Stories are wonderful because they can be interpreted in so many ways. From books to movies, music to paintings. Everything is art with its own story to tell – you just have to be willing to listen. In Tick Tock: The Clock Who Refused to Tell Time, there are a variety of hidden meanings. It was written to be interpreted by the reader in any allegorical sense you desire.
During the pandemic, it has been difficult for everyone to connect with life in the same way. We have been forced to watch the world fall apart as its screams are ignored. Through that, we have discovered what it means to be human. The messy and emotional chaos that is us. The differences that divide and the similarities we all hold that bring us back together.
In a world of stories, we are connected. The best story of all? Life.
The Clock Who Refused to Tell Time
I walk into the office and find my boss waiting. He is tapping his foot, so I know he is impatient with me.
“Do you know what time it is?” He asks, pointing at the clock.
I turn toward the clock face and notice its hands are waving at me. I wave and smile before turning back to my boss.
“Yes.” I tell him. He glares and looks up at the clock. It waves once more but he doesn’t notice and turns back toward me.
“Then, you know you are late.” I want to laugh at him, but I control myself.
Sure, I walked in minutes past the allotted time that was specified to me for these dreary days. This made-up idea of counting the hours, the minutes, and seconds of the day. I look outside and see the sun happily making its way into the sky and wish that I were anywhere but here.
“Yes, I am sorry.” I tell him the words he wants to hear just to watch his face scrunch up as he scrutinizes the apology: the crow’s feet that line his swollen eyes, the way his cheeks wiggle when he talks, and his skin the color of a dead fish. The years’ toll of his anger and stress evident.
“Your outfit isn’t appropriate for the office either.” He states. I look down at my bright blue blouse, its buttons shaped like clouds, and tucked into my red dress pants.
“What is wrong with it?” I wonder aloud.
“Look around you.” He says, sweeping his hand toward my coworkers at their desks in their navy pants and white blouses – like mine – but less colorful.
“I see.” I begin to fiddle with the buttons of my blouse. I am not sure how to manage his statement, but I know the answer he seeks.
He shakes his head at me and walks back to his desk. I turn back to the clock as the hands continue to swirl, refusing to tell the time. I laugh and look around at the empty faces staring at me from behind their cubicles.
A familiar face walks up and pats my shoulder. “You will find your place here soon enough.” She tells me with her pretty blonde hair and blue eyes that match her navy suit.
“Will I?” I study her face until it blurs into its smaller pieces: the wrinkles on her forehead, the dark shadows hidden with concealer beneath her eyes, and the permanent indents around her mouth from inhaling her own death to stop the anxiety from creeping in.
“I am sure.” She replies, already moving on from the conversation, her patience for me having dwindled. She looks up at the clock and sighs. “Better get back to work.”
I watch the clock as it spins on, no longer noticing me, and, I realize, this is not where I want to be. In this place where everyone seems so lost, but don’t even know they are. So, turning toward the window – I get a running start and jump – shattering the glass on my way through.
Not even surprised, the faces of my coworkers watch on as I plummet towards the cement before my wings sprout and catch flight. I wave goodbye as my boss yells at me from the broken window.
“You are fired!”
But I no longer care. I am flying away from this concrete jungle where everyone has forgotten what it feels like to fly. The sun warms my soul as I soar higher and higher. On my way up, I pass a cloud and notice a man sitting upon it. My curiosity gets the best of me, so I land beside him.
“What are you doing up so high?” I ask. He shifts his gaze toward me and grins.
“What is everyone doing so far below?” He answers with a question. I contemplate my answer.
“I don’t really know; it is much better up here.” I decide. The strange man begins laughing so infectiously that I cannot help but laugh with him.
“Why are you laughing?” The man asks, stopping to eye me quizzically.
“Because you were laughing!”
He grins again, “exactly!”
Before the conversation can continue, he stands, and waves farewell. Leaping precariously from the cloud, he disappears into the sky, just as the cloud evaporates. With nothing for my feet to find, I fall.
Unprepared, I scream loudly and try to open my wings once more, but they are no longer there. I plummet towards the sea as my legs intertwine and turn into a fishtail. I dive gracefully into the water.
I swim quickly, savoring the speed of my tail, and the feel of the water on my face.
Soon enough I spy a woman who is cleaning her scales far below on the ocean bed. Her scales lighting up the entire sea. I swim towards her and as I near, she notices me.
“Hello.” She speaks.
“Hello.” I reply.
“Do you have a moment?” She asks.
“Yes, I do.” I say and think of the clock who refused to tell time.
“Good. Many people don’t.”
“Why would they?” She asks and begins to dance with her newly cleaned tail.
Without thinking, I join in, and shake my fins along with her. We move to the waves of the ocean as she glows with every movement.
“Why are we dancing?” I finally ask.
“Because you had a minute.” She replies, before swimming away, taking the light with her, and I am left alone. The darkness encloses, I try to swim away, but my tail disappears – just as my wings did.
I am forced to wait as I sink into the darkness and let the quiet engulf me. Time passes and I become comfortable in this emptiness. I am content and yet, I begin to see a small forest appearing below, but I do not want to leave my comfort – even though I know I must – I was not meant to be here forever.
I swim toward the trees and drop onto the land under the sea. I look to the water suspended overhead, and try to walk, only now have four legs. I begin to run, letting my tongue loll to taste the sweet breeze.
I embrace my speed and zigzag through this forest under the sea. The trees all wave and cheer me on as I pass, coaxing me to go faster and faster. After months or maybe only weeks or days. I come across a child crying on the ground. I approach him slowly.
“Why are you crying?” I ask gently. His wide eyes stare into my own.
“I am lost.” He bellows. Wiping the snot from his nose and burying it into my scruffy neck.
“Let me help you.”
“You can’t help me.”
“It is not time to be found.”
“Then let us play.” I tell him. Eager to give my affection to this sad little boy.
“I do not play.” He glares and turns away from me, folding his arms into his lap. I sit and try to figure out the situation.
“If you do not play while you are lost, then what will you be when you are found?” I ask.
He contemplates my meaning. “Hmm, I guess you’re right.”
“I am glad.” I tell him.
“Yes!” I bark.
We race and play until both of us are tired. His tears a forgotten memory for now. We sit down next to each other in the spot I found him.
“I am ready now.” The small boy says to me as he stands and dusts the dirt from his knees.
“Ready for what?” I ask.
“Ready to be found.” He says and walks deeper into the forest – leaving me behind.
“Please do not leave me!” I howl, for I do not want to be left alone this time. I run after him, but soon my four legs fumble and fall into my own two again. Like this, I am not fast enough to find him.
I keep running until the forest thins and I see a ledge. I look down into the ravine and see the night sky staring back. The wind pushes me into the night.
I am a star so bright it blinds me – being pulled into galaxy above – back to the memories I’d passed. I see the woman that I had a minute with dancing to her own beat. The man who chose to sit on the clouds chuckling with those below. And the boy who only wanted to feel lost to be found. I smile and shoot into the galaxy above until I notice another star on a journey of their own.
“Where are you going?” I shout, seeing that up close, stars do not all look the same.
“Wherever I want!” The star shouts back before zipping past. It nears the earth – soon to be something new. As it got further away, the most it looked like all the other stars. But I know that it is not like the other stars because I saw it up close. As it did me.
As I realize this, I start to fall, and now I am the one having to choose where to go. Back down to the earth I plummet further, shining across the night before landing back in the office I worked. I stare down at my hands that are my own once more and look up at the clock, its hands no longer waving, but set in time as it is told.
I laugh and turn to my coworker. “Do you have a minute?” I ask.
She notices my laughter and frowns. “No, not right now.”
I sigh and look at the clock before turning back to my coworker. “Do you want to hang out later?”
Her annoyance is evident when she responds, “no, I have work to do.”
The minutes’ tick by as I watch the clock – waiting for its hand to skip – until it does. I get up and walk toward the door.
“Where are you going?” My boss demands as I pass his desk.
“Anywhere I want.”