His fingers tapped away the quiet hour, tap – tap tap – tap.
Running one hand through the streaks of white and grey of his beard, he raised the other to adjust the spectacles that sat on his nose. A dull brass frame, marked from the countless incidents of being left in back pockets and bent out of shape, surprisingly still held them in place. The glass of the lenses however, despite a slight crack which was noticeable here and there, still gleamed.
Slowly turning, shifting away the dust with every second that went by, the hands of time moved sleepily across them, He kept his personal time keeper where he could always see it, on the bridge of his nose. His glasses were his watch, and he watched them keenly.
They were silent, as the old man believed time should be.
The grandfather clock however had another idea entirely of how time should be.
Sounding loudly, the clock announced the arrival of the seventh hour. It boomed out the first three strikes, at the fourth it wavered a little, and from the fifth it croaked hoarsely.
“That’ll teach you,” chuckled the old man. He shifted to pick up a piece of paper that he had knocked to the floor. To his surprise he found it hovering by a few centimetres above the ground. A smile warmed to his lips as he gently lifted the paper and nodded his head to a small spider, which in turn, waved a leg before scuttling off again.
“Thank you, Wolf,” he called after it. Watching fondly, through blurred vision, as it headed back to the other spiders that crowded the room.
Scribbled on the paper were clock designs. The most intricate detailing was often in the patterning of the metal. He let his hand guide the pencil as it designed the filigree that encased the glass, his passion for time counted more than his now faltering eyesight.
On occasion there would also be a comic cartoon of an arachnid; his imagination was of little need for the pictures of the spiders he lovingly sketched onto paper, because the clocks weren’t alone in calling his study their home, the spiders he had so affectionately drawn made their webs amongst them.
They scurried restlessly about the room – their workstation. Dipping their feet into ink before scuttling off to their designated parchment on which they would dance away an occurrence of events. Black ink marking the moments that often steered the emotions of the living, and red ink marking the moment those living would be dead.
The spiders often recorded the comings and goings of more than one life, having a number of eyes and legs made this manageable. But nevertheless it was always sad to see a sider make the “until next time” walk with red ink and any other that crossed his path would lower his head in respect.
But it wasn’t too sad because there always was a next time. Once the red dot had been marked and the spider had said it’s farewells it usually wasn’t too long until another spider would be calling out, “Oi George, I’ve got your Beryl here!”
You see when we’re born the first breath we take is what will form our soul, and as we die, our final breath is released back into the universe, its true home. It’s only a matter of time then until a new life is given its first breath that a soul will be reborn.
Now the spiders may record this, and the old man may watch over it, but neither of them is supposed to control it. That is until a certain bespectacled somebody realised the universe had been doing the same universe like things for the past few centuries.
Unlike the spiders he may only have two eyes, but time is an important thing and so with that in mind we must open our minds to the possibility of one being able to observe all.
This doesn’t mean scanning the universe is a simple thing, but it’s something he did easily. However if something, or someone, drew his attention, it took extra work to look closer. But using the spectacles which balanced lightly on his nose, it was possible.
To draw in nearer he would simply have to match the ticking of the hand on his spectacles lenses to the same beat as the ticking of time following his desired subject.
Lately, it had been two people who caught his attention. It was little by chance that he came across them. As his wife, who had little interest in time but plenty of interest in fate, would say, everything happens for a reason (that reason usually being her knitting needles), but it was for an exceptional reason that he was inclined to look closer.
No one runs by the same clock. Everyone ticks or tocks to a different beat. But while watching these two he found the clocks on each lens of his glasses to be moving in an identical rhythm, something very rare, very rare indeed.
He had come to a conclusion. These two would meet. But not in this world, in another universe, a time gone by, and a place his beloved controller of fate and mad wielder of needles would have little interest in. With the images of the pair in his mind, and before him living their lives through his lenses, he took a blank piece of paper, jotted down their ages, their current position, and beats of time.
Satisfied, he smiled and turned to look down at the spiders that had congregated beneath his chair.
“Wolf?” he said, and waited for the little spider to separate itself from the group.
Wolf appeared sheepishly, black in body, blue of feet, creping forward from behind a wooden leg.
“It’s okay, Wolf, we all need a break sometimes. I need you to do something for me. Take this and show it around the keepers. Whoever records for these pair, ask them to make copies of their parchments and bring them to me.”
Reaching down the old man waited to feel the note tugged from his hand, he then pointed out a finger and felt a tiny leg touch the tip of it.
“Good lad, Wolf.”
It wasn’t long before Wolf was back with two nervous looking spiders in tow.
“Calm down the both of you. Did you bring the parchment copies?”
At this a group of a dozen spiders appeared carrying tiny scraps of paper, each with dots running down them. Taking them, he observed closely.
“Hmm,” he stroked his beard and tapped his finger on the arm of his chair. “Don’t do much these pair do they? Well, that will soon change! Good work the lot of you, carry on with recording on the originals as usual, I’ll be keeping the copies.”
The spiders, pleased with themselves, rushed off. Wolf however climbed up the man until he, too, was siting looking at the parchments that were causing so much interest.
“It won’t hurt, will it, Wolf?”
He waited as the spider ran up his shoulder, positioning himself on the old man’s head. The two of them, spider gripping onto hair and wrinkled fingers gripping onto parchments, headed over to the grandfather clock.
After a few moments of the clock looking at them, he and Wolf looking back at the clock, he nudged it lightly with his boot.
“Come on, open up.”
Grudgingly the clock swung open the cabinet door. Inside the pendulum swayed softly and the noise of cogs at work sounded. But behind the mechanisms, stars shone brightly against a black sky.
Other worlds were alight in the distance, encircled by spirals of colours that moved at different speeds around them. Some circled slowly, giving the planets a heavy, sleepy appearance. Whereas others spun, uncontrollably, as though at any minute the planet would shoot off in an unknown direction, much like the stars that darted through the sky, their tails flowing golden behind them.
The old man breathed in the wonder of his hidden universe.
He raised himself from the ground and wound back the hours on the face of the clock until he could no longer budge the hand. “Three days! That’s all I get? You’re a cruel one,” he snorted, disappointed with the clock’s defiance, knowing it on the other hand was feeling very smug indeed.
Wolf began to hammer his feet wildly on the old man’s head, dancing madly, desperately.
“You want to go too?” he asked the spider curiously.
The spider tapped twice on his head, “Yes.”
“Very well, I supposed a keeper like you couldn’t go amiss in times like these.”
Wolf jumped gleefully, then ran down the old man’s arm and folded himself carefully into one of the parchments.
“I’ll see you in three days, Wolf. I’ll be watching you, but stay safe.”
The old man moved into position. Crouched down, and holding his hand in a fist, parchments clasped tightly within, he kissed it quickly before he opened it again. He blew on the bits of paper, and watched them disappear into the night.