The universe ended on March 3, 2022 at 9:19 p.m. when a mugger shot John Martin as he walked home from the Dunkin Donuts around the corner from his apartment.
Due to the robber’s unsteady hand, the bullet, meant for John's chest, struck his Omega Speedmaster. John was uninjured, but the shot obliterated his watch, sending glass and metal shards skyward and shredding the air.
Throughout his existence, John had protected clocks and watches. In humanity’s early days, he safeguarded sundials, then later water clocks, followed by pendulum clocks, pocket watches, mechanical and quartz watches. He even looked out for the cesium atomic clock in Boulder, Colorado for a while.
He recalled the beauty of the glowing lightning clock on Sgnari, one of the myriad worlds he lived on before Earth. John wondered if humans would ever develop a virus-based watch, like the people of Y’thrgv. He adored the watches worn by the Ublo in the Circinus Galaxy. The timekeeping crystals in their watches hummed at the same frequency when worn by a couple in love.
Whichever clock or watch he protected became the keystone that allowed time to tick forward. As long as that timepiece worked, the cosmos would continue.
During Menes' reign 5,200 years ago, he never wandered far from the pharaoh's sundial. He witnessed the construction of the Prague Astronomical clock in 1410 and protected it for a century, one of the longest periods he’d guarded a single timepiece. One of John’s favorite charges was Sir Edmund Hillary’s Rolex, worn to the summit of Mt. Everest in 1953.
Most of the timepieces he watched over were in already safe places, including Big Ben and the Grand Central Terminal clock. Over the ages, he occasionally selected clocks that were more of a challenge to safeguard, such as John Harrison’s H-3, which journeyed on a Royal Navy gunship, the HMS Deptford, from Portsmouth, England to Kingston, Jamaica in 1761. The H-3 was the world’s most accurate nautical clock, and John couldn’t resist experiencing it.
He’d had a few close calls, but most millennia his work was uneventful.
In 1969, the Omega Speedmaster Buzz Aldrin wore on the moon went missing, a mystery that was never solved because John had pilfered it. This was the watch the mugger’s bullet destroyed.
It's been a good run, John thought. He had kept this universe ticking for 13.8 billion years, a billion years longer than last time.
John glanced at the broken watch. A deafening, grinding sound roared from inside the cracked crystal, like planets colliding into each other. Colossal vibrations slued the ground beneath him.
A frostbitten wind chiseled the moon into dust and blew the starlight away. Cold blackness consumed everything.
Melancholy blood filled John's veins, and Cindy Lauper’s Time After Time rolled through his mind. But he wasn’t entirely sad because John knew he would enjoy the clocks invented in a universe not yet born.
Fiction by Bill Adler is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
If you enjoyed John Martin’s Universe, I think you’ll also like my story, Music Never Dies.