00:00, SOL

A Matter of Time

Time Keeper arrived at exactly 12am. The room was small and glowing in candlelight gloom. From the satchel at their waist they pulled a small package wrapped in indigo velvet. The object inside was cool and glowed within its wrappings. Removing the twinkling packaging, Time Keeper caressed the midnight blue Time orb in their hands. In one flickered movement, Time Keeper stretched their crooked arms above their head, held the orb there, and waited. Breathing deeply, they began.  


Night slipped softly from the sky. Morning worked slowly across the lands; sliding across fields and forests for miles. In dusty pink air, droplets of water clung to blades of jade grass. The birds were loud in this silence. Time Keeper stretched, still stiff from their night shift, and smiled as yellow light oozed from the window and seeped across the room. They cast a glance out of the window across the meadow. Wildflowers shuffled in the breeze. A tangle of brambles and nettles clustered around the edge of the forest. Unseen creatures snapped branches and shook leaves inside the trees. In the distance, Time Keeper’s first customer could be seen skipping quickly over.

Turning away from the window, Time Keeper smiled and began preparing for the day ahead. There was a hurried rat-at-tat-tat at the door and then Fun entered. “Good mornin’ handsome,” they winked as the chime of the door rang, “How’s it keeping?”. Fun’s childlike face beamed up at Time Keeper.

“Timely,” Time Keeper smiled, “What can I do for you today?”

“Just after two of your finest, please, my good fellow.” 

“Of course, I’ll just get that for you now,”

From behind the wooden countertop, Time Keeper produced two small packages about the size of an apple, wrapped in crumpled brown paper and tied with a fine piece of string. “That’ll be three pennies please,”

“Here you go, ya’ majesty,” Fun giggled as they dropped three, thick brass coins into the Time Keeper’s open palm.

Slipping the paper from the objects, Fun trembled with glee as they studied the clear orbs in their hands. They were warm to hold and smooth. Iridescent light glowed around them and if Fun had been of a more silent nature, they may have been able to hear the faint chimes singing from deep inside. After a few moments, the orbs began to expand, growing into the size of a watermelon and glowing dazzling white. They floated and hovered above Fun’s open hands from a moment, and then flew out of the window. Fun grinned at Time Keeper, “Thanks pal!” they shouted as they leapt from the floor and shot out of the window to follow.

Time Keeper rolled their eyes and chuckled softly, watching Fun shrinking in size as they hurtled through the sky. Coming up the lane in the distance was a much slower moving beast. Time Keeper’s smile faded. Swallowing a knot of dread, they looked on as Greed advanced on their lonely cottage. Greed’s pig head snapped from side to side, beady eyes darting about as they stopped to pluck flowers and steal stones. They stamped on the daisies they could not carry and pulled tree branches down in their wake. Sticky purple juice dripped down their open mouth as they shovelled fistfuls of blackberries into their mouth. Greed paused twice to vomit on themself before continuing to devour the ripe, fleshy berries. They arrived at Time Keeper’s door a few minutes later, sweating and nauseous. With the impatience of a screeching kettle they burst through the door and exclaimed, “Get me my Time.”

“Hello Greed,” Time Keeper said carefully.

“Get me my Time,”

“And how much Time would you be after today exactly?”

“Here.” Greed opened a bulging leather purse and tipped a small hill’s worth of gold coins onto the counter. They spilt onto the floor and tumbled at Time Keeper’s feet. “However much that will buy me,” Greed grinned their blackened, rancid teeth.

Time Keeper worked silently. Tipping the gold coins into a large glass jar, they refused to look into Greed’s beetle eyes. Greed’s time filled three wheelbarrows. Time Keeper always thought of how beautiful Time looked when it was piled on top of itself like this. So much potential. To see it wasted in this way was a very specific type of disappointment.

Without regard or hesitation, Greed started on their purchase. They popped each orb into their mouth like grapes, swallowing one after the other without a pause for breath. In a frenzy, Greed fell to their knees and began demolishing their Time at a rapid pace. It was a crunching, slurping sound and Time Keeper winced in discomfort, as if watching a dog suck the marrow-blood from fragile bones. Once done, Greed belched loudly and sucked on each finger. With a satisfied, drunk smile, Greed nodded once to Time Keeper and then left.

Time Keeper was polishing their orbs, still a bit shaken from Greed’s appearance, when a timid knock was heard at the door. A moment later, a tall, slim figure floated in. The air stilled and a gentle coolness filled Time Keeper. The figure looked on at Time Keeper with wide, vacant eyes. A voice appeared in Time Keeper’s head, so quietly they weren’t sure they’d even heard it at first.

“Just one orb please.” The voice whispered as a single brass penny and a small iron coin appeared on the countertop.

Time Keeper nodded knowingly and passed one glistening orb into Sorrow’s ghostly hand. They watched as the orb became opaque and cracked inside, vapour rising from the freezing globe of Time. The room chilled, the coldness reaching a space buried deep within Time Keeper. It was a gentle sadness, an aching and knowing loss.

“Thank you,” the voice murmured as Sorrow began to fade, evaporating before Time Keepers eyes.

The day had been long and Time Keeper was weary eyed and heavy headed. It was a couple of hours before they had to begin their sunset duties and the meadow was glowing in the lazy afternoon sun. Time Keeper noticed as the birds began to sing the most beautiful melody, it seemed like hundreds of them were suddenly dancing in the tree branches, watching expectantly down the lane. A breeze filled with lavender swirled around Time Keeper and they laughed like a child when they realised who was arriving.

The room glowed in warm light as Love stepped through the door.

“Hello, my friend,” Love smiled peacefully.

Time Keeper stepped from behind the counter and came to Love. With closed eyes and full arms, they embraced. Time Keeper eased against Love’s reassuring presence and breathed deeply.

“I’m so happy to see you,” Time Keeper beamed, “What can I get for you?”

“Thank you for letting me in so easily, I am happier than you can know to see you today,” Love replied, “I would like some Time from you please,”

Time Keeper revealed their final orb of the day.

“I’m sorry, I can’t offer you any more,” they confessed, “it’s been so busy today and Greed ate up all of my Time earlier.”

“This Time is plenty. Why would I want more when I have this Time here?”

And with that, Love took their Time and pressed it against their forehead. With a soft smile playing on their lips, they closed their eyes and waited. The Time began to glow, technicolour light bounced off the walls as it brightened. The chimes became clear and loud, filling the room with such beautiful music Time Keeper was moved to tears. The moment became infinite.

Time Keeper sang to the melody of love and danced freely around their cottage. They bounded from the room and into the meadow, spinning, tapping and turning to the rhythm. Laughing, crying and dancing, Time Keeper watched as Love became wind and spread across the land. It filled the forest, weaved between grass stems and consumed Time Keeper.

“Thank you my beautiful friend!” Love called, “Thank you!”

Time Keeper laughed and spun, “Thank you my beautiful friend!” They echoed into the vast blue sky, humbled yet astonished at how it felt to see Time spent well.

Photography by Isabella Baxter

(1) Comment

  1. Cheryl Yoxall says:

    Beautiful- ❤️

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