“He didn’t say a word when it was 8:01 and her watery green eyes still held life.”
The Clock Misread, by Nazifa Islam.
This story is one I found in the first issue of Liminal Stories, a fairly new fiction magazine known for publishing “the beautiful, heartbreaking and strange”. All their issues thus far are free and available on their website here, and if you’d like a direct link to the story I’m examining today, you can find that here.
This story is about two nameless characters whose relationship is unclear. The woman, knowing she is about to die, has given very specific instructions to the man. He acts as an obedient observer, watching her final moments in silence. Despite following her orders, something is clearly not right, but it’s too late to ask questions.
My first impression of this very short story was mixed. In the first few lines, I was intrigued. Thereafter I was a bit uncomfortable, and a bit bored—was I really just reading an account of someone’s death? It made me lose the interest I had previously garnered.
But then, the end. Oh, the end. My curiosity spiked once more, and I reread it several times, looking for more questions and answers alike.
This tale is just a quick blink into another world, but it was a fascinating one. I want to know how far it goes, but I don’t know if there’s enough to figure it out—a gripe I seem to have with a lot of short stories. Maybe I’m in the wrong business if my main complaint about any short story is that it’s too short. But that besides, it was a very enchanting read. I believe this story perfectly captures Liminal’s desire for the “beautiful, heartbreaking and strange”.
The description was by far the most prominent and successful part of this work. It was not overwhelming, but it was specific enough that I have a very clear image of the scene in my mind’s eye. Not just the visuals, but the entire feel of it, as well. I also enjoyed the timekeeping as a narrative device; I believe it really carried the whole thing, in a sort of thematic sense. Whether he was counting the time or his steps, the man was always doing his best to keep track.
The Clock Misread is a definite 4 out of 5 for me. Again, despite its brevity, the middle was a bit lacking, but I found the rest of the tale rather enthralling. And I do believe, most certainly in this case, that the lack of information on the characters—and the world—was for the best.
If you enjoyed this story and want to read more by the author, well, she’s only published the one story. But she has a book of poetry and does a lot of cool paintings, which you can find on her website here. She also has a twitter here, if you have an interest in that.
Is there anything specific you want someone to have after you’re gone? If so, what, and why?