My name is Richard, and this isn’t really my story, but it’s such a great story, it needs to be told and since I’m the only other person on Earth that know it, the task falls to me. In a way, I feel a bit like Dr Watson, who wrote all the adventures of his best friend Sherlock Holmes, except I’m not a fictional British doctor, but a real 17-year-old kid from Waterloo.
You might not have heard of me by name, because most of my story takes place in the basement of an old Castle just west of the city. Waterloo is a small City in Canada, about an hour away from Toronto.
The true hero of this journey is my best friend Paul. When I say Hero, I mean it in the real sense, but I’ll get to that. My story began on October 19th two years ago.
Paul and I did almost everything together, but recently he’d been spending less time with me and was being very secretive about why. It was starting to affect our relationship and I was considering looking elsewhere for a new buddy.
Apparently, it was affecting Paul similarly, and so on that night, he came to visit me and try to explain. That, as you’ll soon learn was no simple task.
The doorbell rang about 11pm, which was unusual for Paul. Both of us were still in school, just starting Grade 12 and living with our family. I was asleep already, and my Mom had to wake me up. I think she may have been asleep too, because she came to my door rather upset, wearing a housecoat wrapped up as if she had nothing else on underneath.
Apparently, Paul had been very insistent and wouldn’t take no for an answer. I got up and walked downstairs to the door. Mother hadn’t invited him in, which I suppose was a signal his visit wasn’t really welcome.
“What the fuck man? You woke up the whole house. What’s so important?”
Paul looked a little stressed, and was talking about a bit faster than usual.
He grabs me by the shoulders and looks me in the eye with a seriousness not usually associated with our friendship. “I’ve got to share something with you, and it’s got to be right now. I’m sorry it’s so late, but it’s urgent. It has to be now.”
I expect he’s going to reveal the reason he’s been avoiding me, but instead, his grasp on me turns into a push and before I know it, we’re outside the house, and the door closes behind me.
“Whoa Whoa Whoa I..have to tell my Mom if we’re going somewhere… I’m not even wearing shoes. Luck Paul, I’m still in my PJ’s”
Paul assures me it doesn’t matter and he throws my bike at me, jumps on his and starts to ride. “Follow me. It’ll all make sense in a few minutes. I promise. It’s really very important and it’s freaking me out. I need to show you something right away! I’m sorry I’m being cryptic. I’ll take care of talking to your Mom later. Time is critical”.
Time was always critical with Paul. He’d inherited a bit of that from his father, who used to always go on and on about how the easiest thing in the world was to be on time. I reluctantly got on my bike and followed.
Both Paul and I lived on the same street. It was a cul-de-sac in a new sub-division in what was farmland not too long ago. Every house was less than a decade old, except one. The old Castle we used to call The Miller Castle.
To my surprise, it was that Castle we were riding to. Paul zipped through the gate like he owned the place, but I jammed my brakes at the curb, making him return to fetch me.
“No way I’m riding up there at midnight without knowing more. What the fuck is this all about?”
Paul looked a bit shocked as I spoke and looked at his watch with true fear? “Is it midnight already? No.. No, it can’t be, right. I promise it’s worth it! It’s all going to be fine! Trust me Richard! It’ll be worth it, but we have to get there before midnight! Come on… It’s OK.”
I reluctantly got back on and peddled up the path. Paul’s expression had changed from one I thought was panic more to excitement, and although we were still moving at a crazy pace, and I still had no clue what was going on, I no longer felt like I was heading into some impending doom.
When we reached the front door of the Castle, he slowed down, took a few heavy breaths and started to explain.
“ok. Look.. I am not sure how to explain this to you, but as of now, I own this Castle. It’s mine. Oh man, I shouldn’t have started there. I’ve got so much to tell you buddy…”
Naturally, I assumed he was bullshitting me, but this wasn’t the kind of thing Paul was into. We didn’t do pranks. I was confused, and I was about to start asking questions but he continued.
“Let me explain. About a week ago, old Man Miller can to my door gasping. He looked bad… like he was gonna die or something.”
Nobody really knew old man Miller much. He was just the guy who lived in the Castle, and as far as anyone knew, he always had. It wasn’t like he as a hermit or recluse. We’d see him around town all the time, but he was quiet and kept to himself mostly.
He was mega rich and sponsored a lot of the city events but he remained pretty much a mystery. The only person I knew that had even spoken to him and had a most basic relationship with him was Paul.
“Ok Paul”, I said. “Does this have to do with why I’ve hardly seen you the past few weeks? Have you been taking care of Old Man Miller? Why couldn’t I know about this?”
Paul corrected me, saying it was more than that. A lot more.
“I’m going to open the door and let you inside now, but don’t be alarmed. There is a lot more story, but it’s so fantastical I’m intentionally taking it slow. If I just told you everything right away, your head would explode”. He pulled a weird old fashioned kind of key out of his pocket and opened the door. It was on his regular keychain next to his house keys, so it was clear to me, he’d been coming here a lot more than I knew.
He opened the door and we walked in. I didn’t pay too much attention to the interior because Paul’s strange method of storytelling had my adrenaline pumping. It looked pretty much like you’d expect an old Castle maintained by one man would look. Mostly dark and Dusty.
“Fuck Paul, you’re not going to show me Mr Miller’s dead body, are you? Fuck — you are, aren’t you? He’s dead and you’re –“
“Relax”, Paul stops me. Yes, he’s dead but that’s not important…”
“Not important? What the hell have you brought me into? Midnight? Why are we doing this now? If he’s dead, what the fuck does it matter when you show me? You know Halloween is two weeks away… Christ, are you looting Old Man Miller’s Castle at night? Am I here to help you carry some shit…”
“Shut up Rich. Time is everything… and you’re wasting it -“
“If you’d tell me–“
Then he did. He told me the story. He told me what he and Mr Miller had been doing after school for the last week. Apparently, Old Man Miller was older than we all knew and he was going to die. He knew it.
He came to Paul’s home that night, and he told Paul the story I was being told now. He had a secret and he needed to pass it on to Paul before he died.
“I’m supposed to believe this, right?” I asked, testing the trust between Paul and I. “I’m supposed to just believe what you’re telling me?”
He hushed me. “It’ll all make sense as I continue, but you have to let me get to the good part before midnight” he urged.
As he continued, the visit from Old Man Miller seemed to be a bit unplanned, perhaps like Paul might not have been his first choice, but when you’re about to die, I suppose you make choices, and as it turns out, Paul was the only person in town Mr Miller had any real relationship with. It never occurred to me that he didn’t have friends or family. I would have thought rich people have a lot of people close to them, especially if they’re near death. I learned Old Man Miller was a lot more alone than I had imagined.
Paul explained he’d been cutting Mr. Miller’s lawn for years and had occasionally been invited inside when the payment was due, but he wouldn’t say they were friends. He was as surprised as anyone when he found him at his door.
Continuing, Paul was now speaking in a more normal relaxed voice; “Right there at the door, still standing outside, he starts recanting me his life story. When he was about my age, the previous owner of the Castle came to him one night just like this. He tells me he’s going to die soon, and has nobody to leave his secret with. He has nobody to leave anything to…”
“No fucking way,” I say, pre-guessing here the story is going. “He gave you his Castle? Fuck you. That doesn’t happen”
“Let me get to the good part”, Paul insists, and before I can interrupt again, he goes on; “Trust me, that isn’t the good part. Along with the Castle, which, yes, it’s legally mine now, along with his money…”
“wait… Hold on. How can you be so calm about that? Are you saying you’re the new Old Man MIller? Are you saying this is yours now? Fuck you. What is this really about? Come on Paul… I should be in bed sleeping. You know Mr. Fillmore said we’d be tested on that stupid frog thing tomorrow…”
Paul grabs me by the shoulders just like he had earlier, and looks into my eyes with that same seriousness, although I am slightly more sceptical this time. He looks serious but the words coming out of his mouth are ridiculous. I want to believe but he’s not making any sense. I start; “But –“
“Rich. Please. It’s almost Midnight. Please let me finish. For now, let’s just assume what I am telling you is true. After Midnight it’ll make sense, I promise. Yes. I’m rich now. I’m the sole owner of this Castle. We signed the papers with lawyers and all sorts of formal stuff this week. Yes, I’m rich now. I may never have to work again but–“
I wanted to interrupt but every time I tried, he’d give me a look, and I’d silently listen as he unfolded the story further.
“It comes with a secret, and this is why we’re here at Midnight. It’s big. It’s complex but I don’t have time to explain it all. I’ll tell you more after Midnight. It’s kind of awesome. I’m confused. I tried to tell you a few times this week but I can’t figure out how…”
“Well, you’re doing a crappy job. You’ve been a crappy friend for a while… But hey, if you really are rich, I forgive you… just spit it out. My Mom will be freaking out… Hello, I’m freaking out. What the fu–“
“ok… The Castle and money come with only one catch. It’s kind of a job I have to do. I can’t hire anybody to do it for me, and I can’t tell anybody”.
“But you told me–“
“Yeah, but old Man Miller is dead now, and I’ve been so stressed I’m bending the rules just for you because I had to. This is the kind of secret I couldn’t keep to myself.”
“So… what’s the job? Even if you are super rich now, I’m getting upset. Just tell me!”
He then reveals the Castle is old… older than anyone knows. It’s been handed down to a new owner every generation and nobody knows it’s origin story. Not even Mr Miller. It was here before the city. It might have been here before anything he tells me.
At this point, I just nod as he continues, knowing this story is going to be told at his place for some reason. I think to myself this better be fucking worth it because it’s 6 minutes to midnight and when I get home, I’m going to be in big trouble.
“There is a machine in the basement” he starts. “No, not a machine. it’s more of a gear… err… Umm.. well, whatever you call it, it’s —“
“You better not say Alien, Paul because I’m not ready for that kind of Revelation” I caution. I won’t believe you. I don’t believe you. I already don’t believe you and I’m going to be so much trouble…”
Paul reaches in his back pocket and pulls out his wallet. He hands me $400 and tells me it’s real and this might help with calming your Mom. “Now shut up. It’s not Alien… oh, I suppose it could be. That would make sense actua–“
“Fuuuuuck… TELL ME!”
“Ok”, he says. “In the basement of what is now my Castle, is a gear that controls the rotation of the Earth… kind of. I’m not sure… It’s a kind of time mac–“
“TIME MACHINE?” I scream? “What the fuck Paul? I woke up for this? Are you high?”
“Shut up!” He commands. It’s not quite a time machine. It’s a gear that controls time and I’m the new caretaker. Now you know why it was a hard story to tell. It’s impossible to believe. I always wondered how people would react with news like this. In movies, they seem to accept supernatural shit quite quickly, but that’s TV. It took me a while to be convinced and I’ve tried 4 different approaches to tell you before tonight. I finally figured out to make you believe.”
“Oh really? You figured out a way to ‘make’ me believe that a stranger you barely know comes to your door one random night, gives you the keys and deed to his Castle and fortune. You’re suddenly the new caretaker of the Earth’s clock. I can’t wait to see this. Ok Paul… make me believe.”
Paul explains he has to wait until midnight, and then he hands me this old wooden box that sort of matches the interior designs on the walls. He explains on his previous reveals he didn’t know how the box worked exactly, but if I’m holding it at midnight, it’ll make sense and I’ll believe his story. I’ll believe my best friend is the new caretaker of a secret time machine that’s been in the basement at the end of our street since before we were born.
“Ok… but if some plastic clown pops out singing; “Jack in the box” at Midnight I’m going to punch you. I swear Paul. I’ve never punched anybody before but if this is a prank, I’ll make an exception. Ok… it’s time… Make me believe your story. Go.”
Paul looks at his watch, takes a step back from me, and then suddenly grabs a huge sword from the wall to his left, and swings it into his chest. He slumps to the floor dead.
At 7am, my bedside clock radio clicks on and starts playing HEY JUDE by the Beatles. I wake slowly at first but the moment I realize I’m in my bed I jolt up thinking that was the strangest dream I’d ever had. I’m confused because it didn’t seem like a dream. I’d never had a dream like that before. My best friend Paul had this strange story and then he killed himself in front of me. The most realistic disturbing nightmare I’d ever had.
The music trails off into its famous repetitive ending, looping over and as the disc jockey announces the time, weather and traffic.
“It’s 7:02 on this wonderful fall Wednesday. Today is National Hershey’s Kisses day so eat some chocolate or kiss somebody today – your choice”.
That’s how I started my day yesterday. Holly shit… What is happening? As I stand in a confused state of mind, my foot kicks something on the floor and as I look down, I see the box from my dream. The box Paul gave me at midnight last night…
In my dream? I sit back down. Listening to the radio, as it repeats yesterday’s songs and — yesterday. Yes. Yesterday. Why? What?
My phone buzzes as it vibrates on the nightstand. It’s a text from Paul.
“I assume you believe me. I hope your head didn’t explode. I’m outside ready to answer your questions. Oh, and don’t talk to your Mom about last night because it’s Wednesday again and from their perspective, none of that happened. The last time I tried this I forgot to tell you that and they were sure you were on drugs”.
I texted back; “I believe… we’re fucking rich and you’ve got a time machine! Holy fuck. My brain exploded. I forgive you for your odd way of telling me. I forgive you.”