A certain man was leaving work one day when a salesman walked into his path and stopped him.
“You seem to be in a bit of distress, Sir,” said the salesman.
“I’m fine, thanks,” said the man, trying to walk away.
“You seem as if you are in a rush,” replied the salesman, walking beside him.
“You don’t say!” said the man with a sarcastic smile.
“Perhaps I can be of some assistance,” said the salesman.
He stepped out in front of the man and stopped him. Grabbing the inside of his coat, he threw it open and revealed a fine display of watches of all sizes.
The man glanced over, and then started to walk away.
“No thanks,” he said. “I’ve already got a watch.”
“No sir!” said the salesman, stepping in front of him again. “You seem to be mistaken. These are no ordinary watches.”
The man sighed a heavy sigh and raised his eyebrows.
“I see,” he said. “And why might that be?”
“I thought you’d never ask,” said the salesman. “These watches can turn back time for whoever wears them.”
The man failed to hide his smile and laughed for a moment.
“How wonderful,” he said, and began to walk away. “Now that I’ve had a good laugh, if you don’t mind…”
The salesman threw his arm out in front of him. The man tensed up and now became much more serious. Before he could speak, however, the salesman spoke up.
“See for yourself, my friend,” he said, pointing at a nearby squirrel.
He took a watch from his coat and turned the second hand back five seconds, and then he clicked it. When the man looked up from the watch, the squirrel was further back than it had been just one moment before, and it once again started to walk where it had been walking.
The man rolled his eyebrows inward.
“How did you do that?” he asked.
“Like I said, my friend,” the salesman replied, smiling grimly with the corners of his mouth sharpened, “these watches can turn back time. Literally.”
The man stared at him for a moment. They both stood with their eyes fixed on one another.
“Forget it,” said the man. “I’ve got no time for a scam or some fancy sleight of hand.”
“Why of course,” said the salesman. “I couldn’t ask you to take my word for it. After all, we just now met.”
The man looked at him, expecting a further offer. When none such offer came, he started to walk away, keeping his eyes on the man until he was a ways off.
“Ever wondered if you could get paid for two days worth of work in only one?” called the salesman.
The man stopped and listened.
“Why not try for yourself?” said the salesman. “First one’s on me. I know a good buyer when I see one.”
The man turned and walked back up to him.
“What are you up to?” he said.
“See for yourself,” said the salesman, handing the man a watch. “That one works in one hour increments, meaning only one hour at a time. Once the hour is passed, it’s free to change again.”
The man stared down at the watch. It was a simple gold-colored wristwatch. It had one hour hand, one minute hand, and one knob on the side. The numbers were plain and black against a white face.
“Go on,” said the salesman.
Looking back up at him, the man jerked the watch from his hand and walked away. The salesman watched him, smiling his same, coy smile.
A few moments later, when the salesman was out of sight, the man stopped walking and looked down at the watch. He examined it all over for some sort of embellishment, but it was as plain as any watch he’d ever seen.
“This is insane,” he muttered, shaking his head.
He put it into his pocket and started walking again. It was only a few minutes, however, before his interest got the best of him. He pulled it out and set the time back one hour before he could rethink it. Immediately, the surroundings around him changed. People that hadn’t been there appeared, though they didn’t seem to notice him, for there were many people around. He looked around at everything. All seemed normal, though it was most certainly a different moment than the one he had been in before.
Just then, his phone rang.
“Hi honey, I was calling to see if you’d be coming home on time.”
It was his wife.
“Well yes, of course. I already told you just a few moments ago.”
“Umm…no I don’t think so. Did you call?”
“Well, no. You called me. Don’t you remember?”
“Are you feeling ok? You’ve been pulling some late hours this month. Maybe it’s time you took a break.”
The man laughed quietly to himself. “It worked,” he thought. “It really worked.”
“Oh yes. You know, on second thought, I may stay a bit later so that I can leave earlier tomorrow for a long weekend.”
“Well, ok. If you’re sure. A long weekend would be nice.”
“I’ll see you at home around six.”
“Alright, that sounds good. I love you.”
“I love you too.”
He hung up the phone and held the watch up above him. He laughed as he looked at it.
“That joker sold me a time machine!” he said. “Wait, a minute. He didn’t sell me anything. He gave it to me.”
The man laughed again and walked back to work.
When he got back to work, there were people all around doing the things they had been doing a short while before the man had left. He went back into his office and picked up a project he had been working on. He continued his work, though his mind was rather occupied by the watch.
When he had come to a stopping point, he realized that it had been more than an hour since he had changed the time. Looking down at the watch, he thought about what the salesman had said.
“It sure would be nice to finish this today,” he thought. “Another hour would do it.”
He turned the hour hand back and clicked the knob in. Immediately, he heard commotion outside his office that hadn’t been there the moment before.
The next day, the man changed the time on his watch three or four times, giving himself quite a bit more time to work. Pleased with the amount of work he had done, he left more satisfied than usual.
When he came outside, he saw the salesman standing not far off and ran over to him.
“Where did you get this thing?” he asked.
“I made it myself,” the salesman replied. “I make all my watches myself.”
“Well, whatever it was worth to you, it sure helped me out a lot,” said the man.
“I thought it might,” replied the salesman. “That model is a fine one, though I don’t prefer it. The constant need to change every hour is rather bothersome, if you ask me.”
“What, you mean you have others?” asked the man.
“Did you not see my collection?” replied the salesman, opening his coat again. “Perhaps you’d like to make a purchase. Time isn’t cheap you know, but for a reasonable fee, it can be yours.” He handed a larger watch to the man.
“What kind of fee are we talking?” asked the man, taking the watch.
“One hundred even would about cover it,” said the salesman.
The man laughed.
“Not too bad for a time pocket-sized time machine,” he said. “I think I’ve had enough fun though, so I’ll pass.”
“Ah, but this one can set back eight hours at a time,” said the salesman. “Why, you could make your money back in a single day!”
The man stopped laughing and looked at the salesman very seriously.
“Alright,” he said. “What’s the catch here. What are you trying to pull?”
“A hundred dollars is nothing for what this device is capable of,” said the salesman, “but I’m afraid people just don’t believe in this sort of thing. There’s no money in it. Not yet anyway.” He smiled his grim smile. “I’d hate to see a successful man such as yourself miss out on such an opportunity.”
The man stared at him for a long moment, then lowered his eyes to the watch.
“How do I know this isn’t just an ordinary watch?” he asked.
“If this were a scam, I can assure you I would be asking for much more than a hundred dollars, especially after your having seen what my work was capable of.”
The man looked at him in the eyes for a moment, then once again he lowered his eyes to the watch. Suddenly, in a fit of compulsion, he pulled out his wallet and counted out five twenty dollar bills.
“There’s your hundred,” he said. “Now no more sales from now on. I’m already regretting this.”
“You won’t regret it, Sir,” smiled the salesman.
The man went for a few days without pulling out the watch. He continued his work as he had before he had ever known about the salesman. One day, however, when he was far behind on a last minute project, he pulled the watch out at the end of the day and clicked it back eight hours. Immediately, he realized that it had worked wonderfully, as the office was nearly empty and very few people had arrived yet. Smiling from his success, he continued where he had left off.
As time went on, the man used the watch more from time to time. At first, he used it only in the case of an emergency, but gradually he started to use it as often as every week. His boss was thrilled with his outstanding workflow, and it wasn’t long before he received a major promotion. He continued to use the watch often, sometimes even daily, until he climbed through the ranks so far that he was making three times the salary that he had been making when he started.
He spent his money compulsively, though most of it he saved or invested, making more money from his investments. When his wife started to complain about him becoming a workaholic, he began using the one hour watch to set back time in the mornings when he woke up so that he could leave while his wife was asleep and avoid having a morning confrontation.
One day, he came home and a note had been left on the kitchen table saying that his wife had left him. He drowned himself in his work, doubling his workload on top of what it had already been. His coworkers were so taken aback by his success that they began to drift away from him, and he became very difficult to work with. Finally, he became so hard to work with that he was let go from his job. Having amassed such a large amount of money, however, he took the loss in stride and continued to profit from his investments, which had already become his largest source of income.
Over time, his body became weary and he struggled to stay asleep for more than an hour or so. He worked so much without sleep that his mind started to fail, and eventually, a heart attack put him into the hospital. When no one came to see him, he became so bitter that he ostracized himself from all of his acquaintances.
One day, he found himself outside alone, and the salesman happened to be walking nearby. He came over to the man and greeted him.
“You seem to have made quite a return from that hundred dollars,” he said.
“You no good, petty thief!” shouted the man. “You ruined my life with this thing!”
“Ah, but it is you who used it in such bad health,” said the salesman.
“You knew this would happen,” he replied.
“Perhaps,” said the salesman. “You had that look in your eye from the moment I saw you, though. I did nothing to make you what you weren’t already.”
“Get away from me before you get what you’ve got coming to you,” said the man. “I told you I was through with you and I meant what I said.”
“Perhaps I could help you out?” said the salesman. “After all, I do have many different devices.
The man scowled at him but did not speak. The sales pulled out a large pocket watch from inside his coat.
“This is my crowning achievement,” he said. “Simply set the date you wish to go back to, and there you have it. All can be mended. Such a beauty as this though could never be sold.”
The man tried to scowl at him some more, but the words crept in his mind until he was gazing at the watch.
“Name your price,” he said.
“Five million should about cover it,” replied the salesman, smiling.
The man scoffed, but did not look away.
“You’re out of your mind,” he said.
“Perhaps,” replied the salesman. “I do not care. And neither should you. Ten million since you made me repeat myself. Any more rejection and I walk.”
The man jerked his head back up in disapproval, but he did not speak.
“What’s it gonna be, mister?” asked the salesman.
The man looked away for a moment and thought of all the money he had made. Ten million was a lot, but he had it. It was almost all he had, but he had it none the less.
“Ten million,” he said, “for a reset button.”
“Small price to pay,” smiled the salesman.
“You’ve got a deal.”
The man set the time back to the very day he had first met the salesman. He didn’t go in to work, but instead, he walked through his house and found everything as it had been. His wife was there again, she was in love with him, and all was as it had been. All except one thing. The man’s body had not gotten younger. He was still worn and as he had become. He himself was younger, but his body had lived far more years than his age proclaimed. Tired from all his work, he left his job and took a part-time position elsewhere. His wife disagreed at first, but she found the extra time with him enjoyable. They moved into a smaller home, and were surprisingly much happier.
One day, they were walking, when the salesman came up around the corner. The man’s heart sank, and he thought he would have another heart attack.
“Afternoon, folks,” said the salesman. “Could I interest you in a new watch? These are no ordinary watches. These watches can turn back time!”
The man’s wife laughed and looked at the fine display of watches.
“No thanks,” said the man. “I believe I’ll pass.”
“Haven’t you ever wanted to buy yourself some time, mister?” asked the salesman, smiling his grim smile just as he had before. It wasn’t clear whether he remembered the man or not.
“I think I’d rather learn how to use the time I’ve already got,” said the man. “Maybe another time.”