down clock, the hands are still moving, and the second hand is approaching.

Another minute, another jump.

One step at a time, he thinks, half smiling at his unintended pun. He has to get out of the clock. The outer wall is an infuriating height: low enough that he can reach it with his fingertips, but too tall to get a grip on. And since he is athletically challenged, there is no way he can lift himself up with just a few fingers.

His only hope is to climb the hands, but that leads to some challenges. Ollie hasn’t broken the whole dome; he’s only managed to open a small hole in the glass, just past two o’clock. The hands are flexible, and he is pretty sure the only way they can hold his weight is if they are all aligned on top of each other. Right now it’s seven thirty-one.

Another minute, another jump, another grunt.

Time is heavy. Ollie decides he cannot wait almost nine hours until the hands align themselves. He is going to take time into his own hands. So he pushes. First the minute hand, clockwise from the thirty-one mark all the way around. He leaves it between the eleven and twelve minute mark.

If the minute hand was hard, the hour hand is almost impossible. There is not as nearly as much leverage as he had with the minute hand, as in this particular clock the hour hand is very short. But after much effort, he gets them aligned.

Another minute, a final jump.

Instead of jumping over the second hand, he jumps onto it, just as it ticks over the minute hand, which in turn sits above the hour hand. Each one bends on top of the other, under Ollie’s weight, and then springs back up, like a trampoline, propelling him through the hole in the glass and out of the clock.

He lands on top of the outside wall of the clock and despairs.

The Clockmaker is watching him. Closely.

Well done, well done,” the thunderous voice echoes around the infinite wooden walls lined with clocks of every size, shape, taste, color, and sound that have ever been built, and some that have yet to be imagined.

The gigantic fingers of the Clockmaker pinch Ollie’s shirt and lift him up for a closer inspection.

The eyes of the Clockmaker shine like two moons, protected behind peculiar brass spectacles, thick as binoculars and layered with adjustable loupes and lenses that stick out at all angles.

The Clockmaker, still holding Ollie, navigates through the myriad clocks scattered over the floor, tables, chairs, and shelves, stopping over a very complex piece of clockwork. He holds Ollie dangling, the clock just below his feet.

It is a horizontal clock, mimicking a Victorian city. Like any respectable miniature model (miniature at the scale of the Clockmaker), it is extremely detailed, with its own clock tower, lifting bridges, mechanical birds, and smoking chimneys atop metal houses.

The time is kept by twelve allegories, constructed out of an intricate mix of gears and springs, representing the twelve signs of the zodiac. They are spaced equidistantly over a train track, continuously moving clockwise around the circular city.

The Clockmaker opens a small section of the crystalline quartz dome that covers the city and gently lowers Ollie inside.

Ollie looks up as The Clockmaker closes the dome again and moves away out of view. He is sighing as he scans the city, which is not quite at his own scale, when the clockwork allegory representing Libra comes to life and strikes the bell three times.

Another time. Another escape.


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