The blind watchmaker hesitated as he held the tiny silver cog delicately between his pale, spindly fingers.
"Katya," his frail, sandpaper lips breathed as an old, tired mind remembered that young, pretty face. The feel of the cold silver in his hands reminded him of that little silver ring, just the right size for her little, smooth-as-glass finger. Oh, how perfect life had been back then. How promising life had looked, with so many years to spend together. So much time.
Time. What a cruel creature it was. It marched on and on, never lagging, inevitable and unstoppable. Yet sometimes it played tricks. Evil, awful tricks. Like sweeping up the young and the good in its steely grasp and taking them away, beyond its Earthly domain to a place where time was not even a thought, and life was but a memory.
Evgeny the watchmaker inserted the diminutive gear into the clock he was assembling, his empty eyes seeing nothing, but his adroit fingers feeling the way for him. Then he plucked up a needle-thin screwdriver and began to fix it into place.
Oh, Katya. Evgeny recalled the scent of her jasmine perfume, her rich, walnut eyes, from a time back when he could still see. His sightless eyes welled with tears which overflowed wrinkled lids and dripped down into his tangled gray beard.
It had rained the night she died; he could remember the mist, pearly and dense, like an endless cloud of swirling ghosts. It had been so dark, so foggy. He knew that he shouldn't have taken the carriage, but it had been the night before their wedding, and Evgeny had had one last gift for her: a tiny watch with a minuscule daguerreotype of the two of them embracing in the center.
But of course, the mist had been too thick, and the road through the forest had always been winding and rocky. But Evgeny, in his youthful passion, had persisted. He was nearly at her house, when a wheel struck a rock or a root and the carriage had listed. The horses, blinded and spooked, had reared, kicking wildly. Evgeny had fallen from the box seat onto the wet, leaf-strewn roadside and he had heard screaming. And then a hoof had found his face, blinding him and knocking him senseless. It was only days later, when he had awoken from a long, feverish sleep, that they had told him Katya had been there. The carriage had fallen on top of her and crushed her beneath it.
Evgeny supposed that he had done rather well for a blind man. They said he made the best watches anywhere. But the old horologist hated that every watch he made was a painful reminder of time's cruelty, it's relentless ticking down toward The End.
Evgeny finished with the watch in his hands. Although he couldn't see it, he knew that Katya's face was smiling up at him from behind the glass, wrapped in a permanent embrace with Evgeny's own self in the daguerreotype image. The only reminder he had of her, tantalizingly kept from him by his blindness.
The old man sighed as he held the watch delicately between his fingers. He could only fix watches, but how he wished he could fix his mistakes. How he had wished he could turn back those tiny hands and go back to a time where there had been a beautiful young woman called Katya.