GAIA Solomon was eight years old when Father Time first visited her in her dreams. She was always close to her real father, a light-hearted and untroubled carpenter who she was not always familiar with for being poorly. When she turned seven however, things changed. Her father had suffered from a stroke and fortunately that time he was in the kitchen with her mother, so they could catch it before it was too late. It had been strange for Gaia to see her father laying in a hospital bed, with a lopsided face that couldn't smile the way it used to. His right arm was clenched against his chest when she first entered, his face tilted down to the side. Once her father had heard Gaia announcing her arrival, he hurried himself, trying to straighten himself upwards on the bed, although he couldn't. The happiness of seeing her father had ultimately vanished.
It was harder to move than it usually was, her father had said, but in time he would get better, and things would go back to the way they usually were. Just himself, her mother and Gaia again, not with all the nurses around to fuss over him.
Her fathers words had been true, and they reached a sense of normality again. Gaia's father was fit and healthy and had been crafting her a rocking horse, by the time she turned eight. She was impressed by the spectacular thing; he had crafted the head so that the horse had a thick carved out mane made from wood. There were handles at either side for her to hold, and a frame for the horse to rest its legs. He had carved a stool wide enough for her to sit on and he let her try her new toy out. He promised to buy her a soft pillow and pink ribbons, so he could fit it onto her new chair for her comfort. Though that same night she met a new friend, or foe, she couldn't really decide, though she felt that she knew him to be a friend.
He came at night after she closed her eyes. He was dressed in a thick robe made of grey and a large hood which shaded his face. He had spunned webs of silver white hair and a matching beard that reached his chest. He held a staff in his right hand with a big, antiquated clock that hung off the edge on a golden chain. In his left hand he held a mystical hourglass with browning red sand and the hourglass filled her dream up with kaleidoscope colours. The hunched man had scooped her into his arms and cradled her into a soothing hug. He sung a lullaby into her ears although she was hard of fully understanding the meaning of the words.
'Sometimes the time must come,
It's inevitable and you cannot run,
To change it can never be done,
So do not look for me and try to confront,
The grief will go away but your love will forever weigh a tonne.'
The old and wise-looking man had sung and as he pulled away from her as did all the colours from his magical hourglass. There was only darkness again and all that was left of Gaia to do was to open her eyes and learn that the sun had raised again.
Though the house was empty when she awoke. Her mother and father were not in the kitchen, neither were they in their bedroom when she checked. She went in the basement where her father did his carpentry, he wasn't there either. She sat beside her rocking horse and admired her father’s hard work as she waited for them to return. She stroked the horses mane and rode on his back for the hours that passed.
Although, her mother was alone when she arrived back home. Her eyes were bright red, and her cheeks were flushed. She sprung herself onto Gaia holding her in a tight hug. She told Gaia her father would never return home again. She said that he had gone to live with the angels and something about the man who visited her dream the night before made her believe that the angels might be real.
Gaia forgot all about the man who came to her in a dream until she turned nineteen. She stayed far away from that rocking horse, sadness was all that came with it, so it stayed locked in the cellar. Her grandmother was poorly that time around, terminal cancer that had been slippery to catch onto. It was bound to happen, her mother had said, her grandmother was eighty-four and sometimes these things just happen.
When the familiar feelings of grief had retaliated, Gaia had recollected the first set of anguish that overtook her when she learned of her father’s passing. She bolted the door of the cellar and sat down beside her old rocking chair. Life wasn't all that fair, she thought, and why couldn't people just live forever? For the first time she thought about how one day she would turn into ashes for the mud too and she wondered if she would have grace on that day. Then she remembered that peculiar dream she had, such an eerie coincidence, how could she forget?
So, she went upstairs, and she spoke to her mother. They had a good relationship, and they could tell each other anything but recently her mother’s face had changed. All her wrinkles were made prominent, and her tiredness were so visible, and her age had become a worrying note, she would pass away too someday. With her grandmothers diagnosis it was often hard to make memories. She knew that too they would turn into the rocking horse. Though she told her about the man in her dreams and her mother too found it strange, but she told her not to worry anyway.
They ate dinner together at the dining table like they usually did, and they visited her grandmother together at the hospital, like they usually did. When they returned home, she hugged her mother goodnight like she usually did and she tiptoed up to her bedroom. Then behind her she closed the door.
Gaia laid in her bed with her head on top of her pillow. She closed her eyes to sleep but her tears kept making their way through the creases. She hoped that strange man would come to her in her dreams again tonight, for she had so many questions.
When she finally entered the dream realm, the remarkable colours stained the dark page again. An arrangement of colours oozed in through her sleep and entered the man dressed in slate grey with the big hood that covered his face. He carried his staff with the hanging analogue clock and in his other hand he clutched onto the mysterious hourglass. He swayed the glass side to side as he came closer to her. He came close enough so that he could whisper to her and he handed her the hourglass.
In her hands she could tell that the hourglass contained abnormal strength. The man brought down his hood and showed her his face. There he stood, the elderly man with a face so wrinkled it could never be ironed. His eyebrows were grey tufts of felt and his eyes were dark brown and brimming with knowledge.
"My dear Gaia, why must you bring me here tonight?" He asked her softly. He held her cheek in his hand as she stared up at him. Gaia could feel the force of the winds of time contained within his palms.
"I have so many questions for you," Gaia told him, the man shook his head and took in a deep breath of air and sighed. His eyes had turned softened and sorrowful.
"I suppose I wanted to know that you were really real," she continued. He shrugged his shoulders at her.
"I must be real," he said, "for I am here now," he told her. Gaia nodded her head at him, he removed his hand from her face and sat cross legged in front of her. Gaia moved down towards him too and copied his actions. She held out the hourglass and looked at it in her hand.
"Why do you carry this hourglass and that stick? And just who are you?" Gaia continued her questioning. The man shifted uncomfortably and held his head down.
"I am only needed when the time is right. People don't usually ask me questions, for I am friends with death," he replied.
"Are you the grim reaper?" Gaia pried. The old man began to smile and shook his head.
"I am not the grim reaper, but he is my abetter. I don't like the news that I bring," the old man answered honestly. "I am Father Time, and I come before the grim reaper does, in the hope that I can make the time gentler for you." He told her.
"If you control the time, then can you save a life?" Gaia asked him with complete curiosity.
"No, my dear, I cannot control the time. Time cannot be controlled by anybody," he told her. “The time comes only when it needs to come and when the time has come, the time tells me." He explained.
"What about this hourglass?" She asked him, and she showed him the glass again. The rust-coloured sand was slowly trickling in a narrow stream into the other half. All the sand from the top had almost escaped into the half that Gaia held in her hands. Father time let out a huff gruff and looked away from her, his brows crumpling as his face displayed obvious haste.
"What if I flip over this hourglass?" Gaia asked brashly, she turned the hourglass over, so the side in her hands was almost empty. Father Time rubbed his hands together tensely and continued to look away from Gaia. The sand from the top had flooded and it was filled again the way it was before.
"I told you my dear friend, Gaia, that nobody controls the time, not even I," Father Time told her. "I wish you had not brought me here tonight," he said.
The grains of sand were tumbling, and the bright colours around them were beginning to fade. Father Time got up onto his feet, using his staff to support him. He held his hand down towards Gaia and she took his hand in her own. He helped her lift to her feet then he took the hourglass out of her hand. He threw his arms onto her shoulders, and he pulled her into his chest.
"No-" Gaia began to plead, her words muffled into his breast. She already knew what was coming.
"Sometimes the time must come," he began singing.
Gaia tried to push him away with all her might.
"It's inevitable and you cannot run," he continued.
Gaia tried to bend her knees to move herself under his arms and away from his side.
"To change it can never be done," he sung as he held on tighter.
"I'm not listening," Gaia had cried.
"So do not look for me and try to confront," he carried on.
Gaia wished she had never slept that night.
"The grief will go away but your love will forever weigh a tonne," he finished and just like that he pulled away, he turned into the sands of the glass and with the winds of time he blew along with it.
The colours were dripping to black and once again Gaia awoke in her bed, the sun had risen and as had her mother. She was sitting in Gaia's room at the edge of the bed with her eyes as red as the suit of Father Christmas.
"I'm sorry Gaia," she said.