Clock Without a Key

Today I have something different in store for you. This is a short story that I actually wrote a year or two ago, but this past week, I took another look at it and revised it.  Recently, after a two-year break, I have once again begun submitting short stories to magazines and journals. Writing short stories is honestly one of my favorite things to do. Furthermore, now that I have taken novel writing and revision courses in my college studies, I feel like my skills have improved in not only novel writing, but also in short story writing as well. Hope you enjoy!


Eleanor sat, holding the last piece of her parents she had. She was trying desperately not to cry, but the tears seemed to come all on their own. She ran her hands over the sterling hallmarks of butterflies, birds, and cherubs that rimmed the clock in her hands. It was expensive, but the man who’d sold it to her father had lost his job, as many in London had, and was desperate, so her father had gotten it for a great amount less than what it was actually worth.

Eleanor’s aunt and uncle told her that she was mad for keeping a clock that didn’t work. It would, she always told them, if she had the clock key, but it had been lost in the fire, along with everything else she’d ever loved. She knew that burglaries and crimes were running rampant in London lately, especially on the West End, but she never expected that tragedy would befall her family.

Now she lived on the East End, on her wealthy uncle’s estate. Almost right when she had arrived, they bought her a new dress, made of fine silk, with elegant full-shouldered sleeves that tapered at the wrist. The shape of the dress made her waist look quite small and beautiful. They had even bought her embroidered boots to match. But Eleanor didn’t care about the wealth or the dress. Staring down at her most prized possession, the broken sterling clock, all she wished for was to take back the events of that tragic night in 1888.

She had woken with a start to the sound of someone rummaging around downstairs. Assuming it was only her mother or father, she stayed underneath her warm sheets. It was curious, though, since it sounded as if they were downstairs. Why were her parents up and about so late at night? Suddenly, she heard a strange voice. A man’s voice she didn’t recognize. Becoming suspicious, she slipped out of bed, not taking the time to light a candle. Besides, Eleanor knew this house like the back of her hand. It would be no trouble for her to navigate it in the dark.

Creeping her way down the hallway to the edge of the stairs, she stopped when she noticed candlelight coming from downstairs. She listened.

“You check upstairs and I’ll work on down here,” the voice said.

“Yes, of course,” answered another.

Soon, she began to hear footsteps coming up the stairs. Panicking, she dashed down the hallway into her parents’ bedroom and attempted to wake them. All the while, her heart felt like it would beat out of her chest.

“What is it, darling?” her father asked.

“There are strange men in the house,” she told her father as she tugged at the bedsheets.

He father’s face hardened. “Stay here with your mother. I’ll go handle this.”

Both of her parents rose from their bed, her mother staring worriedly after her father. Eleanor clutched onto her mother, as if clinging to her hard enough would melt all of the fright and trouble away.

“Be careful, Henry,” said her mother.

Her father kissed each of their foreheads and crept out of the room. It was a few minutes before they heard the gunshot. Her father didn’t own a gun.

Her mother dashed out of the room crying hysterically, “Henry! Henry!”

“Mother!” she called after her, tears staining her cheeks. She didn’t want to be alone.

Then suddenly, her mother’s voice, too, was silenced by a gunshot.

She crawled underneath the bed, her tears pooling on the floorboards. Huddled there scared and alone, she listened as the intruders pillaged her home. After several minutes had passed, she began to smell smoke. She got up cautiously to investigate and found the hallway in flames.

Even now, Eleanor didn’t know what had made her grab that sterling clock above her mother’s vanity as she fled her home, or why the men who had killed her parents hadn’t taken it, but now, she was grateful to herself that she had. Her parents, stolen from her, would always be missing from her life, but now, she would always have a piece of them.

She clutched the clock to her chest, as if her beating heart could wind up the gears and cause the clock’s hands to move once again. As if her heart could be the clock key.

 

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