Thursday, September 08, 2011

The Pocket Watch


He sat there on the pier; legs dangling over the ledge, eyes focused on something beyond the horizon  and his hands holding an old pocket watch.

It was an old, rather worn, silvery watch with roman numerals and hollowed out center so you could see the interior mechanics of it. And you could see all the cogs and springs softly turning, making the minutes go by one by one. And all the while the man sat there holding it, while gazing out at what seemed to be nothing in particular.

To a passer by, sure, it looked like he was admiring the sunset or the gentle rocking of the waves on the nearby cliffs. But if you looked a little closer you could see the unfocused eyes of a man who was looking inwards rather than outwards. He seemed to be looking back in time at things passed rather than at the magnificense of nature that was happening right in front of his eyes.

And all the while he was stroking the pocket watch.

Maybe he was thinking about how he got the watch? How it was a keepsake from an old relative who recently had passed away. How it was the only thing left to remind him of how he as a young kid always could find comfort in a soft word or a hug from the recently deceased. How he could always persuade him – it looked like a mans watch, for how often do women use pocket watches – to give him some sweets when all others had said no, or just persuade him to follow him to the park so that he could play when everyone else was busy. Remembering days gone by, by feeling the soft worn metal of the watch.

Or maybe he was thinking about something altogether different. Something entirely unrelated to the watch itself. It’s hard to tell if you can’t read his mind. Sometimes a thing is just a thing.

After a long while, he put the watch back in his pocket and stood up, casting a last glance at the sun casting its last ray’s of the day on the ocean.

He walked slowly down the now almost empty pier towards an equally almost empty parking lot at its end. He searched his pockets for his car keys and pushed the button for the car to unlock. He then gently stroked the top of the car, opened the door, got in and started the car. The enginge purred and the radio blasted out O Fortuna.

“What a fitting song”, he though to himself and turned down the volume before driving out of the lot.

 He quickly got onto streets with heavier traffic, as this was a city that never slept completly. And anyway, it was only just after sunset. Still deep in though, he almost missed a red light and had to break hard, earning himself some honks from the cars around him. They barely registered in his mind.

After a while he drove up an empty street of storefronts that had closed for the day ; metal bars in front to protect from vandals and looters. The street seemed dirty and scruffy, not the place he regularly attended. For think what you want, he looked like a very regular man. Though a bit on the chubby side, he was properly dressed in jeans and a shirt and drove a reasonably new generic saloon. His hair was cut in a regular fashion and nor did his accesories stand out. He looked, to cut it short, entirely normal.

He slowly drove down the street, seemingly looking for something special. Having driven down half the street, he slowed down, parked the car and got out. After having double checked that the car key locking transmitter worked, he walked into a dark alley; one like those you always see bad things happening in, in the movies. But he walked on, quickening his pace and checked his pocket for the worn silvery pocket watch.

It was still there.

In the middle of the alley there was a door. It looked like any other back door, surrounded by trash containers and lit by a cheap lamp that stood out from the wall above it. He walked up the two steps leading up to the door and knocked. At first he heard nothing, so he knocked again – this time a bit harder. Then he heard movement from inside; hard steps on stone flooring. The steps came closer and he heard the rustling of chains and locks being unlocked. Then the door opened a tiny bit and a low voice, coming from the darkness inside, asked him what he wanted?

Having made up his mind when he was sitting on the pier, he didn’t say a word but took the watch from his pocket and held it so the person inside could see it.

The door shut, followed by some more rustling of chains and then it opened again.

“Please step in”, the voice, still shrouded in darkness, said.

And he crossed the threshold; stepping from the dim light of the back alley into the darkness of the corridor. The bang of the door shutting behind him unnerved him, but not as much as the complete and utter darkness he now was standing in.

“What am I doing here”, he muttered, hoping things would clear up soon enough. But hoping even more that he wouldn’t end his days in this dark corridor, leading to who knows where.

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