Watch the Time – Flash Fiction - Words by Edward Gough Back

Watch the Time – Flash Fiction


A mysterious pocket watch transports its wearer to unexpected moments in history.


I couldn’t take my eyes off the immaculately polished golden pocket watch, which dangled absentmindedly, casually knocking against the gentleman’s lower leg. Either he didn’t feel it knocking against him, or he was just simply ignoring the sensation that was unknown to me. All I knew was that I had to have it. It called to me in a way I had never felt before. I had to have it, and it must be mine. 

My footsteps were quick, steady, but firm as I confidently walked over to the gentleman, paying no mind to his expensive watch, which hung there like a gift for people like me.

I look normal in this crowd—the everyday crowd of commuters and shoppers—no one would suspect a thing. I was just like them, and as I gently pushed my left hand outwards—only slightly, ever-so-slightly—I took hold of the pocket watch. It only took a minimal effort to pull it unclipped from his chain. 

I left no time for him to turn around and check the sudden seizure in the steady, almost rhythmic tapping he had been feeling against his leg. I was gone from the everyday crowd and gone from the sight of the stupid gentleman who left me his watch on a plate. 

I turned the corner and headed down the long and narrow alleyway. He would only search for a shadow if he even tried looking for me now. I was in the clear and wanted to inspect my loot.

The pocket watch looked even brighter as I removed it from my deep coat pocket(you need big pockets in my game). I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was magnificent. Could this be the best-damned thing I’d managed to find after all these years? You know…I think it is. 

I couldn’t help but make a little jig—the jig I did when I had caught the day’s worth in one catch.  

Yippie! Doo-daa!

Bringing the watch back up to view, I wanted to inspect further. The entire watch had been made up of what seemed to me to be pure gold. At the very top protruded a small golden pin hooped at the end, encompassing the chain ring that once attached to the stupid gentleman’s trousers. The golden pin at the top interested me with its spiralling design. The watch face was the brightest white I had ever seen, with its Roman numerals ringing around in a hand-drawn stencil. 

Its solid gold hands ticked around, and the golden cogs and gears inside could just about be seen through the small, rounded glass window. I could see how each cog ticked and turned around with each hand. But my attention was drawn back again to the pin on the top. Was it a button?

I pressed down on the golden pin and heard the satisfying click of something happening. I watched in anticipation as the cogs began to spin around faster and faster. They were sending the hands twisting around quicker than my eyes to process when all of a sudden, it stopped, and a great boom bounced and slapped my eardrums around, sending me careening to the ground.

My head had nearly smacked the hard tarmac pathing, but I was lucky to immediately get my hands out in protection. Unfortunately, it caused me to drop the pocket watch, which flew out of my hand and travelled some distance away from me.

My hands had cushioned the fall, which had cut and torn the whole thing. Blood was beginning to trickle out of the wounds in both my hands, covering my palms in a crimson red. They hurt, but the watch was still the main focus of my mind. I could fix my hands, but I couldn’t fix myself a meal without that damned watch. 

I drew my head upwards in search of the watch when I noticed the large brick walls sandwiching me into the alleyway were no longer surrounding me. The alleyway had disappeared entirely, or well, no. 

Had it been destroyed?

What the hell is going on? I looked around in all directions, seeing no buildings. Nothing. Just miles and miles of brick, cement, and rubble. What was this? Where am I? 

I jolted my head, turning around to a noise I thought I’d heard of someone shouting, but when I looked, there was no soul in sight—just miles, in all directions, of rubble and destruction. 

It was shimmering and glinting in the sun, which beamed down on me without any protection or shade from any buildings. The golden shine stood out like a collectable in a video game, calling for me to pick it back up again. I did, collecting it quickly and rubbing my thumb across the watch’s glass front, clearing away the dust. When I noticed the back felt harsh and sharp instead of smooth and straight, I turned the watch around and saw the great big gash in the Goddamned thing. The cogs had stopped working, and some had seemed to have gone missing—the smaller cogs that had fit through the cut. 

It was broken. The damned thing was broken. Just my Goddamned luck!

I slumped down onto the ground, sharp concrete grating into my shin, causing me to cringe.

I was lost. I had no clue where I was; to make matters worse, I didn’t even have a working pocket watch. What the hell am I going to do now? 

With nothing to do but hope and pray for the watch to start working again, I clicked and twisted at the golden pin, but nothing happened. There were no satisfying clicks and no turning and spinning of the cogs. I am out of luck.

As I turned the pocket watch around to see the face, I noticed a small ticker displaying the year. I hadn’t noticed it before but took in the number it read on the ticker. 

The year on the ticker read…next year?

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