Turning Sands: A Short Story
Check out this short story written by one of our very own Library Assistants as part of World Book Night 2022!
Mr. Bishop thought it was quite clever of him to put the rocking horse at the front of his shop. Passers-by could catch it moving back and forth and then at last he might get some customers. The last one he remembered was a young lady who came in for what felt like seconds and then left again and that was months ago. It wasn’t that he didn’t sell nice things but the shop was dated and he was too old to maintain it anymore. The door was cracked, carpet was filthy and cobwebs had begun to creep out of their hiding places.
As the clock struck nine one cold brisk evening he locked up the shop and headed upstairs, taking an old blanket with him and wrapping a woolly hat over his bald head. This is going to be a cold one, he thought. As he passed the knick- knacks and framed artwork he hit his foot gently on a small red box. Satin covered and quite large for what looked like a necklace case. I don’t recognise that, he thought as he knelt down to pick it up. It was heavier than he was expecting. As if it was filled with solid gold. He released the clasp and opened it to find an hourglass, fitted perfectly into the satin. Cold to the touch from the gold trimmings and filled with shimmering blue sand. It made the rest of his belongings look worthless as he tipped the glass back and forth.
Out of nowhere the many clocks ticking around him struck midnight. He covered his ears from the loud noise before rushing over to each one and turning them off. As he turned the last one, a large grandfather clock painted green, he saw that it had in fact changed to twelve. The alarm wasn’t early, the clocks had skipped forward. He looked back at the hourglass that he had placed on the shelf. The sand was spilling down the narrow throat, something it had probably not done in some time. As he picked it up again, he kept turning it the opposite way and watched the clock. As he expected the clocks turned back and as he passed ten fifteen the hourglass reverberated. Telling him to stop as time reset itself.
He instantly put it back on the shelf and watched as the sand fell once again. What happens when the sand reaches the bottom he thought, intrigued by its strange abilities? He sat staring at it for an hour until the sand finally reached the bottom. For a moment it seemed as if nothing was going to happen until he felt a strange rush go through him as if he was being blown away by a great gust of wind. As his feet touched the ground again, he felt the hard surface of concrete and saw the moonlight beaming down on his parents’ driveway. Why did the hourglass send me here he thought before he started to move? His limbs were stronger and he felt his long locks resting on his shoulders once again.
He looked down at his hands and just as he expected, no wrinkles appeared. He was young again. The front door behind him gently shut as he turned to see his older brother leaving with a rucksack. This was the night my brother left, he thought as he ran towards him.
‘Freddie’ He called before bringing him into a hug.
“I thought you were in bed?” Freddie asked.
‘I am, or I was I mean. Please don’t leave.’
‘I can’t deal with the pressure anymore, Theo. Dad has such high expectations for me and I don’t think I can match them.’
‘Yes, you can. You’re just doubting yourself.’
‘And I wonder why?’ Freddie said as he lifted up the boot of his car.
‘No, you can’t go.’ Theo said as he grappled with his brother. ‘You must stay.’
‘Let it go Theo. I’m not staying and that’s the end of it.’
Theo could feel the urge to tell him what was going to happen if he left but he’d seen plenty of films where time travel had backfired. Was telling him the truth too risky or the only way to get through to him.
He grabbed hold of his brother’s rucksack and threw it out of the boot.
‘What do you think you’re doing?’ Freddie said as he tried to retrieve it.
‘You can’t go, it’s too dangerous.’
‘Why on earth would it be dangerous?’
‘Because if you leave…’ said Theo with a deep breath. ‘You’ll die.’
Freddie stood back from him, anger and confusion on his face. ‘What do you mean I’ll die.’
‘I remember it quite clearly. On the morning after you left Father got a call from the Police saying there had been an accident and that you were involved. When they arrived at the Hospital you were already gone. I think that’s what ate at Father’s mental health the most. Not just your passing but the fact that he couldn’t say goodbye.”
‘You’re saying it like you’ve already experienced it.’
‘I have. I was trying to stop you without telling you as I’m still afraid it will change things.’
‘Have you been drinking out of Father’s wine cupboard or something?’ Theo laughed.
‘No, I’m not joking. Go upstairs if you don’t believe me. See me sleeping in my bed just like normal then come back down here and realise I’m from the future. I wish I could show you that I’m not this young anymore but I guess you wouldn’t have even listened to me if I wasn’t.’
‘How old are you then? In this story?’
‘It’s not a story. I’m 76 and I run an antiques shop without a wife or any friends because as soon as you left my life that’s when it was over. Everything else just started crumbling away. Father chucked me out as soon as possible with the words, you’re not Freddie and you never will be. I’ve carried that with me, feeling useless and disappointing everywhere I go. But I don’t want that life anymore. I want it to change, so please – leave Father if you want but don’t leave me.’
‘Then come with me then.’
‘Come with you but what about the accident?’
‘I was planning on heading to my friends but with you. Best we go elsewhere.’
‘Meaning you’ll never get into the accident.’
Freddie nodded before picking up his rucksack.
‘Not me though. Theo up there in my room. I’m just a ghost. I won’t even exist soon.’
‘Then how will this even happen?’ Freddie asked.
‘I’m not sure but I was sent here to fix everything. So, it’s got to work.’
‘Okay. I’ll go and get him now.’ Freddie said as he headed back inside.
Theo hid behind the trees as Freddie and his younger self emerged, rubbing his eyes from tiredness and asking Freddie many questions. All of a sudden Theo felt himself having two memories, one fading as another rose. He remembered the first night away, staying in a hotel not far from the city. More and more came flooding through, happy ones with love and happiness. His parents didn’t even hate him and Freddie for leaving. Not when their Father realised how hard he had been on them. Studying at University, getting a well-paid job and starting a family were just a few wonderful things he now saw in his mind. And he didn’t just know them, he’d lived them. He loved his wife and children so much that it made him cry.
As he watched the two of them drive off finally he saw one last memory. He was sat in the antiques shop, smiling with his wife beside him and his children cleaning the place. And then it
wasn’t a memory. He was there, in the flesh, not a trouble in the world as his old life left him for good.
By Mhairi Poarch