Have you ever glanced at an analog clock to find that the second hand has frozen. You instinctively know that a second, perhaps even two, has passed. Even as the timepiece refutes your ingrained theories. This is a known phenomena. Studied, cataloged, discussed and dubbed chronostasis. It is the same phenomena that prevents you from seeing your own eyes move in a mirror as you shift your gaze back and forth between your right and left eye.
We humans are more sure of the machinations that we set in motion, than we are of our own perception. When perception does not meet the expected reality we target the mind itself. Turning in on our own consciousness, an imperfect machine fighting for self-repair and avoiding the truth. That the glitch is out there. That the clarity and logic we construct of the world each passing minute applies only to ourselves, not to our universe.
My mind flutters and buzzes with these thoughts, becoming more scattered and incoherent as time passes and the room darkens. The book on my lap falls to the floor, disturbing me only slightly as I press back into the leather chair.
I always felt some small amount of guilt sleeping in the library. I wanted to be there for Karen each and every night. Warming her, warming myself, wrapping my arms around her. I was beyond lucky to share a bed with such an incredibly beautiful and youthful woman. While our friend’s wives struggled to retain every last ounce of attractiveness they once held, Karen was steadfast. As beautiful as the day I met her. But I could never sleep deeply beside her. As long as I’ve known her, Karen would vocalize her dreams relentlessly through the night. It was neither quiet nor infrequent. I had considered remaining awake at her bedside to log everything she said, many times. I thought she would be shocked at the sheer amount of material it would produce, even in addition to the intriguing content.
Karen had always been a fan of period drama. She took her fill of plays, books, reenactment programs, and the History channel constantly. She would end each evening excitedly explaining some long forgotten but important historical fact to me, before turning in. And her nocturnal mutterings followed suit. Snippets about rebellions, cholera outbreaks, children being crushed by wagons. It was quite like reading William Burroughs. Cut up pieces for you to try to assemble. This made sleeping near her even worse for me, being inclined toward over-analysis. But I did, four nights out of seven.
I had a similar problem in the library. Though I dozed off here frequently, I was often awakened by the sound of the grandfather clock to the left of the fireplace. The Beast, as I had named it, was as old as the house itself. This was quite a feat, being that the home was under construction in the same time period as City Hall in Philadelphia. It is over one hundred and ten years old and has passed through the hands of Karen’s family almost since the founding of the country itself.
It seemed to me that the decades were finally having an affect on The Beast. It’s timekeeping was perfect. It’s tick-tick-tick was as sure as truth itself. But in the night, that tick-tick-tick sound would change for a time. At first I had thought it was simply due to my having woken suddenly, and my mind adjusting to this new form of reality. It sounded that way. As if I was walking out of a tunnel where the sound would echo and reverberate around me, to finally reach the open air where it would become recognizable and sane.
But as the months and seasons went by, I became convinced that there was something wrong with it’s machinery. Time itself had sent some unknown agent that was now consuming it’s regular, predictable, and comforting function. This idea had been growing in my mind for some time. When I woke tonight, I decided to investigate.
My father had spent half of my childhood repairing clocks for a living. He was passionate about it, once he discovered his interest and skill in the profession. It was one of the few things that he would always attempt to share with me, even as we grew further apart and I declined the invitations more and more frequently.
I stood with confidence, shaking off the sleep and opened the clock door to begin looking for some obvious issue. When confirming that there was nothing impeding the movement of the pendulum, I discovered that the wood on the interior floor was loose. I carefully extracted it so as not to disturb the pendulum and something beneath it caught my eye.
Reaching into the tiny abyss I pulled out a pile of black bound books. There were ten in all. The ones at the bottom were dusty, roughed and clearly very old.
My heart jumped at the thought of finding some lost piece of history to share with Karen. Especially one tied to the history of her family home. If there was anything she liked more than history in general, it was the history of her family and estate. I opened the oldest book first. It read as such:
April 11, 1898. Turned back one day.
April 12, 1898. Turned back one day.
April 16, 1898. Turned back one day.
April 23, 1898. Turned back four months today. Crow’s feet gone.
April 24, 1898. Turned back one day.
This went on. In tiny handwriting. Line after line. Book after book. Sometimes months and even years would go by between entries. Typically the following entry after a break included results. Such as:
January 20, 1936 Turned back four years tonight. Knees no longer ache when it rains.
January 20, 1975 Turned back eighteen years tonight. Too many changes to note. It was interesting reaching this age. But dangerous.
The deductions I made were beyond reason. I know this of course. In that moment someone narrating my life would be able to rightfully say “This man thinks that his clock can reverse aging.” It is absurd. If this were truth, it would be unseemly. Flying in the face of reason. Chaos. But in this particular battle I do truly believe that the glitch is with reality and not with my mind.
The thing that makes me so sure, and explained so much, was that the content of those journals were clearly penned by Karen’s hand.