1. The World Inside the Watch THE WORLD INSIDE THE WATCH
Magic does exist, but only we know how to reach it.”
That’s what my aunt Jo used to tell me as I was falling asleep on her couch when I was younger. The fireplace was warm and crackled, her blankets were soft and heavy, and her hands would scratch through my hair as she whispered—only for me to hear.
“You see, Rose, there’s a place where anything is possible, and when you go there, you will become more powerful than anyone you’ve ever met.”
“Me? But I’m small.”
“That doesn’t matter when you have magic, does it?”
“How do I get there?” I’d ask, although I already knew the answer.
“You use the watch, of course.” Jo would pull the long gold chain from her pocket slowly, link by link, until the pocket watch came into view.
It was perfectly round, and the gold was as bright as the fire in the hearth. On the top was a loop, attached to which was a thin gold chain with braided links. Next to the loop was a button. Jo pressed it, and the sides, separated into twelve petals, fell open like a flower.
Pictures were carved on the back of each segment of the gold shell. They depicted magical landscapes that could exist only in Jo’s fantasy world. In the middle was the clock, with long bronze hands that ticked silently.
The first time she showed me, my hand reached out on its own, and Jo clicked it shut.
Only Jo was allowed to touch the pocket watch.
“It’s not yours yet, my love—but one day it will be, and then you will hold the key that will allow you to enter the other world.”
“When can I go?”
“When I’m ready to give it to you,” she’d say.
I knew all twelve realms inside the watch by heart. Jo had told me about her adventures in them and had painted me dozens of pictures.
In Ten O’Clock you turned into an animal to escape the giant flowers that followed you. Jo said she was a mink there, which she explained was a lot like if a snake and a hamster had a baby. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a mink. She thought I might be a fox. I always liked foxes after that.
Then in Eleven O’Clock you could create anything you could think of just by drawing it. If you wanted your own pet dragon, all you had to do was learn to draw one. But you had to be careful, because once it was created, the dragon would take on a life of its own. It might bite you or singe off your eyebrows.
But Jo didn’t just tell me about the magic, even though that was the fun part—she also told me about the dangers. You had to be extra careful in the magical clock world, because whenever something is that amazing… there must always be something about it that’s equally frightening.
“And it will be your job, Rosey-Posey, to save it one day.”
“Because I’m too old and because you’re the perfect mix of smart, kind, and special.”
That was always the best part of Jo’s stories, when she told me I was special. No one else believed that, and so I would listen to her as she scratched my head, and drew pictures for me, and gave me lessons on how to survive in the magical realms.
I stayed awake for hours more than I would any other night, just to hide in her stories for a little longer. She even had a book about the world.
The book was encased in red leather and bound with gold thread. The title was carved in cursive writing that I had thought was just perfect. The middle of the letters were gold as well, chipping only slightly. They read: The Thirteenth Hour.
On every page was bright artwork that had been painted with a thin brush.
On the first page was a tall man who had black hair with a puff of white on top, a floppy mustache, and an old-timey tie. His name was Amisi, and he was going on an adventure.
Amisi flew over the clock world carrying a fistful of brightly colored balloons.
I loved that world, because it felt like the exact opposite of the dry deserts of Arizona that I had grown up in, filled with identical white houses with identical pools and identical cactus-shaped WELCOME HOME mats.
As I grew older, though, I realized that the watch world was just a book—a story that Jo had read and liked. But I still listened and nodded along, so that I could be special for a little longer too.
When I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore, Jo would recite the ending to me.
Scrawled on the back cover was a painted line of black writing: To my Mila. I will come back for you once I’ve saved our true home.
Then below was the rhyme that Jo had sung to me so many nights when I was little.
“So that you’ll remember it always,” Jo would whisper.
“The little girl went off to bed and found a place inside her head. Her eyes closed shut when the clock struck one, and she dreamt she could fly up to the sun. When she awoke the very next day, she couldn’t wait to go back and play.
“Next she slept, the clock struck two, and she dreamt that she sailed on the ocean blue.
“?‘How fun,’ she cried at the fire of three, ‘one of these worlds could be made for me!’ It was not the colorful city of four, ‘but I’ll keep going, there might be more.’
“She was strong at five and small at six. ‘This must be magic, not just tricks.’ There’s steel, caves, and snow at seven, eight, and nine, but then she worried: ‘Which hour is mine?’ Not ten’s garden, nor eleven’s art. ‘It must be the last one,’ she knew in her heart.
“At long last, when the clock struck twelve, she found a kingdom for herself.”