Irregular Creature: The Horologe

Posted on March 10, 2011

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This was a response to a flash fiction challenge called Irregular Creatures, found at Chuck Wendig’s terribleminds. This story weighs in at 975 words, out of the 1000 word maximum.

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Everyone has a clock.

No, I don’t mean a clock that ticks down to their last breath, their dying moment – though I’m sure they have those too. I just can’t see it.

Everyone has a clock. It moves in reverse – widdershins, so to speak; it counts down from a number anywhere else on the clock to 12:01. I’ve been able to see everyone’s clock since I can remember. And not only is everyone’s clock ticking down from a different time, but each one looks different for each person. Different aged clocks, different styles, and different sizes – every one is unique.

I’ve seen an elderly man with – I shit you not – a Minnie Mouse clock, hanging next to his head. The clock is never anywhere but hovering next to a person’s head, and always on their left.

I bet you’re wondering what these clocks count down from, aren’t you? Have I sufficiently intrigued you? Maybe you can figure it out.

I’ve met a priest with a countdown time that never reached higher than ten minutes; a chilly doctor who maxed out at even less. I’ve met a lawyer who’s second hand flickered rapidly between 12:01 and slightly past it, not even a full second. Constantly. Okay, well, I didn’t actually meet him – I saw him at a restaurant, his dark eyes flitting around like a fleeting nightmare as he watched people passing. His clock didn’t even possess a minute or hour hand, but the second hand was sharp and gleaming as a well-kept knife, thin and discolored like sun-bleached bones. The numbers were small, almost imperceptible, enveloped in the dark void that was the timepiece’s backing.

I watched him as long as he stayed – which was hours, by the way. Lounging out of the sun in the umbrella-shaded corner of the outside of a restaurant, drinking his several orders of coffee only when they’d grown cold. I could tell he was a regular, the server always walking away with the smile of somebody who knows they’re going to receive an over-substantial tip for their trouble. The server was a cheery lady, with a bright-yellow sundial hanging next to her head, which never reached 12:01 in the whole time that I was there, watching. I like those people, there are so very few in this grimy world.

Malicious intentions are what make these clocks tick. Not the passing fancy, intrusive thoughts that everyone gets – and don’t pretend you don’t – where you just suddenly think of grabbing the nearest object and hitting the person next to you, or the sudden urge to pop a passerby in the face just because. I mean deep-set urges, the kind you harbor close to your heart – the kind you really want to do, but the better among us shove deep down and feel guilt for even the conception of the idea. The kind that shatters people’s fragile hearts, the kind that ruins a life, the kind that ends up with someone dead and someone on death row.

It was awhile before I figured it out, but I did. I had a friend as a boy who liked to torture animals, and his time– oddly enough, an ornate grandfather clock who’s pendulum was carved with old Nordic runes – was never more than twenty minutes. It finally clicked for me when he led me out the woods behind his house to get a look at his “project”. The neighbor’s dog lay in the loamy soil, whimpering, its legs broken. My heart broke for it, but that rictus smile on my childhood friend only grew brighter, and the second hand struck 12:01 as he kicked the dog in the ribs and laughed harder than I’d ever heard anyone laugh.

It made me sick, then. Now I feel nothing. Too used to seeing the rotting underside of the human nature as it goes through their hearts, perhaps.

Maybe you’ve wondered about my horologe – after all, mirrors are pretty common. Alas, mine is simple, minimalist, with triangular black hands that constantly read the time of 12:01; never moving. I’ve always wondered what that means about me, but I may never know. But seeing that I know when somebody sees what I do; their eyes have the same piercing gaze as mine do, their clocks always at 12:01.

I’d always wondered why I was able to see this until it struck me as I followed that lawyer home. I hadn’t even realized that I intended to break in while he slept until I was skulking outside his small, Victorian-styled home, waiting for the dead of night.

I broke a basement window and slipped in, my skeletal frame fitting rather easily in the small opening, only lightly grazed by some remaining glass. The basement stunk; I knew why. It wasn’t a surprise. I slipped up the basement stairs, quiet as a shadow, and teased open the door without it creaking. No lock. Sloppy.

He slept on his couch; a beautifully ornate couch that looked as comfortable as a sack of sharp rocks. I crept to him, and seized by something inside of me, took it upon myself to grab his clock. I hadn’t expected it to be solid, but so it was; I gripped it by either side, and easy as breaking a freshly made cookie in half, I snapped it. His breathing ceased immediately.

I stayed by his side for hours, until dawn peaked, amazed and grimly pleased with my work. I left quietly as I’d come, and walked back home with a spring in my step.

Maybe I’m a way for the universe to know the mold that it has let fester in parts of the human psyche; I like to think I can take steps to correct it. I rarely spend my time with anything else, now.

I am irregular, and sick. I love it, now.

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