“Tick, tock, tick, tock,” I say in time with my grandfather clock that ticked and tocked its way into my head; never stopping its rocking pendulums march, back and forth, tick and tock. Am I clockwork?
I stood still, against the south wall. My focus widened to the size of my room; my peripheral vision lost its constant blur, and I could see in full. A chandelier of gold and diamond cast its shadow flat along a square ceiling of plaster. And that plaster extended down to the floor, its ugly texture hidden from my feet by a grey carpet of warm fuzz. My three unworn pairs of shoes lay facing east in the cavity of my bed frame—huddled together. My nightstand went behind my bed, and I assume it’s in that place so if I were to read, the light from its lamp would brighten the words of the page perfectly. But I can only assume because I didn’t place it there.
To the west were things. Various things. Lots of various things. They were the most important to look at, but even so, I couldn’t let my eyes leave the rest of the room. I’ve gotten good at memorizing the things. My technique is to not look at the things as individual objects, but as the mass of color it is, every stroke of green no different than a dot of purple.
I saw the one door—fitted into the north wall—to the left of the grandfather clock. It had a bronze oval handle held by two screws drilled into its white painted wood. What was beyond the door? Was it an exit? Was it nothing?
“Maybe it’s the rest of my house?”
Shit! I paid too much attention to the door and wasn’t looking at the pile. I jumped to my hands and knees and mentally combed through the things.
“The doll in the red dress is gone. And now there’s a clay frog.”
I whipped around and let out a breath. The shoes, bed, chandelier, rug, nightstand, and grandfather clock were just like they had been. Those didn’t change much. I don’t know why. I don’t know why much of what happens happens, but I’ve started to learn how.
I ultimately failed my staring contest, but I lasted a bit longer than I did before. Looking at all the things at once proved to be difficult, but it was the only way to prevent anything from disappearing or appearing, so it’s worth getting better at, plus I could always try tomorrow.
My bed rested against the east wall, its wooden legs pushed small square indents into the carpet. The mattress was covered in black sheets with a grey comforter on top, along with a deflated pillow that had no case. It was my home in my home. Most of my time was spent on that bed; there are no spots more comfortable, so it’s an obvious choice to host most of my activities. Of which include sitting, sleeping, and thinking, along with the occasional mental breakdown.
My grandfather clock says it’s 10:32. I’ve been trying to maintain a schedule: I go to sleep at 10:30 and I wake up at 7, on the dot, every day, for the past forever, and because I keep that schedule, falling asleep is never difficult. I nuzzled my head into the bare pillow and moved the covers all the way up to my chin. I sat up, looked over at my grandfather clock, which read 6:54, and kicked off my covers. I stepped over my two pairs of unused shoes and did some stretches, most of which included windmills, because those were easiest for me and I was in a lazy mood.
I checked the pile of things on the western wall, noting what had and hadn’t been there before. I was always looking for a clue, a hint, in those piles. No matter how long I looked, I didn’t find what I was looking for. Order, reason, the pile rejected such things in favor of taunting me. Does the nutcracker only appear on days starting with T? Do the thin rectangles of wood signal the number of hours until a hat appears? Is the color of the feather related to the size of the hole in the cardboard? Fuck that pile.
I sat up and kicked the covers off. My grandfather clock said 7:03. Occasionally I wonder if it’s really 7pm and I’ve been waking up at night, but there’s no way to tell, and I guess it doesn’t matter much. I sat back down and waited, waiting for the willpower to get up to seep into me. In the meantime, I stared at the roof of my room; it was a subtly brighter grey than the walls around it. I rolled myself out of bed, hitting the floor harder than I thought I would. I didn’t think that through, although it did wake me up.
On my feet, I did as much stretching as I could. Kicked, twisted, rolled my head. When I was done planking, I went to check out the pile. It looked very different from yesterday’s. Uncommon, but nothing to worry about.
I saw a glint of leather at the bottom. A book? it couldn’t be. I shifted through the pile. A book, could it have clues, maybe it’s a historical book. Hints? Was it instructions to escape? I shifted through the pile faster. What if it’s in a new language. I could try and learn it.
I unearthed the book, and it really was a book! It had leather front and back with a little ribbon so I could hold my place. From the top, the pages were yellow and wrinkled. It looked old. Really old. I had to know what it was about. I opened the cover and stopped my hope short. It was blank. I opened to a random page, also blank. I slammed my fist into the carpet then forcefully flipped through every page, purposefully bending the leather, all blank. I threw the book over my shoulder.
And I didn’t hear it hit the ground.
It has it out for me; I know it. I wasn’t having this. I walked to the south side of the room, took a deep breath, and stared. I stared at everything: the rug, the shoes, the grandfather clock, the nightstand, the bed, the pile, the chandelier. Hours went by on the grandfather clock. My focus was on everything, and nothing disappeared nor appeared.
I let out a breath. My grandfather clock read 4:32. 9 hours. I got a strange feeling in my gut, one that I had been waiting for, a sudden confidence that I was ready. Ready for something. I had trained myself to this point and now I’ll see the fruits of it. Well maybe not now, but tomorrow for sure. I fell onto my bed and lost myself in thought.
I stood looking North, proud of my magnificent accomplishment. All the things in the pile were lined up in horizontal rows based on their color, and they were all watched carefully throughout the entirety of its construction. I had no idea what it was meant to do, but when I was done, I realized I had made it for what it would represent: that I was just as powerful as the pile. Its subtle ferocity could be tamed.
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I went farther. I put the lines of various things into size order. From greatest on the west to smallest on the east. I could feel each object internally shake in rage at my rebellion. They were being organized not once, but twice, and so long as I kept my eye on them, they could do nothing about it. I knew a smile had crept along my face before I felt it. And that smile slowly opened into a toothy grin as I finished placing the final object in its place—a red marble.
I laughed at the creature. Seeing its body split into dozens of pieces brought me an orderly joy I hadn’t felt since I could remember. I forgot about clues, about hints, I only remembered the years spent watching that pile, those things, those various things, those lots of various things, and I longed for revenge. I-
“What the- “
But it was too late. My eyes widened as my head shuddered to the right. I went too far. Too far. Way too far. I slumped to my knees; my hands involuntary trying to grip the floor. The bed was gone. My eyes jolted back and forth. The shoes were gone the chandelier was gone the grandfather clock was gone the carpet was gone the nightstand was gone the pile was gone everything was gone. I fell on my side and said “I’m sorry” over and over in my head. My finger clawed themselves into my shoulders. I tightened up and closed my eyes and clenched my teeth and felt regret puncture my stomach. I’m sorry.
I lay in a cold, barren room. No tick. No tock. No 10:30 or 7. No comfy mattress.
I knew now that this was no longer my room, or my home. It was just six walls and me in between them. Day stretched into weeks, and weeks stretches into hours. I couldn’t tell how long I’d been sitting in a corner, or how long I’d been standing, or laying, or sleeping. There was an absence of everything. I stared up and saw what I would see in any other direction. I asked myself if I regretted what I had done. Then I asked if that was how I was supposed to feel, how the pile wanted me to feel. If it was, it worked.
This was a warning, right? A sign from the pile to not mess with it, not to play with its toys. It must know that taking the things away would cause me grief, and now it must know that I’m sorry. So, it’ll bring back the bed and the things and the chandelier and the carpet and the rug and the nightstand and the shoes and I will never mess with it again.
I’ve started to say “I’m sorry” out loud.
I think it has ears. And when it picks up on what “I’m sorry” means it’ll know I’ve been taught a lesson.
I wonder what I’ll do with all those things again. I can always keep looking for clues, and hints, and I can think on the bed. Maybe I’ll get around to trying on those pairs of shoes. If they always disappear and reappear then they’ll always be new. No need to clean or repair, just enjoy whatever new shoes I get that day.
0 Ch 6
I remember yesterday fondly. I forgot for a little while that I was in a grey, blank room and was instead sitting in my own thoughts. Thoughts of things to come.
But today I can’t fall into that fantasy and I am always aware that I’m trapped in a six-sided square instead of a room with four walls.
At least the square is no longer quiet. If I strain, I can hear my heartbeat.
I’ve started saying it louder.
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I’ve stopped saying it. I know I’m not going to sleep in my bed again. It has ears. It doesn’t care.
My mind was used to losing focus, to not give attention to one thing. I trained it to show me everything, to lose my blur. But now I was fixated on one thing. The door. The door and its unturned handle. Who knocked? Was it anyone at all? Can a door knock itself? I looked for clues, and hints. I found none. And I didn’t think I would, because I knew my clues and hints lay past that wood.
That didn’t stop my thoughts.
Why isn’t the door gone?
Open the door.
Why was there a knock when I was messing with the pile?
Open the door.
It felt like an answer and a command.
Why do objects disappear?
Open the door.
I stood up. My legs almost shattered in fear, but I held my hand up against the wall to balance me. I shuffled to what I knew was the north side of the square and touched it. I felt the door and slid my hand along to touch the handle and pulled back. It was cold. Though I knew I pulled back because I was scared.
I debated myself in my head, asking whether I should open it. Was it a good idea? I already knew I had too; I confronted myself with this and the debate started over. This time I asked myself if it was ok to stall.
I was ready. I faced the door, my arm extended. A faint light shone through the crack at the bottom in response to my confidence, as if ready to share all its secrets. My hand gripped the cold handle and stayed there this time. I took a deep breath, twisted, then swung open the door!
The door hit the wall. My limbs stood frozen in their exaggerated pose. My eyes forgot to blink and my heart forgot to beat; an involuntary smile crept along my face.
It was funny…really funny.
A wall. A fucking wall. The same wall I’d been staring at since forever stared back at me and I laughed.
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