The Fixer

The clock struck four.

The clock had a peculiar movement to it. He’d been watching. He’d been watching it for twenty-seven minutes. It had a soothing, hypnotic sound with every working of the internal mechanisms. The seconds hand was odd, jumping a little bit too far each time it passed over the six, only to delay for an instant when it passed over the eleven. Piksel had watched it do this six times before he was sure of the pattern.

Stars shone outside his window. They peeked in over his shoulder, glancing off the clock face. If he closed one eye he could only see the stars’ reflection in the glass. If he closed the other, it was merely the clock again.

He had realized quickly he did not like either option.

Twenty-eight minutes.

Suddenly too hot, he tore off his shirt. It was thin, old fabric, soft and ragged. His favorite shirt. He’d had it for years, dragged it across the ocean with him. It pooled in his lap, loose threads catching on his fingers. The seconds hand passed the six and skipped forward. It passed the eleven and righted itself. The gentle ticking tried to find him again, where he sat paralyzed in the dark. The shirt lost its heat in his hands.

Four-fifteen.

The dream.

The dream surged through him like lightning again, its memory alone enough to make him clench his teeth. Tension twisted his nerves up like the strings of Trick’s fiddle. His eyes darted around the room as if waiting for the dream to manifest itself in reality.

Something destroyed the silence, sharp and sudden. He cringed, freezing, but it did not come again. He looked down. A nest of frayed threads looked back, tangled in his claws. The sound had been the shirt ripping. Piksel stared, temporarily distracted. He’d destroyed it. He’d destroyed the shirt without even trying, picking at it until it simply ceased to be. Without meaning to. He looked at the clock.

Four thirty-four.

Hadn’t it been earlier?

Piksel watched the clock. He watched for the fault in the seconds hand. It passed by the same as before.

In a moment he had staggered off the bed. In another he had the clock on his room’s table, the back pried off, the gears disassembled. Where was his screwdriver? His magnifying eyepiece? He had to fix it. He had to fix it. He pulled out springs and bolts, a voice in his head nagging at him, mocking his sudden idiocy. He’d disassembled clocks, yes, but he had never managed to put one back together correctly. It would be as good as garbage, now, but he had to fix it. He had to try. Re-align the hand. Clean the workings. Pop the back plate in, find the key, wind the clock. He put it to his ear.

Nothing.

Exhausted, Piksel stared at it.

He had to fix it. He could solve his own problems. He could fix it. The stars watched him as he began to pull the clock apart once more. Swap those springs he hadn’t been certain of, yes, be tighter with the screws, flip the seconds hand the other way. Find the key. Wind the clock. Hear the ticking.

No, whispered the silence.

“No,” Piksel hissed back, and ripped the back plate off again.