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The Clock, Short, Short Fiction, A Response to Bill Holland's Photo Challenge #5

Chris has written more than 300 flash fiction/short stories. Working Vacation was 21st out of 6,700 in the 2016 Writer's Digest competition.


Author's Note

I have written part two to this story. You can read it at, https://letterpile.com/serializations/The-Clock-Part-2-A-Short-Story

The Clock, Part Two

Jacob walked across the river bridge, looking down at the sidewalk. Whenever he came to the next line in the concrete, he would alter his pace to avoid stepping on it. Step on the crack, and you'll break your mother's back. OCD was just one of the emotional challenges he had struggled with since his mother was murdered when he was ten years old.

He looked up and saw the clock that was mounted on a twelve-foot tall concrete stand. The time was 5:33 PM, the exact moment of his mother's death fifteen years earlier on this same day.


He stared at the clock, but the image he saw wasn't quite right. It was like a picture being projected onto a curtain that was waving in a gentle breeze. A man stood in that patch of distorted space, motioning for him to approach. Goosebumps rose on his back, ran up his neck, and onto his scalp, making it feel as though his hair was standing up. He cautiously approached.

"This is a gift from your mother and father," said the man.

His father had died of a heart attack just two weeks before in the prison where he had been serving a life sentence for the murder of his wife, Jacob's mother. The jury had found him guilty of murdering her at their home while Jacob had been visiting his grandparents.

Jacob was overcome by the surreal scene and the suggestion of this man that his parents wanted to share something with him from the other side of death. He stepped into the wrinkled fabric of time and space, not knowing what to expect.

He was in the living room of the house where he had grown up. His mother was across the room near the fireplace. He stepped forward to run to her, but the man who had escorted him here placed his hand on Jacob's shoulder.

His mother was not alone. A man Jacob did not recognize stood several feet from her. Their conversation involved something about which Jacob had never heard a word. His mother's name was Ruth.


"I'm telling you, Phil, Someone at the bank is doctoring the financial records and embezzling money."

"We know you've seen some unusual accounting, Ruth. We just want you to let it go. Act like you never discovered a thing. If you do that, we can promise you a considerable amount of money as a way of showing our appreciation."

"You can forget that. I want nothing to do with whatever scheme you're running. I'm filing a Suspicious Activity Report with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network tomorrow, and nothing you say will stop me."

"I'm sorry to hear that, Ruth. I really am." Phil pulled a pair of gloves from his pocket and put them on. He reached back in and produced a handgun that he pointed at her head. "Now we will just wait."

"What are you doing, Phil? Wait for what?"


At that moment, the front door opened, and Jacob's father, Anthony, walked in. He took in the bizarre scene, staring with his mouth hanging open. He didn't even have a chance to speak or act.

Phil fired the gun. The bullet caught Ruth in the center of the forehead. He turned to Anthony and tossed the gun fast enough that the man reacted by catching it rather than letting it fall to the floor. Anthony pointed the gun at his wife's murderer and pulled the trigger. One click, two clicks, three clicks. There had only been one round in the pistol. Anthony dropped the weapon and ran to his wife. Phil disappeared out the back door.

Jacob's knees gave out, and he fell to the floor. This was the exact scene his father had described to the jury. It was the scene they had rejected. Of course, it did not include the part about his mother's discovery of the crime of embezzlement at the bank. His father had only seen a man shoot his wife and then toss the gun to him.

This was supposed to be a gift from the spirits of his dead parents? Since the murder, his life had been filled with anger and hate, two emotions that were tearing him apart. By knowing the truth, he could let go of destructive despairs.

Jacob got to his feet. One arm reached around and pulled him close while another held him from the opposite side. His mother and father, together after all these years, escorted him back to the clock.

He embraced his parents, then stepped through the curtain to his own time and place. That night, as he undressed to get ready for bed, he noticed something in his shirt pocket. He unfolded a piece of paper and immediately recognized his mother's handwriting.


The note instructed him where to search in the bank's database to find a particular document. The message also gave him the name of a trusted friend who could help him access the information.

When they found the file, it contained dates, account numbers, names, a description of the embezzlement scheme, and Ruth's own statement that she feared for her life. At the bottom, she had signed and dated it. The date was the day before she was murdered.

It was the kind of document that could warm cold cases and open those that were closed. It could root out the guilty and emancipate the wrongly accused. It was a testament that could set straight a family history and soothe a tortured soul.

But would it also lead the authorities to the murderer of his mother's killer?

© 2020 Chris Mills


Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on May 30, 2020:

Thank you, Lawrence. You can read more at https://letterpile.com/serializations/The-Clock-Pa...

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on May 29, 2020:


Loved the story and the little twists, would love to see what Jacob does with the information.


Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on May 26, 2020:

Shyron, I see in my notifications that you have read on. I'm glad you enjoyed it this far.

Shyron E Shenko from Texas on May 26, 2020:

Aw...Chris, this is fascinating, I hope they catch Ruth's killer.

Blessings my friend

greg cain from Idaho, USA on May 14, 2020:

No worries. Sounds good...though that tidbit now has me piqued. I know you've put it aside, but when you pick it up again and finish it please send me a notice (e-mail or comment) so I can watch how this unfolds and ends. Thanks, Chris, and have a great day!

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on May 14, 2020:

Greg, that's great. about 95% of what you said is what I intended. I'll just add this teaser. Phil is not dead. I know that doesn't seem to make sense, but in the scenario I have in my head, it does. Thanks for the help.

greg cain from Idaho, USA on May 14, 2020:

Hi Chris - yes, happy to try to help. I read this as saying that Phil, the guy who shot the mother, was himself murdered in some unseen sequence of events that occurred outside the scope of this tale. It led me to believe there might be more worth pursuing here. Our hero Jacob is likely going to be able to find out about Phil, but when that happens it'll be discovered that Phil is dead. That in itself might not be very gratifying for Jacob, so down the other rabbit hole he must go...and we will get to follow. At least that's what I got out of it...

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on May 14, 2020:

Greg, thanks for your comments. I've worked some on the second part, but set it aside for a while. If you have a spare minute, could I ask you to tell me how you understood the last line of the story. I'm sure some think I made an error in the wording. I would just like to know if people are getting it.

greg cain from Idaho, USA on May 14, 2020:

Hi Chris - really enjoyed your take on this. A suspenseful and enjoyable read. Intriguing to me how these prompts push people to their final ideas based on a few provided pictures. Well done, and I also look forward to a part two if you craft one!

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on April 28, 2020:

Thanks Meg. Part two will be along soon.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on April 28, 2020:

Shauna, I'm working on that sequel. Stay tuned.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on April 26, 2020:

Pamela, hello, nice to see you. Thanks for reading this story and for your enthusiastica comment.

DreamerMeg from Northern Ireland on April 26, 2020:

GREAT story! Really enjoyed that. Looking forward to the next instalment.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on April 26, 2020:

Chris, I really like this story. You used your imagination for an unusual story like this one. It truly is very good in my opinion.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on April 26, 2020:

Eric, I like your wife's response..."Fantastics". Love it.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on April 26, 2020:

Thank you, Venkatachari M. Bill sends out very good challenges.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on April 26, 2020:

Fanstastics, as my wife would say. And I say, "and why not". I just love a great clearing of the wrong story and you nailed it. Thanks.

Venkatachari M from Hyderabad, India on April 26, 2020:

Very beautiful story. I am very much impressed by the way you met Bill Holland's challenge. Cudos, Chris.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on April 25, 2020:

I'm glad you enjoyed it, Ruby. Thanks for visiting.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on April 25, 2020:

My favorite kind of story. The paranormal is uniquely different and it takes skill to write it. This is the kind of story that stays in the psyche and I loved it!

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on April 25, 2020:

Linda, thank you for your comment and for reading my story. The clock was a very good prompt.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on April 25, 2020:

Chris, I might never be able to look at that clock again without thinking of this story (I live in that town). You are a master storyteller!

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on April 25, 2020:

Umesh, thank you for reading and commenting.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on April 25, 2020:

Rinita, Thank you for your comment. I am glad you enjoyed it.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on April 25, 2020:

Thank you Bill. I'm thinking about a part two. I had intended it to be a cliff hanger, but unsatisfied readers is not a good thing.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on April 25, 2020:

Thanks John. Yes, jump in. Start writing.

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on April 25, 2020:

Beautiful. Well composed.

Rinita Sen on April 25, 2020:

The story gave me goosebumps. Poor Jacob, but I'm glad he found out the truth. You've created an enchanting atmosphere of time travel here.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on April 25, 2020:

Very cool! If I've never said it before, I'm saying it now: you have a killer imagination. You were born to write. Now, how do we catch a killer?

Part II must arrive soon. I want closure. :)

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on April 25, 2020:

This is a wonderful piece of short fiction, Chris. I was captivated by every word as you expertly wove the story and the ending surprised me. You never disappoint. I may enter this challenge, have just been trying to find the time.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on April 25, 2020:

Liz, I'm happy you enjoyed the story. Thanks for reading and for checking in with a comment.

Liz Westwood from UK on April 25, 2020:

This is a real thriller. It kept me hooked completely. You make the reader feel like they are there watching the scenes unfold.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on April 25, 2020:

Thank you, Genna. The ending took some waiting time. But that time is well spent, I believe. I'll go see if you took up Bill's challenge. I enjoy your writing very much. Thanks for visiting today.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on April 25, 2020:

Ann, thank you for that response to my story. Now I have to wait on yours. Work hard, work fast. I'm looking forward to reading what you create.

Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on April 25, 2020:

Hi Chris.

I was looking forward to the responses on Bill's challenge...the photos are inviting. I like the well-written, straightforward tone in your story, and the surprises that hold your attention every step of the way. I actually felt a chill when Phil pulled a pair of gloves from his pocket, and relief with the release Jacob must have felt when he embraced his parents in this surreal journey, and returned to the present through the veils of time. And what of the question that ends the story -- both in realism and in metaphor...what may Jacob do with the note? Well done, Chris. :-)

Ann Carr from SW England on April 25, 2020:

Great story, Chris! You've woven this so well. It was real, even the stepping back in time sequence.

I'm in the throes of writing my response and the mood has some similarities - I'm not giving away any more!


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