A Clockwork Dead
Not a single cloud marred
the blue sky. Mid-spring brought a
multitude of color to the world. Overall
it proved to be another beautiful day.
Normally William Palmer looked forward to days like this when he could
volunteer in the gardens or help Larry Miller with some project. Today however was not one of those days. Despite the sun gleaming down upon William’s
world there its radiance seemed muted, not something visibly but more of a
feeling of gloom. William sat on his bed
trying to place a finger on something he couldn’t understand yet it was right
there. Maybe if he went for a walk he
could pin point what the problem was.
Exiting his room, he turned left and walked down the hall. Passing by an open doorway, he glanced inside and waved to Mrs. Weaver as she set about cleaning her own room. Often she would volunteer to take the place of any cleaning staff that had off on a given day and helped those that couldn’t get around that good to clean their own room. Director Doris Rosefeld found no problem with the residents that wanted to pitch in and help with the small stuff. It kept them active and happier.
The hall ended at a house keeping door and continued to the right. The building was shaped in a squared bottom U. This section held the main entrance, personnel offices and the sitting room which was actually used to meet with future clients and their families. William spotted Doris walk out of the room followed by two delivery men. The delivery people left and Doris returned to her office with paper work in hand. Probably brought in some new furniture addition. Out of curiosity, William walks into the sitting room. The room consisted of a round oak table with six chairs, two sofas with matching chairs, a coffee table, two end tables and a sideboard to place refreshments. A door lead out to the vast backyard with its two gazebos, gardens and large shaded oaks. Even with all this furniture the room there still existed enough space so it didn’t look cluttered.
His eyes immediately riveted onto the new addition standing at the left wall. A deep chill filled his veins. There stood a large Grandfather clock, tick-tick-ticking as the pendulum swung slowly back and forth. The casing looked a little wider and thicker than normal. Constructed of light oak and cherry fluted columns the piece looked rather plain compared to others with elegant carvings but still held a handsome quality.
“My God, what have you done? What sort of evil did you bring here, Victor?”
“Beautiful, isn’t it? Oh, I’m sorry Mr. Palmer, I didn’t mean to startle you,” said Doris.
“Oh, it’s ok. I guess I was just lost with this, umm, new addition.”
“Quite understandable, it is a very nice piece.”
“Where did it come from?” He already knew the answer to this but prayed that he was wrong.
“That’s the funny thing about it. The receipt says Holland Storage and Delivery but they won’t say where it came from. Just that it was donated.”
“Feel free to enjoy, it is here for everyone.” Doris left the room, leaving William alone with the damned clock. William gave the abomination one last look and left. He had a lot of thinking to do.
Larry Miller double checked his measurements on the boards that he will use to build the new shelves for Mrs. Anderson’s room. The table saw whined to life, drowning out Tammy Wynnette’s voice on the radio. He only listened to Country and not any of that new crap either. Setting aside the boards he just cut and flipped the switch off. Now he needed to retrieve the wall mounts and screws so he put the ladder in place to get the needed hardware on the upper shelves. The radio switched from Ernest Tubb to an infernal racket of electric guitars and drums with some guy yelling about his sweet child.
“Damn it Brent, what the hell have I told you about touching my radio when I’m here? Turn that damn shit off.” The whine of the table saw startled him, causing Larry to drop the jar of screws. It hit the steps below him and shattered, spilling its contents everywhere.
“Son of a bitch. You think that’s funny Brent? I’ll show you funny.” As he climbed down his left foot slipped on a screw that landed on a step while his right foot hung in open space. Bringing his foot back up to the previous rung, Larry just about regained his balance when he felt a hand grip the collar of his shirt and pull him backwards. He screamed as he landed on the table saw, its vicious blade chewing flesh, bone and lung. Blood sprayed in a red mist from his mouth. Just before his mind shut down in death, he could have sworn he heard the chimes of a Grandfather clock above the whining of the saw blade.
The news of Larry Millers death spread quickly. Brent Callum, who tended the grounds part-time found Larry’s body. William sat in his room that evening brooding over the news. Larry put safety first. “Accident my ass.” A knock came to the partially opened door and a young nurse walked in carrying a tray. She set it down on the table.
“When I heard you weren’t at dinner I decided to bring you a tray.”
“Thanks Jodie, I’m afraid I’m just not very hungry tonight.”
“Want to talk about it?” He looked up at her with a small smile as she sat down.
“I won’t make very good company tonight, either.”
“It’s ok. You just talk and I’ll just listen.”
“Why are you here, Jodie? I don’t mean here right now. I mean here period. You’re a brilliant girl. You shouldn’t be wasting your time with a bunch of broken down old geezers.”
“You’re not broken down. And I like it here. At first I took this job to get into the nursing field while I was in college but the longer I stayed I stopped thinking of everyone as patients and more as friends and family.”
As Jodie and William held a pleasant conversation, a nightmare unfolds in the dining room. Mildred Insley just sat down to eat when she begin to cough. Her throat felt tight and it grew worse. Grabbing her tea with a shaky hand she drank but instead of going down her throat, it ran back out of her mouth and spilled down her blouse. She couldn’t swallow nor could she take a lifesaving breath. The glass slipped from her shaking hand, hit the edge of the table and fell onto the floor. Her eyes opened wide in panic. Banging on the table she knocked off her plate and sending silverware flying. “Help. Somebody help her.” Said Mark Farrington. Slumping back in her chair, two nurses and an orderly rushed over. Her eyes begin to bulge, her face taking on a purple hue and her lips turning blue.
“Lay her down,” said one of the nurses. The orderly took her out of the chair and laid her down on the floor on her back. The other nurse opened Mildred’s mouth but found nothing.
“I don’t see any blockage.” Immediately she placed her mouth over Mildred’s and tried to breath for her but the air wouldn’t go in. The orderly put an airline in her nose and turned on the oxygen bottle. In the back ground a clock chimed six times. Mildred’s body stiffened, her eyes rolled up and she let out a long gasp of air that was stuck in her lungs then lay very still. Death claimed Mildred Insley.
Breakfast talk was filled about the passing of Mildred. William thought back to the way he felt when he first laid eyes upon that infernal clock. Two deaths in one day could not be a coincidence. With a sigh he pushed back his half eaten breakfast, no longer having an appetite for food. Without a word he left the dining hall. Without meaning to, William found himself standing in front of the Grandfather clock. The ornate face said 9:30. He had seen many types of Grandfather clocks in his lifetime, some plain and others very ornate but they all basically had the same dimensions. This one definitely held more depth to it. This struck William as odd. Victor most definitely had something to do with this. Thinking back he remembered how vile of a person Victor was.
Victor Gruene lived at Oak Wood before William arrived. He wasn’t just argumentative or a little ornery, Victor truly enjoyed taking pleasure in others suffering, especially if he caused the suffering. For some reason William could not explain, Victor took a liking to William and never done him any wrong. To William, Victor just seemed like the type of person who lived a life full of regrets and found it was too late to change anything and took a great offence at that. That old man knew a lot about the occult and held a fascination with time. He had told William that one day everyone who had slighted him would get what they deserved even though in reality no one done anything to Victor to warrant such vengeance.
Each Friday, Victor’s sister came by and picked him up for the weekend and brought him back Sunday evening. Then on one Monday, his sister called Doris to tell her that Victor had passed away. A grateful sigh of relief came over Oak Wood, thankful that they no longer had to deal with Victor. It then occurred to William that the delivery date of the Grandfather clock coincided with the same date Victor passed away exactly one year ago. And now Oak Wood has seen more death in one day than they had all year long.
His mind turned to Jodie. He had to convince her to leave. If she stayed, her life would be in danger. Hell, everyone’s life here was now in danger. William decided that he would sit down with Jodie and tell her everything he knew and suspected.
Doris left work late. The clock in her red Fifth Avenue said read 8:15. Normally she was out of the office no later than five-thirty. Tonight she had a ton of paperwork to do dealing with both deaths. Since she missed rush hour the traffic was very light. The familiar ring of her cell phone filled the car. Reaching into her purse, she pulled out the phone. The caller id said Marge Caspin. “Hi Marge. No I just left work. I would love to stop by for a glass of wine but I am just too tired. Ok, I’ll talk to you later.” She placed the phone on the passenger seat. An eighteen wheeler passed by and pulled back into her lane. Again the phone rang but not with her normal ring tone. It sounded like a Westminster chime. Picking up the phone, the caller id said Oak Wood Retirement Center. God she hoped it wasn’t more bad news. “Hello? Hello?” All she heard was the gong of the Grandfather clock in the sitting room. “Who is this? Whoever this is it is not funny.” Ending the call she placed the phone back on the seat. Who in the world would be doing such a childish thing? Bringing her eyes back onto the road she saw the jack-knifed rig. Tires squealed as she slammed on the brakes but she was going too fast and was too close. The car slammed into the side of the trailer. Glass exploded into her eyes and face, metal buckled and tore apart but she never got the chance to scream before her head was removed from her shoulders.
On her break, Jodie met with William for a cup of coffee. With the exception of one of the kitchen staff in the back cleaning, they were the only ones in the dining room so he felt he could talk to her freely.
“Jodie, thank you for coming.”
“Not a problem. You look troubled.”
“You could say that.”
“What’s wrong?” He could see the genuine concern in her eyes. He let out a long heavy sigh.
“It’s that damn clock.”
Her brows pulled together in a puzzled look. She had never seen him so agitated.
“Is it the chiming?” she asked.
“No, that’s not the problem. The problem is where it came from.”
“You know who donated it?”
“I’m not certain but I do have a strong suspicion. A former resident by the name of Victor Gruene. He was here before you came aboard. He was the meanest son of a bitch you have ever met. Went out of his way to make others as miserable as he could. I swear that old man would sit around and think of new ways to become a pain in someone’s ass. Victor held a great interest in the occult and in time. His sister would pick him up every Friday and return him every Sunday. I believe he designed and built that clock with orders to have it delivered. It was delivered on the one year anniversary of his death. I know this is going to sound crazy but I believe the recent deaths are connected to that clock. He swore that he would get back at everyone here for all the imagined ways that he felt they did to him. Ask others here about Victor. They know what he was like. Jodie, I like you and I don’t want to see you get hurt. Please turn in your resignation and leave this place behind.”
Jodie could not believe what she was hearing, especially coming from William. Never before did she have a reason to question his sanity. She didn’t know what to say. “I…ummmm,” she finished her coffee. She looked down at her empty cup rotating it slowly with her hands.
“Its ok, I didn’t expect you to believe me. But if you take a good look at the clock you’ll see that there is something strange.”
“I admit that the recent deaths do seem a bit unusual but they can’t be blamed on a clock. Even if the clock wasn’t here, those deaths still could have happened,” she looked at her watch, “I got to get back on duty.”
“Just consider what I said, ok?”
“I will,” she smiled weakly knowing that she had said so just to patronize William. She felt bad about that but what could she do?
She returned to work and begin to rationalize what William told her. Larry Miller was a good friend of William. Not knowing how to deal with his friend’s death as well as the others, the clock and its coincidental arrival actually gave William an excuse to blame the deaths on something so it wouldn’t seem so senseless and he wouldn’t have to deal with the feelings of loss. Therefor he wouldn’t have to examine his own mortality. No one likes to contemplate their own death and that’s what happens in a community of older people. When one or two that you have been living with in close proximity dies, you start looking inward at your own impending death. She felt bad for William. Perhaps later on with subtle talk she could help him come to terms with his own feelings.
After breakfast, William saw a police officer enter the office belonging to Linda Meyer, the Assistant Director. No one knew anything about Doris’s accident so he assumed that the officer was here on business about the previous deaths. Walking back to his room he met Ester Lewis around the corner. She held a peculiar wild look in her eyes and walking rather timidly.
“Good morning, Ester. Better hurry for breakfast before it’s all gone.” She backed up against the wall to put as much distance between herself and the creature that stood before her. Ester did not see William but a fat drooling long toothed creature. And when it spoke she heard, “better hurry so they can eat you for breakfast.”
She had no idea how she arrived here. Everything has changed. Last night she grew tired while working on her knitting so she put it all on a table and went to sleep. This morning she awoke in a room made of stone and bars over the windows. For some strange reason chains replaced her knitting. Despite her strange surroundings, a beautiful day existed outside her window and that is where freedom existed. But first she needed to make it through this blood stained hall and past this strange denizen that inhabited this new world. Had she died and gone to Hell? Had she died in her sleep and God banished her to this place? There had to be some mistake, all believer’s go to Heaven. Maybe this was one last test of her faith. Heaven waited outside.
“Stay away from me you filthy beast. In the name of God I command you.” This behavior thoroughly confused William. Ester possessed one of the sharpest minds here. That damn clock definitely had a hand in this. He backed up to give her space but still followed slowly behind to keep an eye on her.
“You’re not going to eat me,” she said looking back at the creature following her.
“Everyone is going to eat you.”
She continued on and made it to the front entrance. Beyond the heavily bared Iron Gate she could see the beautiful land that awaited her. All she had to do was make it past the scaly female creature that sat behind a desk with blood stained papers and small body parts. With eyes on the creature she edged towards the portal and it hissed at her. She looked at the creature starting to rise out of its chair and mustered her courage then pointed a finger, “In the name of the most Holy God, stay where you are.” The creature sat back down and picked up something that resembled a telephone except it looked like a collage made of human bones, “yes, this is Brenda. I need assistance up front. Mrs. Lewis is acting really strange.”
Just as Brenda hung up the phone, the police officer came around the corner. Ester heard movement behind her and turned to see a large blue demon. She jumped back, startled at the sudden appearance of this new creature. Maybe it wasn’t expecting to see her because he also looked surprised. With the strength and swiftness that is allotted to the mad, she sprang forth and took the blue demons weapon and stepped back. Raising up the gun the officer raised his hand in the attempt to reason with the woman but she did not understand a single thing he said. Two more demons came into the entrance dressed in white and posing as angels but their demonic visages told truth. Their scalps were peeled back, revealing bloody craniums. The scaly creature stood up and hissed. Ester swung around and fired, placing two rounds in its chest. The impact flung the creature back into the wall and onto the floor, leaving behind a long red streak. Blue demon yelled and lunged at Ester. She quickly raised and pulled the trigger. A hole appeared above its right eye and the back of his head exploded. Another round took one orderly in the throat. He fell choking and gaging on his own blood. The second orderly turned and ran but not before a bullet slammed into his left shoulder as he turned the corner. With no more demons insight, Ester approached the gates and pushed but they wouldn’t open. They weren’t going to let her leave. Brenda had activated the emergency mag lock before she got shot. God had abandoned Ester. Silently she wept for being denied entrance to paradise and not even knowing why. She would not allow them to have her. The old Grandfather clock chimed. Raising the gun she placed the barrel against her temple, cursed God, and pulled the trigger.
William stayed back out of sight when he heard the first gun shot. He saw the running orderly sitting against the wall with Linda tending to his wound. He motioned for them to stay put as he eased his way forward. Blood and gore decorated everything. Ester lay on the floor with half her face missing. William threw up his breakfast. This was way too much for him. He returned to where Linda waited. “Call the police and an ambulance for him. It’s over.” Of course it wasn’t over. It never will be until that damn clock was dealt with. The final chimes echoed down the halls. He walked into the sitting room. “You have chimed for the last time.” William walked out the door and across the yard to the maintenance building. Someone left the door unlocked. Gabbing the axe he walking back William looked every bit a mad man getting ready to chop up a lot of people. William didn’t waist anytime looking at the clock. The axe already raised when he approached it. Under the first swing the clock gonged as if it cried out in pain from the chop. Again and Again he swung. Glass shattered, splinters flew along with gears. Linda heard the commotion coming from the sitting room.
“What now?” Hearing the racket coming from the sitting room she walked in to see William viscously tearing the clock apart with an axe. Is everyone going mad? She stood there too stunned to move. She had five dead bodies in the main hall, one injured orderly, and a mad man swinging an axe at a grandfather clock.
“William, what the hell are you doing?”
“What should have been done long before.” Then came the banging on the front door. She went out to see police at the front entrance. She released the maglock and let them in.
The front and inside the clock was utterly destroyed but there was definitely something on the other side of the inside wall. This was the false back that William had suspected. He would find out what was hidden inside in just a few more swings. The wall was thick and harder than the rest with a different grain all together. Hickory. Each swing was fueled with the force of anger from the deaths of his friends. Soon he had a nice wide open hole in the panel. His mouth fell open at what he saw.
“Police, drop the axe. Now.” The axe slipped from his hand. Turning around he ignored the officers and their drawn guns as he walked right up to Linda. He pointed a thumb behind him.
“Victor Gruene.” Linda looked past him to the bones inside the clock.
“Victor? Are you sure?” she asked.
“Positive. He built the damn thing as his casket. Take him out and give him a burial and this will all go away.”
Everything at Oakwood returned to normal. William no longer felt the gloom that so permeated the atmosphere. He stood under a large oak looking down at the valley below. Looking back he saw Jodie standing under the awning. He smiled and started to walk over. She saw him and waved. As he walked past the lawn mower there was a sharp twang. Jodie came running over when she saw him stiffen up and then fall over. “William. William, you ok?” She saw a trickle of blood on his cheek and saw the source. A rock buried in his temple. On a beautiful sunny day William Palmer died.
Even through the thorough cleaning in the sitting room a tiny stubborn splinter tenaciously clung to the carpet and survived the attack of the vacuum.
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