Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday and the sixty-seventh piece in this series. This week’s is a 998-worder by horror novelist and short story author Jessica Grace Coleman.
Time to Change
Vincent looked up at the bare beams of the attic ceiling and shook his head in amazement. He was still holding his great-grandfather’s watch, a shiny gold disc in the darkness, the ticking of the timepiece matching the palpitations of his heart. If he’d looked in the elegant silver mirror at the other end of the long, narrow room, he would have seen his shocked face staring back at him, blank and white and round.
He’d come up into the attic to dump his old typewriter, something which until recently had been the bane of his life. Writer’s block had enveloped him a few months ago, and he’d never quite got his mojo back. The book had been left unfinished, and like everything else in his life, Vincent had completely given up on the thought of being a writer. It was just easier to quit.
The watch had been hiding in the corner of the attic, in a tiny brass jewellery box that Vincent hadn’t seen for a good twenty years or so. He’d opened the delicate clasp with trembling fingers and had let out a cry of surprise when his hand closed around the ornate pocket watch.
It was amazing. Not only was its gold chain still completely intact, but the watch looked brand new. It contained no chips, held no scrapes, it didn’t even have a single fleck of dust on it. But the most amazing thing? It still worked. He had held the ticking disc up to his ear, listening to its steady beat; a sound that must have been going on up here for almost a hundred years. It was an incredible thought.
Seconds passed as he gazed at the face of the timepiece, watching the hands tick slowly round and round. He’d noted that the clock was an hour out (it had showed the time as a little before one in the morning), but now it suddenly occurred to him that it would have been the right time up until a few days ago. British Summer Time had recently ended and Vincent had spent quite a while changing all of the clocks in the old house.
Grasping the timepiece lightly, Vincent had gently wound it back one hour, taking care not to damage any of its delicate parts. He’d watched as the hour hand glided smoothly over the watch’s surface, and frowned when it seemed to get slower and slower as it headed nearer to the number 12. It was as if the watch didn’t want to be touched, didn’t want to be handled, didn’t want to be changed.
The hand had eventually reached the number 12 at the exact minute that his modern, digital watch had announced it was midnight, and a second later, Vincent had blacked out.
It felt like a lot of time had passed when he finally came to, hours at least, but one glance at the pocket watch, which was still in his hand, told him that less than a minute had gone by. Alarm bells started going off in Vincent’s head. The attic had changed. Oh, it was still the same room, still the same dimensions, but that was about the extent of the similarity between this attic and the attic he’d blacked out in, seemingly less than a minute ago.
None of his stuff was here. His childhood toys, his school reports, the empty boxes that inevitably accumulated over the years… it was all gone. The ceiling, which Vincent had plastered with hundreds of rock band posters, was back to its bare wooden beams. All the rubbish was gone. Instead, the room was filled with ornate wooden furniture, stylish mirrors, exotic rugs. He vaguely recognised the items as things in his own attic, things that had now been covered in decades of dust and grime. It was clear that someone used this room, and not just for dumping junk.
Vincent’s gaze flickered to the pocket watch as his thoughts jumped back to a conversation he’d had with his grandfather, years and years ago. He’d told Vincent all about the house, and how his father, Vincent’s great-grandfather, had commandeered the attic as his own private study. He’d pretty much lived in there as he’d written the many classic novels he was now famous for.
He stared around the room again, this time taking in the writing desk, the paper, the quill. It couldn’t be, could it?
As soon as he had that thought, a creaking sound reached his ears: someone was ascending the small wooden ladder, someone who was going to find him up here, hiding in the corner like a burglar who’d been caught in the act.
Step, step, step. Tick, tick, tick.
Vincent’s heart was beating fast, far too fast for his liking, and he glanced down at the watch as a small flicker of an idea started blossoming in his confused mind. Turning the watch back had apparently brought him here, so turning it forward would take him back, right? That was logical. He barked out a short hysterical laugh at the thought of that word; nothing about this was logical.
He reached out to wind the watch as the silhouette of a large man appeared in the entry hatch of the attic. The hand moved easily this time. Vincent’s eyes widened for a split second before, once again, the darkness enveloped him.
When he came to, he immediately stood up and crossed to the other side of the room, throwing things off his great-grandfather’s writing desk and chair, wiping the dust off with his sleeve, uncovering the rich mahogany and solid oak.
Kneeling in front of it, he smiled as he imagined the possibilities. Reaching down to where he’d left it near the hatch, he pulled up his typewriter and set it on the desk. Next to it, he placed the gold timepiece, face up where he’d always be able to see it.
It was time to change. It was time to write.
I asked Jessica what prompted this piece and she said…
I wanted to write a flash fiction piece centred around an attic, but with a bit of a twist. Everyone knows that the two spookiest places in a house are the basement and the attic, and there are plenty of stories based on these two rooms and the dark things that lurk in the shadows there. Now, I myself live in a really old house in the middle of England, and we have an old, creaky, drafty attic that’s always filled with spiders and cobwebs, and yet it’s the least spooky place ever. And why? Because like with many people’s attics, it’s absolutely filled with clutter. You can barely move for all the spare furniture, old toys, cages from long-gone pets, suitcases and Christmas paraphernalia. I’ve always wondered about the hidden treasures that may be buried under all the bags and boxes, and what I’d find if I really went routing around in there. That was really the starting point I had for ‘Time to Change’, and I like it because it’s not what you’d expect from a ‘creepy attic in an old house’ story; it’s something a little different.
It certainly was. Thank you, Jessica. I loved it.
Jessica Grace Coleman was born in Stafford, England and raised in the nearby village of Little Haywood, a quaint English location that would later be remodelled into Beth Powers’ home village in the Little Forest novels.
She studied Film Studies and American Studies at the University of Sussex in Brighton, and attended the University of Colorado at Boulder for a year as part of her course. A big fan of travelling, she has road tripped around North America and backpacked across China, South East Asia, Australia, and New Zealand.
Jessica also runs a monthly short-story competition, Darker Times Fiction, which focuses on finding new and exciting horror writers. Compilations of these works are available as Darker Times Horror Anthology ebooks and paperbacks.
When not writing about ghouls and ghosts, Jessica edits Rock Pulse, an online UK music zine, and has had the pleasure of interviewing many bands and artists in the past including The Darkness, InMe, Simple Plan, Bowling for Soup, HIM, Sugarcult, Less Than Jake, Yellowcard, Taking Back Sunday and Funeral for a Friend.
You can find her blog at http://www.jessicagracecoleman.com which has links to all her writing. You can also contact her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/JessicaGraceColeman or on twitter at http://www.twitter.com/jessformerworld. You can type ‘Jessica Grace Coleman’ into Amazon to find her books and author page, and you can also find out more about her at http://www.darkertimes.co.uk.
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