The world of the Time Keeper is a fairly pleasant one. That is if you don’t mind the constant ticking of an endless supply of clocks or avoiding the various hour glasses scattered haphazardly about. Most were merely ceremonial and served no real purpose other than to hammer home that this was a place where time was taken very seriously. If the Time Keeper ever said, ‘I’ll be down in a minute,’ he’d be down in precisely one minute. Not a second later or earlier. Unlike in other worlds where one minute could be anything up to an hour.
As it was, the Time Keeper rarely had the cause to say something like this because it lived a very solitary existence, which is just as well. Others might get the urge to fiddle about with time, and that would cause no end of bother.
The Time Keeper lived alone save for Marian, a jet-black crow that had at one point in its life become extremely lost. The Time Keeper enjoyed the companionship and lived safe in the knowledge that the crow lacked any real interest in the concept of time.
‘Wazzat?’ Marian squawked. It seems crows do in fact possess a capacity for communication, at least on a basic level. Unfortunately, being quite stupid meant that it takes them a good couple of centuries to realise this which, in normal circumstances, means they’d learn their first word roughly one-hundred-and-eighty-years after they are dead. The ability to communicate is often redundant at that point.
‘It’s an inkwell,’ said the Time Keeper looking at its notes. The Time Keeper’s world was not like other worlds in the sense that it was not subject to time. Which was good, because the Time Keeper’s work required more than the standard forty-hour week sometimes. It also gave him plenty of … well, time (for lack of a better word) to develop beautifully written cursive.
‘It holds ink, for writing.’ The Time Keeper enjoyed writing. It wrote many documents. Analysis on historic events across all realms and universes and the like, along with instruction manuals on the best way to keep time (it’s always best not to store it in intense light and to keep it at a low temperature).
‘No,’ said Marian.
‘Okay,’ the Time Keeper responded. He paused and leant back in his tall backed wooden chair. The nearby fireplace crackled noisily as it set about devouring a thick log. The Time Keeper had no idea why it did this as the fire was infinite and the logs remained in a constant state. He had written a thesis that suggested that fire had some degree of sentience and crackled and spat because that’s what a domesticated fire ought to do.
Marian fluttered down from her place atop an ornate and foreboding looking grandfather clock and came to a rest by the study’s box window. She peered out into the pale grey light of the grounds beyond. The Time Keeper had designed them itself. Originally, he had been given a mere four rooms, in the course of its tenure, it had been allowed to expand.
The Time Keeper had been selected for the job by the Powers That Be, due to its lack of ambition and the ability to enjoy the simple pleasures.
‘Wazzat?’ Marian tapped her short sharp beak against the thin, single glazed pane. The Time Keeper looked at the bird with eyes that had observed every moment of history from every possible universe, studied the various presents that were to be had and occasionally glanced into the tangled and indecipherable mess that was the future whenever it forgot what uncertainty felt like. It slowly rose from its chair and arched its back before shuffling over the windows, dodging a few hanging pocket watches and kicking an hourglass over. It peered out of the window, past the pleasant gravel path and through the grassy paddock it created. The tree he placed in its centre had a slender trunk and splayed out towards the top in an almost perfect sphere. It was still in leaf, it always was.
‘It’s a tree, Marian,’ it said, ‘I put it there for you to nest, like normal birds do.’ He said.
‘No, wazzat?’ the bird said again tapping once more at the glass. The Time Keeper squinted towards the tree, feeling that it’d very much like a cup of tea. Not that it needed to keep sustained, but because it enjoyed it. It did its best to follow Marian’s beady-eyed stare. The crow was looking towards the bottom of the tree where there lay a small bundle. A bundle the Time Keeper had not placed there. It doubted the Powers That Be had either. They hadn’t been in contact since It was given the job. They had a very relaxed approach to management, which largely consisted of not getting involved at all. The Time Keeper half contemplated the idea that Marian had willed it into existence, just for something new to ask ‘wazzat?’ at.
It dismissed the idea as preposterous.
‘I don’t know Marian,’ it said scooping the bird up and heading out of the study. In the corridor beyond were four doors, one marked past, one present and one that led outside. The fourth was marked future. The Time Keeper hurried outside.
Beneath the tree, the bundle stirred and made a noise between cooing and squawking. A tiny brown hand reached out and swiped lazily at the air and then retreated back into the rags that swaddled it.
‘Wazzat?’ asked Marian.
‘A human child.’ The Time Keeper replied feeling uncertainty creep into its very being. It raised the bird to the low hanging branches where she reluctantly hopped to watch the proceedings. It scooped up the child and looked at its chubby round face. A thin layer of frizzy brown hair covered her scalp. A flat little nose rested above narrow lips. Her dark little eyes glinted in the light.
‘What are you doing here then?’ It asked knowing full well it would not receive an answer. With nothing else to do and nowhere else to go, it turned back and took the child back into the cottage. There, it willed a small cot into existence and placed the child down in it. It made some more unpleasant noises, which he duly ignored turning his attention instead to the doors. The baby had to have come from somewhere, and as it was had the answer lay beyond the door marked past.
The Time Keeper glanced back at the baby before passing through the door.