by Catheryn C
The prologue to my fantasy story: The Time Piece
|Prologue: The Package|
Mr. Tate stood on the corner of North and Frieda, waiting patiently for his associate, Mr. Dentworth, to arrive with the package. The package in question was a small watch, silver in finish and of great importance to Mr. Tate. The old man stood slightly slouched, his hands on an old brass cane that had once belonged to his father, a man who Mr. Tate usually wished he had never been related to. Of course Mr. Tate senior has nothing at all to do with the watch or with Mr. Dentworth so Mr. Tate, who had been thinking about his dead father, quickly banished him from his thoughts and continued to wait for Mr. Dentworth in peace. The much younger man appeared only moments later carrying a carefully wrapped brown package.
“Ah, Mr. Dentworth. So kind of you to show up, even a few minutes late.”
“Perhaps your watch is wrong, Mr. Tate.” Mr. Tate chuckled.
“No need for watches anymore. The package, please.” The young man handed the older gentleman the tightly wrapped parcel and stepped back.
“It's not going to bite you, Mr. Dentworth,” said Mr. Tate reproachfully. Dentworth shook his head. Tate shrugged and placed the small package in his coat pocket.
“Is that it?”
“What do you mean?”
“You're not going to open it?”
“In front of you? Out here? Of course not, don't be silly.”
“I don't get to see it?”
“You seem to be a little frightened of it.”
“It's just the way you speak of it. Like it can stop all of time or something. Like it's all powerful.”
“Nothing and no one is all powerful Dentworth. Especially not this watch. Is it a force to be reckoned with? Yes. Can it stop time? Possibly. Only, excuse my word choice, time will tell.” Dentworth shook his head. Tate began to walk north on Frieda. He stopped and turned around. “Do you want to see the damned thing or not?” Dentworth rushed quickly to catch up with him.
Tate ordered his servants to their quarters and set the package down on his kitchen table.
“Tea, Mr. Dentworth?”
“Yes, thank you.”
“Go on and open it if you so desire.” Dentworth pulled the brown paper off of the box and lifted the lid. Inside sat the silver watch, still as death.
“It's not ticking.”
“It doesn't. As I told you several days ago when I asked you to procure it, it is no ordinary watch.” Tate set two cups of tea on the table. “Cream and sugar?”
“Huh? Oh, uh, no. Thank you. None for me.”
“Open it up.” Dentworth did as he was told.
“What a strange watch,” he thought. Then, aloud, “There are only nine numbers on this watch.”
“That's because nine is a very special number. You see, nine is a symbol for the infinite. Or, rather, the journey into the infinite.”
“Like a circle.”
“Precisely, my dear boy. And each of the nine numbers have their own meaning. Some of them have one meaning, some of them have multiple meanings. Take zero, for example. Nothing, a void, a starting point. Everything starts at zero.”
“Seven is-” Tate looked up. Something had moved by the front door.
“Dentworth,” he said quietly. “I need you to take this watch and I need you to run. Take it as far away from here as possible.”
“Go to Paris.”
“Find a Lady Roxbury. Tell her I sent you.”
“But Mr. Tate, I-”
“Go. Now!” Tate pushed Dentworth out of his chair as the door burst open. Dentworth didn't look back. He heard all he needed to know.
“Where is it?” yelled a shrill voice. “Where the hell is it?”
“There!” yelled another voice. Tate's strangled calls were muffled. Dentworth flew into the street, his coat sailing behind him. He'd never run so far in his life. He kept running, turning down this street, then the next, then the next until he was sure no one was following him. By the time he caught his breath, he realized he had no idea where he was. But to go back in the direction he came seemed like a death sentence. He was sure Tate was dead. Dead because of this stupid watch. He pulled it out of the box and held it tightly in his hands. He could destroy. Tate would never know. He'd never have to see this Roxbury woman and she would never have to know what became of the contraption. But Tate had given up his life for this watch so it must have meant something. But what? He only knew what nine and zero meant. And what good could that do him? Eternity and nothing. The infinite and the void. He shook his head and put the watch back into the box and into his pocket. Gathering himself, he went to the train station and bought a ticket to Paris that night with nothing but the words of a dead man and a watch to go on.