Clocks | Flash Fiction

Here’s a quick, fun story I wrote a few years ago. I was planning to add to it, but I think it’s okay the way it is. I hope you like it!


It was sunny the day time broke. You’d expect the end of time to be dark, chaotic, apocalyptic. You’d think time would end with a bang worthy of its magnitude. Time went with a whisper. A quiet keeling over, the hush of a last breath, as the splinters inside the universe’s clock cracked and fractured and the Earth stopped spinning and every clock’s hand stilled. The sun was high and blazing, summer hot and heavy and sweating through shirts.

When time broke, a blanket of silence smothered everything. The birds were muffled, the leaves didn’t rustle, the world was muted as people bustling through the town stilled and looked at each other with wide stares. It was clear that something was very wrong, but they couldn’t place the particular something. They were quietly deliberating the sudden shift when frightened hands began to point at the town clock, its hands suspended at thirteen minutes past noon. The people checked their watches, which read the same, would always read the same. Hours passed and when the sun did not fall, it was clear that not only had all the clocks stopped, but time had frozen.

When it would have been evening, the townsfolk held a meeting to fix time. They argued and muttered among themselves, solutions flying this way and that like flustered pigeons. They needed to fix the clocks, but how? They needed the sun to set, the stars to shine, but how could insignificant humans do something so massive? The sun’s cycles were assumed to be an anchor in their otherwise chaotic world. If the sun could suddenly never set, never rise, then what else could change? Would gravity no longer hold their bodies down, leaving them to float forever directionless? Was anything certain? Was anything reliable?

They asked the town clocksmith, Ms. Woodsworth, if she could fix the clocks. She held up her hands as if to ward off accusations and shook her head apologetically. “I tried to build one when this started, but its arms refused to move, wouldn’t even give a tremble. The clocks won’t spin unless the sun does.”

“We could all go to one side of the Earth and jump at once,” Ms. Betsy offered. “That would be the push the planet needs to keep turning.”

“We’re too small,” Mr. Wilkes said sadly. He rubbed his chin thoughtfully and suggested, “What if we fed a horse so much that it grew large enough to swallow the sky. We could tie it to a mountain and it could pull the Earth behind it.”

The townspeople erupted in tentative cheers of relief. They began to plan the logistics. People offered up their farms for the food, their best horses for the job, and their hair for the rope.

Ms. Rosalyn tilted her head and squinted at the jabbering townspeople from the fringes of the crowd. They were fixated on making the world turn again, yet this was an impossible feat for any measly human—or giant animal. They could not start time again. The sun didn’t seem likely to start its cycles soon. But just because time had halted, they didn’t have to stop counting it. Even though the clocks had stopped spinning, time was still moving, the seconds passing, their lives progressing. The townspeople were desperate to find their way back to normal; however, Ms. Rosalyn suspected normal would never return. But that didn’t mean they should be miserable without the visible passing of days.

The fervor of the conversation rose in pitch as people clung to the filaments of hope Mr. Wilkes’s idea provided. The townspeople were certain that they had found their solution.

Ms. Rosalyn raised her voice and said, “What if we simply counted the seconds passing.” The townspeople paused, considering. The simplest idea was often the best. “Everyone could take turns controlling the town clock manually.”

“That could work,” someone murmured.

“But surely you don’t expect the children to help,” a mother fretted. “They cannot be trusted with such a task.”

“And certainly you don’t mean for parents to turn the clock,” a father exclaimed. “Who would care for the children?”

“And we have jobs to do!” a shout rang up.

“We need someone unimportant to this town,” Mr. Wilkes stated. “Someone we wouldn’t miss if they were holed up in the clock all day.”

“What about you, Ms. Rosalyn?” Ms. Betsy called.

Ms. Rosalyn took a step back. “No, I mean for everyone to help, in shifts.”

“But we can’t. We are contributing members of this society. We cannot sacrifice,” Mr. Wilkes insisted. “We need someone who would be better gone, so everyone wins.”

“Ms. Rosalyn, you’d be a wonderful clockmaster,” Ms. Betsy pressed. “You’re always clogged up in that dusty bookshop of yours anyway. You can be cozy with your books in the clock tower.” Ms. Rosalyn’s bookshop was in a prime location on Main Street. Ms. Betsy had been trying to purchase the building for a general store for years. “You said yourself that controlling the clock wasn’t too much trouble. Besides, it’s only necessary while we’re awake. You’d get the nights to yourself, and the sun will be out for you to read by.”

“Ms. Betsy, you surely do not expect me to be the sole clock,” Ms. Rosalyn tried.

Ms. Betsy smiled pleasantly in response.

Ms. Rosalyn looked around at the other townsfolk for help. Whispers floated through the crowd. “She always was so pushy, that Rosalyn.” “If she asks too much, she must give that much.” “Better gone.”

“What a hypocrite,” Mr. Wilkes said with disgust, directing his words to the people as if it were a show. “She expects us to sacrifice our time, and our money, for the menial task of spinning some dumb clock’s arms for it, yet she is not willing to give the same. For shame.”

“That’s not at all what I said!” Ms. Rosalyn shouted, her voice sharpened with frustration. Ms. Rosalyn never should’ve said anything. She never should’ve tried to help.

“Will you not be decent? Will you not do only what you asked of us? Shame, shame!” Ms. Betsy chanted.

The others took up the call. “Shame. Shame. Shame.”


Rosalyn pushed the button Ms. Woodsworth installed to move the clock ahead by a minute. Ms. Woodsworth had tried to make the hands automatic, but they wouldn’t budge, like the watches she had tried to fix so many months ago. The town clock required a person.

Rosalyn’s legs were crossed, her elbow on her knee and her chin in her hand. By this point, being a clock took less than a fleeting thought. Rosalyn had internalized every passing of sixty seconds, her finger pressing down like clockwork. And besides, it didn’t particularly matter if she was off by a moment or two. She was time; she could do as she pleased.

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