Joe Baumann holds a PhD in English from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, where he serves as the editor-in-chief of Rougarou: An Online Literary Journal. He is the author of Ivory Children: Flash Fictions, and his work has appeared in Tulane Review, Willow Review, Hawai’i Review, and many others, and is forthcoming in Lalitamba and Lindenwood Review. He will be joining the faculty at St. Charles Community College in St. Charles, Missouri, as an assistant professor this fall.
The first one I noticed in my house was my father’s grandfather clock. I’d become so used to its tick that when it suddenly quit, I looked up from the book I was reading and scowled. Then I noticed the quiet and I looked at the clock. That’s when I saw that my watch had frozen, and the time on the microwave was scrambled as if there had been a power failure. I wandered through the house and felt a tightness in my chest. I
had to walk outside, and a few minutes later my neighbor stuck her head over the wall of hedges that separated our yards to tell me that all of her clocks had stopped. I could only nod vaguely and wave my hand like a limp rag. When I called my sister that night, her voice was tremulous and cracked, like she needed to drink some water. She said her husband was still at work because he didn’t know when he could leave. She said he stayed until after dark, and when she asked him why, he said he couldn’t tell if it was fall or winter and whether the night sky really meant he should be home or not.
I had a friend living in Alaska at the time. He shot himself because he couldn’t deal with the dizzying feeling of getting unstuck in time. There were similar cases everywhere. Even my neighbor. I found her body slumped in the hedges, staining the roses with her own red blood.
Even though the clocks haven’t worked in years, most of us still lead normal lives. Watching television is more difficult, and people are always late for school, but we manage. We’ve even figured out how to play sports again, even ones like soccer and football and basketball. We’ve adjusted. People often fight over whether it’s Monday or Tuesday, and we’re probably a few days off on the calendar, but we’re mostly at peace.