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These Waning Hours

By Etimire_T All Rights Reserved ©

Mystery / Thriller

A Short Story

He found it, or rather, it found him on a Tuesday. An ordinary, boring, slow-ticking time. Nothing of any importance is supposed to happen on those days. Tuesdays are just… well, they just are. They are the days we slouch through life with a sigh, hands in pockets, headphones on. They are plain oatmeal and grunting traffic and aspirin for that irritating headache.

Tuesday.

All the same, the clock appeared on a Tuesday.

The rain came down in sheets, and the gentleman’s window wipers could have knocked off a curious finger that dared get in the way, so fast did they swing. Inside, our protagonist sat with hands perfectly at ten and two on the wheel, back straight, bow tie impeccable. His eyebrows dropped lower and lower as it became evident that the car in front of him was not going to move.

They’d been sitting there, staring at the broken traffic light for several minutes. The driver in front of the gentleman didn’t seem to understand. The light was not going to change.

But our hero held his peace.

Fine. He’d just go around. Easy fix.

That’s when he heard it.

Tick

Tick

Tick

A clock?

Once he identified the sound, it was impossible to ignore. The ticking was insistent, begging to be noticed despite the rattling rain and the swishing window wipers and the colorful profanity drifting out the window of the car behind the gentleman [it appeared that that driver was just as irritated at the non-observant driver before them as the gentleman was.] The gentleman swiveled in his seat, quietly lamenting the wrinkle marks that would soon appear on his freshly ironed shirt. No matter that it was only a t-shirt. The gentleman kept all of his clothes, even his socks, studiously wrinkle-free at all times. He peered into the backseat. Where was the ticking coming from?

There. To the left.

A small brown clock. With blackened, burned edges. Its face was worn as if it tired of its own functions. Tick, tick, tick. Frowning, the gentleman reached behind him and took hold of the clock. It was cold and dusty in his hands.

Repositioning himself, he set it on the top of the wheel and balanced it with his fingertips. Where did it come from? Some sort of joke?

No. He didn’t know anyone who would play a joke on him. He didn’t know anyone at all. Even the hair color of the woman at the desk behind him every day, he could not recall.

The gentleman had too much work to notice anything but the paperwork stacked in front of him. And he didn’t mind that in the least.

And now here was this clock. Ticking away without a care in the world. Curious, the man turned it over in his hands, only to notice that it was missing its back. Inside the little wooden clock was nothing. Really. Nothing. Confused, the man felt inside with his fingers. Natta. No contraptions of any sort. No gears, no battery pack. A fake? A prop? The thin clock face bent outwards at the prodding of his finger. There was nothing in the face either. Just the clock hands.

Tick.

Tick.

Tick.

But… then how was it ticking?

Finally, and with extreme caution, the blue car in front of the gentleman inched into the intersection. The gentleman looked up, set the clock down and rolled his eyes. The driver before him acted as if they expected someone to come flying perpendicular at any second.

After finally making it through the intersection, the rest of the trip was simple enough.

The gentleman soon arrived home, followed all the way by the steady ticking. He glanced at the clock with a disapproving frown. He’d never heard such a loud timekeeper. Exiting the car, he grabbed the clock, his suit jacket, his reserve suit jacket, and made his way to the city apartment he called home. Keys jingling in his pocket, the gentleman ignored a shout from a man two doors down. He was too busy to keep a conversation. Honestly, they ought to know that. He was an important man, after all.

And the clock kept ticking.

Finally managing to wrestle the door open, the gentleman stumbled into his dark apartment. It smelled like laundry soap and last night’s Chinese takeout, which he ate at his desk. The bare room held little personal appeal. Yellow walls painted by a more creative soul, and a single lamp in the lounge, along with a small television and a few pictures on shelves were the soul decorations. The photos were of happy, laughing people, all of them strangers.

The gentleman had had no reason to take out the photo the frame came with.

Crossing the living room with a sigh, the gentleman entered the kitchen, hung up his suit jackets in the closet, and set the clock on the counter. Tick. Tick. Tick. Still curious as to how the device worked, the gentleman turned the clock every which way.

There were no mechanics to be seen.

Am I going mad? He thought.

And the clock kept ticking.

With a frown, the gentleman set it down. Shaking his head at the ridiculous of it all, he set himself on the white couch and turned on the television. However, instead of watching, he grabbed a file and began to work. The television’s sound was at a minimal lever. A towel was draped over the screen. He only turned on the TV for the voices. It made his house sound full. The empty air fed on laughter, sobs, arguments that were not his own. He was too busy for the real thing.

And the clock kept ticking.

An hour passed, every second punctuated by the increasingly irritating ticks of the clock on the kitchen counter. The gentleman, his eyes smarting from use, turned a peeved glare toward the device.

Hush, he thought.

Tick, tick, tick.

With a groan, the man dropped his work, to be picked up later, and grabbed the clock. Good show, friend, but you’re done now. He placed the device in a cupboard and shut the door. No more ticking.

Tick, tick, tick.

Oh, you little rascal.

With a growl, the man reclaimed the clock, wrapped it in a kitchen towel, and placed it back inside.

There.

Sweet silence.

With a yawn and a satisfied smile, the gentleman proceeded to his bedroom. He had his shoes and socks for the next day already laid out and ironed. Changing into his pajamas, [Also ironed, no steam. This was delicate stuff.] the gentleman rolled into his thick sheets and wool blanket. Pulling it up to his chin, the gentleman stared quietly at the other side of the bed.

He had no need for such a large bed anymore. Nor did he need two nightstands. Or two lamps. The light opposite him was pink and curved, contrasting with his plain metal lamp. Swallowing the lump in his throat, the gentleman turned away and faced the window across the room. The orange light of a streetlamp outside sent checkered squares across the floor and the bottom of his overly large bed.

His lids slowly fell, grateful for the relief. There was something about complete silence in the dead of night that was akin no other. Like the whole world had stopped, and if he opened his eyes, he would only be met by inky nothingness. The man shivered even though he was perfectly warm under his wool blanket.

And the clock kept ticking.

Tick.

Tick.

TICK.

That incessant device.

TICK.

TICK.

TICK!

Was it getting louder?

The gentleman flicked open his eyes and his breath caught in his throat.

There it was. On the windowsill. The orange light shined through the open back of the clock, illuminating its face like an autumn moon. Sitting up quickly, the man swung his legs over the side of the bed and watch the clock carefully. How did it get here? He was certain he put it in the cupboard. The room felt suddenly sweltering. Sticky.

And the clock kept ticking.

With a wave of rationality, the man shook away his fear and quickly retrieved the timepiece. He must have… forgotten?

The clock was still terribly cold in his hands despite the hot air. Had he turned up the heat as well? Determined, the gentleman gripped the thing tightly in his hands and deposited back in the kitchen cupboard.

It would stay there. Yawning, the gentleman turned away and entered his bedroom once more. He’d need extra sleep after all of this ticking rubbish. Laying back down, the man closed his eyes.

He was just in the space between awake and sleep when, TICK, TICK, TICK!

With a shout, the man jerked awake. There is was.

Trespassing on his nightstand mere inches from his face.

His mouth suddenly parched, the gentleman picked up the clock jerkily and held it away from him.

And the clock kept ticking.

An evil thing, the man thought. Horrid thing.

Before he could change his mind, the man took the clock, exited the apartment, and set it down outside. The wind wrapped her fingers through his nightclothes. With firmness, the man shut the door.

Only to turn around and be met by an increasingly familiar sight.

The clock. On top of the still-powered TV. And the clock kept ticking. Louder and louder, it seemed.

What do you want? The man wanted to shout. He couldn't escape it.

Instead, with his throat in an uneasy knot, the man grabbed the clock and took it outside again.

No more of this.

He would have liked a jacket to hold back the evening chill but he couldn’t go back inside now. The gentleman, clock in hand, proceeded to the curb. Cars rushed past every minute or so.

The clock would not survive a tire. The gentleman was sure of it. The clock kept ticking. Pursing his lips, the gentleman waited until the next car had passed. He then quickly padded out to the center of the road and placed the awful thing on the wet asphalt.

He’d be rid of it now.

And the clock kept ticking.

Wrinkling his nose in distaste, the gentleman stood and proceeded to the side of the road. There was something in him that wanted to watch. He wished to see the clock become no more than firewood and broken steel. To feel supreme over the horrible, irritating, impossible device.

A car rushed by, missing the clock by inches. The man hissed in annoyance.

And the clock kept ticking. Louder and louder.

Tick.

Tick!

TI-

Silence.

Sudden.

What?

Confused, the gentleman peered at the clock. He couldn’t see it clearly enough from this distance. But it was silent. And it was a silence akin to the night. Had the clock run out of ticks? With a furrowed brow, the gentleman picked his way back into the street. He crouched down, picked up the device and shook it.

But there was only silence. The hands were frozen.

All out of ticks.

All out of seconds.

All out of beats.

Heartbeats.

The gentleman didn’t see the truck until it hit him.

All out of time.

He closed his eyes at the impact.

And then there was only the silence of the night.


The broken traffic light was going to make her late, she knew it. Sighing, the woman knocked her head against the steering wheel. Why did nothing ever go her way? Looking down, she glimpsed the keys and the picture of her son dangling on a keychain.

How long had it been since she’d seen him?

Too long.

But that was hardly her fault. What she was doing here in the city was important. Critical.

It was at that moment she heard it.

Tick.

Tick.

Tick.

And the clock kept ticking.

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