What happens when time forgets what time it is?
|I checked my watch again. The second hand had stopped running backwards. It had actually stopped completely, but still, that had to be better than running backwards. As it was, I didn’t know if there would be enough time to reset time to the right time. Everything depended on Walter.
The whole mess started about a week ago. At first I blamed myself for being late for work. After all, I tend to oversleep and maybe I set the alarm wrong. Then I blamed my watch - because I was there at the right time but the bus wasn’t. For the first three days of the week, I was late and I had no excuses. The next two days, I arrived at the bus stop hours before I left the house. By that time, everyone was experiencing it. People were getting up before they went to bed. Train and bus schedules were meaningless. Tomorrow’s newspapers were on sale. The bakery was selling day old bread they had just baked this morning as the sun set. Time was not slowing down. Time was not speeding up. Time was wandering aimlessly.
Walter was wandering aimlessly. I found him in my back garden, talking to a snail that scurried away very quickly when I appeared. I didn’t know which was more astonishing - the sight of this disheveled, old man in my garden talking to a snail, or a snail that slid over the rocks like a bobsled over an icy track. I didn’t know yet how connected those two things were.
He was dressed in a loose-fitting pair of trousers but his jacket didn’t close in front, revealing a blue hospital gown underneath it, its folds of material tucked into his waistband. Immediately, I suspected he’d run off from some home for the aged. He spoke softly and seemed harmless enough, if a bit confused. I decided the best course was to invite him in for a cuppa, while I phoned the police.
As I poured the tea, the old man inquired as to where I lived. When I answered, “Aberdeen”, he became agitated and muttered, “Oh no, no, no. That’s too far.” He told me that he was supposed to be in his room at the residential care home in Greenwich. He had stepped out for only a moment, to correct a small shift caused by a tsunami in the southern Pacific. Somehow, he had ended up at the train station, and that was when he lost track of time.
“I am going to need your help, young man,” he told me.
I asked him his name. He said “Just call me Walter.”
Walter. What an ordinary, unimpressive name for the one man who controls all time in the universe. He looked even less impressive. Tall and thin, with gangly arms and spindly legs. His long, white hair had not been brushed recently, that’s for sure. It may never have been brushed for all I know. It hung in disarray around the craggy features of his ancient face but did nothing to soften its harsh lines and deep folds. Father Time was an old, old man, and he wanted to be called Walter.
He explained that he is called many things by many cultures. He told me that he is both hated and cherished, that he is often cursed for his brevity and sometimes cajoled to linger longer.
“But I can’t do that,” he said. “Time must remain a constant.”
And that’s how I ended up on this airplane, flying Father Time back to Greenwich to set the world right again. It took three hours to board the plane this afternoon, but it left right on time, yesterday. I don’t know how long the 5 hour flight will take. Could be days, or we could be there already.
Did we arrive in time? Check your watch and see.
Word Count: 644