This is for a creative writing project on tumblr called Monday Muse. Check out the link on my profile.
Someone had stolen the guy's pocket watch.
My eyes traced his movements as he stomped around the compartment, face flushed and teeth clenched. Despite his show, he seemed more frustrated than angry as he interrogated every passenger. At least, I assumed he was interrogating them from their furrowed eyebrows and frowning faces. I couldn't hear over the roar of the train and the blaring of my iPod.
My attention drifted to the window as we went into a tunnel, making the volume of the rattle of the wheels on the tracks go up a few notches. Darkness engulfed the train, and when it emerged under the open sky again, I jumped to see that Pocketwatch stood over me. It took me a minute to realize that his soundless, moving mouth was talking to me.
"What?" Pulling my headphones off, I realized that, because I was accustomed to my iPod, I'd said it a bit too loud.
"What did you do with it?" Glaring, Pocketwatch leveled his face to mine.
"What?" I repeated, a little slow from surprise.
"My pocket watch! I put it in my bag, and it's not there anymore, see?" Pocketwatch even showed me his pocket watch-less bag, as if I wouldn't believe him. "What did you do with it?"
"Nothing." Raising an eyebrow, I leaned back further in my seat and crossed my legs so they lay on the empty seat in front of me. An assortment of bags and jackets covered the back of my seat and the one across from me, a haphazard mess designed for keeping me comfortable. Nobody was sitting in any of the four seats in my little area; nobody ever rode trains anyway. Nobody but this motley crew of three nondescript people and Pocketwatch.
I'd regained my composure, and I tried to make my opinion of this man clear through body language. I wasn't about to let some old loon bug me this entire train ride. Why did he even care so much about the old thing anyway? Nobody owned pocket watches anymore.
"Ah! Of course not. You don't care enough to take it, huh?" His change of tone made me pause as I started to replace my headphones. Sinking into the empty chair beside the one with my converse-covered feet in it, the man covered his face with his hands and sighed. I frowned, wishing he would go back to his seat and leave me alone.
"Young people these days. They have no concept of time. They have no idea how little of it they have." Sighing, Pocketwatch rubbed his eyes. Slowly, I started replacing my headphones, hoping he would get the message and not dump a sob story about the failure of my generation on me.
"What time is it?" He asked before I could press play on my iPod. I glanced at the screen.
"About noon." The clock read 11:53 AM.
"No, no. What time is it exactly?" Pocketwatch tapped his wrist, a universal signal that lost its meaning since neither of us were technically wearing watches.
"Eleven fifty-three." I couldn't help but roll my eyes.
"Don't laugh at me!" Pocketwatch wagged his finger. "Those seven minutes mean something."
"That's something like four or five hundred heartbeats. Did you know people have around only three billion heartbeats in a lifetime? And that's only if they sleep their whole life away." If Pocketwatch had been anything besides his earnest, somewhat sad self, I would've told him to fuck off, but I had a feeling he wasn't just trying to drive me nuts.
"So?" I shrugged.
"So you don't want to miss four or five hundred out of three billion, yeah?" Pocketwatch nodded when he said, "yeah," like some sort of wise monk. "You'll want them in the end."
There was something unsettling about Pocketwatch. I hit play. As the beat crashed into my head, I cocked my head and furrowed my brows at his foreboding declaration. By the look on his face, I wondered if he really was joshing me and if he was getting a great laugh out of my reaction.
Pocketwatch said something again, smiling as he stood and walked away. His words were lost against the rhythm of the drums. I turned my gaze back to the window and watched the hills and rivers roll by until I nodded off to sleep.
I woke, blinking, as the train screeched to a halt. People started to get off, the sparse crowd abandoning the car and making it seem even more pathetically empty than it had been. Groaning, I threw my things together as the woman on the loudspeaker told us to "Please exit the car through the door on the left," in such a tone that could be heard even above the now constant drone of my iPod.
The pocket watch plopped onto the seat as I picked up the last of my bags. I stared at it, my groggy memory returning so I could wonder how it got there. It didn't make any sense. The only time I'd ever been near Pocketwatch was when he came and sat next to me. Letting out a breath, I frowned.
The gold watch might've gleamed under the harsh exit lights of the train if it weren't so old and scratched. Throwing my bags over my shoulders, I picked up the watch. I took my headphones off and let them hang around my neck. The car was eerily silent without the monotone loudspeaker voice from a few minutes ago.
I peered at the pocket watch and ran my finger over the top of it, its smooth surface kept warm by the weight of my luggage and shoes. There were no engravings of any kind to show who it belonged to. Flipping it open, I noticed the clear tick-tock-tick-tock of the second hand. Its tempo matched the thumping of my heart.
I snapped the watch shut and glanced around for its owner, but no luck. Most of the passengers from my car were long gone. Taking a deep breath, I pocketed the watch. I smiled at the absurdity of it.
If nobody rides trains anymore and nobody has pocket watches anymore, what does that make me?