He remembered the day he had come to her with arms laden with roses. Their first anniversary. Then, the day she told him was pregnant. The day of the birth of his charming, dear, sweet daughter. The day she had taken her first steps, and spoken her first words. The three of them had gone on that picnic in the sun – beautiful, as the sunset surrounded them. And he remembered with eyes wide shut the car coming at them fast. The red, the screams, the black.
He had given in then. He had consulted his grandfather, and from that, found a man who could instruct him in the dark arts. Maybe then he would have the power to bring them back – his beloved Karen and his sweet sweet Abigail. In life his greatest treasures, and in death his deepest pain. They were what granted him rest, and tortured his sleep.
Years he spent. He learned the ancient languages, the forbidden tongues, read manuscript upon manuscript. Mixed blood and oil, wax and bones. Cast stones and killed lizards and frogs. Burned candles late into the night. Made voodoo dolls, drew pentagrams in chalk to call on dark spirits of the night. He grew from a quite, astute young man, timid, but not unkind, into a hollow adult, always searching. As a student of the dark arts, he learned that every gift has a price, and no working is without retribution.
He learned, by some trial and error there is no raising the dead. But in his memories they would not rest. Every morning he woke up cold and alone, to an empty house. No child’s laughter, nor wife’s sweet nothings to fill his void.
He followed his path deeper and deeper, ever seeking the impossible. In his poring and prying, he learned of a man who knew many secrets. He sought him out, plumbed the depths of occluded places in the universe, where man was never meant to go. He saw truths old men dare not share. His soul saw secrets babies yet unborn dream of in the womb. His eyes were opened to the many worlds and universes, and other secret things not to be known.
Yet, though he begged this man, and pleaded with all his soul, he learned, to his consternation, there is no raising the dead. But in his memories they would not rest. Every morning he woke up cold and alone, to an empty house. No child’s laughter, nor wife’s sweet nothings to fill his void. Only the tick tock of the clock, and the dripping of cold sweat onto the dusty floor.
But in all of this, it only served to put in his mind a fascination that perhaps somewhere, out there, they yet lived. For where does a spirit, unhindered by body go but to another plane to find a body elsewhere? Perhaps he could bend the laws of space and time, so to see them again. And so he sought the impossible, and pursued the forbidden. After plumbing the depths, and finding them empty, he plunged even further, seeking to shake the very fabric of space-time itself, and thus call forth what governance remained in such a despicable void.
And so he found himself face to face with the Watchmaker. No longer a man, but neither a beast, it stared at him from behind a mask of gold and royal blue. For what did he seek its audience? What did he desire that he would shake the very fabric of the Universe in pursuit of it?
Only a wife, and a child, and a life once more with them.
Can I not, by arts fine and mysterious return to them?
And he heard again what he had all his life come to dread: There is no raising the dead.
For what then have I come all this way? he pleaded.
You know. said the Beast. I can fill that void you crave. I can open your eyes to all the wonders and mysteries of space and time.
He nodded, knowing this was the end – pursue the path, for in running was the only rest.
What must I give? He asked. For as a knower of the dark arts, he knew every gift has a price, and no working is without retribution.
You know. All that you have left here. It is your greatest treasure. It is your lasting bane. It is what grants you rest and tortures your sleep.
NO. I will not yield. It is all I had left of them.
For what have you come all this way then? To what end have you shaken the foundations of all sanity? You seek but to pursue – to unlock all the facets of reality. Has it not been always to seek this solace? To move though time as easily as air. To step between worlds as if entering one’s own home.
You know of what I speak. This always has been what you were seeking.
And he knew it was true.
He agreed to the exchange, and took the Traveler’s pocket watch with great caution, knowing it held the key to travel amongst all the worlds. But in exchange he yielded his greatest treasure, and gave up his deepest pain. For as a knower of the dark arts, he knew every gift has a price, and no working is without retribution.
For a brief moment he saw to his final horror there is no raising the dead. After which he cared not, for he had given up his memories, his greatest treasure, and deepest pain. In his memories at last he had rest. Every morning he woke up alone, in an empty house. No longer did an echo of child’s laughter, or a whisper of wife’s sweet nothings eat his soul. He moved though time as if through air, and stepped between worlds as easily as entering his own home. And all the universe was his to explore.