Broken Time

Broken Time

Yarabella Yang

Part 1


Chapter 1

The Beginning of the End


I really don’t know how to start this.

From my memories with my dad?

From the big, creepy, grandfather clock?

Or just from the beginning of my troubles?

Ah, well. 

Here’s one place to start:

My name is Arya.

Just Arya.

Only Arya.

In fact, it honestly doesn’t really matter what I’m called, because in my family of 12, nobody ever even mentions my name.

It’s just, “Girl!”

I have four brothers and six sisters. One mother. That makes 12.

All of them treat me like I’m dirt. I’m invisible. Unexisting. Simply not there at all.

My mother asks me questions. A lot. More like demands, really. “Girl, why haven’t you cleaned the trash?” “Why is your room messy?” “Why didn’t you clean the chicken coop?” “Why are you even alive?”

I just have to make it through the day, minute by minute, hour by hour. 

It’s harder than you think.

Our village is called Tempus. 

Tempus is a small village, smaller than any other around us. 

We have one school, thirteen shops, ten restaurants, a temple, and houses.

I don’t go to school.

I don’t have time.


I hate Time.

Time, the one who took everything from me.

One person.

One person is everything.

That one person is my father.


I’ve been having this dream for years, this crazy, impossible dream that irked me. It buzzed around like a stubborn, obstinate fly. 

The dream was to bargain with Time.

To save my father.

I know what you’re thinking. Oh my god, that’s so sweet of you, but, you see, that’s impossible. 

I know it’s impossible.

I’m still going to try.

They say there is a big grandfather clock in the Temple of Tempus that can take you to where Time is.

I am going to find Time.

Bargain with him.

Get my father back.


That night, lying in bed, I stared up at the patched ceiling. Bent, broken. Just like I am. Bent. Broken.

My window was ajar, just the slightest, letting cool, slippery air curl inside my room. I let the wind blow over my face. Brushing my black hair over my ear, I sighed.


Today was the same.

The same as every day.

Sometimes I would hope, desperately, that my life would change.





But today, today would be different.

Drawing my covers closer to my body, I listened to the steady breathing of my mother, sleeping in the other room. 

Sure that she wouldn’t wake up again, I threw my blanket off my body.



I crept over to the door.

I had practiced this for days.


In my mind, I visioned what I would do.

  1. Go to the Temple of Tempus.
  2. Find the hidden grandfather clock.
  3. Find Time.
  4. Bargain.
  5. Bring Father back.
  6. Return.

I couldn’t help thinking that those words would be a lot harder than they sounded.

Opening the bedroom door, I winced at the loud creak of the hinges. 

My hand trembled as I reached for the door. My fingertips were cold, icy cold, My fingers curled around the wooden door knob.

I turned it.

It creaked.

I inhaled sharply, my breath freezing in my lungs. Swallowing, I turned it further.

The crisp air seeped through the house. 

Letting myself breathe again, I stepped one foot out, onto the cracked concrete outside. 

The stars, scattered on the ink-black sky, seemed to wink at me as I shut the door behind me.

I had always wondered if stars died.

Did Time take them away as they did with my father? 

Gazing out on the endless sky, unexpected peace washed over me.

Slightly more confident, my feet carried me to the church.

It’s creepy.

It’s creepy how fast Time goes when you don’t want it to go.

Time slips through your fingers like grains of sand.

Once the sand touches the surface of the beach, it’s gone.

It won’t come back.


Earlier than I wanted it to be, I found myself standing in front of those great oak doors.

Intricate carvings layered every inch of the wood. The church towered above me, so tall that my head started spinning just looking at it.

Pressing my palms on the doors, I pushed.

The doors groaned, as an injured elephant might.

The sound sent a prickle crawling down my spine.

I blinked rapidly as a gust of wind blew thick dust into my eyes.

Taking one more look back over my shoulder, thinking that this might be the last time I was in the present, I stepped inside the church.

My footsteps echoed softly through the church. They were loud, eerie, and made my insides squirm. 

I wasn’t supposed to be here.

The light of the stars shone through the stained glass windows, casting dark, moving shadows on the smooth marble floor. 

At the corner of the church, was a grandfather clock.

Cautiously, I crept to the clock. The shadows covered it, making it look strangely deformed. I stepped closer to it, squinting my eyes to glimpse the clock face, and gasped.


Chapter 2

Into Time’s Lair


My first impression was of a stony, angry man enclosed in the grandfather clock. As my heart beat slowed, I realized the face was made of wood. The features were unbelievably realistic, as though the whole clock would spring to life any moment. The eyebrows were carved harshly into the wood. The mouth grim, the cheeks hollowed. The most striking feature of the carved face, though, were the eyes. The eyes were rolling like a madman’s, not made of wood. I wasn’t sure what it was made of, but it was an electric blue, and gave off a strange, burning heat.

My heart lurched.

How was I supposed to go into the clock?

Trying to avoid making eye contact with the face, I quietly, with my heart thumping heavily in my chest, I turned to look at the back of the grandfather clock. 

On the back of the clock, the wood was smooth. Nervously, I ran my finger through my hair. 

Raising my hand, I gently stroked the wood, hoping for a reaction.


Suddenly, a sharp needle of pain attacked my palm.

I drew it back quickly, wincing.

On my palm was a small, deep cut. Shaking off the pain, I leaned forward, a little more carefully and examined the back.

A small, sharp spike protruded from the wood. 

Excitement coursed through me. Hardly daring to believe it, I reached out tentatively. Before I even touched it, though, the spike shot toward me.

I screamed.

Frantically, I ducked. 

I could hear the sickening crunch of wood as the spike made contact with the church walls.

Suddenly, the clock began to speak:


I can bring a smile to your lips, bring tears to your eyes

I can resurrect the dead and I can relive all your lies

I can make the old young, and make the clock reverse it’s chime

I form in an instant but last a whole lifetime”


My head spun with questions, but I had no time to consider them. The spike drove its way toward me and I ducked yet again.

The clock’s words were ringing in my ears as I tried to make sense of them. 

At the corner of my eye I saw a blur of steel. As I ducked, I thought about the riddle the clock had given me. What could resurrect the dead? Make the clock reverse chime?

Time machine?

That couldn’t be it. 

If I didn’t hurry and solve it, the spike would either destroy the church or destroy me.

For some reason, my mind suddenly flashed back to a year ago. 

I was holding the last letter my father had ever given to me:


Dear Family,

I am still in prison. This will probably be the last letter I will ever write to you. I will be hanged soon.

Like a miracle, a girl came to visit me today. She was very kind and looked remarkably like Arya, only older. She was worried and wanted to help me. She was oddly familiar. She entered with a metal lion. Impossible, isn’t it? I hope that she will help me escape, but I doubt it will happen. 

This injustice has hurt me greatly. I did not commit the crime. I want to say that I love you all and I hope you will all be happy without me.



Suddenly, it was as though someone lit a match inside my head.

“Memory,” I breathed, “the answer is ‘a memory’!”

The grandfather clock gave a huge shudder. The spike froze, immobilized, and became still.

Warm relief washed over me. My heart still thudding in my chest, I carefully, cautiously, crept over to the grandfather clock.

A crack had split where the spike was. As I moved toward it, the grandfather clock gave another violent shudder. And the crack grew bigger– it was opening– I was afraid the whole clock would burst–

In the back of the grandfather clock was a huge, gaping hole.

Instead of gears, the inside of the clock was just endless darkness.

Poking my head inside, I could hear the quiet echo of my breathing.

I weighed my chances.

If I went inside, I might be able to meet Time but at the same time, it was terribly dangerous.

Shrugging, swallowing my fears, I swung one leg over the sharp edges of the clock and, taking a deep breath, clambered inside the hole.

Instead of the smooth, wooden base of the clock, smoke curled at the bottom.

I didn’t know if there even was a bottom.

Sharply inhaling, I bit my lip.

I jumped.

And I fell.

I fell.


Wind whipped around me, biting into my cheeks. My fingers groped for something, anything, to stop me from falling.


It was as though the clock had entirely disappeared.

My stomach swooped unpleasantly as I fell.

Suddenly, I slowed. 

I wasn’t falling so quickly anymore. 

I realized that strange objects were floating around me, surrounding me.

Poking at a small teapot, my mind filled with wonder.

What was this place?

At first I thought I was stuck in a large, wooden tube.

There were walls, but they looked like they were woven from smoke.

I reached out, attempting to touch the walls, but I couldn’t.

My hands went through the walls, and on the other side was cool, slippery air that blew over my hands.

I looked down.

Beneath me was endless darkness. How long was I going to fall?

It was like I was an astronaut, but there was still enough gravity for me to fall.

I couldn’t see the top of the clock anymore.

I almost crashed into a floating piano as I turned around.

Swerving wildly, flailing my arms, I managed to avoid the piano.

Realizing that I could control my falling, I laughed.

The sound echoed through the big tube.

My head rushed and a sharp pain stabbed my body.

Suddenly, I was on the floor, with my arms pinned beneath me.

I leapt up, looking wildly around.

It seemed like I had fallen in a dark castle. Clocks were everywhere. The continuous ticking unnerved me as I looked around.

Pillars supported the high ceiling.

The floor was made of marble. Dark, smooth marble. A ragged sort of girl looked back at me, and it was almost a full second before I realized it was my reflection.

Just then, a faint clicking noise filled the room.

Whipping around, I noticed that a trio of tiny humanoid automations had made their way into the room.

They were strange, queer little things. Made up of different pieces of metal, I recognized a stove and a few spoons. On the back of the little automations’ heads, were tiny clocks. Their artificial eyes rolled around in their metal sockets, seeming out of control and mad, and oddly familiar. I couldn’t exactly place why.

Suddenly realizing that they probably wouldn’t be very happy to find a strange girl in their private midst, I ducked behind one of the marble pillars.

The automations lurked around, obviously sensing that something wasn’t right.

Every fiber of me hoped that they wouldn’t find me.

To my immense relief, they didn’t.

I slipped out of the room.

The ticking of the clocks seemed to hammer at my skull, boring their way to my brain.

I shivered a little, trying to clear them from my head.

Everything here was a dark shade of black. They were almost opaque.

Suddenly, a clear, strong voice pierced me.

“Hmm… something’s wrong… which one of you have stopped ticking?”

I almost jumped a foot in the air as my heart lurched.

I almost ran to another pillar, but something made me stop.

The person who was talking wasn’t talking to me. Instead, the voice came from a brightly lit room.

I poked out my head from behind the pillar and squinted to see what was happening.

A large humanoid automaton was standing in the room. It? He? Stood with his hands held high in front of him, as though praying. His body was made up of handsome gears. Surrounding him were tiny, floating, miniature gold clocks. The clocks were ticking repeatingly, but the clock that was closest to the ground seemed to be twitching and possibly not even ticking at all.

Suddenly the automaton swooped down and closed his metal fingers around the clock.

The clock shuddered.

The automaton turned toward me.

And I saw his face.

His face was made of flesh.

Flesh and blood and bone.

His cheeks hollowed.

His mouth grim.

His eyebrows harshly lined.

His eyes, an electric blue.

Blue and rolling wildly.

Like a madman’s.

Suddenly I knew who he was.

And why his eyes sent an uncontrollable shiver down my spine.

He was Time.

Master of the World.


Chapter 3

The Steel Lion


Luckily, he didn’t see me.

The corners of his lips turned down.

He gazed at the clock, unhappily, almost repulsively, and suddenly his hand was a blur of gears and an ear splitting crash of smashing glass pierced the silence.

I screamed.

Time whirled around, one hand still clutching the broken clock. As I watched in horror, the clock’s golden glow slowly dimmed, and the clock broke to pieces. Those pieces floated away and gradually disintegrated.     

Time calmly brushed bits of crumpled metal off his geared hands and turned toward me.

His mouth formed into a scowl.

“Girl.” Time said, grinding the word with his teeth. 

My mind had gone completely blank. I was lost. I had nothing to say, or perhaps, nothing left to say.

Suddenly my mind left Time’s palace.

I was standing in an old classroom. Time, wearing a grease-covered tuxedo, was holding a smooth stick. Behind him appeared a chalkboard.

I tried to shout, to say that this couldn’t be right, but my voice cracked and died in my throat.

I watched Time, unable to speak, as he tapped his stick on the chalkboard. Scrawled words appeared:

Do you want to bring back someone who has died?


Before I could answer, the words started to move. The chalked lines wiggled, twisting themselves to form a cartoon of my adventure. Me trying to find the entrance in the grandfather clock, escaping the spike, solving the riddle, and falling through the endless hole.

Just then, the ground beneath my feet trembled and I fell.

My body shuddered as my eyes cleared and I was back at Time’s palace.

An explosion of questions sparked in my head.

Was that real? How did Time do that? Or was that just all in my head?

Time smiled at me. His smile was a clear one, a smile filled with kindness, honesty, and intelligence. It was the kind of smile that you knew you could trust.

“Does the scene look familiar?” He grinned, running a geared hand over his head.

I nodded tentatively.

His expression turned serious. His mouth formed into its usual grim line and he studied me.

“What is your name?” He asked.

“Arya.” I almost whispered, trying to hide my shaking hands.

“Well, Arya, I can guarantee you that it is going to be hard. People have come, many recklessly brave people, to do the same, and I did not allow them. I sent them back. Why should I let you?”

“Because…” I stammered, “because… my father was everything to me?”

Time shook his head.

My mind spun with alarm. I knew he was right. Why should he let me, a simple girl with no talent, venture into his world, and risk his life, to save one person that he didn’t even know?

That was the question:


Time shook his head. His eyes seemed to cloud over.“Cur?”

“What?” I asked, puzzled.


I furrowed my brow. “Cur–what?”


Time shook his head furiously again. His eyes slowly cleared.

“Never mind,” He muttered, absentmindedly. 

I looked at him, concerned.

He gazed at me, then, it seemed, something inside him snapped, broke.

“Fine.” He groaned, “I won’t let you yet, but I can at least show you what you can use to go back in time. Then, I’ll give you the test.”

“Test?” I asked, worried.

What kind of test could it be?

Anxiety churned in my stomach.

Not noticing, Time gestured to me.

Hesitating a little, I followed him.

His palace seemed endless. Corridors stretched, never ceasing, just like Time himself.

I saw more of the tiny automatons. Once you got used to them, they almost seemed positively cute.

Their ticking, instead of getting to my nerves, almost calmed me.

At last, the corridor ended. Great oak doors stood there, eerily similar to the doors of the church.

Time strode to the doors. Raising both of his hands, he leaned on the doors. They opened smoothly.

Light flooded my body. 

I squinted, shielding my eyes from the brightness.

Time stepped into the room, unfazed.

As my eyes adjusted to the light, I managed to see a faint outline of a sort of altar.

A sudden warmth blanketed me.

I opened my eyes.

The room was shaped like a sphere.

Gold laced the walls. If there were walls. Light, it seemed, had morphed into a solid substance, forming the barriers.

“Where are we?” I breathed.

Time laughed softly.

“Where?” he whispered. “This, Arya, is the Sun.”

Disbelief gripped me, holding me in its clutches.

“No way. But that’s impossible!” I said softly.

Light blinded me once again. When my eyes cleared, I saw a tiny hourglass in Time’s hand. Sand, red as blood, trickled. I recoiled slightly.

“What is that… thing?” I grimaced.

“That, Arya, is the hourglass which can help you go back in time.” Time sighed.

“This hourglass… controls all.” Time smiled.

“If you take the test… and succeed… then, this hourglass shall be yours… for a while.” Time shrugged his metal shoulders.

“This,” he pointed at a great grandfather clock in the center of the Sun  that I had not noticed before. “ is the home of this hourglass. If you accidentally break Time, which I really hope you don’t, just return it to there,” He pointed at the pendulum. As I leaned closer to study it, I realized that the pendulum was molded in the shape of an hourglass.

Time straightened up and smiled, a little wearily.

“Um, the test?” I said tentatively.

“Ah, yes!” Time exclaimed. He ran a geared hand over his head.

Time clapped his hands twice. A soft thumping noise drifted from outside the Sun.

It got louder and louder.

Suddenly, a great clockwork lion strode into the room.

The lion, like Time, had gears on its body. Its legs moved smoothly, as controlled and serene as a real lion. The paws were huge, each with its claws unsheathed. They glinted in the sunlight. The tail swished back and forth. The clockwork lion’s head was held high, proud. The eyes were rolling wildly and an electric blue. Each sliver of metal fur on its mane stood out against the gears of its neck. The lion shook its head, ruffling its metal mane.

My jaw dropped in awe.

“What…” I whispered.

Time chuckled, “This is Fortis. Fort for short.”

My head spun. “Fort?”

The clockwork lion strode over to me.

I step back apprehensively, my heart pounding.

“Be brave,” Time breathed, “if Fort bows to you, you are worthy, if he doesn’t, well, you better run.”

My heart clenched in horror, but I stood my ground.

Those rolling blue eyes slowly, gradually, focused on me. A sort of electric shock wracked my body. The deep blue eyes saw right through me. I felt exposed, sensitive, and most of all, bare, as though the lion’s eyes were absorbing my very being.

My mind went blank.

You have to step back! I thought frantically.


Come on!


It’s going to hurt you!



Chapter 4

Ocean of Time


I was on the brink of unconsciousness when Fort tore his eyes away from mine.

At once, my eyes cleared and I almost fell over. Time steadied me and gave me a gentle push toward Fort.

Fort stared at me hauntily, his eyes blue and rolling once more.

“Ah,” Time said, worried, “hmm, you can just… back off… slowly…”

Fort seemed unwilling to bend his knees.


But suddenly, Fort bowed his shaggy head, his rolling eyes never leaving my face. The move was elegant, and it calmed me.

My mind yelled in triumph.

“Yes!” I said loudly.

Time smiled too, but deep inside his rolling blue eyes, I thought I saw a faint trace of worry, of disappointment, but that vanished so quickly that I might have imagined it all.

Suddenly, Fort grabbed me with his paws.

I felt my body twist and suddenly I was on Fort’s back.

Time smiled. “Now,” He said, “you have passed the test. I will give you the hourglass  and all you need to do is turn the hourglass exactly how many years you want to go back. Then, Fort, you will take her to the Ocean of Time, and then you will know what to do.”

I squirmed. 

Time raised his geared hands. He retrieved the hourglass and forced it in my trembling hands.

Fort bowed his great, beautiful head. A low growling erupted from his throat and he bounded– 

Straight to the walls of the Sun.

I screamed.

Wind roared in my ears.

Everything was a blur of color and sound.

As Fort’s muscular body went through the walls of the Sun, indescribable heat met my skin.

It was snug, warm, and almost comforting, but as the heat grew, the snug feeling turned into pain.

“Ahhh…” I gasped.

Needles of heat were attacking my body. I was hot, hotter than I had ever been in my life. The suffocating warmth was closing in around me—I couldn’t breathe—my lungs were frozen— it was as though someone had pressed a thick pillow over my nose and mouth— darkness was beginning to fall over my eyes— 

And then suddenly I was free, and Fort was sailing over the night sky, his giant paws soundless, and I was gulping lungfuls of salty fresh air.

Fort’s powerful body twisted in the air.

Beneath us was a churning sea, the waves crashing against each other, each wave holding a glittering moon.

Fort roared.

The brave sound echoed through the ink-black sky.

I felt oddly calm.

Riding Fort was like riding a horse, but the loud horse hooves were replaced by the soft padding paws.

Fort then nudged me with his metal mane.

I realized that I was still holding Time’s hourglass. Holding it carefully, I slowly, very slowly, turned it over five times.

The ocean below us roared. Foam frothed and waves writhed. The salt water overlapped each other and suddenly, translucent scenes appeared. 

I barely saw a reflection of my childhood appear in the waves. I was lying on my hammock, my father pushing me.

I urged Fort, “Keep going!”


Fort ran faster, his geared paws touching the Ocean of Time. Bright blue vibrations resonated through his paws, melting into the ocean waves.

I suddenly saw that one of the waves held a scene of a prison cell. A shaggy, painfully familiar man sat slumped near the blood-smeared wall.

“There!” I pointed to the wave, my voice cracking.

Fort turned toward the wave.

As we delved deeper into the wave, I knew that we had done the right thing, for even though water surrounded us, my clothes were dry, though my skin was pleasantly cool. Salt should have stung my eyes, yet my eyes were clear and I could see the smooth current. 

Frothing bubbles blocked my vision. The bubbles soothed my face and I loosened my clutch the hourglass slightly.

Suddenly, I wasn’t on Fort’s back anymore. I was outside the prison cell, looking into my father’s tired eyes.

I almost cried.

It wasn’t until I reached out a pale, trembling hand that he noticed me. 

He straightened his back and stared at me with narrowed eyes. 

“Who are you?” He questioned. His voice was a little hoarse, his face a little gaunt, but my heart almost burst.

Love swelled in my body. For a second I forgot to speak.

“I, um, I’m your—” 

I almost said “daughter”.

“I’m going to save you.” I corrected.

Father shook his head. “Impossible.”

Fort suddenly came growling into the room.

My breath caught in my throat. How was I supposed to explain this?

Father’s face froze in horror as I tried to explain.

“Okay, um, Fath— um, this is Fort. Short for Fortis.” I stammered.

I shuffled my feet as Father gaped at me.

“How are you going to save me?” Father managed.

My mind drew blank. “Umm… when are you going to get hanged?”

Father’s eyebrows furrowed. “Tomorrow. And how did you know I was going to get hanged?”

I almost said, “ Because you wrote that in your letter.” Instead, I shrugged. “That’s how most prisoners get dealt with.” I winced inwardly at the words.

Father met my eyes steadily. “I once knew someone with eyes like yours. Green, way too big for her face…” 

I laughed, and Father chuckled too.

A sudden banging of the door sent me scrambling for a place to hide. Father whispered hoarsely, “Quick, there’s a trapdoor on the floor!”

I dug my fingernails into the crack on the floor and lifted the trapdoor. Fort sniffed the trapdoor and leapt in. Slipping into it, I closed the trapdoor just as the door of the prison opened.

Everything was dark. I almost tripped over a loose piece of concrete as I fumbled in the darkness. Voices erupted over me as I struggled to figure out what was going on.

Fort nuzzled me and I almost fell over.

“Oh, Fort,” I whispered, stroking his metal mane, “why does everything have to be so complicated?”

I curled up on the damp floor and stared at the sliver of light seeping through the crack.

I don’t know when I fell asleep. All I know is that I woke up to Fort’s snarling. 

He was prodding me with one of his razor-sharp claws and I recoiled at his touch. 

“What?” I said drowsily, touching one of his ears.

A low rumbling came from his throat.

A hard swat from his clawed paw brought me sitting bolt upright— partly because of the pain and partly because today was the hanging!

With a grunt, I stood up and placed my palms on the trapdoor and pushed.

Light streamed into my eyes and I blinked.

As my eyes adjusted to the brightness, I clambered out of the trapdoor. I brushed ash and dirt from my arms and legs.

My stomach lurched as I realized that the cell was empty.

The door open.

Wide open. 

With no one behind the bars.

No one.

They already took him. 

And I did nothing.

Nothing at all.

And it was in a trance that I sprinted out the door and into the dark hallways, looking for the place where hangings took place. 

My glazed mind refused to admit that he was dead.

It could not be possible.

Surely they haven’t done it yet.

This time, luck was with me.

As I pushed open door after door, I only saw the same scene again and again: Dirty bars.

It was like being in a maze.

A maze with no escape.

I was alone.


Chapter 5

THe Stony Waves


For a second I thought I would become lost and a blanket of fear and alarm wrapped around me and I ran faster than ever.

My heart pounded my chest as I threw open the last door.

My eyes braced me for the familiar sight of bars but there were none.

Instead, another hallway met my eyes.

Fort growled behind me and nudged me roughly with his beautiful head.

I bolted in, looking for a clearing.

Fort grabbed my leg just in time as I came into a clearing.

I slumped near the wall, my heart racing, my breathing coming in short gasps.

I stared as Father came into my view, walking sullenly to a raised area of dirt. A skinny, dry tree stood there. A barrel rolled on the floor next to it and the noose made me shudder.

I struggled to run to him and pain made me look back.

Fort’s mouth was still clamped around my leg, his eyes fierce. You mustn’t be seen, they seemed to say.

“I can’t!” I mouthed, alarm flaring in my chest. “I can’t!”

Fort shook his magnificent head, his teeth digging deeper into my leg.

Father walked closer.

Pain attacked my ankle.

I squirmed, fightin to get to Father. Fort’s metal teeth dug in deep and I almost cried out in pain.

Father walked closer.

Fort’s mouth tightened, and his eyes plainly said. I’m sorry. I shook my head, still fighting, shaking my leg, fighting to get to him, the person that meant everything to me. How could I just watch him die?

Father walked closer.

Two guards marched up to him.

Fear brought panic, panic brought recklessness, recklessness brought strength.

With a gasp of pain I tore my leg from Fort’s teeth—I ran toward Father—his mouth opened in shock—I screamed—I forgot where I was—I forgot what I was doing—and I threw myself in Father’s arms.

All my life I had been waiting for this moment. I relaxed and my mind gathered up this moment, savoring it, keeping it locked in my memory forever. Then came a moment so perfect, I could have cried. Father squeezed my body and when I looked up to his familiar face, I saw tears in his eyes.

And then it shattered.

The moment shattered.


Will never come back.

Like sand.

Sand trickling through your fingers.

I had no idea what was happening.

All I remembered is that an ear splitting sound of stone hitting sand shattered the air and seeing a great spike of rust-colored rock smashing through the dirt.

And then I remember running.

Running with my Father’s hand clamped in mine.

Looking back, I saw that the rusty rock was climbing over people.

The tree turned into stone.

The barrel turned into stone.

The people turned into stone.

I remember Fort throwing us onto his back.

I remember withdrawing Time’s hourglass and turning the hourglass five times.

Five years.

I could see the rusty stone climbing to us, reaching its rocky hands toward us. If we didn’t escape it, we would turn to stone.



And then I realized.

I broke time.

I broke it by saving Father.

What a terrible choice.

But what choice was right?

I had to save Father but everyone would die.

Father would die but everyone else would survive.



We were back on the Ocean of Time.

My mind froze in horror as I looked over my shoulder.

The rock was climbing over the roaring waves. My heart screamed in protest as the waves hardened. Into stone.

It was in a trance that I gently squeezed my legs, urging Fort to go faster. And then I realized how useless it was.

If Time couldn’t even escape the rusty stone, how could we?

Father’s warm arm curled around my waist and he gave it an understanding pressure.

Unexpected peace came over me. 

I sighed.

Why was I worrying? Father was back again!

And all of a sudden Fort dove unexpectedly in a frothing wave.

The pleasantly cool sensation enveloped me again. I smiled slightly, enjoying the soft touch of bubbles against my face. 

Just then, a sudden sensation as though I was being punched on the nose made me gasp in pain, and my head snapped back. 

Everything was a haze of color.

Then I realized.

The stone was coming.

And I was next.

I screamed as I felt Father jump into the wave.

Father pulled me with him.

A bizarre sensation enveloped me, as if a giant rubber tube was enclosing around me.

Fort leapt inside the wave just as the rock closed in around us.

We flipped and turned and suddenly we were back at Time’s palace.

The peace and quiet was gone now. The castle was filled with cries and yelps of horror and pain. The tiny automatons were turning to stone.

Every sight was rock. The orange rock. The rusty rock.

Fort threw Father and I onto his back and he began to run. Not away from the climbing rock, but at a distant tiny speck of a person.

The figure grew bigger as we advanced toward it and I realized who it was.


He was running.

I was still on Fort’s back and Fort was still running when my heart lurched.

All of a sudden, a low moan issued from Fort.

I whipped around and cried out.

The rock had made his way toward Fort.

I ran to him, running a hand over his beautiful geared head, and my heart moaned in agony and pain at this loss.

Father watched sadly, clasping his hands together.

Fort stared at me imploringly, his metal eyes deep with emotion, and then the rusty rock closed in on his face and then his eyes were empty.



Somewhere in the depths of Fort’s eyes, the emotion and feeling vanished, leaving them as cold as the snow that landed on my bedroom window.

A sort of strangled gasp escaped from my lips.

Fort could not be gone… I could not lose him… 

Father roughly shook my shoulder.

“What are you going to do?” He asked quickly, for the rock was advancing toward us.

I turned my head back to Time. He was risking his life for Father. How could I let him die in vain?

I forced Time’s hourglass in Father’s hand.

“Go,” I whispered harshly. “Go.”  

Father shook his head disbelievingly. “I’m not leaving you, Arya.”

“Go!” I screamed, shaking his roughly scarred hands, uncontrollable panic bubbling up inside me. Pure insanity caused me to turn the hourglass inside his hand five times.

Father stared at me, letting anger show on his face. Even as he reached for me, I stepped back, knowing that even if he went back, the stone would take him too. Father’s body twisted and his legs and waist disappeared, going forward in time.

As I turned away, Father tossed Time’s hourglass to me. It fell with a clatter on the dark marble floor but did not break.

I frantically scooped it up and ran. I ran to Time. Time turned his head and looked at me.

“The Sun!” He yelled, “The clock!”

Finally understanding what he meant, I changed direction, running toward the faint light that illuminated the far side of Time’s lair. 

I could hear Time sprinting after me, his breath coming in short gasps.

When I was finally to the doors, I threw them open and squinted in the sudden bright light but still kept running.

I was still too far.

Way too far.

Time gasped in alarm.

“I can do nothing,” He sighed, “except this.”

With a roar of pain he tore open his own chest, the ruined metal hanging from the side of his body.

I stopped running and looked back, my mind screaming in horror and disbelief clouding my thoughts.

His heart was a clock.

A clock that was moving so slowly. 

He pressed his hand to his heart and for a split second froze the rusty rock.

His eyes screamed, “RUN!

And I ran.

I ran to the grandfather clock and suddenly I gasped.

Looking down, I realized with horror that my legs were heavy. Immobalized. Turned to stone. 

The rock crawled up to my waist and I leaned toward him, the hourglass inches from the magnificent grandfather clock. 

Franticness enveloped me and I strained.

The rock twisted itself around my chest and for a second I could not breathe.

I leaned closer, trying to reach the clock’s pendulum. I stared up tothe pendulum, the hourglass clutched so tightly in my hand it hurt. A painfull ache attacked my heart and I tried harder. The rock climbed up to my neck and began to cover my chin.

I strained to reach it, the hourglass a hair’s breadth from the pendulum.

And it was only as the rock closed around my face that the expected sinking feeling of fear and disappointment closed around me. 

Darkness descended upon my eyes, and everything disappeared.

Memory and thought ceased.

And I was alone in the world.


Part 2


Chapter 6

Encased in Stone


I was alive.

I knew that.

I was alive.

Why, I didn’t know.

I was simply covered in a shell of rusty rock.

My breath was coming in short gasps and I couldn’t move.

I couldn’t feel my fingers at all.

Rough rock cut into my skin and darkness covered my eyes.

I could not tell if I was holding the hourglass anymore.

Was it in Time’s grandfather clock?

Or was it barely a hair’s breadth from it, a hair’s breadth from saving the world.

I was encased in stone.

I could not move.

I could not breathe.

I did not know what to do.

It seemed for eternity that I stood waiting there, waiting.

When I finally decided that I had completely ruined the world, I realized that if I had never had the idea of saving Father, never had the idea of going to Time, this never would have happened.

If I could cry, I would have. 

But I could not cry.

For once in my life, I wished to cry, I wished to let all my troubles spill down my face and leave my mind and body.

I could not.

And then the horrible realization that I would eventually die came over me, a mountainous torment that weighed down on me.

I was alone. 

Alone in the world.


Chapter 7

The End of an Endless Story


Suddenly a blinding flash of blue light emitted from in front of me, so bright that it went through the rock and I had to close my eyes to avoid the light.

And then I realized that I could close my eyes.

I looked down.

I could look down.

The stone was melting off my body and I lifted my arms.

I could lift my arms.

What had happened.

And then it was only when I looked up again that I saw that the hourglass was safely in the grandfather clock and the clock was safely ticking again.

“What happened…” I  murmured to myself. 

“You did it.” Someone behind me said.

I whirled around and saw Time straightening up, brushing soot and rock off his body. His chest had somehow healed.

“Cur?” I whispered.

Time smiled, a little wickedly. “The question is not cur, but quam.

Which left me more confused than ever.


Time threw his arms around me, and I had the puzzling impression of Father hugging me. 

When Time held my gaze again, something about his eyes sent chills down my spine.

They were no longer rolling.

No longer rolling madly. 

“What happened?” I repeated.

“It seemed, Arya, that the hourglass became so close to the clock that it actually worked.” Time smiled.

And then his brow furrowed.

“Where’s your father?” Time asked, concerned. “That didn’t all happen in vain, did it?”

“I don’t think so,” I said, a little worried. “He went forward in time five years, so he would be in the present.”

Time smiled, relieved. 

“I think we had enough trouble with the hourglass,” Time laughed softly. “I think Fort should be able to escort you back to your home, since you are already in the present.”

A sudden growling behind me made my heart beat faster.

Turning around, I knew who I would find.

I buried my face in Fort’s metal fur and laughed, tears of joy springing to my eyes.

Just as Fort had done so long ago, he grabbed me with his paws and I had my last glimpse of Time’s face, his electric blue eyes still and sound.

And then we were on the Ocean of Time again, his paws soundless against the frothing waves.

He dove in a wave and I had a split secod to enjoy the pleasantly cool water before I landed on my own bed, with Fort at my side.

The familiar roof above my head made my body ache, and Fort licked my face.

It was morning now.

How long had I been gone?

Time was so confusing.

I stroked Fort one last time, and he bounded to the wall of my bedroom and disappeared.

I had never appreciated how beautiful the morning was.

As I lay in bed, I realized that Time gave as much as he took. Every second was a gift. Every minute. Every hour. Every day was a precious present that soon slipped away, but replaced with another.

In a way, Time was like a merchant, taking money but providing products more valuable than anyone could imagine.

Time provided life.

A sudden yell of joy made me leap up from my bed.

I turned the door knob and burst into the living room.

The sight of Father embracing Mother made tears spring to my eyes.

Father’s eyes were shining, too, and he said silently, “ Thank you.

Mother turned sternly to me. “Girl!”

I bit my lip, saddened that this would all be the same. Time could not change this.

But then Mother’s eyes softened and she whispered, “Arya.”

I smiled slightly and backed off, letting Mother and Father enjoy their moment of rejoice.

As I sank into my bed again and looked out the window at the Sun, I sighed and the Sun comforted me because I knew.

I knew that somewhere in the fiery flames of the Sun, Time was sitting quietly on the floor, his geared hand resting on Fort’s body, both of them gazing, their eyes bright blue and no longer rolling, into the endless sky beyond.


The End 


Of One Story


The Beginning of Another