Enjoy an exclusive guest post from Allison Rott, author of “Pocket Watch Problems,” featured in our upcoming anthology ON TIME.
It’s my turn to tell you a scary story? Well, you’ve heard the one with the babysitter and the clown statue, the one about the pet alligator growing up in the sewers, and even the one with the missing girl at summer camp.
So here’s something new. About something old. A pocket watch.
An unassuming silver pocket watch. It spent many years in the display case at a pawn shop, mostly overlooked because the watch needed a key to wind the mechanism up. It was silent, stuck to being right only twice a day.
Earl didn’t care if the watch worked or not. He needed something cheap to complete his ensemble. In order to rub elbows with the wealthy, he had to look the part. So the silver pocket watch, once resigned to collecting dust, was now cleaned up and in use again.
Earl was a con man, and he started to use his updated dapper look and his charisma to work some magic. He would check his watch often, and if anyone commented on it he would joke about it being slow, or that he needed to wind it up. If pressed further Earl would say that even though the watch didn’t work well, it had sentimental value. He claimed that his great great grandfather Lyndon Bill Louis owned it during the war.
It was working. Earl was making money. Swindling other people’s hard earned money, or their inheritances, Earl didn’t care about how they got their money.
Those who got swindled by Earl all remembered his pocket watch. The later ones more than the earlier ones. Because he was checking it more and more frequently the longer he had the watch.
Why check a broken watch?
Earl’s brother knew the pocket watch didn’t work. And one time his brother asked. Earl said the watch was ticking. His brother checked the watch. It wasn’t ticking and the hands were still. Earl laughed it off as a joke.
It was a lot harder to laugh when you were receiving CPR in the back of an ambulance.
Did one of Earl’s victims catch up to him and cause him harm?
The police ruled that out.
Car accident, and the man driving was not a victim, nor knew of anyone who had been a victim of Earl’s cons.
Earl was walking, still in his suite with the pocket watch. It was a sunny afternoon, and people were going about their business. Witnesses claimed they saw Earl approach the crosswalk, and nothing seemed amiss. And then he pulled out his watch, holding it to his ear before he popped the face open. Some witnesses said Earl went pale, others said his mouth dropped open, still others claimed he shook the pocket watch, the chain jingling. But they all agreed on one thing, Earl had stopped in the middle of the crosswalk, and he didn’t see the car coming.
The paramedics loaded him up, working on him and bringing him to the hospital with a slow but steady heartbeat. Earl’s belongings were delivered to his post op room. The cops showed up there too, to talk to Earl.
Earl kept pointing to the watch, sitting closed on the side table. He was talking about it ticking and ticking, and the cops kept straight faces, even though they were thinking he was a little crazy. Before the cops could follow up Eddie’s con list, the machines started beeping, nurses, doctors, and equipment pushed the cops out of the room.
Complications after surgery spelled Earl’s doom.
Earl’s brother went to pick up the pocket watch among other things. But when he arrived the watch was gone.
The cops didn’t have it, the hospital staff couldn’t find it. The cops didn’t have it. The nurses and doctors gossiped. Those in the room at the time Earl crashed mentioned they heard something. Earl’s shaky heartbeat was accompanied by the same beat in ticks.
And the ticking stopped when the heart monitor flatlined.
The watch, broken or not, was gone. Some say it found a new owner, one whose time is close to running out. It acts all innocent at first, silent, but when the end of your time is near, it will be the first to let you know.
Allison Rott lives in Illinois, a train ride away from the Windy City. It is the perfect length ride to catch up on her reading or let her daydreams work on stories. She works with children, keeping the imagination muscle working. She has stories in two other anthologies, The Lingering Rift in Foxtales 4 and Feeding the Universe in 72 Hours of Insanity: Anthology of the Games, vol. 7.