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A Short Story

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It was a cold and dark February morning. The clouds in the sky moved swiftly, above the trees that swayed ferociously. The cars were frozen, and their doors had jammed, leaving many drivers in distress. Those lucky few, who did manage to break open their car doors, found the engine squealing for warmth. Many people had thought that the weather associated with the winter was beginning to lift, however they soon realised they were very, very wrong… Meanwhile, in his snug household at 29 Maplewood Crescent, James Brown was waking up on his 16th birthday.

His parents, Felicia and Mark, together with his brother Ben (who was 3 years his junior), thought that today would be a normal run-of-the-mill birthday. Usually, James would wake up to “Happy Birthday” booming from his CD player. He would then glide downstairs to be greeted with showers of presents. James would usually spend the rest of the morning playing with his new toys, and then he would have a small party with his friends in the afternoon. February 29th had always been a funny day within his family; his Uncle Daniel, who worked in the National History Museum, always fantasized about how special the day was.

Every year, James had received a time piece of some sort from his Uncle, usually a foreign artefact from hundreds, or even thousands of years ago. However, today would become even stranger indeed… James woke up to the sound of “Happy Birthday” roaring from his CD player. He sat up and stretched over to his left, picking up his glasses from the bed-side table. Groaning silently at the noise from the CD player, he placed his glasses at the top of his nose, but let them slowly slide down to the tip. He knew his family had arranged a party for him; his friends would be in the afternoon, however he wasn’t in the mood for fun.

He just wanted to sleep peacefully in his bed… He raised his head and glanced at his reflection in the mirror opposite. His lean, yet rippled body, pale as a ghost, stretched what seemed a mile, from his acne-filled, pallid face down to his gangly legs. His long, wavy brown hair flittered in front of his blue eyes. He took a deep breath, and hauled himself off the left side of his bed. Narrowly missing the table, his legs shot out underneath him, supporting his body weight stably. James strolled over to his desk and flicked the CD-Player’s switch to ‘off’.

The music faded slowly but surely until James felt he was wearing noise-cancelling headphones. However, this feeling was soon short-lived when James heard the sound of voices chatting unexpectedly appear from downstairs. He walked across his room, and slowly opened his creaking door; it was then when he found out it was his parents who were talking. He walked forward a few more steps down the hall, and then started descending the staircase. James shouted “Mum, Dad! ” His parents appeared from nowhere in front of him, singing Happy Birthday. Ben followed behind them, singing to the same tune.

They walked him into the living room, where James produced a smile as big as the moon. In every corner of the room, there was a brightly-packed present. The living room was overflowing with presents, which were from the size of small horses to the size of mice. James became so excited that he ran around all the presents, slashing the wrapping of each and every one of them, until he came across one present that wasn’t wrapped. He could tell who it was from by the present, which stood alone in the centre of the table. The 1850s French alarm clock twinkled in the sunlight that shone in through the window.

James picked it up, and read out-loud the note that was attached to it: “Use your time wisely, and become wise yourself. Love Uncle Daniel”. He noticed that the time was stuck at 20:08 (8:08pm, as shown on the alarm clock. The “pm” was in the centre of the clock). He looked at the back of the note, and there was another phrase that said “The clock has a problem; It only moves 1 minute on the hand for every real year.

All batteries have been replaced; however it still doesn’t work with the correct time. I still thought you’d like it, so enjoy! James flipped the note back, and held the clock firmly in his hand. “I’ll set it up tonight” he said to his mum. He had a look at the other fantastic presents that glistened in the light; among them were a brand new PSP console, an 8 GB iPod touch, and a book called “The Gadgets of the Modern World”. James observed many games seeping from the wrapping papers; included among these were the latest football games for the PSP, FIFA 08 and PES 2008. He also noticed i?? 100 worth of iTunes gift cards sat next to the iPod.

He inspected the presents in the room, and suddenly let a cry of joy bellow from his lips. Wow! Thank you! ” He ran gleefully to his parents, giving them hugs that were strong, with so much excitement, that his mum stated he could be a natural at the Heimlich manoeuvre. He then snatched as many gadgets as he could, trying to contain them within his hands, and scurried up the stairs to his room. He flung the objects upon his desk, including his alarm clock. James leapt onto his bed, and looked out his window as the weather began to worsen… Thunder clouds started to gather awkwardly outside, booming as they clashed with one another.

Although it was unusual for February, the odd patch of sleet and snow tumbled from the heavens; the sleet clattered with roofs and windows, creating a rhythmic pit-pattering sound as it bounced onto the ground. The snow, on the other hand, floated gracefully towards the earth, collecting in mounds of white powder, before slowly dissipating. James turned away, thinking nothing of it. He lifted himself up, and walked over to red, fabric armchair. He let his body collapse over it, and slumped on it as the seat moulded to his shape.

It was at that specific moment in time when James realised what he could do for the rest of the day… lay with his presents! Throughout the rest of the morning, James examined and toyed with his gadgets, preparing them for immediate use. Some gadgets he tested before moving onto others. This included trying his FIFA game for his PSP, yelling “Goaaallllll! ” whenever he scored, and transferring his current CD collection onto his iPod through his computer. When he had finished adding the thousands of songs, he picked up his iTunes gift cards and started ferociously banging the keys of his keyboard, typing the codes into the iTunes store.

James made sure that all the credit was added to his account, shut down his computer, leant back on his chair, and then took a deep breath. He thought back on all the amazing presents he had so far looked at, and then James started to fantasise about the presents he would later receive from his friends. It was about 11:30 in the morning, when, in shock, he jumped out of the chair as quick as a cheetah. His mum was shouting like a lion up the stairs “James, can you come down for a moment? ” James hopped out of his chair, and shot out of his room. He sharply turned the corner, and travelled down the narrow hall, approaching the staircase.

James rapidly descended the staircase, almost tripping on the way, and then he saw his mum approach him as he strode off the last step. “I’ve got some bad news for you”, stated James’ mum. “What is it? ” questioned James. “I’ve had to cancel your party. I’m sorry James, but most of your friends are snowed into their own homes; they can’t even open the front doors! Anyway, it’s hardly good conditions to drive here in; on-and-off sleet, and the odd patch of snow, can be really dangerous to drive in” “But… ” James was speechless. He had always had a party of some sort on his birthday. He gave his mum a look of disgust, and then disappointment.

He slowly turned his body arofund, feeling upset that he wouldn’t see his friends. He started to walk towards the staircase. “I know you’re disappointed James”, said his mum, trying to make him feel better. “But we’re trying to arrange to go out tonight for dinner with your friends. Don’t worry, you’ll have your party, I’ll make sure of it. ” Upon hearing the comment, James’ mood reversed. He turned around, and looked towards his mum. “Thanks mum. I suppose it is dangerous to drive in, and as long as I get my presents! ” James saw a grin appear on his mother’s face. Satisfied that he would see his friends, James headed for the staircase.

He approached the stairs, and jumped swiftly up them. James, approaching the top of the stairs, had already planned out the rest of the day in his head. His plan was that of a typical teenager – he would spend the rest of the day playing with his new gadgets. James had finished playing at his electrical gizmos, when he decided to have a look at some of his other gadgets. He looked excitingly around his bed, trying to find an interesting present to play with, when out of the corner of his eye, he caught a glimpse of the clock. It twinkled as he looked at it, the shiny metal surface reflecting light that seemed to come from nowhere.

James stretched across his bed, and took hold of the clock. He picked it up, wondering exactly what he could do with it, besides setting the time. Bringing the clock carefully over to his bedside table, he sat down on the edge of the bed. Making sure not to break the delicate clock, he cautiously placed it on the table. He wondered whether it would be worth setting it to the current time – at least it wouldn’t show the correct time afterwards, but it would serve it’s purpose as a reminder to him of when he got the present, how his day went, and, of course, it would remind him of his Uncle Daniel, who he hadn’t seen for many months.

He picked up the clock, and manually used the wheel at the back to change the clock. It was 11:50am, and so he started winding the clock forwards, changing from p. m. to a. m. James wound the clock faster and faster, becoming more infuriated as the clock’s hands seemed moved slowly around the face. Eventually, James managed, within breaking the clock’s mechanisms, to get the hands to point to the time 11:48am. He turned the wheel 2 more times, and let a great sigh of relief.

“At last, finished winding this clock to the time! thought James in his head. His relief was short-lived, when suddenly James heard a ringing sound. He thought he was going deaf, but soon comprehended that the ringing wouldn’t stop, and that it was in fact coming from an object within his room. He swivelled his head around as quickly as an owl, and tried to locate the device that was giving off the ringing noise. He jumped off his bed, and looked frantically around his room; the ringing was getting louder and louder, until he couldn’t bear the noise.

He was still moving around his room anxiously, changing direction as quick as a headless chicken, when he noticed a pale red mist start to rise from the floor. The volume of the ringing was rapidly increasing. James was still looking for the object, when he suddenly noticed what was causing the unbearable noise. His alarm clock that was a short while ago sitting still on the table, was shaking violently. The alarms on the top of the clock were clanging off one another, as were as loud as the thunder clouds outside the window.

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