Pocket Watch Witches Ep. 1


No one saw me slip the minute hand into my pocket. I spent the last month working my way towards this last piece. Now that I had it, I wanted to go straight home and finish my latest project. Unfortunately, I had three more enchantments to finish at the factory before I could leave and still get paid. I reminded myself that patience had gotten me this far, that and theft. Thanks to my nimble fingers, I’d nearly paid off my contract with the factory. Not many WatchCasters complete their contracts while still in their twenties. If all went according to plan, I’d do just that. They rigged the system to keep us in debt as long as possible, so I didn’t feel the least bit guilty for breaking the rules.

I resisted the urge to rush through my remaining enchantments. The factory docked our pay for faulty products. I’d kept my record pristine since they’d picked up my contract. Each enchantment took close to an hour. Working that slow meant staying later than most of my coworkers, but it guaranteed every spell I worked into the watch cast perfectly every time. Normally, I didn’t mind watching my coworkers flow out of the factory before me. It wasn’t a normal day, though. I wanted to be at the head of the pack this time.

Only three WatchCasters stayed later than me regularly. Jobe ended up staying late at least once a week, but usually more than that, because of sloppy casting. Virginia and Lyle, though, rivaled me for determination and attention to detail. They’d mentored me when I first got my assignment to The Shaw’s Watch Factory. And I took every lesson to heart. If they stayed on track, they’d be out of their contracts before they reached their mid-thirties. If they’d had mentors as good as they were now when they started out, they’d probably have moved on already. Our slower style of enchanting the watches drained our magic less than speeding through like our coworkers. Push enough power into an average casting, and you’d get decent enough results for your watches to pass muster. Sewing our magic into the castings with more precision meant that watches from the three of us earned a markup at retailers.

“Good day today, Dimitri?” Lyle asked, coming up behind me to clock out.

“Not bad,” I said. I stayed terse with him to avoid embarrassment. With his warm hazel eyes, deep brown skin, and sharp jaw, he had no shortage of admirers. I didn’t trust myself not to say something stupid that let him in on my crush. I stood no chance with him. Lyle didn’t go out with guys.

“You headed home?” he asked, already knowing my answer.

“Yeah,” I said.

“You should get out more, D. It’s not healthy to only have work in your life.” He patted me on the back. The contact thrilled me, almost making me agree with him.

“I’m all right,” I said instead.

“One of these days, you ought to come to the Caster’s bar. It’s a lot of fun,” Lyle said.

“Leave him be,” Virginia said, catching up with us on our way out of the building. “You’d be closer to the end of your contract if you followed his example.”

“I’m doing fine with my contract, thank you very much,” Lyle defended.

“Better than most of our coworkers, at least,” she joked, giving us a conspiratorial smile.

“What about you, V? Care for a drink?” he asked.

“Are you paying?” she countered.

“As pretty as we are, neither of us will need to pay,” Lyle bragged. I didn’t feel that way about Virginia, but I agreed with him objectively.

“You said that last time and I ended up stuck listening to some know-nothing Caster explain enchantments I could do in my sleep. I’d say that waste of time is its own form of payment.” She always had a retort. They were a well-matched pair, or they would be if they felt that way about each other. I’d thought they were a couple for a while, but Virginia told me there was no chance.

“I’ll run interference this time. Come on, don’t make me go alone,” Lyle pressed.

“Fine. But if you try to sneak off with some girl, you can count me out next time,” she said.

“Fair enough. Last chance, D. You sure you won’t join us?” he asked. Part of me wanted to go. I enjoyed their banter and wouldn’t mind more of it. But I was more excited about the prospect of using the minute hand I’d sneaked out of work.

“No thanks. You two have fun, though,” I answered.

“One of these times, you’re gonna say yes.” Lyle smiled.

“Good night, Dimitri,” Virginia said, and the two of them turned right as I turned left.

I rushed through feeding Cogton, my cat, and eating something myself. I’d likely forget altogether if I didn’t eat before I started. As soon as I finished my meal, I closed myself in my workshop. Cogton scratched at the door for a minute before getting bored and moving on. This room was the one exception to my frugal lifestyle, and even it was more investment than an extravagance. I wouldn’t be able to open my watch shop once I paid off my contract if I didn’t have a space to practice my custom jobs. I removed the minute hand from my pocket and set it on one of my trays. Then I got the unfinished watch from my safe.

I’d stolen all the materials for my prototypes. Private citizens can’t buy magicked metal for personal use. Only businesses like my employers had the licenses and capital to obtain it legally from The Forge. Once I finished enchanting this last watch, I still had to find a place to sell them under the table. I carefully attached the minute hand to the watch face, followed by the second hand. With the last piece in place, I set it to the proper time and started it. I sighed my relief when the gears turned smoothly and the second hand ticked. If it hadn’t worked, I’d need to take it apart and try again. It wouldn’t be the first time.

More than keeping time, the motion of the gears would recycle the energy of the watch’s enchantments until the next time the owner wound it up. I set the pocket watch on my work table gently. Several soothing breaths later, I’d gotten my excitement under control. The Academy always taught us not to cast without centering ourselves and clamping down on any powerful emotions. Without a clear mind, too many things could go wrong with the enchantments. Screwing up an enchantment at work meant supervisors docking the wasted materials from our wages and replacing whatever magicked metal the flawed casting clung to. I didn’t have that luxury. Stealing all these pieces, even spaced out over months, risked my job and my casting privileges. I didn’t want to chance getting caught any more than necessary.

I spent the next hour and a half chanting and tracing sigils in the air. The numeral one on the watch’s face glowed from start to finish. After the last bit of light faded from the number, I picked the watch up and went to the mirror. I took a deep breath, turned the casting hand to 1 o’clock, and activated the spell. I vanished from the mirror. It worked! I still stood directly in front of the glass, but it reflected the workshop wall behind me. My reflection reappeared when I deactivated the magic. I set the pocket watch safely on the table and stepped back before breaking into a celebratory dance. I couldn’t help myself. One spell down, but no watch on the market could make its owner invisible. Even if I put standard spells on all the other numbers, it would still be a totally unique item. I put the watch in my safe and went to bed, spent but overjoyed. It wouldn’t be long now.

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