Beyond the Clock- Chapter 1, The Blue Station

Jin’s first impression on the Soirée station was blue, nothing more, and nothing less. He was six when he decided that the station looked blue. He was now twenty-six, a renowned cellist, but his impression of Soirée still stands. He had no idea why he suddenly came up with a ridiculous idea to visit Soirée. It was his mother’s hometown, and now that she passed away, he felt a random obligation to visit it. He stood in the middle of the bustling station, clutching his luggage, hiding his two sweaty hands. By the time he reached the blue station, the sun was setting. Little elves are painting the sun silver, and people are often mistaken it for what they call the moon, his mother used to tell him. She said the same thing at her deathbed, reviving his childhood memories.

He sat down on a bench, tapping his feet to the ticks of a huge old clock. He carefully lifted his cello case, and placed it beside him. His cello has been collecting dust ever since his last concerto performance at Japan. Not much of a motivation, he thought. Jin watched the last embers of daylight die away. He was clueless; he was never interested in his mother. He was attending an evening party when he received the news, days after he visited her for the first time in ten years. Tired, beaten down, her face collected vestiges of old sorrow. Visiting her old hometown and reviving her memories was the least he could do. But what now?

The washed blue paint on the walls no longer looked fresh as night drew near. People dispersed one by one, and some occasionally recognized him, though he didn’t give them notice. He recalled his mother covered with snowbells. He never knew much about her, and he started to think what was the whole point of him travelling for her. He stood up, and glanced at the clock again. Nine o’clock, he ought to find a place to stay for the night, and probably a few more nights. As Jin stood up, someone, a small figure, bumped into him rather vigorously.

It was a girl. Her face was flushed in bright pink, and her lips were painted translucent scarlet, or vermillion, maybe. Her two eyes were looking for something on the ground. Jin kneeled down, she looked up, but speechless, she touched her collarbone. A necklace? Jin looked around. He found a small heart-shaped locket beside the disarrayed books. He gently swiped it onto his palm, and passed it onto her. It was an intricately made locket, gold, but old. She sighed and murmured, “thank you”.

“It must’ve meant a lot to you,” he started a conversation, as he helped her picked the books up.

“Oh yes,” she paused. “It holds inventions of dreams.”

She smiled. Her dimples that appeared beside her lips reminded him of little dents on a peach. She held the books carefully. Five to six thick books- before he offered a helping hand, or even ask about what she meant about her locket, she started walking towards the other end of the station. Bizarre, he mumbled. She was walking towards where the emergency staircase and the storeroom were. He stared for a moment, and decided not to put his mind in it. Again, he picked up his cello case and set out to find a place to stay.

The moon, almost full, round and rough as the baker’s bread with mixed nuts, was hidden by veil-like clouds that perched itself on the edge of the summer’s end. Jin was glad he could find a cheap hotel nearby. The price didn’t matter, but the fact that he was a jobless man, since he wasn’t a performer at the moment, troubled him. He believed that something led him to Soirée, as much as he didn’t know how long he would remain in this place, he knew that his trip wouldn’t be brief. Jin told himself he would look for a jazz bar to play for when morning arrives.

The owner of the hotel was a grumpy old man, reeking of alcohol, with stubby beard and a potbelly. He was drinking beer when Jin asked for a room, and was drunk enough to be unaware of a war. Jin had to sign in himself, and take the key. Jin didn’t like the hotel very much; the stairs creaked and the doorknob was almost falling off. He sighed exaggeratedly, and made sure if the lock worked.

Jin sat down on the bed. The only thing he liked about this hotel was that the bed sheet wasn’t rough. He could never sleep without a comfortable bed sheet, even if it was a five-star hotel. As he slumped against the pillow, his past memories started bubbling up. A young talent, the only thing Jin was interested in was music. Nothing deviated him from his path, family, love, nothing. The first woman he dated broke up with him within a week, she was a violinist from his music school, the only person whom he spoke to. Anyway, she asked him if he had ever loved her and Jin couldn’t answer her, because his answer was always no.

His father died when he was busy preparing for an audition, a prestigious music school in London. Jin was more disturbed than sad then; his father’s death confused him if he was taking the right choice. If his choice was making others fall behind him, what’s the whole point of playing music? But all the worries and doubts cleared away like clouds after a rainy day when he received the results from his dream school. He packed and left as soon as he got the news. What choice did he have? After all, he was a human. His mother was slightly unwell then.

Jin didn’t regret any of his actions. Well- he thought he did. He looked back, but there was nothing left. He thought that he achieved everything he wanted. Jin looked at the ceiling. All these meaningless thoughts were eating him from inside. Yes, he felt lost. Not just lost, lonely, unaware, tired. He never knew that his choice would reappear as a spear that stabbed him so badly. He closed his eyes. Go to sleep, a jabberwocky hissed beneath his bed. Sleep, sleep, sleep.

He opened his eyes to the hissing sound of frying pan. A sweet smell of maple syrup on pancakes and the sizzling noise of bacons made Jin wake up instantly. His mother always fried bacons and made pancakes with fresh blueberries that she picked from her mini garden in the front porch that morning. She squeezed lemons and mixed it with a pinch of sugar, and carefully poured it into his favorite red polka-dotted mug- that started his day. Jin never knew it before she was gone.

Jin rubbed his eyes, and slowly picked himself up. It was a lazy morning; the sunlight smudged itself all over the world. The day was beautiful. Beyond the windows were passionate lovers, happy families; all the positivity left him baffled. Where should he start off? Jin promised himself he wouldn’t leave until he found something. Feeling the breeze in his hair, Jin headed to the blue station once again.

Something pulled him to the station. He has never been to Soirée or its train station, though he often dreamt about himself standing in a crowded place, its dome-shaped glass structure reflecting the blue sky on the floor. Reminiscent, he observed every single activity in the station. A ticket boy dozing off behind a flimsy magazine, a tall and willow lady with beige-colored coat waiting for her train while eating a pumpernickel sandwich, and a girl with soft brown hair that fell on her shoulders, and on her neck was gleaming gold-locket.

She was quite obvious even from a distance. Jin froze, and thought of approaching her; since she was the first person he had a conversation with since his arrival. She was wearing a black sundress with tiny star-like glitters at the hem, making her look even paler. She touched her locket once, and walked towards the storeroom. She probably tried to make sure that no one noticed her, but Jin was watching her all along. Within the short seconds while she hid herself in the storeroom, Jin decided to follow her.

She went into the storeroom, closing the door behind her. Jin hesitated, and opened the door around three minutes she disappeared. She left the door unlocked, whether it was on purpose or a mistake. To his disappointment, it was just an ordinary storeroom, with cleaning items and unknown boxes stacked haphazardly. It was so tiny, but she was nowhere to be seen. Jin was baffled at her peculiar disappearance. She couldn’t have gone anywhere.

Jin tried pushing away the big boxes away. He tried everything until he found four plain-white walls, so ordinary that it even confused him more. Jin looked up. There was a small square-shaped region on the ceiling that had a slightly different color tone from the other parts. It was suspicious enough for him to take notice of it. Jin found a stool, and reached for the ceiling. He knocked on that particular part of the ceiling, and did the same for the other parts. It was hollow- there was a passageway upwards.

If she had gone anywhere, it must’ve been through this door, since there was nowhere else to go. Jin stacked a few big boxes so that it would be tall enough for him to climb up. Jin stood on the boxes, and breathed in deeply. He pushed himself upwards, hoping no one else would find out. The passageway smelled like old wood and dust. It was quite small for a grown man to walk through, so Jin had to bend as he walked through the passageway. He was rather relieved that the passageway was a one-way path- else he would have to search for her all over again.

It was dark inside the passageway and Jin barely saw anything. Often he felt a round, crunchy feeling beneath his shoes, which he supposed was cockroaches. Why would she be here? Darkness was one thing, but the passageway was endless. Jin lost track of the time; he wondered if he could even get back to the train station in time for dinner. A minute felt like an hour as he walked further and further. He felt claustrophobic, and even imagined the walls closing in on him.

Jin thought he was hallucinating when he saw light. He felt desperate like a man on an abandoned island. The light drew nearer, the mellow orange warmth that could be felt when he reached out for it. He shut his eyes close- his eyes were yet to adjust to the sudden streak of light. The room was filled with books; decorated in warm colors- orange, red, yellow. He never realized that there was a space behind the clock tower. And he saw her, once again, sitting by the clock, surrounded by books.

Credits: Wikimedia

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