Friday, February 21, 2014

A Face-Time Continuum

We had the end of season party for #4's basketball team last night.  They finished undefeated.  I finished over-eated -- we were at a pizza buffet and I might have almost had a little bit too much.

I haven't exactly been reading Poe, but I've been reading of him and haven't written anything in that vein since "The Penny and the Paperclip" so…

A Face-Time Continuum
by Jon Stark
February, 2014; 677 words

Portia cowered in her corner.  It was no longer 'the corner' or 'a corner.'  She'd been here too long for that.  It was also 'her collar' and 'her chain' though she did not think on them as fondly.  Except perhaps the collar.  There was a sense of security in the collar.  Of belonging.


The workbench was covered with tools.  Not big wrenches and braking bars for engines.  Delicate tools for delicate work.  And wood.  There was no saw dust on the bench, or on the floor.  He was meticulous and it had been cleaned up at once.  But he didn't trust the surface, too much risk that there was still some particle there that could gunk things up and spoil his work.

He worked instead from a leather mat with the inner mechanism of a clock spread out, a few small tools he needed lay in their well-worn place.  He applied steady pressure to a stubborn gearbox, frozen with rust and neglect.  This clock had looked very nice when he bought it, but the insides didn't work and when he took it apart it almost made him cry.

But he never cried.  He knew the secret was patience.  And pressure.


Portia always tried to sleep now.  It was the only way to pass time.  At first she had tried to escape but there are only so many ways you can pull on a chain anchored to a wall.  Only so many nails you can scrape off of your fingers against old bricks mortared into place.  Only so many times you can count the marks that the other girls left.

When it was their corner.  Their collar.


The gear-set broke free.  He was surprised -- it was much weaker than the last clock he'd worked on.  That one had taken hours over the course of days.  That had been a beautiful clock.

He watched Edgar, his malnourished cat, pace across the floor.  He didn't particularly care for the animal and it didn't like him, but they had an arrangement that suited them both and they were content to ignore one another.


Portia looked at the giant hourglass that sat against the wall just out of her reach.  Her captor had flipped it over when she was hooked to the chain, rotating it as if by magic, aided by an unseen system of pulleys and gears and counter weights.

The sand had started running.

It had been running for a long time.  She couldn't be sure how long, in the dark with nothing to mark the days.  But it was long enough she didn't care anymore.  Long enough that she’d given up.  Long enough that she couldn't wait for the sand to finally run out.  Anything was better than waiting.  Wasn’t it?

Such a big hourglass.


The man stood and stretched.  Edgar forgot himself and rubbed at the man's legs.  He forgot himself and stroked the cat's head.  Then by mutual agreement they parted ways.

He walked over to where a giant hourglass stood against the wall.  He was very proud of it.  There was a thousand pounds of sand inside.  It took nearly a month to run out completely.

And it was almost done.  He tapped at the glass, willing it to hurry.  He was a patient man, but even so, the excitement of starting on a new project was hard to contain.  A new clock.  He loved building new clocks.

Portia watched him shuffle away.  In the first days she had tried to get his attention. She shouted, smashed things, even threw her water bottle at him but he never acknowledged her.  Now they ignored each other.  But his tapping on the glass encouraged her. He knew it was almost over too.

She leaned back against her wall, in her corner.  The weight of her chain pulled against her collar and she dozed sitting on her floor.  Over her head the clocks kept time.  Eleven of them.  Each with two hands.  Each with a gaunt face that looked remarkably like her own.

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