Tap. Tap. Tap. Pepper’s pocket watch was surreal. Most simply ticked. His tapped. Its face was a tiny record player, with exactly 86400 taps recorded upon it. It reset itself every 1440 minutes, and chimed once per hour, on the hour.
We were in the attic. The sun filtered in and lit up the dust-thick air. The summer heat was suffocating. I carried my camera. Pepper had a notebook.
He pulled a box from underneath a desk and wiped off the grime. The top of the box was spectacularly carved dark wood. It wouldn’t open. I turned on my camera and took a photo.
I awoke the next day with Pepper sprawled on top of me. I pushed him off and got up. I stepped onto the balcony, where a small woodbine plant grew. I plucked a flower and stepped back inside.
Pepper greeted me in the bedroom. He stood and I slid the woodbine blossom behind his ear. His pocket watch tapped a rhythm. We swayed over to the balcony, and the breeze curled around us, cooling our toes and our sticky, sweaty brows.
I walked to the library. The sun was high but the breeze kept me cool.
The library was made entirely of charred wood. The high shelves were carved with plants. Each plant was labeled. Just by the entrance: ‘Wisteria: Welcome’.
I walked over to the computer room and plugged my SD card into a computer. I scrolled to the bottom of my files, and there I found the photos from the attic.
The prints arrived a week later. In my hands was the picture of the wooden box, but it was different. Symbols and designs formed a very easy to see word.
We found ourselves back in the attic. Pepper traced the word with his fingertip. I pushed the lid. Inside was a void.
I lost my balance reaching inside. My heart jumped to my throat as I fell, but I stopped. Pepper gripped my leg and pulled me out. Neither of us moved for a very long time. We did not return.