Covent Garden beheld little beauty on that winter day, its only offerings the warmth of the shops it had cultivated.
The three students hurried across a road, clasping coffee cups as if their lives were held within. They quickly entered a store, glad only for a respite from the bitter wind which had been conjured from nowhere.
Leon almost burst out laughing as he looked around. “What the fuck is this?” he whispered too loudly as his eyes took in the crystals hanging from the ceiling and his nose breathed in the incense which wafted carelessly through the air.
“Welcome.” the lady behind the till had round eyes, ever so slightly curved to give her an oriental look. Her eyes caught his and he felt suddenly aware of how loud he’d spoken.
“Thank you, this is a pretty interesting shop.” Ever graceful, Ayesha went to explore some Buddha statues, but not before giving Leon the reproachful look she used far too often with him.
Tim followed her, feigning interest in the statues so he could have something else in common with her. Leon knew the situation, and as a veteran third wheel, knew to stay well away. Besides, there was much to be amused by in this store.
He read the tag next to the crystals, scoffing as he saw the ridiculous price. He walked past, flicking his hand so they clinked softly as he passed.
As his eyes scanned the room, he noticed it. A large hourglass, something about the timepiece drew him to it. As he approached, he realised it was the sand falling which had caught his eye. Must’ve taken some muscle to flip over, he thought as he examined its size. There were markings along the edges, and multicoloured swirls in the glass itself. He was suddenly caught in one pattern, and it flowed, pulsated, fed into another. And then his hand was reaching out. Static crackled as a tiny shock jumped from the hourglass. He recoiled, his attention broken.
“Fuck. Fuck.” Leon didn’t care how loud he was, it hurt. He crept towards the hourglass again, and he could see the patterns were brighter, more vivid. And then he noticed the sand had stopped falling. It hadn’t run its course, the sand had literally stopped. He could see the grains in mid air, like a frozen fountain. And that was when he realised that the crystals had stopped chiming. And he turned around.
The shop was dimmer. Something was wrong, he could see that. Ayesha and Tim were looking at each other, mid laugh. But they were as still as death. He shivered. “Guys. What’s going on?” This better not be a fucking joke.
“This is no joke, my friend.” He jumped, as the shopkeeper moved to his left. He hadn’t noticed her, but suddenly there she was.
“What is this shit? Why aren’t they moving? And what is that?” He gestured towards the hourglass, which was now glowing. I’m tripping out. Maybe I’m still high from last night. Maybe I’m having a reaction.
“This is reality. My name is Jun. You were brought here, as much as you thought this was your path to choose. But time is running short, as the Hour Glass is showing. We have little of it.”
She’s crazy. One of those hippies. Too much incense.
“Whether you choose to believe me or not, I must educate you. Something is coming. I cannot say what, nor where, nor when. But you will know when it does. And you must be ready.”
I’m in a prank. Ashton Kutcher will jump out and tell me I’ve been Punk’d. Ayesha and Tim were still laughing, their eyes unmoved.
“You must watch and learn. You have spent many years growing. And yet all you have to show for are the clothes you wear and the things you buy. Material things.”
“There will come a time when all of these things will be gone. When this armour will be stripped from you. These things do not define you.”
“There will come a day when your words will define who you are. And I pray for all of our sakes that you understand that definition.”
He’d had enough of this. “Judgemental bitch, you don’t know who I am.” And he reached over and shoved the hourglass from its shelf. It was hot, so hot, but it smashed all the same. And then he heard the crystals, and saw his friends laughing, and the shopkeeper was back behind the till. Everything felt dimmer, and he felt as if he’d been dreaming.
“Leona, let’s pop. Unless you’re interested in that hourglass. I’m not sure you’re gunna be able to fit that in your room.” Tim was at the door, Ayesha in tow.
“What hourglass?” As he turned, he saw an hourglass, a large hourglass, with patterns over it. A memory stirred, but the longer he tried to remember, the further it slipped away.
The tillkeeper thanked them as they left. Her eyes lingered as they met Leon’s. Jun. Her name is Jun.
They were halfway back to their flat before Ayesha noticed Leon’s burnt hands. He couldn’t remember how he’d burnt them, but he brushed it off. Something was bothering him. Something is coming.