The Clockmaker’s Assistant (a work in progress)
The shop was more like an arcane warehouse; rows upon rows of deep mahogany shelves stretching up as far as the ceiling some twenty feet above, and farther back than Hector could see – presumably converging at some distant vanishing point hidden in the shadows. And on each shelf, packed at least three deep, were clocks, hundreds of them; carriage clocks, mantel clocks, cuckoo clocks, all of them ticking and winding and clicking and chiming. Their noise echoed like some strange mechanical orchestra around the cavernous surroundings, and Hector was about to clamp both hands over his ears when he heard a voice to his right.
“Hector Bishop I presume?”
When Hector turned he saw that the voice belonged to an old man, bald on top with waves of white hair shooting out at the sides of his head, and from above his upper lip. The man wore horn-rimmed glasses upon the very end of his nose, which were pointed towards the pocket watch in his left hand. He was shaking his head.
“No, no, no. That simply won’t do at all,” he said, and raised his gimlety blue eyes to Hector.
“And what time precisely do you call this then, um?”
“I’m really sorry,” began Hector, “I…”
“Typical, just typical,” the old man muttered. “Thirty years it takes to send me an assistant, I tell you, thirty years! Then, when I finally get one, what do you know, he turns up late for his first day – hum! Typical!”
By now the old man had shuffled off towards a small doorway leading away from the main room. Hector stood watching, his mouth agape.
“Well? What are you waiting for?” asked the old man, without breaking stride. “Now you’re here, might as well make up for lost time, hey. This way then. This way.”
Hector hesitated for a moment, then followed the old man into the darkness, into infinity.