It’s a real pleasure! Tell me more about you and your book!
I incorporated some personal experiences into What the Clocks Know, but I’m glad to say that the following scene from Chapter One isn’t one of them. I did play Ouija once when I was young, but I sadly don’t remember a single question or answer that we asked or received. My friend and I played it during the day, which felt very benign, and we didn’t take it seriously, so that was that. (Let’s hope, anyway!) My characters here don’t take it very seriously either, but I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler to say this game does have significance for Margot, the protagonist, later on.
Ouija aside, the first chapter, where this excerpt is from, does draw a lot from my school-age experience. I visualized my own childhood bedroom while writing it, and Derek and Sylvie are arguably an amalgam of different friends across high school and college. Grandma Grace, too, is based on my real grandmother, who passed when I was only five. But she left behind a treasure trove of rhinestone jewelry that I loved to play with. The idea of the brooch came to me from that, in part, but also a rather spiritual experience that I had in Italy right after graduating from university. Long story short, after one hell of a day traveling, my friends and I climbed the steps to a hilltop hotel in Cinque Terre, and just when I didn’t think I had anything left in me to make it much further, we found ourselves in this little clearing, and beyond that was the Mediterranean and the moon. I stared at that moon a good long while as I underwent an internal epiphany of sorts, and the experience later inspired a short story–featuring a Margot and her grandmother’s brooch–that in turn inspired this book.
The Ouija session began straightforwardly enough. Derek initiated the séance by questioning whether there was indeed a spirit present that would like to communicate with three mortals. None were surprised to see the plastic indicator skid toward the calligraphic Yes, and a ghostly “Wooo!” or two infused their chuckles.
The game was on.
Straight away, the trio learned that, Yes, it was a good spirit, No, it wasn’t a male, and, for good measure, Yes, it was female.
Warming up to the ritual, Sylvie clapped. “My turn!” Her toothy smile radiated rainbows and kittens; no wonder children gravitated toward her Story Hour in throngs at the public library. She boldly asked how the specter had passed away.
The planchette didn’t budge.
Again, Sylvie prompted, “How did you die?” Nothing. She pouted. “I’m not good at this.”
“C’mon, neither of you can come up with a reason?” Margot accused, and the game’s typical argument ensued, with each of the three blaming the indicator’s movement on the other two. And every one of them denying it.
They opted for a less open-ended question – “How old are you?” – so that someone could think up a quick answer. The triangular plastic nudged to the lower-left quadrant of the board until 2 was visible through its circular window. Then, with some friction, the device tugged their limbs toward the right in a non-linear path; it reached a point where it faltered and subtly wavered around the 6. After dawdling there for a few seconds, the energy lost strength and stopped.
Margot shifted, unnerved that she’d just celebrated that same birthday. “Huh. When did you die, then?”
“You guys wanna skirt around that topic, don’t ya?” she asked, trying to lighten the mood in a literally darkening environment, to which Sylvie replied they might say the same of her.
“Fine, we’ll sidestep the D word, Miss Eggshells,” Derek sassed at the ghost, “and do the math ourselves. When were you born?”
Then, zigzagging to the right with less conviction, the plastic planchette ultimately settled on 8 and powered out.
“Eighteen,” Sylvie contemplated. “That could mean the eighteen hundreds. Or the last two digits of the year, which could be in any century.”
“Or just one and eight,” Margot said, “as in any of the four digits in the year.”
“Or it’s a month and date: January eighth or August first,” Derek offered. “Or the eighteenth of some month. If we really stretch, it could be the eighteenth hour in military time, too. So, like, six p.m.”
“Let’s get some clarification.” Clearing her throat, Margot asked, “Is that your time of birth?” No.
“Your date of birth?”
“Your time of death?”
The pause lasted nearly half a minute, and Margot assumed their session had ended. But she
followed the others’ cue and resisted talking, just in case.
Their darting glances still carried suspicion, though. Who was moving the planchette, and would
they do it again, one last time for some closure? Margot knew they were all curious how at least one of them would continue weaving this fictitious life story. It was the death story, though, that she wanted someone to tell, be who or what it may.
Casting a wary eye at her companions, she noticed how the shadows of trees genuflected across Derek’s features. Sylvie kneeled across from him with her back to the window, her head crowned with a dull halo of sunlight from behind. Sitting adjacent to both, Margot had knotted her legs into a lotus position and could feel the contrast in her face’s temperature between illuminated and shadowed halves.
There was a small intake of breath, which drew her eyes back to the board.
The planchette had twitched back to life.
It circled an etching of the moon twice before settling back on No, where it gained momentum
and vacillated so fervently it might have scraped away the board’s surface had it continued more than a few seconds. Instead, it drifted down to I, then L, back to I, then sank a centimeter, where the tops of both the U and V sprouted into view through the clear lens.
During a pause, Sylvie twisted and reached an arm behind her for the pen and paper she’d used earlier to itemize the storage boxes. Margot nodded her kudos as Sylvie recorded letter for letter with her free hand, labeling the U and V with a question mark and using a slash to mark the pause.
In the meantime, the planchette had made its way back to the crescent moon, resting there for a while until slowly dragging to the far left, dwelling around that side of the alphabet.
BOO, Sylvie wrote with a heavy exhale and eye roll at this predictable reply from a ghost, and Margot half-expected a white cotton sheet with eyeholes to materialize at any moment to reinforce the corny image. Yet the plastic hadn’t stopped moving beneath their fingertips.
I, N, G. Pause. P, A, L, E, R. Pause. O, R, C, H, I, D. Finally, it stopped spelling but dragged back up to the moon.
In the quiet, Margot stared at the little etching of the moon nesting in a puff of dark clouds. Her chest tightened with a keen sense of familiarity, and, trying to place it, her mind wandered its way back to her Grandma Grace and this gaudy yet amazing brooch she’d given Margot years ago – a large pearl set in a cluster of sapphire and turquoise stones that she always thought looked like the night sky. She wondered if maybe she’d find that brooch somewhere in her closet. In her nostalgia, her muscles relaxed and allowed the pads of her fingers to lie more passively on the planchette.
The activity picked up in intensity after that, leaving Sylvie with three more words to add to her notes as the grand finale:
I M / O PE N D I G / H E A R T C L O T
Derek shattered the stillness by flicking the plastic indicator off the board, which he then clapped shut with a “See ya!” Sylvie exaggeratedly trembled like she had the heebie-jeebies and bolted straight for the light switch. Margot sat in serenity.
~ * ~
About What the Clocks Know:
Finding a ghost isn’t what Margot had in mind when she went ‘soul searching’, but somehow her future may depend on Charlotte’s past.
Woven between 21st-century and Victorian London, What the Clocks Know is a haunting story of love and identity. A paranormal women’s fiction, this title is available as of March 18, 2016 from Crooked Cat Publishing.
“A unique tale of the paranormal – as beautiful as it is haunting.” ~ Shani Struthers, author of Jessamine and the Psychic Surveys series
~ * ~
Rumer Haven is probably the most social recluse you could ever meet. When she’s not babbling her fool head off among friends and family, she’s pacified with a good story that she’s reading, writing, or revising—or binge-watching something on Netflix. A former teacher hailing from Chicago, she presently lives in London with her husband and probably a ghost or two. Rumer has always had a penchant for the past and paranormal, which inspires her writing to explore dimensions of time, love, and the soul. She debuted in 2014 with Seven for a Secret (in which a Jazz Age tragedy haunts a modern woman’s love life), and her award-winning short story “Four Somethings & a Sixpence” (about a bride who gets a little something she didn’t register for) was released in 2015. What the Clocks Know is her second novel.