As dawn broke, Elara was already on her feet. She was in Elsternwick, the sign at the town entrance declared.
Elsternwick? What happened to Sandringham? Or was it Hawthorn?
For some reason, she felt that she should head to the old Victorian house on the edge of town. There, her heart skipped a beat as she almost without thought approached the old grandfather clock and found a note there.
She read the letter, and fragmented memories cascaded back. The townspeople, the house, the loops – it was all connected.
She decided to test the loop. Instead of following Mr Thorn – or was it Hampton? – she went to the local café. Immediately, she noticed flickering lights and shadows that seemed to shift independently.
“Hey, aren’t you the buyer’s agent from Elsternwick?” Elara asked Mr Thorn as she bumped into him outside the café, despite her effort to avoid him.
“Yes, I am! Here to help you find a home!” he replied with a mechanically cheerful smile.
Elara decided to dig for information about the Victorian house. “Do you know anything about its history?”
“Well,” he began hesitantly, “There’s a tale that it belonged to a renowned clockmaker. Some say he invented a device that could manipulate time, but something went wrong, and he vanished.”
As Mr Thorn spoke, the lights flickered more violently, and shadows coiled around them like serpents.
The house, the clock, the loops – could it all be part of some twisted clockwork?
The realisation was staggering. She felt like a puppet caught in the strings of a diabolical clockmaker. The townspeople continued their eerie, repetitive actions, ignorant or maybe enslaved to the loop.
A new resolve gripped her. As night crept in, the shadows seemed to whisper in her ear, “See you tomorrow.” But Elara shook her head.
“No, you won’t,” she whispered back.
Determined to break the cycle, she ran back to the inn. Tomorrow she would not be searching for a home, working with some Melbourne buyer’s advocacy. No, she had more important things to worry about than purchasing her dream home. Tomorrow, she would face the clock and wrench back control of her own time.