Rubbing my eyes with one hand, I picked up the glass of water from beside my bed, and drained it.
That done, I felt more awake, and more real again. I got up, followed the full morning ritual, broke fast and went to work.
An ordinary uneventful day passed ("Good morning Miss Drake." "Good morning, Sir."), up until the point when I arrived home, slightly more tired than usual.
Instead of getting some food, as I usually would, I went upstairs to take a nap.
On the verge of sleep there was a sudden loud ringing from behind the headboard of my bed. For a moment I took it for my imagination, then an alarm outside, but no, for sure it was behind the headboard.
And it wouldn't stop.
After a minute or so I was fully awake, and quite sure that the chances of getting any sleep were minimal. I got up, and looked as far as possible behind the headboard. Nothing there, but by now I was sure that that's where the noise was coming from.
Intrigued now, I pulled the bed away from the wall, and turned it around slightly. There, where the end of the bed had been... Nothing.
The ringing seemed to be coming from inside the wall.
"A five year old practical joke?" I found myself thinking. "A new practical joke? Someone's taped an alarm clock to the opposite side of the wall?"
On that premise I went outside, and looked up at the outer wall of my room, listening carefully. Not a murmur.
Inside again, the ringing was there, loud as ever. Baffled, I tapped the wall, ran my fingers over the wallpaper, checked where the wall met the floor... Nothing out of the ordinary, except for the bizarre ringing.
"I give up." I thought, shrugging, and went to get some food from the kitchen. I ate it there, rather than going back to my room, for I was somewhat spooked, to put it lightly.
Afterwards, I went back to my room. Before I even opened the door I could hear the ringing, the damned ringing. It hadn't been loud enough to hear from there before.
Clutching my head, I stumbled back downstairs. Was I going mad? Outside again, nothing could be heard. I slept that night in the kitchen, on the floor.
* * * * *
Too early, I wakened, stiff and sore. It was still dark outside, but I could just hear the beginnings of birdsong. I felt calmer now, sure the problem would sort itself out soon enough, until I realised that it was no birdsong...
Angered beyond reason, I grabbed a hammer from the tool drawer, and headed upstairs. In my room the noise was almost unbearable, but I was angry enough that I hardly noticed. I strode across the room to the source of the noise, two strides, swung my arm back, and struck the wall, hard as I could, with the sharper end of the hammer-head.
*Crack*, and some plaster crumbled out through the newly made hole in the wallpaper. The ringing continued, and I swung again, *THACK*.
The ringing ceased. Before I grasped the fact, I had swung once more, and great clouds of dust spewed up through the hole I had made into the wall.
Breathing heavily, and coughing occasionally, I watched as the dust settled. There, inside the wall, was an alarm clock. An alarm clock and a strange pure-black sphere. Even as the dust settled, not a speck disturbed the eerie blackness, some could be seen sliding off, some just seemed to disappear.
I reached in, warily, and picked up the alarm clock. There was a 'ping' as I lifted it, almost causing me to drop it again, then when I realised, almost causing me to smash it in anger. But it held my interest enough to save it's clockwork essence from destruction, questions and curiousity filled my mind.
How had the clock got there?
Why had it started ringing only yesterday?
How come it was getting louder?
How come it didn't stop after a half hour, like any sane alarm clock?
And, most importantly, what was the other thing...?
It looked somewhat unreal, and I was afraid to touch it. I looked around for something to use, and smiled, considering the alarm clock.
I wrapped the end of my sleeve around my hand, and held the clock through that, not really sure why. It wasn't as if my sleeve would stop a major electric shock or something. Maybe heat, but the object wasn't hot, or I would be able to feel the heat from where I was.
The clock touched the sphere, soundlessly apart from another 'ping' from the loose bell on the clock. I pushed, and the sphere half-rolled, half-slid, and kept going at a slow pace until it hit the outer wall, again soundlessly, and stopped. Reaching in with the clock, I pushed it back, gently, towards its original location. There was no sign of it stopping until I touched it again with the clock. There appeared to be no friction at all.
Interested now, considering what such a discovery could mean to me, I tapped on the top of the sphere, again with the clock, or rather hit on the top. No tap, no sound at all.
I hit it harder, to no effect. Harder still, and suddenly the clock passed into the sphere, with my hand not following, cracking my knuckles on the dark surface.
Still, it did little damage to my hand, and merely felt slightly warm. I picked it up cautiously, almost dropping it as it slipped in my grasp. There really was no friction at all. As I was about to put it down again, I noticed underneath it, where it had been, a notepad and the alarm clock. I laid the sphere carefully beside it, took the notepad, and gently moved the sphere back to it's original location.
The cover of the pad had marker-pen on it, identifying it as my own. "Strange," I thought, "That should be in my drawer.". I opened the pad. On the first page, in large red letters were the words "Go and open the drawer."
I blinked. "Why the hell would it say that?" I pondered, "And who..."
With a shrug, I turned the page. "DO IT NOW!" I read, half laughing, half scared.
Shaking my head slightly, I went over to the drawer I presumed was meant, the drawer that should have the pad in it, and opened it. The pad was there. Confused, I opened the pad in the drawer, to see on the pages the text I had most recently written, to my memory. "Phone landlord." it read, then the next line, "7:00, Thursday, Gino's."
"Oh damn!" I cursed, it being Friday, "Damn damn damn."
"What to do?" I wondered, "Phone her? Leave it? Send flowers?"
I shrugged, and laughed bitterly. There was probably no point. I went back to the notepad from the sphere, and turned the page.
"PHONE HER." I read. What the..? "Okay." I shrugged, "It seems to have a point."
* * * * *
"Oh, it's you! Listen, I'm sorry about last night..."
"Listen, Sue, I'm... What?"
"I'm sorry about last night. I hope you didn't wait too long..."
What was this? She hadn't been there either? Interesting... How to play it? "No, Sue, it's alright, I..."
"I'm afraid I don't even have a good excuse..."
"Sue, it's okay! I wasn't..."
"I just forgot. I'm sorry."
"You're sorry too?"
"I forgot too."
I nodded. Then I realised I was on the phone, "Erm. Yes. Sorry as well."
"Hey, that's cool. Compatible, yeah?"
I laughed. "Yeah, nice idea. So..."
"D'you wanna try again some time?"
"Oh yeah. Soon."
"Erm..." I said, "I don't know. Hold on a minute."
I put the receiver on the table, and thought. Would I have sorted out the sphere by tomorrow? I ran upstairs, not sure why, and gazed at it. What was it? The notepad caught my eye, and I turned the page. "Yes." I read, "Tomorrow. And 7:30's fine."
I had almost forgotten the phone. I ran back downstairs, "Yes!" I gasped into the phone, "Tomorrow's fine."
"I was beginning to think you'd gone. 7:30 okay?"
I almost laughed, "Yes, 7:30's great. Gino's again?"
"Gino's for the first time." I detected a tone of amusement.
"Yeah." I agreed, grinning, "See you there then."
"See you. Bye."
"Bye." I murmured, and put the phone down. "Bye."
* * * * *
"So, what now?" I asked of the notepad, turning the page.
"Red praline, 16-1, 10:30, Chepstow." I read. "Umm?"
I read it again. "Chepstow..." I pondered, "Place... Famous for... Horse racing!"
Reading it once more, it was obvious what it meant. The next page, "Yes, you'll bet 150 pounds. Take this notebook with you."
"Okay," I shrugged, "You've been right so far."
At the betting office, after a quick trip via the bank, I placed a bet, 150 pounds. Needless to say, Red Praline came in first, and I was 2400 pounds richer.
The notepad beckoned my mind again. It had, after all, requested I bring it. On the next page were 5 more bets to place, quite a good number considering that the maximum bet here was 500 pounds.
Back to the notepad, "Don't get greedy.", directed the next page, "Home time."
Curious, I went onto the next page, and as before, "NOW!" was the response. Not worth my while doing it really. Perhaps it just did that every now and then, how could it know, after all. The next page, "I MEAN IT!"
Chuckling and shaking my head, I went home, significantly better off than before.
When I moved to look again at the pad, I realised it seemed to have taken control of my life rather more than I would like. Admittedly it was doing things I would like, but without free-will, what's the use of money?
I turned the page, wondering what it's next instruction would be. "About now," I read, "You will be thinking that this isn't exactly what you want."
I laughed, and read on, "For this reason, I will now explain what's been happening. You are actually going to write all this. The black sphere sends things back in time. You only found the black sphere because of the alarm clock which you will send back with the notepad, I don't know where it came from."
This was getting weird. Okay, so it had been weird from the start, and was only getting weirder. "It's probably best," said my handwriting, "If you copy this into the original pad now, and send it back."
I didn't like that idea much. There seemed to be quite an element of paradox in it, besides which, I was already happily well-off, and my prospects with Sue were looking good. Why write the pad?
I decided not to. I'd have been quite happy a few thousand pounds richer, in a good relationship.
Quite an imagination I had, eh? Of course, I never did get a pad with such detailed life-enhancing instructions...
Back to where time only goes forwards
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