The Many Rooms of Time (fiction by Ben Steele)

He had inherited this old house from a side of the family he didn’t even know existed. Apparently, his name had been at the end of a long list of heirs. It was fortunate for he needed a place to stay. His landlord, prior landlord that is, had recently evicted him. He had taken in a stray cat and cats were prohibited… it said so in the lease. So, he arrived at this house, just himself and the cat. The cat promptly disappeared, surely exploring as cats like to do. He decided he should also explore as it was a very large house.

He went from the foyer to a side room to a dining room to a kitchen, every room with doors leading to other rooms and in every room clocks: cuckoo clocks, massive grandfather clocks, simple wall clocks, and even a few hourglasses mostly in the kitchen. He finally came to a room that had display cases of wrist watches, pocket watches, and unusual devices that he thought might be timers. Looking at these time pieces, he realized all of them were stopped. He now wandered upstairs and it was beginning to dawn on him that none of them worked. There was a loose pattern to the times they were stopped at as if each room was not only stale with settled dust but also with settled time.

He now stood in what must have once been a bedroom. A table with a mirror, where he imagined a woman might have sat to comb her hair, had become cluttered with small clocks of the sort found in souvenier shops. These clocks were held by small figurines or enclosed in globes, and they were all set a little before five as if they waited to be called down for dinner.

Walking on, he noticed that each room was captured in its particular moment. When he made his way to the attic, even the clocks in boxes were stuck in their shared crevice of time. He kept mental notes of these times hoping he might discover an order to it all, but he couldn’t grasp why a room with clocks set almost in unison at quarter after 9 pm was next to a room with clocks set at times dispersed over the hours of late morning. After a while, he began to notice something or rather a lack of something. No clock or time piece in any room was set between the hours of 2 and 3 in the am.

Continuing to wander, he ended up in a wing of the third floor. He came to the last room he had yet to enter which was at the back of the house. The door was part way open and it creaked as he stepped inside. This room was furnished with just a bed and a bedstand, but more importantly there were no clocks. He was so struck by this oddity that he didn’t initially notice the cat curled upon the bedcover. The contented feline purred and squinted up at him.

He suddenly realized how tired he was. The time had slipped by and it was now quite late. Sitting down at the edge of the bed, he tugged his shoes off placing them upon the floor and he unstrapped his wrist watch laying it upon the bed stand. He lay back, the bed felt so comforting. The purring of the cat fell in sync with his own breathing. In a half-dream state, these sounds slowly merged into the clicking of gears and the whirring of springs. As he further settled into the soft mattress, it felt as if the whole house shifted ever so slightly… but he was so deeply asleep within a moment of time that he didn’t even hear the clang of chimes and other distant clamoring noise.

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