On a street that you’re never able to find again you enter a shop with no windows. Over the years to come you will often think of it in idle moments: half-asleep on a fading couch in your middle age, you will try to persuade yourself that you imagined the whole afternoon; some years earlier, staring at a pre-packaged sandwich, bored and lonely in a mini-supermarket, you will almost believe you might rediscover its location if you could only take the right turn. Neither conclusion quite convinces you.

The ostensible reason for your visit is a friend’s birthday, one close enough to give you an excuse to kill time in a shop, but not so close that you actually need to buy anything. You experience a dull, familiar ache as you fail to discover what you’re looking for, but as you start to leave you spot a brooch that could have been made for you. Even though the price is a little high, you buy it anyway.

At home you open its box to find a note. It says that the brooch has unusual properties, which are that it grants you the ability to re-experience (but not alter) any three-hour period from your life. The note also points out that although the brooch will never stop being a brooch, it can only facilitate such transport twice. Years of fake chumminess from smoothie bottles has made you rightfully wary of talkative packaging, but you decide to give it a go. “Take me back three hours into my past!” you announce with a flourish of your hands, and the brooch complies. You relive the aimless wandering along side streets, the time spent in the shop, the wait at the bus stop, the walk home, the kettle boiling, the tea that follows, and then there’s a jump and your hands are raised in the air in an act of half-hearted divination.

The amazement you feel is swiftly replaced by anger as you realise you’ve wasted 50 per cent of the only magical opportunity you’ve ever had reliving events which have literally just taken place. This anger is succeeded by nausea, which is then succeeded by excitement. You still have one more go. It’s a true privilege: you are able to experience absolutely any three hours again. You consider saving this second journey for a rainy day, but it’s raining now. You tell yourself that you can always return to the shop and buy another brooch tomorrow, after all.

What three hours do you choose?


Originally published in Oh Comely Issue Thirty-One.