THE CLOCK CRIMINAL by Aviral Dayal
What you will be reading is not an adventure or a science fiction story, though that is what people might like to call it. It is a true account of what happened on that fateful day of 27 September 1984.
Pietro sat in the corner, shivering. Captain Cage approached him and bent down; his eyes gentle yet demanding. He put his hand on young Pietro’s shoulder. He sighed and said,
“And before I came, what did you see?”
“I should not ha... have,” Pietro said, his shiver becoming violent. “Don’t tell anyone, sir.”
“I will not. You tell me the truth,” Cage said.
“He was holding a gun and he was gone,” said Pietro.
Cage’s lip folded. He looked at the small box lying on the table, looking almost triumphant.
“What do you say we do with it?” said Cage.
Surroundings change. And seasons change too, yessir they do. But nothing really rides on them. Atmospheres change and that matters. Some person may or may not feel the going from summer to winter. But they will feel the transition from light to dark. Liveliness to gloominess. Pietro knew that change.
It had barely been a week and yet their events felt like photos from an album…
Alan Frost, the ever sophisticated one, on the yacht. He was tall and had strange hair, Pietro noticed. When he would see Frost from a distance, his hair would appear black, but standing near him, they looked brown. Frost wiped his face with a handkerchief every time he entered a room. Very nice fellow. Acted like he owed a debt to the whole world. But then came in the box. Frost carried it over everything else. Precious diamond, Pietro thought. But he wasn’t fascinated by it. He had the wrong feeling about it from the start.
It was very odd, only two passengers. Alan Frost and the Old Man. Pietro did not even know his name. Extremely quiet, wore a grey coat all the time. Pietro knew only one thing about him. And it was when he had first seen him.
“Welcome, sir,” Pietro greeted.
The Old Man smiled. His little finger was cut from the top. He looked as if he was homeless. Pietro’s mother, a lovely lady, always said that misery is brought to a man by himself. Of course, he heard that a lot of times when he grew up but it was from his mother’s lips that he heard it first.
It was the gloomiest trip he had ever had. What really disturbed him was that neither of the passengers had talked to each other. It just seemed very… unhuman, if you like the word. So, the second night was when Pietro decided to walk around the craft.
He was just on his way to the lobby when he “heard” that there were people up there. It was the Old Man and Frost. Pietro sighed to himself. He was on his way back when he heard something strange.
“Prove it,” Frost said.
Now, Pietro was no eavesdropper. But he felt that those words had been spoken in an aggressive manner. It would be better to stop a fight before it started. He climbed back up.
The Old Man was holding a small bottle in his hand. Pietro frowned. If this was what it was…? Before he could do anything, the Old Man twisted the cap and turned the bottle over his mouth. Had he said, “Sir, that’s poison!”? Perhaps not. Pietro froze. Too many things were going on in his mind. Had he just stood and witnessed a murd…?
Pietro had no idea how much time he spent standing there, waiting for it. The Old Man did not even flinch.
The Old Man took a knife from his pocket and gave it to Frost. Frost ran it across his arm. The Old Man rolled up his sleeve. Frost’s eyes widened as he saw the scar on his arm.
“Impossible,” Frost said. The Old Man said,
“You’re not the only Alan Frost. Time doesn’t allow itself to be meddled with. And that is what that thing does. I know what is going on in your head. But you have a choice: don’t make the mistake I made, by not listening.”
Pietro knew that what he had seen was the most dangerous mistake of his life. But what he would do the next afternoon would be even more dangerous.
He peeped inside the ajar door of the Old Man’s quarters. There was no one inside. He searched every inch of the craft, and there the Old Man was: in the lobby. Pietro slipped into his quarters and tiptoed around. The room was very neat. It was like the Old Man had not even entered it. He looked at a brief case lying in the corner. It was open. Pietro’s hands shook as he flipped open the briefcase.
A gun lay in the centre. Beside it was an empty box. The box with the bottle. Who would keep an empty box so carefully in one’s briefcase? He inspected the box. Later in his life, Pietro would regret doing so. And it was that one detail that caught his eye.
DATE OF MANUFACTURE: 26 February 2028
“Excuse me?” A deep voice came from behind him. The Old Man stood there.
“Sir, I was…” Pietro said, slowly making my way to the door.
“Yes, you were…?” the Old Man said.
Pietro was just about to leave the room when the Old Man grabbed his arm.
“For the better future, all of us have to make a sacrifice. You too will have to,” the Old Man said. He tapped on Pietro’s head with his middle and index finger. It felt like some power from the Old Man’s fingers entered Pietro. Then, it was like sinking, only that Pietro was not going down, the ground was getting closer to him.
Pietro regained his balance. He was standing in the middle of an empty road. Shop windows were shattered and there was not a single car on the road. Thunder rumbled and the ground shook. Newspapers lay scattered on the road. Pietro could not count the number of times he spun around to look around him. He ran and ran ahead. But it was like a loop. He knew that with every step he covered some distance but everything around him looked the same. Anarchy. He finally stopped and picked up a newspaper lying on the road. His eyes hunted first for the date: 8 August 2020.
The wind snatched the paper from his hand. Pietro gulped. He picked up another newspaper.
Another Clock Criminal travels illegally to the Past.
The Police discovered that another Clock Crime had been committed on 7 August 2020. The shocking thing is that the traveller made a trip to 27 September 1984, the day of the Great Discovery.
WHO GETS THE MACHINE? THE ULTIMATE POWER TO MEDDLE WITH TIME
THE WAR WAGES!
And in the centre of the page, in big black words:
BEWARE! WE HAVE INFORMATION THAT THE ENEMY WILL BE BOMBARDING THE AREA.
PLEASE STAY INSIDE YOUR HOUSES.
A siren wailed and then… it was a huge black light. It came rushing, aiming straight for Pietro’s eyes. For the second of a second, his eyes opened and all he saw were flames. Destruction.
It was all bright light. A single beautiful flower sat in front of Pietro. She looked straight at him, beaming. The grin turned into a weak smile. Tired face. Then finally, her eyes closed. Nature. Disturbed.
Pietro was sweating, sitting on the floor. The Old Man stood there. He smiled,
“What you saw was only the beginning. Trust me, it gets worse. You saw what happened, to all of us. They fight over that darn thing. It should never have been. You have the biggest role, Pietro. I merely helped you.”
The Old Man dropped to the ground. He lifted his arm and kissed a bracelet he was wearing on his arm.
“Pietro, you need to see something,” Cage said as he nudged Pietro out of his thoughts.
“Sir, he…” He looked at the empty space. There was no one there.
Something mingled inside Pietro’s heart when he saw Alan Frost lying on the floor. Pale, lifeless, shot. Pietro bent down and rolled up Frost’s sleeves. The bracelet was there.
Pietro told Cage everything.
“What do you say we do with it?” Cage said. Pietro did not hear his words. He walked to the small box and picked it up.
He was standing in the lobby. The gentle sea. For how long would it stay like this? And with those thoughts in his mind, the box dropped into the sea, sunk. Catastrophe surely cannot be done away with, but it can be banished.
And then he saw it. The light. The blue light that rose from where Pietro’s eyes could not go. It spread and spread. A light that would repel the dark.
A light of change.