The Clockmaker

The town of Mystique Vale was a peculiar little place.

It was small, no bigger than a village, but had a busy train station. Dan and Jamie climbed out onto the platform to find themselves in a dense crowd, pushed and tackled by elbows and suitcases; they lost sight of each other, and Dan almost lost himself in the crowd when Jamie grabbed his sleeve and dragged him to the exit.

They scrambled out, shooting exasperated glares at the people pushing past them, who haven’t even noticed them. They came to a halt behind a vacant bus station, the bustling entrance still in their line of sight.

Dan huffed out a winded breath. “Holy hell, what is this place?”

Jamie examined a leaflet he’d grabbed on his way out. “It’s called Mystique Vale. Population of three thousand, two hundred and twenty seven. Has been built before the third moon became clear in the sky.”

They lifted their heads, glimpsing the three large, colorful moons hanging up there. Then they looked back down at the leaflet.

“Home to plenty of local legends,” Jamie read, “it’s a place that every self-respecting traveler must visit at least once in their current lifetime.”

Dan frowned, glancing back at the busy people with their formal attires and professional suitcases. “I don’t know why, but I’ve got this feeling they’re not on vacation.”

“An integral business spot,” added Jamie, still reading from the leaflet. He tilted his head, shifting the leaflet to the side as he scrunched his eyebrows. “I think it’s a transitional kind of place.”

“Meaning?”

“They’re here because of the train,” Jamie said, lifting his eyes to his friend. “Apparently, that platform over there is the only one that has trains leaving for the capital.”

“Somebody did some horrible planning,” Dan said, eyes tracking the people coming and going from the station. “Does this town have anything beside the train station?”

“I think there’s an avenue,” Jamie said, riffling through the leaflet. “And, I mean, there are people living here.”

“Poor bastards,” Dan said. He craned his neck, trying to see over small hill that stood behind the station, glimpsing nothing but a very tall, very distant transmission tower with a red light blazing at its top. He let out a short sigh, squared his shoulders, and pulled himself up onto the bus stop’s roof.

Jamie startlingly jerked away, almost dropping his leaflet. “What’re you doing?”

Dan straightened up. Standing on the bus stop’s roof, he could see clear and pretty the town of Mystique Vale outstretched behind the hill. It was small, snugly nestled inside a valley. At the farthest end from Dan, atop the opposite hill, stood the transmission tower. Next to it was single house.

He dropped his eyes back to the town, searching for anything interesting. It looked like any other regular, small town. To figure out what secrets it held, they had no choice but to go in.

He slowly crouched, before shifting to sit, legs dangling, at the edge of the bus-stop’s roof. Then, without a smidge of hesitation, he jumped back onto the ground.

His boots hit the dirt with a rough thump, and he started toward the hill. Jamie, however, grabbed his sleeve; when Dan turned inquiring eyes to him, Jamie gestured at something behind Dan.

Dan turned to see a small, wooden sign embedded in the ground next to a lower part of the hill. There was a small, crooked yellow arrow drawn on it; under it, crooked yellow letters read, Mystique Vale.

“There’s a path,” Jamie told him. Dan followed him down it.

They were surrounded by houses soon thereafter, walking down a scarcely-lit cobbled street, the air soft and warm, the lights in nearby windows glowing low. Dan lifted his chin to the stars and saw them blinking back, unhesitant.

“I like this place,” he said, turning a grin to Jamie.

“Me too, actually,” Jamie said, kicking down at the cobbles. Green leaves peaked up from the cracks between them, young and fresh. A row of dandelions grew around a large cobblestone, and they made sure to step clear of them as they walked.

They walked to the end of the street, coming into a small half-circle of what looked like shops. Most of them were closed: windows dark, signs flipped over, shutters turned down. One shop, however — the one right in front of them, in fact — seemed to be open.

Turner’s Antiques, read its sign. Dan and Jamie exchanged a glance, and proceeded to walk inside.

The shop was narrow, its layout curvy. They could barely find their own hands amongst the loads of items strewn out and about; hanging from the ceiling, stacked on crooked, half-collapsing shelves, scattered across the ground. 

Dan stopped at the threshold, curiously looking around him. Jamie went on ahead, careful on where he stepped, and disappeared behind the curve.

Dan picked up an eroded porcelain kettle. Its lid was missing, and its edges were chipped. It was surprisingly light; even so, he almost dropped it trying to put it down. He miraculously managed to catch it before it shuttered on the ground, discreetly putting it back on the shelf.

“Jeez,” he breathed to himself, following Jamie.

Jamie was standing by a small desk. A vintage, rusty-looking cash register took up half its space, and the wall behind it was similarly stacked with shelved items. Jamie, however, was standing with his back to it, examining something he was holding in his hand.

Dan got closer and saw that it was a cracked pocket watch. Its lining, as well as its hands, looked to be golden. It wasn’t ticking.

It was broken, he realized.

“You’ve got a good eye,” said a voice. Dan and Jamie both startled, looking toward the desk from where the voice had come; a man was indeed standing there, pushing the cash register shut with a metallic clark. He gestured at the pocket watch in Jamie’s hand. “Most people dismiss that, because it looks useless.”

“It’s a broken watch,” Dan said. “Of course it’s useless.”

There was something of amusement in the man’s eye as that turned to consider him. “And you’ve got the plain old way of mind.”

Dan scowled. “I’m plenty special.”

Jamie snorted. Dan gave him a dirty look.

“‘Scuse me, Mister Good Eye, oh Mister Sunshine,” Dan retorted. “What do you know?”

“Apparently, I can see something useful in a useless-looking thing,” replied Jamie, turning back to the merchant. “I don’t know what’s special about it, though.”

“Hah!”

“It’s got a spell on it,” said the merchant. Dan snapped his eyes to him. “Rumor says it can turn back time.”

“But it’s broken,” said Jamie.

The merchant shrugged. “It can be fixed.”

“So you’re saying that if we go and fix this,” Dan said, gesturing at the watch, “then we’ve got ourselves a time machine?”

“Allegedly.”

Dan’s eyes brightened. “Holy crap, that’s awesome.”

“You know anyone around here who could fix it for us?” Jamie asked.

“We’ve got a clockmaker,” replied the merchant. “He lives under the transmission tower. I assume you’ve noticed it.”

Dan and Jamie nodded.

“He’s a good guy,” said the merchant. “He’ll fix it for you, if you’ve got the money.”

“Speaking of,” said Jamie, putting the watch on the counter. “How much is it?”

“A day,” replied that. Jamie frowned.

“A day?” repeated Dan.

The merchant gave a single nod. “It’s been here for too long, so I’m selling it cheap for you boys.”

“No, wait, hold on a second,” said Dan. “How do we pay you a day? Like, a day of our lives? Or do you want me to sign your name on tomorrow?”

The merchant laughed. “You’ve hit the mark there, my friend. With the first one. A day of each your lives shall suffice; you only need to sign this dotted line.”

He extended forward a single sheet of paper. Dan and Jamie both looked down at it, reading what was written on it. 

It wasn’t much. 1 Broken watch. Price: a day, subtracted from the end of buyer’s life. 

“The last day of our lives?” asked Jamie, looking up at the merchant. The merchant nodded.

“Subtracted from yours and added to mine.”

“Do you sell all your stuff for time?” asked Dan. The merchant nodded again.

“That kettle you looked over? Worth fifteen months.”

Dan paled. Jamie gave him a funny look, but Dan discreetly crossed his arms. No funny business here, no sir. Dan was a responsible adult. “We’ll take the watch. Yeah, Jay?”

“We will,” confirmed Jamie. The merchant extended them a pen. Dan signed first; under it, on a second dotted line that hasn’t been there before, signed Jamie.

The merchant pulled the sheet to himself, carefully scrolled it and stashed it in the register. “All yours, boys.”

“Thank you,” said Dan, rather hurriedly. “We’ll go, then. Bye. I mean goodbye. Pleasure doing business with you.”

Jamie rolled his eyes and dragged Dan after him out of the shop. When they were out of there, Dan swirled around to Jamie. “You feeling something?”

Jamie concentrated for a moment, then shook his head. “Nothing.”

Dan patted his coat down as if he could find the missing day in one of its pockets. “I feel like a thief.”

“Tell me that on your deathbed,” replied Jamie, glancing around before taking out the leaflet he’d stashed in his pocket. He circled himself, then looked up and pointed in a direction. “The clockmaker’s that way.”

And they were off. Dan put the broken pocket-watch in his pocket, careful but not overly so, seeing as it was already broken. They crossed the town, coming across a pathway much alike the one leading into it. It was narrow and secluded, a wooden sign attached to a metal stick standing at its beginning; an arrow was drawn below yellow, washed-out letters, reading, The clockmaker.

They treaded up the steep hill without much chatter, instead focusing on not tripping and tumbling to a likely death. By the time they made it to the top, most of the lights down in the town have been turned off, the land dark and dissonant. The sound of crickets echoed around them. Above them, the three massive moons glowed in all their colorful glory, accompanied by a blanket of dazzling stars.

Dan let out a sigh that was half reminiscence, half physical exhaustion. “I can’t imagine living in a place like this. Just getting milk every morning would exhaust me.”

“You could have it delivered,” suggested Jamie. They both settled their gazes on the house standing ahead of them, the transmission tower towering tall beside it. 

“It’s a small town,” said Dan. “They’d run out of delivery boys pretty fast.” 

“They could put your milk in a bag, tie it to a drone, and let it do all the work.”

“You need to start a business, Jay,” Dan said, eyes fixed on the house. Only one of the windows was alight, no smoke coming out of the chimney. He started toward it. “Preferably a delivery business. You’d make millions.”

“I’ll put it on my bucket list,” Jamie said and followed Dan, who knocked thrice on the dark wooden door. 

A couple of static moments passed before faint shuffling sounds came from inside, shortly followed by the door opening. An old man stood behind it, his face half lit by the light from inside, the other half dark and ominous. His hair was white but full, blending into his beard. 

“Can I help you?” he said, voice critically croaky. Dan and Jamie both plastered polite smiles on their faces.

“We heard you fix watches,” Dan said, pulling his new broken watch out of his pocket and holding it out for the old clockmaker to see. “We thought you might be able to fix ours.”

“We have money,” added Jamie. The old man took the watch from Dan’s hand and examined it, his crinkly brow furrowing, eyes narrowing. “Not a lot of it, but we’ll give you what we have.”

The two boys expectantly observed the old clockmaker as that observed the watch. Then the clockmaker finally looked up to them, his features mellowed. “You must be cold out here. Excuse my manners; please, come in.”

He opened his door wide and stepped away, and they followed him inside. The clockmaker stalked into the lit room; when they entered it, they found it looked a lot like a study, a long mahogany desk and many shelves decorating it. The old clockmaker sat in the large, leather chair that stood behind the desk and leaned forward, holding the watch down under a lit magnifying glass.

“Would you like some tea?” asked the clockmaker. He put the watch down on the desk and reached for one of the drawers, riffling through its contents before finding what he was looking for. He looked up at the boys and they startled, assuming the question to have only been customary.

“We’re fine,” Dan hastily said, at the same time Jamie said, “I don’t drink tea.”

“He only drinks black and bitter coffee,” Dan added.

“And he only drinks coffee with too much creamer and sugar in it,” Jamie pointedly replied.

“I drink tea too,” Dan objected. “Sometimes.”

Jamie gave him a skeptical look. “I’ve never seen you drink tea.”

“You’re not my shadow, are you? I do things when you’re not around.”

“Like drink tea?”

Dan glared at him. The clockmaker cleared his throat, and they looked back at him, both their expressions turning sheepish.

“The problem in your watch is easily fixable,” said the clockmaker. “Half an hour would suffice. Unfortunately, I don’t keep coffee in my house.”

“That’s okay,” Dan hurried to say. “Sorry for the ruckus.”

The clockmaker glanced at him in such a way that Dan couldn’t tell whether he was forgiven or held eternally accountable, so he said nothing else. Then the clockmaker started working on the watch, paying Dan and Jamie no additional mind.

They sat down on a leather sofa, trying not to stare as the clockmaker worked. Half an hour passed; the clockmaker was done.

He got up from his leather chair with the pocket-watch in hand, went around his desk and stopped before them. Dan and Jamie stood up, Dan taking the watch from the clockmaker. For all matters and purposes, it looked new; its faint tick-tock, tick-tock rhythm echoed in the stuffy air around them. Apparently, it was half past midnight. 

“Thank you,” Dan said, lifting earnest eyes to the clockmaker. He reached into his pocket and found a few crumpled dollars, cringing a little. “How much is it?”

“I’ve known this watch a long while,” said the clockmaker. “I’ve fixed it many times. I take no fee for it.”

Dan blinked. “Ah. Thank you.”

“Take care of it,” said the clockmaker. “Those who mess with it are bound for mishaps.”

“We’ll keep that in mind,” said Jamie. “Thank you.”

They left the house. Looking for light, they walked up to the transmission tower, where they stopped and took a closer look at the watch.

It looked a lot like what a regular, somewhat vintage-y pocket-watch would look like. It had a golden coating and now a smooth glass; its hands moved jaggedly, trembling between every tick and tock.

“Try to rewind it,” Jamie said. “Maybe that’ll do the trick.”

Dan tried that. He turned the hour-hand back by an hour, to show eleven-thirty. They waited, looked around them, and after a few seconds of nothing happening, Dan turned it back further.

He was about to give up when the watch’s glass suddenly exploded in his hands.

Dan and Jamie yelped and stumbled apart, Dan almost dropping the watch. “What the—“ he broke himself off with a hiss and put the watch on the ground, attention pulled to the small glass shard stuck in his hand. “The watch hates me, Jay.”

Jamie picked the watch up from where Dan had put it, careful on the jagged edges. “That’s weird.”

“You don’t say.”

Jamie looked up at Dan. “You alright?”

“I’m peachy,” Dan replied, grimacing as he pulled out the shard. That seemed to have been a bad idea, because as soon as he did that, blood welled out. “Ow, ow— Jay, I’m gonna die!”

“You’re not going to die,” Jamie said. He walked up to the clockmaker’s front door and knocked, Dan scornfully following. The door opened shortly.

“Excuse us for the…” Jamie’s voice trailed off as he saw who stood across from him.

“Hey, you’re that guy from the antique shop,” Dan exclaimed, holding his hand to his chest. “Only you— well.”

For once, Dan had the audacity not to say, You seem to have aged ten years in less than an hour. But there was no other way to put it: the man standing across from them looked like he could be the antique merchant’s older brother, with thick, graying sideburns, an array of sprouting crinkles and a thin press to his mouth that hasn’t been there the last time they’ve seen him. The merchant looked between the two of them, the creases in his forehead deepening. “Do I know you?”

“I guess not,” Jamie hesitantly said.

“I’m bleeding to death,” Dan added to break the tension. The older merchant’s eyes widened, right as Jamie rolled his eyes.

Dan held his hand forward, and that dramatically dripped a sole drop of blood onto the floor. “Do you have a first aid kit we could use?”

The older merchant carefully nodded. “Come in. I’ll go and fetch it.”

They went inside the house, stopping beyond the threshold while the older merchant left to get the kit. Only, they didn’t seem to have stepped into the same house as that of the clockmaker’s.

The house itself was the same house, with the same walls and the same layout — but the walls were a clean shade of white, the pictures hanging on the walls different. The old dresser that had stood next to the door was now brand new. Dan and Jamie crept toward the clockmaker’s study — and peeking inside, they saw it was a study no more. It was a storage room, piled with all types of different objects, some they recognized from the antique shop.

“Holy shit, Jay,” Dan whispered. “I think it worked.”

“I don’t think it turned time back, though,” said Jamie. Dan frowned at him, gesturing around him at the same-but-completely-different house they were standing in.

“There’s no clockmaker around here.”

“And the antique shop’s guy’s older by a decade, at least,” said Jamie, minding to keep his voice down. “Something wacky’s happening.”

“It’s a magical watch, Jay,” said Dan. “It’s supposed to be wacky.”

Jamie gave him a skeptical look but didn’t reply. Right about then the older merchant returned with a first aid kit, and he led them to a guest room which had a wooden table and two brand-new sofas in it.

Soon enough, Dan’s hand was all patched up, and the three of them — Dan, Jamie and the older merchant — were left to sit there in awkward silence.

“The watch you sold us yesterday broke,” said Dan. 

The merchant frowned. “You must be thinking of someone else,” he said. “My shop’s closed down years ago, and I haven’t sold anything since then.”

“Your younger brother, then?” suggested Jamie. “It’s just — you look an awful lot like the merchant who sold it to us.”

“He didn’t say anything about warranty, but considering now I’m gonna die a day younger than I otherwise would’ve—“ Dan inhaled— “I can’t help but think I’ve been robbed.”

“Tricked,” said Jamie.

“Conned, even.”

They both fixed big, unblinking eyes on the older merchant, who looked between them with an edge of confusion etched to his features. “Your watch, you said?”

They nodded.

“All that we — innocent, irreproachable guys — did, was tune back the time,” said Dan. “Or we tried to, at least. And then it exploded!” He gestured with his patched-up hand. “And with the clockmaker not here, we can’t have it fixed anymore.”

Jamie nodded along, a smile hinting at the edges of his lips. “Do you know where he went?”

“He died,” said the older merchant. Dan’s and Jamie’s expressions sobered. “Five or so years ago. I bought the house and moved back in here not long after that.”

“Did you know him well?” asked Jamie. The merchant pulled up a shoulder, shaking his head.

“No one really did,” he said. “He never came down into town. I’ve had him fix a watch of mine once or twice — but other than that, he was really…” the merchant searched for the right description. “A mystery.”

“A legend of sorts?”

The merchant shrugged. “You could say so.” A thoughtful expression crossed his face, and he perked up. “Can I take a look at this watch of yours?”

Dan and Jamie exchanged looks. Jamie took the broken watch out of his pocket and held it forward.

The older merchant took it, a childish kind of wonder coming over him. He turned it over, inclined his head to get a closer look, and smiled. “Exquisite.”

“It was,” said Dan. “When it wasn’t broken.”

The older merchant looked up to him and, as if having not heard Dan, said, “you said I sold this to you yesterday?”

“So it was you?” Jamie said.

“But you’re older,” Dan couldn’t help but say. The merchant humorously huffed.

“You, boys,” he said, “seem to have traveled through time.”

Dan and Jamie exchanged looks, before landing them back on him. 

“That’s really freaking awesome, don’t get me wrong,” started Dan, “but I thought it turns time back. Not, you know,” he gestured with his good hand. “Forward.”

The merchant thoughtfully put a hand over his mouth, examining the watch once again. “Fascinating.”

“Does it mean we’re stuck in this different time?” asked Jamie. “Seeing as it self-destructed as soon as we used it?”

“I don’t think it was self-destruction,” said the merchant. He held out the watch for both of them to see and added, “take a closer look.”

Dan and Jamie both leaned in, and it took them the better part of a minute to figure out what the older merchant was trying to show them.

“It’s the same,” Jamie said, intrigue in his voice, and glanced up at him. “The cracks and the time it’s stopped on. It’s exactly the same.”

“So what,” said Dan, “it brought itself back in time and launched us forward?”

“I’m not sure,” said the merchant. “I’ll have to take a closer look.”

Dan opened his mouth to say something — perhaps to object — but decided against it and closed it again.

“I’ll be just a moment,” the merchant said and got up. “Keep an eye on it in the meantime, will you?”

Dan and Jamie both nodded, and Dan took the watch from the merchant, who promptly left the guest room. Dan’s gaze lingered at the door, before dropping back to the watch. He turned it around and took a closer look.

There, at the bottom of the watch’s backside, the golden coating chafed off to reveal small, barely visible red initials. “A.T.,” he muttered under his breath, then looked back up at the vacant threshold. “Who do you think made it?”

Jamie shrugged. “Does it matter?”

Dan looked to him. “I guess not,” he said. Then he sighed and leaned back against the sofa. “We need to have it fixed, Jay. I’m not a man to linger.”

“There has to be someone around here who can fix it for us,” Jamie said. “We’re not going to get stuck.”

“But what if we do?”

Jamie halted. “Then we go somewhere else.”

“We won’t even notice it’s the wrong time,” understood Dan, sinking further against the couch. “If we’ve never been there.”

“It’s not like we planned on going back, anyway.”

“Yeah,” said Dan. “Not like.”

He looked down at the watch, thumb brushing against the rough side of it. It made a croaky sound.

Dan and Jamie both halted, eyes narrowing. Dan barely had the time to curse when the watch exploded, and all of the sudden they were stumbling to the floor of a different room — no longer having any couches to sit on, dozens fragments of what used to be the watch clattering to the floor around them.

Dan remained frozen for a few moments, arms protectively shielding his face, before he dared to peek at the mess. “That can’t be good.”

Jamie climbed up to his feet and held out a hand for him, which he took to pull himself to his feet. They took a look around the room. 

It’s layout was the only thing that was left the same. The walls were decorated with a flowery wallpaper peeling in places; a tall shelf, packed with pots of different shapes and sizes, stood on one end of the room. On another there was a small, single bed with a duvet messily dropping off of one side, and the floor was littered with broken pottery on top of the watch fragments.

Dan let out a long exhale and circled himself, hands running through his hair. “Where the hell are we?”

“I think we’re still in the house.”

Dan halted. “When the hell are we?”

At that, Jamie shrugged. “The past. Or the future. I don’t know.”

Dan wryly glanced at him, and Jamie made a clueless gesture. Then, the shuffle of footsteps came approaching the room from outside. The boys exchanged panicked glances, briefly searching around for a place to hide — and settled on opening a window and jumping out into the bushes below it. Jamie pulled it shut and they crouched in time for the newcomer to miss them.

The footsteps abruptly ceased, replaced with a long-suffering sigh. “I hate that cat.”

“A kid,” Dan said.

“Shhh,” Jamie urgently hissed.

“There’s a kid—“

“Alastair!” exclaimed a voice from farther inside the house, muffled by the doors and walls. “Dinner’s ready!”

Dan and Jamie glanced up to see a sky painted reds and blacks, faint stars blinking into existence overhead. Two of the three moons were half-lidded, the third only barely a bluish crescent.

“But Mom—

“No buts!” she muffledly replied. “And your father needs a hand in the workshop after dinner, so be kind and help him!”

“But I need to fix my—“

“You can fix your pots tomorrow, sweetheart.”

The kid in the room sighed, and Dan and Jamie heard a shuffling of footsteps getting away. When they were sure the coast was clear — after they’ve waited ten seconds, that is — they lifted their heads to glance into the room.

“What do we do now?” asked Dan, keeping his voice low. A few beats passed before Jamie replied.

“We should find out when we are,” he finally said. “Then find out if we can fix the watch.”

“Jay, I don’t think we can,” said Dan, eyes fixed on the countless pieces littering the ground.

“Then we could find out if the train’s still operating,” said Jamie. Dan nodded and they got up, turned around, and starting going downhill.

Halfway down the path, the world around them suddenly, sharply darkened, and they stopped in their tracks. They simultaneously lifted their heads to the sky.

The sky was now pitch black, decorated with countless bright, shining stars. Two moons full, one a half, and no signs of sunset on the horizon. “What just happened?”

“The sun went down?”

Dan looked back down at Jamie. “And the moons suddenly filled up, you mean.”

“I don’t know, Danny,” Jamie said. “Maybe the day here cycles like that.”

“That makes no sense.”

“Because the sky turning off like a light switch does,” Jamie wryly replied. “C’mon, let’s get down.”

Dan sighed and followed. Soon enough they were back downhill and crossing the town toward its other end, where they hoped there was still a train station to whisk them away. Halfway, though, they stopped.

“Is that?” said Dan, voice bewildered.

“I think it is,” replied Jamie, voice the same color. Across the street, under a shop-sign reading Turner’s Antiques, a merchant was just locking up. He turned around — and when he did, both Dan and Jamie startled.

“He looks the same,” said Dan. “Like yesterday.”

“I can see that,” Jamie replied. He then narrowed his eyes and stepped forward. Dan glanced to his sides and followed. The merchant seemed to recognize them, because he saluted, a thin grin crossing his mouth. 

“Good to see you again, boys,” he said. “Did you find any miracles?”

Dan and Jamie exchanged looks, before landing their gazes back on him. “You could say so,” Jamie said with a frown. “You’re the same— from yesterday, right?”

“If you’re being technical,” said the merchant with a smile. “I recall selling you a watch not two hours ago.”

“That’s right,” Jamie belatedly affirmed. “That’s what I meant.”

“Are there any returns on it?” asked Dan. 

“Sorry,” said the merchant. “The transaction can’t be canceled.”

“In that case, we’ll be going now,” Jamie said. “We have a train to catch.”

“Hold on,” said the merchant. He reached into a pocket inside his coat and pulled out a business card, which he handed Jamie. Dan leaned closer to see what it said.

“Alastair Turner?” said Jamie, eyebrows perking.

“In case you boys ever come around again,” said the merchant. “Now, if you don’t mind — I’ll go home and get some sleep.”

“By all means,” said Dan, his voice, despite of himself, intrigued. The merchant gave them another smile and left.

Dan looked to Jamie. “You don’t think…?”

“I don’t know what to think anymore,” said Jamie, pocketing the card. “Let’s just be glad we got back to the right time.”

“How did we, though?”

Jamie shrugged. “I have no idea.”

They both looked after the merchant, until that went out of sight. When he did, they took a long look around them, and made their way back to the train station.

It was as busy as ever, despite the hour. So they got tickets to the nearest train out of town, and left Mystique Vale behind.


© Michal Rotko

Picture by Kjartan Einarsson on Unsplash

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