For many years, Erick toiled in a glassblower’s shop under his father’s supervision. He learned everything there was to understand about the ancient art of shaping glass. Just by watching the burning oven, he could determine if the heat was correct. The sand was always properly measured and filtered. With skill that rivaled magic, Erick could spin the molten glass while blowing a right amount of air. His creations were smooth and nearly flawless.
The apprenticeship wasn’t easy. Glass is a fickle medium. Imperfections could not be sanded out or painted. It would not bend – if put under pressure it would shatter. Imperfections were common even under a skilled hand. Erick found the skills difficult at first and tried to quit but his father, a man named Charles, refused to allow him to leave. There were times Erick’s immaturity overcame him and he would purposely quench misshapen bottles.
Everything changed for Erick after his father crafted a special vase for him. Other than a bold streak of violet beginning at the lip and pooling along the base, the vase’s structure wasn’t spectacular but its effect was profound. When Erick looked into it, his eyes filled with images of wealthy commissions by royal houses. Princes vied for this handiwork; offering him handsome prices. Erick gazed into a future filled with promise and prosperity all because of his keen skills shaping glass. The images were not imaginary; instead they were keen in detail. The vision of the future seared away Erick immaturity and from that hour on, the boy worked tirelessly to master his craft. He accepted his father’s training with zeal.
The next day the purple staining was gone and only days later the vase cracked and broke. Clear shards covered the floor one moment and in the next they were gone. The broken glass simply dissolved. It was as if the earth absorbed them. When Erick expressed dismay at losing the vase, Charles simply shrugged and moved on. “When time is gone, it can never be reclaimed.”
During the next few years, Erick surpassed his aging father and became a true master in his own right. And yet, he was never able to add to the magic allure that some of his Charles’s work had. Some claimed the glassblower’s work allowed them to see the future. Erick didn’t doubt them but was afraid to share the vision he had experienced – even with his father.
“Erick, come.” His father’s worn hand took Erick’s shoulder and pulled him aside. “I have something I need to show you before the sands of time drag me under. Follow me to the back room where we store the sand and coal.”
Both men entered a small, dark storage room. Coal was heaped to one side and sand on the other. The wooden floor was smudged black and worn smooth from years of shoveling fuel into a small kart and wheeling it toward the furnace. Long, iron clamps and other tools hung from thick rafters.
“Take the sand shovel and move the entire pile near the door. There’s something underneath you should know about.”
“What is it father?”
“Time, distilled and tangible. Hurry, we must do this before your mother or sisters come back from the commons.”
Erick’s back and arms were sore from the day’s work but found new life with such an unexpected prospect. His shovel didn’t slow or tarry until bulk of the sand was shifted close to the door. With the last few scoops, Erick finally found something unusual. Near the room’s corner, built into the floor was a door less than two feet square. Along one side the top of an iron ring poked through the sand. Erick tossed the tool aside. His finger dug out sand inside the ring and he lifted. It took some effort before he was able to pry the door free from the grit that had wedged between it and the rest of the floor. Inside was a square gold plate. It was engraved and each corner was being bit by what Erick believed were small snake heads.
“Lift it out. There’s much more than you can see from above.”
Erick wrapped his fingers around the edge of the gold plate and lifted it out. There was something heavy attached. As it emerged from the hole, Erick finally understood what he was holding. It was a massive hourglass almost three feet tall fitted with solid gold. The upper and lower hemispheres were fashioned from crystal and clear to near invisibility. Sand, almost as warm and deep yellow as the gold, filled both halves. Even now, it trickled silently into the lower half. The rods that affixed both the top and bottom plate were shaped into long snake coils with the heads biting into the top plate.
“Father! This is a marvel! It must be worth five times what we could make in a year! Where did you get it? Why did I not know about this earlier?”
Charles’s expression didn’t change. “I don’t know how our ancestors came to possess it. I was told it was made by the Biblical Aaron at the same time as he fashioned the Ark of the Covenant. The sand came from the smashed tablets Moses first brought down from Mount Sinai. After they were broken they dissolved from stone into sand.”
“How long does it last? It was still pouring when I pulled it out.”
“No one knows. It will not flip. A force binds it and keeps it upright. Is it set to run out at the end of the age? Possibly the final judgment? Sand just continues to run from the top to the bottom.”
Erick wiped a little grime from the top of the hourglass. “What does this say?” There was script etched into the top of the timepiece but he didn’t recognize the characters.
“It’s an angelic language. I think the top portion reads, ‘Enta Socumal Demapola Jari Escosatia.’ Don’t ask me what it means. Now set it on the edge of the crate over there.”
Erick lifted the heavy treasure and heaved it onto the wooden box. He balanced one side against the crate and he continued to hold the opposite side up. The old man reached underneath and slid something aside. “There is a movable plate on the bottom. If you try hard enough, you can move it slightly to one side. A trickle of sand will escape. It isn’t much but if you’re patent you can capture enough to work with.”
“Work with!?” Erick finally understood the implications of such magical sand. “You have fashioned glass from it?! What happens!?”
“I think you know.”
“You mean the vase! I saw a purple glaze and in it the future!” As his father closed the plate, Erick pushed the hourglass completely on the crate.
Charles straightened and let the sand slowly spill though the gaps between his fingers. “It showed you a portion of time that would make a difference in your outlook. Time teaches. It forgets, destroys and advances without care or concern.
“I made a vase for you because I didn’t want you to lose the family’s skills. The purple you saw was more than I expected. It indicates grand prosperity. As it turns out, your skill has far surpassed my own and soon you will gain the notoriety your abilities deserve. I took some risk for if it had shown you black I would not have forgiven myself.”
“What does black mean?”
“The glass made from the sands of time take on shades based on what they have to show you. Black will show you great sorrow, loss, even death. Others I’ve discovered are purple for wealth, brown for poverty, pink for companionship, and white indicates peace. Often the colors are blended creating a fortune that is more complicated. Anyone can see the color but only the recipient can see the future.”
Erick was incredulous. “How can you not make use of this power? We should be crafting everything from this!”
“What it shows you cannot be controlled! If you see time as God has fashioned it, you may not stand to bear it. Do you want to know the coming suffering your children will endure or view your long forgotten grave? How about seeing your wife after her beauty has long faded? How can you enjoy your wine today when you know tomorrow you will suffer from a terrible fever? The burdens of this life should not be assumed until you must. Our lives are harsh and short. Enjoy what you have today and take pleasure in it.
“Now put it back.”
Erick complied without another word. He replaced the wooden panel and began moving the sand back where it covered the hourglass.
“One last thing…” Charles stood as Erick finished. “You must promise not to disturb the hourglass until I am gone. Even then, I would not use the sand. Your work is as fine as can be found. You will prosper; let it be enough.”
“As you desire father, it will remain here counting the seconds until eternity.”
Erick did as he promised. The seasons of his life changed from spring to summer. Nobles, mayors, and wealthy tradesmen sought his work. They paid him and he was able to marry well. His wife came from high blood and her father was an aristocrat from the neighboring province. Two girls followed and Charles watched over the growth of Erick’s family with great pleasure. He lived another fifteen years before his body was returned to the earth
All the while, Erick kept the hourglass near to his thinking. He wondered about the secrets that could be revealed. He wondered if the shape of the glass affected the fragments of time that would be shown. Erick had plans for the sands of time and now that his father was gone he was free to test them. The warnings were understood but for Erick it was madness to have such an opportunity and fail to try it.
Only a week after Charles was laid to rest, Erick returned to the storage room. Very little had changed; the coal and sand were piled where they had always been. It took him longer to move the sand then when he was younger but the excitement was the same. After almost an hour of work, the hidden door was uncovered. Erick took hold of the iron ring and forced the door free.
The gold hourglass was exactly as he remembered it – if feeling slightly heavier. Erick set it on the floor and tried tipping it to one side. It would not rock in any direction. He brought the seats of two chairs together and hefted the hourglass between them. Erick took a small pan and placed it under the hourglass, found the bottom plate, and pushed it slightly open. The trickle of golden sand began piling up along the bottom of the pan. It took three hours before Erick decided he had enough to work into a vase.
The sand was stubborn and was reluctant to melt. Flames from the furnace were made strong making it difficult for Erick to get close enough to melt the sand. When it did comply, the molten glass gave off light beyond the expected orange glow. Instead it gave off a white light not overwhelming but steady. Erick spun the solidifying glass on the ends of his rods working it into a narrow-necked flask. It was an exquisite work by any standard.
When it was finished, Erick held the flask up by his fingertips. Sunlight danced and wavered through the glass. A few moments later, a strong green hue spread with slow fingers throughout the bottle. “Hmmm, I had no one in mind as I shaped it. Perhaps someone will see something in it that I cannot. I’ll set it along my storefront for sale.”
The very next day the new cobbler flew through the Erick’s shop door. He was a young man of marrying age. “Master Erick! Master Erick! That green flask you have in your window! It’s amazing! It sounds like foolishness but I believe I saw something like a dream inside of it!”
Erick set down his tools. “Tell me Timothy, what did you see?”
Timothy spread his hands. “Well, I saw myself taking my entire inheritance and investing it with Kamron’s caravan group. The man is a boar and once he found out my grandfather had died he’s been pestering me continually! I’ve been ignoring him and was going to buy several sets of new clothes instead. You see, there is a lady I’ve been working to attract. However, I saw myself lending Kamron the money and six months from now receiving close to three times as much in return! I saw it all and it felt real!
“I believe the vision and now I want to purchase the flask. Tell me, how much?”
Erick couldn’t believe it. This young man was given the benefit of a hard lesson before living through it. His inheritance was saved thanks to the wisdom time’s perspective could bring. Immediate pleasure delayed for much greater gain in the future – the benefit of time!
“Six months from now your new clothes could have been food for moths but now you have the right perspective. Take the flask. There is no charge.”
That night, Erick went back to the hourglass. He siphoned off additional sand and the next morning he began work on a glass bowl. Again, the heat necessary to work the magic sand was excessive. Erick felt as if his skin cooked each time he had to approach the furnace. The finished bowl was peach in color and completely level; a true marvel.
“I shall set this at the edge of my highest shelf, crowded by many other works. It shall be a test of the hourglass’s unique power. I wonder who will be able to next partake of the hourglass’s perspective?”
Erick did as he planned. The bowl was even set behind a much more elaborate pitcher Erick had made. For almost three days, those who entered his shop glanced about or spoke with Erick, but no one ever mentioned the glass bowl. Some even commented on the glassblower’s other works, but nothing was said about the bowl.
On the fourth day, a young woman entered Erick’s shop. She was dressed well but her clothes were dirty and it looked as if the woman had not bathed for some time. Her eyes met Erick’s and filled the glassblower’s heart with pity. He knew this woman. Her husband and three year old son became sick over this last winter with a terrible fever. Both had perished and she was left alone. Her father and the church had tried to care for her but she could do nothing but weep over her loss.
She had come to beg him for a few glass needles. They were once a specialty of Erick’s; now his apprentices made them from thin metal molds and open the needle’s eyes with a thin bit of wire. Erick gave them to the poor to sell. This young widow had been in many times. Erick placed a few in her apron when something attracted her attention. Her eyes were taken away from his almost as if they were pulled with strings. Her gaze fell to the top shelf. “What, what is…?”
Erick made a dismissive gesture toward the far wall. “Everything you see is for sale of course, but are you sure you can afford it?”
She didn’t respond. The widow took two steps toward the shelves then stopped. “May I see that amazing peach colored bowl you have there? Please let me see it. Please.”
“The bowl? Yes, you may see it. Let me get it down for you.” Erick took his step stool and took the bowl down. The widow had her hands open and gently lifted it away from Erick. Immediately Erick could see deep shades of violet and crimson swim through the cream color then slowly dissipate.
“Look! Look, do you see it?!” Her brows lifted and she smiled. “There! Between the reds and the violets! I can see myself! I am beautiful again and there are arms to love me!” She had to close her eyes; tears zigzagged down her dirty cheeks. “I have a family again!” The widow clasped the bowl to her dress. “How much?! Please, how much do you want for this magnificent bowl!?”
Erick studied her for a moment. “The bowl is yours if you will tell me exactly what you saw in it.”
“Hope.” The word came without thought. It sounded like a reflex. “The unrelenting ache of losing my family has worn into acceptance. It is a bitter acceptance to be sure, but one I can live with. There is hope.”
Erick seemed perplexed, “I don’t understand.”
“I saw another man who loves me even more than my first husband and two little girls that follow me around town doing as I do. They kiss my cheek and life is wonderful again – they give me hope.” She paused to wipe the tears from her eyes. “I believe this vision. It seems so real! It sings to my soul.”
“Take the bowl. It’s yours.”
That very hour, Erick returned to the back room and began moving the sand aside. “The benefit of time! Imagine! Perhaps the sands will speak to me again blessing me with the wisdom of future experiences! I will try again this time crafting for my wife.”
He removed the large hourglass and again placed it between two stools. The slide on the bottom was reluctant to move but eventually it opened. Bits of glimmering gold began pouring into the tin pan Erick had placed on the floor. It took hours for the sand to finally accumulate enough for the tall vase Erick planned to fashion. Then the sand suddenly stopped. Erick looked under the hourglass to divulge the problem. The plate had moved back into place without help and would not move again. Erick had no choice but to replace the hourglass and the concealing pile of sand. He then estimated the sand he had extracted. “It will be enough. I’ll make the vase first thing tomorrow and see what becomes of it.”
The next day was Saturday and the glass shop would not be open for business. Everything felt quiet and empty as Erick began to work. Before the sun’s new beams lit the eastern sky, the glassblower had the furnace to its hottest breath. When the radiated heat felt as if it was blistering his skin, only then did the Erick begin his work. He spun and spun the thin layer of glass molding in into a shape that was he could nearly make blindfolded. It had a narrow base, gracefully swelled as it rose then closed forming a perfect lip. As he finished the vase, there was a small amount of sand leftover.
“The fire is still high – I suppose I can make a lamp globe.”
That afternoon, Erick’s wife quietly entered the shop to surprise her husband a half loaf of warm rye bread. She was baking that morning and wanted Erick to enjoy the fresh bread while he worked. She entered the shop quietly so that her husband wouldn’t know she was there.
Erick was still putting the finishing touches on the simple globe when he finally noticed his wife. She was handling the vase he had crafted – her eyes seemed transfixed. “Julia, the vase…how did you know?”
But Julia didn’t respond – her eyes were locked on the vase. Erick stepped beside her and watched as black pooled up then rose from the base swelling like a thundercloud. As fast as he could, Erick knocked the vase out of her hands. It struck the floor smashing into countless tiny fragments.
“Julia, what did you see?!”
Julia turned to him, eyes wide and filling with tears. Her face became a terrible mix of sadness and anguish. It seemed as if her soul was crushed – bleeding from some mortal wound. She seemed to waver for a moment before running toward the back door.
Erick followed begging for her to explain. He caught his wife by the arm just as she shoved the back doors open. Julia spun and as hard as she could – stuck him with her fist. The blow landed on Erick’s shoulder and he did not release her.
Julia began struggling wildly throwing her fists into her husband’s chest in an effort to get away. Erick had one arm and refused to release her. “What’s wrong!? Julia, what did you see?!”
She finally kicked her way free. Julia was sobbing now. “Why, Erick – why?! You’ve found a younger tart! I have always l-loved you and I, I believed we shared that, that love.” Sobs came uncontrollably – she was choking on her words.
“Julia, I don’t know what you’re saying!” Erick stood before her with his palms outstretched. “There’s no tart! I have ever been yours! What you saw in the vase was only a vision! It’s not the truth – it’s…”
“No!” She cut him off. “It’s as real as you standing before me now!” Before Erick could get in another word or even approach his wife – she bolted for their home.
That evening was the worst of Erick’s life. Julia would not be counseled. She was convinced that what she saw was the truth. The next day Julia had saddled two horses, one for her and the other for their daughters. As soon as the sun was up, she and the girls rode away even as the Erick continued to plead with her.
During the next several months, Erick traveled to his father-in-law’s many times in an effort to win back his family. Julia would not see him and Erick was given only limited exposure to his daughters. A divorce was forced upon Erick by Julia’s father and he was no longer welcome in the halls of his wife’s maiden home.
A year passed, and then another, Erick’s heart never completely healed but he did come to accept the destruction of his family brought about by the mystic glass. Eventually he did marry again, and although it was impossible for him to know, his second wife was the woman Julia saw in her vase. Erick loved his new wife, a woman named Helen, with as much vigor has he did Julia. A little less than a year after their marriage, Helen delivered a son. They named him Charles in honor of Erick’s father. Charles developed quickly and spent much of this youth learning the glass blowing trade from his father just as Erick had done.
Erick grew frail and died only two months after Charles took full control of the shop. The elder glass blower rejoined the earth without telling his son about the powerful relic that hid under the sand in the back room. There was no warning only a hope that the hourglass would never be found again.
One late summer evening, Charles was working late in the glass shop trying to rework the ledgers. The long hours of summer sunlight had finally weakened to the point Charles could no longer see clearly. He found the lamp. With ink covering his fingertips, the globe slipped out of his hand and broke on the wooden floor. “Very well, I’ll fetch another.”
He pulled an old globe from the storage room and lit the oil wick before sliding the globe over the brass fittings. Without warning, the glass flared with a piercing white light. Charles fell back dropping the lamp. It struck the floor and the second globe was broken. The light went out with it.
Charles rubbed his eyes. He’d seen a vision of him uncovering the most magnificent hourglass he’d ever seen and then burying it in a forgotten corner of the woods. Words he could not explain were emblazoned into his memory. “Enta Socumal Demapola Jari Escosatia – God allows men to hold the future with only wisdom and hope.”