Hickere Dickere Dock Part 2.
“One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight…”
Mummy used to hold him late at night. Father said Mummy needed her rest, and besides, he was becoming a big boy now, Mummy couldn’t lie with him and comfort him at night. He had to face his fears. The last night she had snuck in, he had curled up in her lap, feathery hair falling across her legs. She had stroked it as he tried to shut everything else out. “Don’t worry my mouse, it will be alright. It will be alright. It will be alright.”
Mummy never sang to him, she taught him no songs, no nursery rhymes. But the little boy remembered, his earliest memory. “Hickere, dickere, dock, the mouse ran up the clock.” Slender fingers wiggled his tiny toes and tickled his kicking feet. He was just a babe, but he remembered pieces, flashes, another little boy, and a little girl. He remembered the rhyming verse, and their cries. A scream. The little boy had never told anyone that he remembered.
“One, two, three four, five, six, seven, eight, nine…”
The clock seemed to breath in tandem with the mouse which still stared up at it uneasily. Another gust of wind, this one stronger than the last, sent the sheet flapping up around the mouse. The mouse was deathly still, the clock seemed to groan as the wind swept around it, a haunting moan seemed to emanate from its gears and metal guts. Then at once the basement fell quiet again, save for the rain and the sound of howling wind outside.
Hunger gnawed at the belly of the mouse, quivering slightly, the mouse crept forwards towards the clock, light glinted off the brass chimes and the pendulum between them. The clock groaned again and the mouse darted forward into the hole in the base of the clock, desperate to escape the sound, the danger that discovery would bring. The hunger was unbearable, nose pressed to damp, dark wood, the mouse sniffed at the interior of the clock, all other scents were masked by the smell of rust, metal, wood, dust. The inside of the clock was warmer than the stone of the basement floor, it provided a temporary comfort from harsh screams of the wind against the window and the frigid rain which pelted the stones with newfound rage.
“One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten…”
There was a pounding pressure behind his eyes, nearly five hours after since the nanny had told him to stay put in the nursery and try to study his maths, he still sat trying to count up to one thousand. With every clapping peal of thunder outside the little boy’s eyes flashed up towards the door that led to the hallway, ears tuned for the sound of heavy footsteps or raised voices. Although his eyes grew heavy and the candle on the windowsill grew ever dimmer, he forced his tired eyelids open, counting not sheep, but the raindrops that assailed the wilted corpses of flowers in the window box outside. It had been an unusually warm February until tonight. Caught unawares, the flowers his mother had planted died in a matter of hours in the cold and the rain.
There was something about the thunder and the rain, the cold air, the silence that had deafened the house since dinner. The little boy was not afraid of thunder like slamming doors, the flash of lighting like a hundred flickering candles, the silence that seemed to press down and choke the mirth and life out of the house, but he was afraid of the darkness that lingered behind them all. That blackness that could consume everything and eventually would.
“One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven…”
The little brown mouse sniffed at the gears in the guts of the clock, little paws clawing, gripping the wires and springs within. Climbing up. The rain grew in fervor, slashing wildly at the stones and empty streets, the wind that swept along the freezing raindrops sent the lid of a bin skittering across the alleyway outside the basement. The glass of the tiny basement window shattered against the aluminium lid, sending shards of delicate icy glass tinkering to the stone floor. The explosion of noise sent the mouse scrambling upwards to escape, tiny claws catching the gears, twisting them, moving them, feverishly clawing at the metal. The gears began to grind, defying the rust, groaning and grating together as the mouse continued its ascent. Whiskers shaking frantically, assessing the danger. The grinding noise followed the little brown mouse upwards until there was nowhere else to go. The slowly turning gears caught one limb, squeezing it down and the delicate machinery began to shake away years of silence and motionlessness. The mouse shrieked in pain as the metal sucked more of the little body downwards into the guts of the clock. A terrible pressure had gripped it. The old grandfather that had lied dormant for years ticked slowly as a terrible squelch silenced the squeaking that emanated from within the clock itself.
“One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve.”
The little boy turned to the clock on the wall, it was nearly fifteen minutes to one. He knew if he was found out he would be in trouble for being up so late past his bedtime, even later than the witching hour. He also knew what he would be risking if he failed to learn, just another disappointment to his father. The candle on the windowsill flickered half heartedly and sputtered as the end of the wick finally burned out. The darkness finally enveloped him and the little boy dove under the sheets, eyes clenched shut. The silence pressed down on him and he covered his ears, trying to drown it out before memories flooded his mind. Children’s laughter filled the air and surrounded him, laughter turning to sobbing, screaming. His breath coming in short gasps, the little boy covered his ears beneath the downy fabric that encased him and began to weep silently. He prayed Mummy would know something was wrong, that she would come and lie with him for a while, until his brothers and sisters left, until the screaming stopped, until the weeping was over.
At the stroke of one, the grandfather clock and the bell tower in the church down the avenue echoed a solitary chime. The darkness that had been expelled by the pealing chimes of the witching hour slowly crept back into the town. The dense darkness and rain carried by wicked winds blanketed the streets and snuffed out the lights that lined them. The rain, reinvigorated, whipped and slashed at the windows of houses that lined the avenue.
The whole house seemed to cry out around the little boy. The ceilings and floors moaned and groaned, the stairs that led to the basement creaked, the walls that lined empty halls devoid of the memories of life whispered and murmured in the gloom that filled the house. The little boy clenched his fists tightly to his ears, praying that the noise would drown out the echoing memories in his mind. But down the hall, a door slammed, heavy footsteps reverberated down the hall, his mother’s shrill cry rang out from his parents’ bedroom. The little boy grew very still as the footsteps neared his door, and stopped. Everything stopped.
The woman with greyed hair rocked back and forth in her chair, her long fingers plucked the petals off the wilting flowers of the bouquet in her lap. “Hickere, dickere, dock, my mouse ran up the clock;” the nurses bustled around her clucked disapprovingly and patted at her shoulder, hushing her. The older woman flinched, and continued rocking. “The clock struck one, mouse’s blood ran down.” The faces of the nurses paled as their eyes darted to the clock, then the door. An older man watched from the doorway, his face was stoney, but a vein on his forehead bulged as he watched from a distance. The rocking woman took a staggered breath feeling the presence behind her, the heavy footsteps that approached slowly. She stared out the window towards the ancient church in the town’s square, and ripped the head off one of the roses in her lap, “hickere, dickere, dock.”