Tick tock, tick tock, I blinked twice as I stared at the table clock. Waiting. Waiting for it to come alive. Today, I just happened to be awake earlier than my alarm clock. Seated idly at my room desk, I traced the frame of the medieval time piece with my eyes. For the first time, I imagined the scope of knowledge that had conceived the idea of creating a device that served two purposes. As the world grew older, innovations have led men to create devices that met more than one need. And after having read the Blue Ocean Strategy, it is easy for one to realize that such models have been long ingrained into the business world as well.
No, I’m neither into the whole hocus-pocus of the business world, nor into the scientific postulations of propagated theories. I’m just a twenty-seven-year-old sales man, with a 1907 alarm clock as the only bequeathed property from my grandfather, a man I met before my brain could keep vivid memories. He died only a day to my christening. So my dad named me after him. His name was Eli.
As I held the tiny time device in my hand, my vision focused past the tiny fingers of the clock, unto the golden lining of its interior. But instead of seeing through the intricacies of the mechanism that made the tick tock sound, as Hollywood would have us believe is possible, I saw something I had never seen in all the time I had this ‘priced’ possession. For the first time, I realized the golden lining had an inscription written inconspicuously along the circumference of the inner frame. Perhaps it was a farewell message that came from the design company.
My grandfather was a traveler, more like a pirate as I later grew to understand, so he had a few precious artifacts that had not a naira’s worth in this day and on this side of the world.
It was just five minutes away from five o’clock when the tiny little knocker would come alive, hitting the two cones on its both sides; but before then I stood from my creaking wooden chair and moved towards the only source of light in the room with the metal device in my hands. I lifted it towards the dull white light, away from the thick shadows of the clothes by the wall. The inscription on the inside of the clock was guarded by the thick concave glass, which prevented me from tracing it with the tip my fingers. I thought about my grandfather for a second. Johnny Depp, with his thick pencil shadowed-eyes, was the only well represented pirate I could imagine granddad looked like. Or was it the other way round?
As expected, the inscription wasn’t in English. It wasn’t French either, because I could speak that fluently. It didn’t look like Spanish or Portuguese either, knowledge I’d acquired thanks to the little exposure I got at Mary Hill back in the day.
Was I the first to notice this? Well, I couldn’t think of anyone who had had it at this proximity for the past twenty two years. I tried again to read the statement. Although I never learnt about its history, I always thought of the alarm clock as a prize grandfather had won during his days of adventure. Except that right now, I thought of the possibility that it was, you know, a stolen piece, perhaps, not conspicuously missing from one of the Persian castles in the Middle East. Don’t blame me for that, blame the Pirates of the Caribbean for my weird imaginations.
I tried reading out the words which simply refused to make any sense still. It all of a sudden became a necessity that at least I tried to make some meaning of, because I needed to be done with all of the distraction by the moment the alarm jolted on to life. That would be the start of my day, and to beat the traffic in a twenty-first century Ambode Lagos, I couldn’t be at home by 5:30. Some of my colleagues at work insisted that if I only had to wake up by five in the morning, then I was one of the luckiest people in the city. Some of them had to leave their homes an hour before my wake up time. I sometimes wondered why they had to go home anyway. Anytime I thought about what they said, I maintained o myself that I wouldn’t let my life get worse than it already was. I believed there were those who had a choice of when to go to work, and I was sure they weren’t of a different human empirical nomenclature. Soon, someday, I would choose to wake by ten in the morning, and leave work say 11 that same morning, with my bank account that looked like an international phone number. How about that for living in Lagos?
Aoys fun umendikayt ir gekumen, fun umendikayt ir vet tsurikkumen.
I kept trying to pronounce the words as I moved away from the source of light, back towards the table. I dropped the time device on my rickety desk, as the seconds seemed to count down to my wake up time. I didn’t know why I just didn’t stop the alarm from going off; perhaps I was conditioned to hear it go off every day.
As I moved away to my mattress in the other corner of the room, I realized the words I had read from the clock still clung to my tongue. I didn’t want that. With the way my mind worked, my head could surprisingly keep nonsense information, and would betray me when I had to remember vital data during the defense of a project at work. If I didn’t force these words out, it could either become a song on my lips, or a cliché for greeting strangers on the street. How do you do might just become Umendikayt.
I tried, but the words remained stuck on my lips, until the clock fingers finally struck. The alarm came off hard and loud, like it beat right on my ear drums.
I moved towards the table clock and stuck my index finger between the tiny hammer and one of the bell cups. My finger vibrated somewhat, and I waited patiently for the time piece to stop its hammering. One minute after, the hammer still hit my finger at the same spot. I made a mental count of how long the alarm was supposed to last. With the speed of light, my mind spanned many years, even back to my days in boarding school. There was never a time it went this long. Two minutes, and it kept on with its vigorous hammering. And then the words came again. Before I knew it, I was speaking the unknown words out loud.
Aoys fun umendikayt ir gekumen, fun umendikayt ir vet tsurikkumen.
Suddenly, I saw a dim shade of light haze out of the circumference of the clock’s frame. It shone brighter and brighter still. The vibration became harder, and harder still. The entire length of my hand began to shake violently, till it spread through my body. I couldn’t pull out my finger from the device, which now made the entire room glow with a fluorescent teal colour. I screamed, but I wasn’t sure if my vocal cords were able to produce any sound, because I couldn’t hear a thing apart from the clock alarm which now seemed to beat from my chest.
The light from the table clock engulfed my whole body before I felt it finally disintegrate me into a million light particles.
I became aware of life again as I shook violently from my bed. I breathed heavily without opening my eyes, but I was glad that it was all a dream. It had to be a dream, however surreal it was. I was soaked in my sweat, the cotton bed sheet sticking to my back. There seemed to be so much light in my room, and I tried hard to recollect whether I went to sleep without turning out the light. I squinted at the brightness of the fluorescent light screwed to the ceiling of my room. Again, I was sure it seemed brighter than normal.
As I opened my eyes fully, I realized that people stood over by bed, staring down at me. I blinked a few times and opened my eyes wide. They were there. Strange people I had never met in my life. Four women and a man. The woman who stood by my right arm was young, beautiful, and Caucasian, with deep blue eyes and a European nose. I looked from side to side without moving my head. I didn’t know anyone here. And I wanted to scream. The eldest of the women put her hand on my left shoulder, and the softness of her palm immediately calmed me.
“Hello son,” she said with a smile.
Son? I stared at her with bewilderment. This wasn’t my mother. Her skin was fair, like she hadn’t been out in the sun for months, with fewer wrinkles than my mother’s.
I struggled to make sense of what was going on. Yes, I remember! I was supposed to be getting ready for work. But wasn’t that a dream? And where was I now? This wasn’t my room. And these people, who were they? Where am I?
All five people that surrounded my bed had gentle smiles on their faces. The beautiful white lady on my right side suddenly bent over and pressed a kiss on my cheek. It felt good.
“Sam, I’m glad to have you back. I thought I’d lost you,” she said.
Sam? I am no Sam. My name is Eli, and who are you? I wanted to sit up from the bed. I was late for work. But as I tried, the woman who called me ‘son’ touched me again, and I let my head fall back onto the pillow.
A pillow? I didn’t have any pillows. I hate using pillows. And this one was soft too, like the touch of that woman’s hand. Very soft. My eyes slowly closed, and I said to myself. This is only another dream.
“Hey buddy,” the man who was by the end of the bed called out to me. I looked in his direction, and an inexplicable strong force pulled me toward him. “Soon, you’ll be home, okay?” He had a smile that looked like mine. In fact, apart from his cornrows and the crucifix pendant on his chest, two things I didn’t possess, I would say he was my reflection.
Soon you’ll be home, he’d said. But first of all, where was I? And who were these people?
Written by Ojay Aito