This story is by D.B. Leath and was part of our 2017 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Here he was, not asking for much, but asking for enough. It had been a lifetime since he set about starting his career. But yes, here he was, some forty years later, just now reaching the end of the beginning. He heard the clack of the clock as it echoed in his ears. Each second ticked by with more urgency than the one prior. It was deafening. It was crushing. It brought to his view the dance of the young and joyful, still full of life. He wanted to murder them all. Perhaps then he would find his place in the world. He would find his meaning. In his mind he had become an unfathomable monster, preying on the naivety of life’s uninitiated.
He didn’t enjoy time. He had no reason to. There was only the pressure that came with it to be great. His father had begun working at twelve, he wasn’t half the man that his father was. His mother had taken his virtue, and ripped from his soul his innocence and hope. “It was only a matter of time”, the doctors said of his hostility. “He’s likely to be a sociopath without the right guidance.” The clock was ticking, the destination set.
He strode through an early life of altered states. There was no abuse in this new world, and there was no love contingent on despicable acts. Until there was. The minute hand had moved. He had stepped closer now to the terminal end, to the last doorway. That, at least, was some bit of comfort to his twisted soul. Life itself was its own perpetually torturous trail through the forest of life, finally reaching the quiet meadow of death. He loved everyone, but hated them all. The clock was ticking louder.
No child came from his exploit. He wouldn’t have wanted to bring life’s perpetual death to another so young and innocent as he had been. The void was near enough to swallow him. The tragedy of loneliness only surpassed by the possibility of togetherness. He was descending into his madness, drowning in his sea of sorrow. Tick.
He could hear the second-hand strain against its brake, the tension building exponentially. The breaking point reached, the tick encompassed all things. There was only the clock, ticking and taunting, laughing in his face. It was his master. It was his god. Tock. He could hear them all now, the chorus of souls whispered their siren’s call. He answered aloud with the only question worthy of his inquiry, “Why?” The clock responded, first with the strain of voice in its throat, then the release of its song. Tick. It was a deafening and solemn answer. It shook the world and broke the moon. Tock. His tools of flesh trembled like leaves as the oppressive clack became all he knew.
Looking down at those open hands, held fast by the tears shed and lives crushed, they strained against his bound wrists. The blood was still there. He could still feel it pooling in his palms, sticky and slick as it smothered the hands that once were so delicate in their use. They now sat as tethered dogs, choking against their chain, brutally efficient in their application of death. “Why?” the word had escaped his lips again, a gravelly, hoarse whisper, barely audible over, Tock! He took every last spring and screw from that demon’s guts a hundred times over in his mind. There would be no more. Tick! All he heard was his heart in his ears, the recitation of God’s supposed grace, and the clockworks of life’s worst means of torture. What he had given was a gift after all. All those who wouldn’t hear their own clock ticking away in the last seconds of their sick and miserable lives.
The sting and warmth caught him by surprise, kundalini rising as his lips tingled, his eyes blurred, but his hearing remained. Tock. They came quicker now, the clicks of time trickling away. “Like sands through the hourglass”, he thought, remembering his mother’s television habit just before she would mount and take from him his last bits of soul. It had leapt from him like bare feet on a hot stove. He had learned the hard way to be complicit, soles and souls scarred by the ugly world of home. Torn from his very being, the essence of the most sacred, repeatedly stolen for another’s pleasure. Tick.
The very breath that sustained him slowed, another sting and warm surge through his thighs. He had wet the bed as a child, it felt something like that. Had he soiled himself at this moment of moments? There would be no dignity, only torture and death. O’ death. The voices laughed and pointed. He hadn’t meant to be a bedwetter. The doctors said it was common for someone of his condition. Fair enough for those voices to point, he had laughed as he squeezed the light out of their eyes. Pointing then at a body that was no longer theirs’ to suffer. Tock.
A rush of confusion and fear slipped like a thief behind his eyes. It was here to take any last bit of good he may have kept hidden away, to break the lock from the impenetrable chest that kept it. A whimper and scream were inside but not out, his tongue was swollen and useless to speak his words of disgust. The veins in his face and neck felt on the verge of losing their fight. Tick.
As the curtain was pulled back, he saw them all. Family he hated, others without faces strained in their seats toward the glass. They all wanted to lay eyes upon the captured animal, the caged wolf at which they threw their stones. There was weeping, as anger and hatred failed to mask their deep and unfathomable loss. There were words being spoken, being read from the same book that had been used as his mirror in his youth. He had never lived to that expectation. He was cursed before he left his childhood to forever be damned to God’s alleged mercy. Where had that merciful God been? Where was he now? Even as his supposed holy words were read aloud, echoing in the open, sparse room, there was no God there for him. There was only wood, leather, and steel. Tick.
The sounds of his heart in his ears had been replaced by the rhythm of the damned clock. There began a gasping he could hear. How had those watching made it inside, and what final ugliness had made them gasp. “Run you heartless bastards,” he thought, as he knew they would hear him. It was not their breath, but his own, slowly escaping its orbit. He felt mucus now on his lips. “What final insult is this?” “Have I now been spat upon?” His thoughts raised valid questions, answers to which he would never have. Slipping like a worm into oblivion, he was becoming excrement, he could smell it. Where was the tock? He prayed for the tock to whatever god may listen, but the clock did not answer. He apologized to the clock for his hatred and fury, begging for the tock that would never come.
The clock did not care, and offered no respite. There was no tock. Was this now it? The room had become insistent on darkness. The sounds and shapes now gone. Breath was now gone, and the feeling of heaviness took him further into nothing. There wouldn’t be a tock, he was in the eternal second of distress where he would stay until there was complete nothingness. He could only be shadow and shade, never a beacon, never a light. The void became him, wrapping him in its cold cradle. From here to falling away, this was the last.