The Time Keepers by Jean Gillingham

“Are you here to volunteer for the position?”

“My name is Isaac,” he said. He spoke with a determination that reminded Eloise of her father, but his stance was easier, his gaze softer. He leaned nearer the clock and smiled. “I’ve always admired the girl who turned time.”

Eloise’s heart, which normally helped her mark the seconds, shivered like a tree shaken by wind.

“Count the seconds with me,” Eloise said. Isaac bobbed his head as he counted and she laughed. His rhythm was good, so she let him control the clock. He climbed the ladder and his hands joined hers. Eloise’s knuckles, cold from the drafts, warmed beneath his palms. When they struck nine, the school door opened. The people glanced at the clock, always checking.

“The people are frightened.” Isaac lowered his voice. “I hear them whisper, ‘Will time stop? Will it go on without us?’” He hesitated, focused on the hands, and didn’t say more.

The town had always had time and timekeepers in charge of remembering it. They believed the knowledge of time granted the town eternity: the sun would continue to rise at seven; the people’s children would continue to have children. If time was lost, the town would wither and the people would stop moving. But if there was no time, then she could go into the town and move with it, bustling and bargaining.

Eloise’s legs cramped again. A floorboard creaked by the bed as her father rolled over. She paused, whispered so her father wouldn’t hear, “If there was a life beyond time, it would be glorious.”

Jean Gillingham studies writing at Loyola University Maryland. She has had a flash fiction piece published in Literary Orphans and her novel manuscript recently won third in Ink & Insight’s “Critique My Novel” contest.

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