Clock Workers

I woke up and there was a crew of workers in my bedroom, cleaning and fixing and dismantling everything. One of them had taken the light bulb out of the bedside lamp. He was wearing black gloves, and he held the light bulb by the base in one hand while he used a feather duster to lightly dust it with the other. He held it up, contemplating its inner filament as though the bulb contained a miniature world of industry waiting to be illuminated. Another man had taken the back off of the alarm clock, and he was studying the gears inside with an eyepiece and poking at its inner mechanisms with a set of picks and tweezers designed for small, delicate work.

Across the room, by the window, there were two other men. One of them sat on the edge of the bed in front of a cart with a carousel slide projector on it, holding the trigger that advanced the slides, and the other stared out the window at the view, scratching his chin and thinking. Every time the man working the slide projector clicked the trigger, the scene outside the window would change. Summer, spring, fall. Mountains and pastures and rainy city streets. And the man at the window took his time considering each one. The thing he seemed to find the most important was how thoughtful the light cast back through the window from each scene made him look. He would draw himself up in various poses and attitudes, and when these failed to satisfy him, he would gesture to the man at the projector to advance to the next slide.

None of them had noticed yet that I had woken up, and when I yelled, “Hey!” they all stopped and looked at me. “You don’t need to do any of this. It’s fine,” I told them. They all looked at one another, knowing smirks spreading across their faces. They kept nodding to each other and repeating what I had said, “You don’t need to do any of this. It’s fine,” as though this were a source of sly amusement that I couldn’t comprehend. Finally another worker came forward, one that I hadn’t noticed before in the room. He swapped out the pillows that lay behind me against the headboard and replaced them with fresh ones. Then he placed his hand on my shoulder and eased me back down onto the bed, shushing me as I drifted back. This had the intended effect, and I got very tired, and I faded back off to sleep before I even felt my head come to rest against the pillows.

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