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The Hour Glass – A Hallowe’en Story

This was my contribution to the Whispers in the Shadows Anthology. I hope you enjoy it.

The Hour Glass
By Rose Jones

I saw it on Ebay; set in an ornate a brass frame and with a leather case. I thought it was the perfect gift for my husband, who always complained when it was his turn to read to the kids at bedtime. Maybe I could nudge him to spend more time with them. Maybe they could make it a game and use the glass to see how much they could get him to read before the sand ran out.

The seller said it was a reproduction, and this seemed reflected in the price, so I bought now and paid my dues. It came in the post just over a week later, carefully wrapped in bubble wrap and brown paper, and I handed it to him with great ceremony. He grumbled at me and said he didn’t have the time to mess with such nonsense. The kids looked at him with big pleading eyes and he said

“Only if your Mum does it too.”

I agreed just to keep the peace and we settled down to use it that night, while he went off to the pub with his mates.

I put the hour glass on the bedside table as the children went and picked their stories for the evening. If these were short, they had one story each; otherwise they took it in turns to listen to each other’s choice.

I noticed that the sand in the bottom bulb of the glass seemed to glow like tiny crystals when placed under the light on the bedside table. It seemed to pull me in, as if the grains actually controlled the flow themselves. I caught myself considering the concept of time and whether or not it was a constant or a mutable force.

“Doesn’t Daddy love us?” Asked little Emily, as she came in with her book choice.

“Of course he does.” I said as I settled in bed and waited for them to join me. They always had their bedtime stories told in the big bed when I told them. There was something comforting about being all cuddled up together under the big fluffy duvet. “But he works long hours for us and needs some time off to relax.”

That hardly seemed convincing and I’m sure the girls could sense that something was not quite functioning properly in our family. Greg seemed more distant, less willing to participate in the humdrum of everyday life these days. It started with his new job and I wondered if he had not found a new woman too, although none of my enquiries came up with any evidence. Maybe he was just bored with being a family man? I sighed and hoped he would soon recover from his fug of indifference.

“How long do you think the sand will last?” Asked Laura as she clambered in beside me with the book she had chosen.

“Well, it’s supposed to be an hour glass.” I said. “Let’s make a note of the time on the clock and see if that’s true.”

Laura looked at the clock and made a mental note. Emily usually had her story read first as she was the youngest and most likely to fall asleep, so I opened the book and turned the hour glass to start.

“You were robbed, Mummy.” Laura said as she looked at the clock. The sand in the glass had run out exactly as I finished Emily’s story. That was about fifteen minutes.

“Well let’s see what happens with your story, Laura.” I smiled, knowing hers would last for about half an hour.

Emily was beginning to flag, but still determined to listen in for the second book. So we repeated the process and settled down again for another story of heroines and handsome princes. Again, the hour glass finished just as the story did. Laura and I both looked at the bedside clock. Half an hour.

“That’s funny.” I said.

“Do you think it’s a magic hour glass like something out of Harry Potter?” Laura asked.

“Do you think it has magic that can fix Daddy?” Emily wondered.

“I think that might take more than magic.” I told them both. “But I’m sure he’ll sort himself out soon. I guess he’s just getting used to the new job. Off to your own beds now and we’ll see what tomorrow night brings.”

With the children settled, I settled down with my own book and waited for Greg to come home. Out of curiosity, I turned the hour glass and checked the time. I finally put a bookmark in my page as my husband crawled in beside me, smelling of booze and cheap perfume. The hour glass dripped its last few grains as I put the book away. An hour and a half had passed. As I switched the light out, I noticed that the sand in the glass had an ethereal glow, a borrowed luminescence maybe. Perhaps there was magic in the world after all. Heaven knows, I needed some in my life right now.

Greg made his excuses for the rest of that week. He pecked us all briefly on the cheek and left for more evenings to do whatever he did. I was getting to the point where I didn’t care anymore. My children were my life and I loved them with every part of my body and soul. Come bed time we vanished again into our storybook world where the wicked were punished and where the prince always came to rescue the princess, and soon all three of us were sleeping in the big bed, leaving Greg to move to the spare room.

The hour glass continued to run for as long as the story was told and we became unaware of time passing as all three of us entered the fictional world of dreams.

Greg came home drunk on the Friday night. It was Hallowe’en and he tripped over the jack’o’lantern still glowing on the porch as he came in. He had managed to miss trick or treat again. He congratulated himself on another bullet dodged and went to the bathroom.

The bedroom where his wife and the kids now slept was bathed in an eerie glow as he passed the door. In his curious inebriation, he stepped in for a closer look. The glow was coming from the hour glass, the sand shimmering with ghostly apparitions of what looked like three people. He switched on the light and stared in horror as he saw his family, huddled motionless together in the bed. They did not seem to be breathing. It was if time stood still. He looked back at the hour glass with its shifting sands and wondered what had happened.

In his wife’s hands was an open book. The only writing on the otherwise blank last page was ‘be careful what you wish for.’

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