It all started with a visit to a garage sale.
This used to be a Saturday morning ritual for me, as I loved to see what bargains I could pick up, you know the sort of thing - little knick-knacks that hide themselves amongst other peoples unwanted trash, and it was at one such event that I bought a box labelled ‘lucky dip’. It was a mixture of general odds and sods that most people would throw away – I on the other hand seemed to be a magnet for such things and could not resist.
Having arrived home I went straight to my room and upended the contents of the box onto my bed. To be honest I felt that my five dollars had been stiffed from me, for all I could see was a collection of old crap.
There was an old book that I later read, and quite enjoyed – other than that it was just another lot of junk that would eventually be filed in the trash.
“Another load of crap I see,” said my sister as she walked past my room.
She never shared, or cared about any of my interests and my obsession with flea markets and garage sales went completely over her head, but to be honest, on this occasion she appeared to be right.
There was a watch though.
It was one of those nineteen-eighties black plastic jobs, with way too many buttons that didn’t actually do anything, well if they did it was beyond anyone without the instruction manual to work out what.
Given the technology available from that decade it was highly likely that they were decorative rather than functioning.
Its one redeeming feature was that it looked kinda cool, in a retro sort of way.
It was also broken, something I only found out when I replaced the batteries on the assumption that all it was lacking was power.
On its rejuvenation, I discovered that it appeared to be stuck on the stopwatch function. It was also possible that it was the only thing it was capable of, so on reflection it worked perfectly well given that it was the one thing it was designed to do. We may never know – or care.
The digital display was set on one hour and would count the minutes and seconds down to zero; at which point it would beep at you to let you know it had completed its task – simple.
I pressed the button on the side to start it going.
“Another load of crap I see,” said my sister as she walked past my room.
“Yes, I get it – you don’t approve” I called out. “You don’t have to go on about it.”
Her footsteps stopped in the hallway and she retraced her steps back to my room.
“Don’t get shitty with me” she said, “Just because you’ve thrown your money away again there’s no need to yell – and anyway, I didn’t go on about it, that’s the first time I’ve mentioned it”
I glared at her and said,
“You said the same thing an hour ago”
“I wasn’t in the house an hour ago psycho”
This was her endearing pet name for me – something to which I responded with equal affection.
“First your virginity and now your mind, whore – what are you going to lose next?”
This was met with her raised middle finger and the slamming of her bedroom door.
After quite a few moments of calming down, I turned my attention back to the watch that had been quietly counting down the hour. I pressed the stop button and found that it was indeed broken due to the fact that it ignored me and carried on ticking the time down to zero. The beep worked though, as an hour later it did so to inform me that its one function had now been completed.
I pressed a few of the other buttons but other than a small backlight, the only thing it did was count the hour down.
I pressed it again.
“Another load of crap I see,” said my sister as she walked past my room.
I opened my mouth to reply to her repetitive taunts, but the words caught in my throat as I noticed that she had walked past my room from the same direction that she had come from before.
“How did you do that?” I called out.
She stopped and walked back to my doorway.
“Do what?” she said.
“How did you get past my room without me seeing you?”
“Duh!” this was the height of intellectual putdowns for Stacy and was pretty advanced for someone who had re-routed her brainpower to concentrate on the tasks of bleaching her hair and growing tits. “You did see me psycho”
“The first two times whore, but I didn’t see or hear you leave your room”
Stacy just raised her eyebrows and said,
After slamming her bedroom door once again, the sound of music boomed through our adjoining wall. This was more of a punishment for me for existing, rather than for her own entertainment. I didn’t mind that so much as it was better than some of the other noises that emulated from her room – especially when she would sneak boyfriends in when she thought that Mum was going to be late home from work.
The rhythmic banging against the wall accompanied by cries for a deity that she had no concept of, were the stuff of nightmares.
Mind you, it was as close to a sex life that I was ever going to get.
Stacy and I were very different.
She is the stereotypical bimbo – even by bimbo standards.
Blonde hair, blue eyes and a cleavage you could park a bike in. She had been with more boys than I had hot dinners – and I had eaten a lot of those.
I on the other hand am the classical victim of those hot dinners, but far from having the classic ‘fat girl tits’ my body had transferred all of the stored energy normally used in this department, to my butt and belly.
I looked like a human pear.
Sometimes, late at night when my self-esteem was at it lowest and I had endured the sounds of Stacy’s exaggerated encouragement for her boyfriends performance, I felt as if I would have traded my straight A’s for her vacuum filled head and her porn star body, if it meant I got to live her life of popularity for a day.
Even so, my life had presented its little moments of triumph by way of compensation.
For example, on arriving home early from school one afternoon, suffering a migraine, I found that Stacy had apparently skipped class and was in her room - but not alone. The last thing I wanted to hear was Stacy screaming her orgasms in time to the rhythmic animal grunts and the romantic calls to “Take it all bitch” from her latest meal ticket, and from the sound of it, and the car parked outside, the young man in question was Mike.
I liked Mike.
He was tall, dark-haired and, for someone who would lower himself to bed my sister, reasonably intelligent. But even my tolerance for Mike could not stop me bursting into her room and demanding that they both shut the hell up.
On this occasion however, the sight of my own mother riding Mike as though he was Sea Biscuit came as some reward for the countless smug looks Stacy would give me after her boyfriends had left as if mocking me about my own inadequacies in that department.
This was followed by a long talk from mum about how lonely she was since dad left, and that this had never happened before. She asked me not to tell Stacy, as it would only ‘hurt her’ – like I cared about that.
I agreed never to say anything and mum promised that it would never happen again.
It still does though, as most of Stacy’s boyfriends know that they can get a free ride from her mother if the main attraction is closed.
Like mother, like daughter I guess.
Anyway, back to the watch.
After the hour was up, and the watch had beeped its message to let me know, I went out into the hallway. Stacy had turned her music down after half an hour as she was talking to the latest contestant in the game show that was my sister, via Skype, so I knew that she was definitely in her room.
I set the stopwatch going again.
“What the hell” Stacey screamed as she appeared in front of me.
She hadn’t noticed that I had seemingly just ‘popped’ into existence as she’d been checking her phone, and had only been alerted to my presence by the fact that I screamed at her sudden appearance. It was as if she just appeared in front of me, whereas a second before she had been in her room.
“Stop creeping up on people you weirdo – what’s wrong with you?” she said, and with that she pushed past me and went into her room, again with the punishment of loud music for my crime of being born. I waited for half an hour for the music to stop, and my heart skipped when I heard the sound of her laptop announcing an incoming call – I had been here before.
I would have believed that Stacy had found a way of slipping some sort of drug into my food, for this bore all the hallmarks of a bad trip. But Stacy, although many things, was not into drugs and had no time for anyone who was.
Her body was her temple.
Sculptured and honed to perfection by visits to the gym twice a day and the monitoring of carbs, fats and sugars. She would only eat a healthy vegetarian diet, and never ate processed food.
The only thing made of meat that entered Stacy’s body went in below the waist.
“It’s not what you have, it’s how you sell it,” she would say – too often.
It was like her mantra.
So what was happening?
Was this strange little broken watch, with only the stopwatch function working, able to let the wearer repeat the last hour of their lives?
Of course not, that would be impossible – but the evidence was there.
I am sorry to say that the sudden euphoria at this newfound power caused me to lose myself a little. I abused its capabilities in such petty ways, such as shoplifting.
I wasn’t even clever about it, as I would just walk out of various stores with anything I pleased, and when I was about to be escorted back by the security guard I would just start the watch and would be taken back one hour before I took the items.
Weeks went by with hours of my own time being repeated over and over.
I played dangerous games with my life by taking myself to the top of the tallest building that I could find and throwing myself off, and as the ground rushed up to meet me I would start the watch moments before I met my end. The thrill of my life coming so close to being snuffed out was like a drug to me, but I never lost trust in the fact that I would be moved back an hour at the push of a button - and therefore back to safety.
And it wasn’t just my life I put at risk – I lost track of how many times that I killed Stacy. The lust for revenge at her taunts of how I was the ‘fat sister’ to her goddess were never satisfied, causing me to seek more and more violent ways to quell a frustration born of my own inadequacies. I was having so much fun and venting so much anger – Until the day I finish the book.
As you may remember, amongst the items that came in this box of mismatched crap, was a book. It was an enjoyable story, as far as pulp fiction from the eighties went, but it was only when I had finished reading it that I noticed the bookmark.
It was a piece of paper that had been folded long ways, and on further investigation, it turned out to be the instructions for my watch.
Cool, I thought, as maybe now I could see if there were any other functions that I could get to work. However, as I read about my new find my heart began to chill.
TERMS AND CONDITIONS
The A.L.E XI-S Chrono-Displacement unit is for entertainment purposes only.
DO NOT OVERUSE
This is the time of your life.
For every hour you take from the world must be paid with a year of your own.
My mouth went dry.
How many times had I used it? – Forty? Fifty? More even.
I carried on reading as fear began to grip my soul.
Warning – when the watch is removed, or the batteries run dry, the balance of your account will be settled in full.
What did that mean?
As far as I could ascertain, it was saying that I would age instantly the moment I took off the watch – or it ran out of batteries. I looked at the display that always showed three zeros headed by a six, and in the top left of the screen was the battery readout.
It was in the red – and flashing.
My life? – Really?
It was just a bit of fun surely?
I bit my bottom lip in an attempt to suppress a sob, but my eyes betrayed my feelings as hot, fat tears ran down my hot fat cheeks, blurring my vision as I attempted to read the rest of what seemed to be fate sealing my time on earth.
If the watch is stolen, sold or suffers a malfunction then the contract between the user (you), and the Animated Linear Electronics Co. will be null and void.
Stolen? – Who would want to steal something that looked like a cheap piece of crap?
And malfunction – it was so close to losing power that the likelihood that it would break down between now and then was very unlikely.
Just then Stacy’s words came from nowhere sparking an idea, and my possible salvation.
“It’s not what you have, it’s how you sell it”
I used my phone to take a picture of the watch and uploaded the image onto Ebay with a buy now price of $1.00 – then waited for my patsy; then within the hour Stacy came home.
She was obviously in a bad mood, as she slammed the front door and stamped her way upstairs. This was good news for me because when Stacy is angry she gets mean and vindictive. I put my phone to my ear and waited for her to be within hearing distance. Stacy was well known for listening in on things that don’t concern her and I was counting on her total disregard for my privacy in order for my plan to work.
So as she reached the top stairs I smiled at my lack of surprise when she stopped at the sound of my voice.
“You see,” I said to my imaginary caller “I have put my watch on your site and mistakenly put a buy now price of a dollar”
I paused for a second or two.
“Well the thing is, it’s worth three thousand dollars – that right”
“Well exactly, I don’t want someone bidding on it, and I have no idea how to remove it from sale”
Stacy chose that moment to walk past my bedroom door as if she hadn’t heard anything.
She waved a non-comitial hand at me and went into her room at which point I went to our adjoining wall and pressed my ear up against it. I could hear her starting up her laptop.
The trap had been sprung.
I should have felt guilty about what I was planning to do, but I had taken her life so many times before that I had become desensitized to this further act of destruction towards my sister – it was just another part of the farcical game that had become my life.
The sound of my own laptop, alerting me to the fact that my watch had found a new home, interrupted my train of thought.
Sure enough, Stacy had fallen for my con and was now the watches new owner.
As her bedroom door opened I quickly jumped onto my bed, picked up my book and pretended to read. Stacy stood at the entrance to my room.
“I believe you have something of mine,” she said with a smug look on her face.
“Not me” I replied, “I think you will find that you gave your virginity to someone else - a long time ago. Rumour has it that you took your panties off when you were fifteen and haven’t put them back on again – care to comment?”
Stacy opened her mouth in order to say something, but I shut her down with another smartarse remark.
“Or is it your intelligence you’re looking for because I believe you have to own something first in order to lose it”.
“The watch bitch – it’s mine,” she said simply.
“Yeah, in your dreams”
The smug look on her face was becoming insufferable.
“Check your sad little online auction weirdo” And with that, she tossed a dollar on the floor of my room. “Hand it over”
I rolled my eyes whilst tutting my annoyance and leaned across to my bedside table in order to check my laptop. I brought up my auction page, at which point I fained my horror at this ‘impromptu’ sale. I turned to her.
“You were listening in on my phone call.”
“If you didn’t have such a big mouth then maybe I wouldn’t have heard you”
“You are not getting a three thousand dollar watch for a dollar Stacy”
Which was true – she wasn’t.
“Bought fair and square Amy – so just take the freaking thing off.”
I got off of the bed and snatched up the money that she had so graciously thrown on my floor. I held my breath and undid the clasp of the watchstrap. This was either going to be the end of me, something of which would give Stacy something to talk about for the rest of her life, and something to explain to police – or it was going to be the get out clause I needed.
“It needs new batteries – you can find some in the kitchen drawer,” I said, as I felt that I should give her at least a fighting chance against what I knew would inevitably happen. Even so, it didn’t stop the bitch in her saying,
“Well you would know where they are kept – I mean, it’s not the only battery powered thing you own is it? You should really think about a mains adaptor Amy, that thing looks like a freaking thermos flask. You know, that’s why the boys won’t go near you, they feel that they can’t compete with your ‘plastic pal who's fun to be with,’ you are so sad.”
She laughed at the reddening of my cheeks and at the obvious pain and embarrassment she was causing me. Any remorse I had at passing this curse over to my sister left me at that point. Her invasion of my privacy and the taunting of my necessity to seek pleasure at my own hand left me feeling cold, violated and dirty.
As the strap fell away from my wrist, I closed my eyes and welcomed the end – whatever that end turned out to be.
I had used the watch one hundred and thirty times.
I knew this because, as I removed it, every one of those years screamed towards me with the howl of a banshee that only I could hear. They pushed at my mind with the clear intent of a force that had been spent but now had nowhere to go.
A force that was angry and cheated of purpose.
As the pressure built up around me I found it hard to breathe, as the memories of my recycled time slammed against a door that they could not break down.
My head became light.
My vision grew darker.
I passed out.
I woke up the next morning – minus the watch.
I jumped out of bed and looked in the mirror and saw the same fat little eighteen-year-old face being reflected back at me. My hands went to my mouth as more tears flowed from my still tired and sleep-ridden eyes; only this time they were tears of joy.
From downstairs, I could hear mum getting the breakfast ready, and so I stripped off the clothes I had slept in, and put my robe in order to join her.
I stopped for a moment and stared at my reflection.
I opened my robe and took a look at my naked body.
I had come so close to losing everything.
Had the watch not had its condition set with a final toll on the present user, then I would have stayed in one place in time forever. Was I that insecure that I would be so easily seduced by a life of repetition and instant gratification, with no desire to move forward?
With that in mind, I decided to choose one of two paths.
Either I was to accept myself the way that I was and move on regardless of what people thought, or change what I didn’t like, not what others didn’t like about me. Stacy and I were not so different - we both shared the same genetic makeup so there was no real reason why I couldn’t achieve the same results she had with a little hard work and sensible eating, and honestly speaking, at our age both of our lovers were essentially plastic. Whatever road I chose from here on in, it was obvious from my recent experiences that staying in one spot would have a price to pay later on in life.
“Hi honey,” said mum as I entered the kitchen.
“Good morning” I replied, “can I…”
Mum put her finger up as her attention was on the news report from the TV.
“Hang on honey,” she said, “I just wanna hear this – it’s so weird."
I walked over to the TV and watched with my mother.
“What is it?” I asked her.
“It seems that they have found the remains of a two hundred-year-old woman just outside your school, and the really weird thing is that she’s wearing a digital watch. How freaky is that?”