3 days, 1 hour, 27 minutes, 48 seconds and counting.
3 days, 1 hour, 27 minutes, 48 seconds and counting. That was how long Calloway Graymere had left. He and Eloise had tried everything, but there was no delaying the clock this time. Everyone else in the house was dead asleep, but the red digital numbers kept him awake. Every second they changed, constantly reminding him of his mortality. The device emitted no audible sound, but the ticking pulsed in his head, slowly driving him insane.
He only had three days, one hour, twenty six minutes, fifty seven seconds and counting to fix this. It didn’t matter. He and Eloise had been trying to fix the problem of the bracelets ever since they arrived in 1842. So far, they had been able to continuously delay the doomsday set on the device, but on November 1st, 1854, their technique no longer worked. The bracelets stopped responding to the treatment. In their head, they both knew this would happen eventually. They had always known. But neither of them ever really believed it.
It was now November 26th, and Eloise had finally found the sleep that evaded Calloway. He sat at the window and stared at the moon, remembering how he and Eloise had done so only weeks prior.
She told him that it was a partial lunar eclipse and how incredible it was. She assured him that they would figure things out. They always did. But for a moment, they should just look at the beautiful and wondrous thing right in front of them, not to miss it.
Yeah, he agreed, except he wasn’t looking at the moon when he said it.
There had to be a way out of this. There just had to. If not for his sake, if not for her sake, then for their sake. He eyed the butcher knife and wondered.
The bracelet was attached to his wrist, set to activate in three days. Any attempt to remove or destroy it would not only be painful but would also cause it to activate. Others had tried it before. Calloway knew it was suicide.
But what if there were a way to separate himself from the organic matter that it was set to destroy? If he could cut into his arm, above the bracelet, would it work? Or would he just die sooner and more painfully?
Was it worth it to find out?
He lit a candle and watched the flame dance. It jumped and ran in circles, trying to break free of the wick that tethered it.
Dying might not be so bad. Eloise would die too, just a few seconds after him. When her timer went off. That would be worse, but at least he wouldn’t have to watch.
But what about them? They would be left all alone, orphaned in three days, one hour, five minutes plus one more, twenty three seconds and counting.
It would be painful, yes. Whether or not it worked. But dying without trying—without knowing if he could have prevented it—would also be painful. He had to at least try.
He gripped the knife in his right hand and brought it down. He hissed in pain as he drew blood. It was only a small cut. His body didn’t like being hurt, especially not by itself. He had to do more, to fight the pain that tried to stop him from fighting himself.
He could do this, he told himself. He could tolerate the pain. He lifted the knife and brought it down again. He tried to hold in his screams, but he heard them anyway. His cuts still weren’t deep enough.
Eloise would be awake soon, with all the noise. She would try to stop him, tell him that there had to be another way. But there wasn’t. They had been trying to find another way for weeks now, and if he didn’t do this now, they would continue to tell themselves that there was another way for another three days, one hour, four minutes, thirty seconds and counting.
He couldn’t let Eloise stop him, and he couldn’t let pain stop him either. He gripped the knife tighter and brought it down hard on the counter, practicing a final blow and wincing at the sound it made when it made contact.
He gritted his teeth and clenched the knife handle. He was already screaming, even before the knife made contact. He kept screaming as it tore through his skin and tendons.
He continued to scream even when he could no longer cut at the bloody mess. He might have stopped screaming then, if he fainted. But he didn’t. He only screamed harder when his body started to glow and he could feel warmth coursing through his veins. His blazing body turned his tears to steam and all he could do was scream. Until the bloody knife dropped to the floor, littered with ashes. An eerie silence filled the house, as though the agonizing screams of Calloway Graymere had become part of it, and their absence made the silence so loud and abnormal that a baby woke up and quickly filled the void with its own cries, waking the mother who was not all that surprised to see her husband missing from their bed, but would later be surprised to see blood and ashes on her kitchen floor and litter the floor with her own tears once she realized who the ashes came from.