Shades of Grey

(This is nothing to do with the blasphemy that is E L James!)

Can Gabriel Grey solve his own murder before it's too late? A story that explores time travel and its effects, this is a mystery with a twist.

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2. Part Two

Gabriel opened his eyes to find himself in exactly the same place as before – except he wasn’t in the exact same spot as before. Gabriel stared about confusedly. Where had the Italian man and his wall of deadly projectiles gone? And where was the dying man who had his voice, his looks and even his name?

Out of habit, Gabriel looked around at the clocks that lined the walls, shelves and counters of the clock shop. Half past two. Gabriel sighed. Somehow, always knowing the time relaxed him.

Wait a second! It was three o’clock literally two minutes ago! Gabriel’s mouth dropped open. Somehow, half an hour of time had just undone itself.

“That’s not possible,” muttered Gabriel. But then he though back to earlier, when he had seen himself brutally murdered for a pocket watch by a tall Italian in a trench coat and a bowler hat. Suddenly, travelling back in time by half an hour didn’t seem so impossible.

“Oh! The pocket watch!” exclaimed Gabriel. He looked down to see that the pocket watch was still in his hand, its smooth, rounded case moulded into his flesh. Carefully, he set it down on the counter and eyed it thoughtfully.

“What are you?” asked Gabriel, a frown upon his face. “You’re certainly not a pocket watch. Not if you moved me back in time, that is.”

Gabriel put his hands on either side of the counter and lowered his head so that his eyes were on the same level as the watch. Carefully, ever so carefully, he examined the pocket watch like it was a venomous snake in a bad mood. When he was satisfied that the outer casing was indeed that of a pocket watch, he picked it up and weighed it in one hand. It was most certainly heavier than any true pocket watch had a right to be.

This needs closer examination, thought Gabriel. He carried the pocket watch through to an adjoining room and put the silver object upon a workbench. He sat down at the bench, switched on a bright goose-neck lamp and looked out his tools.

“Let’s open you up,” said the clockmaker. Very carefully, Gabriel lifted the lid of the pocket watch. What he saw inside was most certainly not a watch face.

Under the gleaming metal cover of the pocket watch was a shining sphere of pure diamond. White light radiated out from the glassy ball. Various wires burrowed into the construction, presumably moving energy to the various other components that made up the pocket watch. ‘Various other components’ referred to the mass of miniscule motors and cogs that spun around the inside of the metal shell.

“Oh my,” breathed Gabriel. For the first time, he saw the pocket watch for what it really was: A time machine.

Gabriel closed the lid of the pocket watch very gently and slipped it into his breast pocket. Head spinning, he once again entered the lobby of the clock shop.

Gabriel looked up at the wall of clocks again. The time was now quarter to three. The clockmaker frowned. Up until this point, he hadn’t really considered what the consequences of travelling back in time would be. With a jolt, he realised that he had crossed into his own time stream.

That must mean that there is another me out there somewhere, thought Gabriel. Where was I at quarter to three?

After a moment of thought, he realised that he had at this very moment been travelling by bus towards this very location. At around five to three, he had arrived at the shop and witnessed the argument between himself and the Italian. Five minutes after that, he had seen himself get killed. Gabriel’s eyes widened. He had witnessed his own murder. This meant that he had exactly fifteen minutes to live.

Gabriel quickly turned his thoughts away from the murder. It was essential that he keep a clear head right now.

 “So, what do we know so far?” Gabriel asked himself. “Well, we know that I arrive here at five to three and see myself arguing with an Italian man. The Italian pulls a gun and shoots the older version of me, but panics when he sees me, the younger version. Then I throw myself the pocket watch, and I travel back in time by half an hour. This brings me to now. I know everything about the murder, except why he murdered me.

Gabriel the clockmaker knew better than most people what the benefits of time travel would be. Whoever held the time machine would be able to change history, or have infinite time to meet deadlines or get to other places. Despite the benefits, Gabriel knew deep down that time travel technology would be more dangerous than any conventional weapon, or even an unconventional one. If used incorrectly, something could go catastrophically wrong.

 “Wait a moment,” started Gabriel. “Nothing could go wrong because time is fixed. If you try to change something, then you will inevitably fail. Assuming that this theory is indeed correct then no matter what I do, I am going to die.”

Gabriel’s mind raced. He was perfectly at home with the idea of dying; as an aging man, he had come to terms with the idea several years ago. It was not the after death part that frightened him: it was the dying itself. He winced as he remembered the bullets ripping into his own flesh, opening holes out of which his very life had leaked.

It was obvious to Gabriel that nothing that he could do could prevent him from being killed.

 “I may have only fifteen minutes to live, but I’ll be damned if I don’t use them to the full!” exclaimed Gabriel. “If I’m going to die, I’m going to organise it down to the last detail. And if I’m going to do that, I need to make a phone call.”

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