Grass Roots Open Writers

Short Stories


Sam couldn't remember exactly where, or why, he'd bought the watch. He thought it had been a dull, foggy day in November and somehow he had become lost in an unfamiliar part of town and was walking down a narrow street where the buildings seemed to lean towards each other forming the sensation of being in a tunnel.

A dirty shop window had caught his eye, the sign over being so badly faded as to be completely unreadable; he peered
through the stained glass and could see nothing but a purple velvet cushion, upon which rested a gold wristwatch, that somehow seemed to glow excessively in the dark, dank air. 

Curiosity prompted him to push open the shop door and, accompanied by a loud 'ping' he stepped inside.
It was even darker inside than out, a dim forty watt bulb was the sole illumination of the room which contained nothing but an empty display cabinet, Sam wondered what sort of business any one would wish to run under such circumstances.
His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of metal rings sliding along a pole, a curtain behind the display cabinet parted to reveal a jolly looking elderly gentleman dressed in a smoking jacket and tasselled hat.

"Good afternoon, Sir" said the shop owner "I see you are a person of discretion to have come in here, pray what may I do for you?" Sam was taken aback at this mode of address, the shop owner spoke as if from the nineteenth century and moreover so was the appearance of his style of dress.
"I don't know" he replied hesitantly, then, remembering the watch, quickly added "I like the watch you have in the window, is it very expensive?"

"A mere five guineas" replied the shop owner.
Sam's brain raced, guineas? He vaguely remembered a school lesson when guineas were mentioned, but for the life of him couldn't recollect the value of this obsolete denomination. The shop owner, noticing his discomfiture, added "That's five pounds twenty five pence in your money" 'Gosh' thought Sam 'cheap at half the price'

"OK, I'll take it" and rummaging through the pockets of his shabby torn jeans, found he had the exact money "Here you are" he said, handing over a handful of loose change.

The shop owner opened the curtain behind the window and handed Sam the watch. As Sam handled it he noticed that it felt far heavier than its size indicated,

"It's big!" he said. The shop owner smiled

"That's because of what it can do."

"How do you mean?" asked Sam.

"With this watch" replied the old gentleman "you can travel backwards and forwards in time"

"How do you mean, travel in time?"

"That you will have to find out for yourself" replied the shop owner "now, if you will excuse me, I must shut up the shop." and quickly ushering Sam back out into the street, he locked the shop door.


Sam stood there in the gathering gloom staring at the watch. Inspecting it more closely he noticed that, despite its antique appearance, it was a modern timepiece, as there was a battery compartment door on the rear, four extra buttons, each on a corner of the case and the dial had a faint phosphorescent glow.  The strap was of the expanding type designed to fit any sized wrist and the hands were a fluorescent green, with a red sweep second hand.


Putting it on his wrist, he pressed the top right hand button. Immediately he felt a momentary sensation of dizziness, then suddenly the gloom vanished, the sun came out and it felt warmer.


He was still standing in the same place but the shop into which he had recently entered was a Spar Minimart!. He also noticed that the trees in the street were in full leaf and he suddenly felt conspicuous in his thick winter sweater.


Looking at the dial, Sam noticed that the time had not altered; 'so that was it' he thought, 'push that button and perhaps it will send you forward six months, so maybe if I push the button under it, I will go back to where I started.'


Again he pushed the button, felt a momentary dizziness, and the gloom of a November afternoon returned. Yes, things were exactly the same as before, gone was the Spar Minimarket, replaced by the dirty old shop.


Sam decided it would be best if he examined the watch in the safety of his home, so, wrapping it safely in his handkerchief in order to prevent accidents, he walked briskly to the bus stop.


Sam had had everything, a kind upbringing, an education at a minor public school and a large inheritance after the death of his parents in a road accident when he was seventeen years old. He had immediately left school before taking his A Levels and embarked on a life of fast cars, loose women and expensive holidays. Now, at the age of twenty four, he lived alone in a tiny bed sitter. It was not that he was unintelligent nor was he lazy, he was simply too idle to do anything to alleviate his present position which was why he spent thirty six hours a week working in the local branch of Mcdonalds.


Arriving back at his bedsit, Sam made himself a cup of coffee, before sitting down in the only chair in the dingy room, which was placed before his old television. He had sufficient sense to not start pushing the watch buttons indiscriminately.


He realised that when he had pressed the top right hand button it had seemed that he had gone forward six months, or was it back? Or was it eighteen months? Or two and a half years? An idea struck him. Switching on the television, he turned on the teletext. He took a deep breath and pressed the top right hand button. Again the momentary dizziness, and the date on the screen had advanced by exactly six months.


Sam took an even deeper breath and pressed the top left hand button, the screen now showed a date one year later. 'So that was it' he thought 'if I push the bottom buttons, I should return to my original time.' This he did, and the teletext page showed he was back in his own time again.

Sam's brain whirred, immediately he could see all sorts of possibilities. Another idea struck him, pushing and holding the forward year button he was able to advance five years in an instant, and in addition, by turning the watch hands backwards or forwards he was able to fine tune his position in time.


He was anxious to see if he could, for example, get into a bank vault after closing time and help himself to some cash - not a lot, but just sufficient to make some small improvement to his meagre lifestyle.


He stood across the road from his local bank and set the watch to just before closing time.  He was halfway across, before he saw the number thirty six bus bearing down on him! Sam's heart stopped beating 'why hasn't the driver seen me?' he shouted mentally. Another second and the bus was upon him, but instead of being flung to the ground with serious injuries, he had a momentary vision of the inside of the bus, with his eyes at the level of the passenger's knees, then he was left standing in the middle of the road again.


In a state of confusion, he staggered across the rest of the road and went to sit down on a seat which was outside the bank.


His spine jarred as his bottom hit the pavement. Only his head was above the level of the seat which surrounded him but somehow wasn't touching him. When his brain cleared he realised that, if he was time travelling, he could not touch or interfere with any object. 'Well so much for the idea of getting money from the future' he thought.

In a state of gloom he returned to his own time and went back up the dirty stairway to his little room.


The television was on, and the teletext was showing the results of that day's lottery. Again, Sam's brain went into overdrive - "That was it" he thought "I can go forward to next week, get the results, come back and buy myself a ticket!!"


Ten days later Sam was holding a cheque for twenty five million pounds - it had been a rollover week - now he could do all the things he had wanted to, but at the same time his mind was disturbed following the incident with the bus. "No" he thought "I must give some of this money back"


A week later, all the newspapers were head-lining the story about an anonymous donation of twenty million pounds to Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital. Sam smiled in quiet satisfaction as he watched the news unfold on the new, twenty five inch, plasma television, in his luxury penthouse apartment.


For the rest of his life, Sam travelled both physically and temporally, he watched the building of the Pyramids and saw how the Ancient Egyptians employed forces hitherto unknown. He started a construction company using these revolutionary methods and became a millionaire in his own right and was awarded a Knighthood. He witnessed the crucifixion, the battles of Hastings, Agincourt, Crecy and the horrors of the World War I trenches. There was not a single historical event that Sir Sam did not witness first hand and as a result wrote a revised account of the battle of Agincourt which became a best seller.  Sam really had enjoyed himself on the battlefield, whilst the arrows of the English Yeomen passed through his body without causing harm!


Now as he sat reminiscing over his acquisition of the watch, he realised that he had had enough of any sort of travel, now was the time to hang up his passport and simply enjoy whatever time was left to him.

"It's been a pleasure to do business with you, Sir Sam" the estate agent said, oozing servitude, "I'm sure the unit will suit your use as a charity shop, but please remember it is only available for six weeks before the builders begin the conversion".

"That will be ample" replied Sam "thank you for your help."


Sam was sitting in the little room behind the shop when he heard the doorbell give out a loud 'ping'. Pulling aside the curtain, he saw a nervous scruffily dressed youth.

"Good afternoon, how may I help you?" asked Sam. The youth hesitated then said

"That watch in the window, how much is it?..."

(C)  Henry Dallimore



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