The clock winked mocking me. I forced my eyes open and realized it was me blinking, not the clock winking, although I wasn’t absolutely sure. I stretched and pointed my toes elongating the muscles that had become stiff overnight. I raised my arms stretching them trying to touch the ceiling where a glimmering of translucent cobwebs hung. I needed to grab a broom and get rid of those. What would someone think if they saw them? On the other hand, they were pretty the way the light seemed to ride down the strands before jumping off into the open space of the room. I lived alone and it wasn’t likely to have anyone in the near future, or the far future for that matter, looking up at my bedroom ceiling.
I had bought the clock from a mail order company I’d found on the internet. It said for “People who don’t respect time, the clock that will end it all.” I thought that was what I needed. A cruel clock that will take charge and make me mind my p’s and q’s with rattling annoying chiming rings that cut through my earlobes like sharpened chopsticks. I even paid way too much money for it considering it didn’t glow in the dark, allow snooze times or play any kind of music.
I experimentally rolled over, never sure what to expect. Most days it was an angry ache but then there were the days that it was a roaring protest that shot down my legs causing me to cry out. Today was a good day thankfully and pulling one leg off the bed I managed to move my body into an upright position. I looked at the clock again to make sure it was behaving itself. I’d woken before it began to scream. It really had quite a sour disposition now that I thought about it. I glared at it and its face looked back pocked with black numerals. It was scornful of my very being. Apparently it didn’t realize that without me it would be a useless piece of junk setting alone unused and unappreciated. Not that I really appreciated it. That would be presuming way too much. I couldn’t even say I accepted it. It was just a necessary evil.
I stretched out my legs once more in a sitting position to let my spine know that I would soon be expecting something from it. I stood using the tower air cooler that lived next to my bed as a stabilizer. The cool air felt good. It always did. I pulled myself halfway up and then stopped. I was in a stoop but getting me fully erect was always a little iffy this early. Slowly I forced my spine to straighten. The cracks and grinds kept time with the ticking clock, which was no help at all, but just sat ticking itself away. It would eventually wind down and then I’d rewind it and we’d start our love-hate relationship all over again. For now, I just was intent on getting myself up. One more determined effort and I was tall and erect. My five foot nine inch body stood almost five foot eight. That was about as good as it was going to get for now. I knew that once my back loosened through the day that I’d get the other inch back.
Once again I glanced at the clock. Both my eyes were open now and still it seemed as though it winked at me. I’m sure it was just the glow in the dark hands moving. I’m sure it was. I took one tentative step forward and all seemed well. Even at this point, having arisen, that first step could make me or break me. The back was stiff and would be for awhile until my morning drugs kicked in. Sometimes that first step produced the same result as if I stepped onto a four foot steel spike that drove itself right through the leg and up into the spine. So far so good so I took a second step, then a third and continued until I was at the vanity mirror staring into my groggy brown eyes.
Shuffling around the apartment it was less than twenty minutes before I was out the door using my folding forest colored cane to maneuver down the steep path to my waiting truck. It was almost lunch before I thought about the clock again. For some reason, since I bought the wind up clock I seemed to never be able to quite get it off my mind. I put up my ‘out to lunch’ sign on my desk and kicked back in my large microfiber chair I had bought myself and brought to work, and closed my eyes and let my mind wander. I wound the clock every night. I wondered if it got tired as it ticked, ticked, and ticked away its energy. For a moment it did occur to me that clocks don’t get tired, but I skimmed over that point. The clock was that real to me.
I unwrapped the tasteless ham and cheese sandwich I had packed the night before and munched on it, while I thought about the clock, imagining how it sat on my nightstand, what angle it was in. I wondered if it sensed I was gone. Maybe that’s what made it angry so that it woke me with such disdain every morning. Perhaps I should bring it with me to work and keep it here on my desk. I always carried a large bag to work to hold my coffee, water and lunch. There was definitely room for one more item. At red lights I stopped and put my hand on its head and felt the soothing comfort of the ticking. I was honked at a couple of times when the light turned green, but I was mesmerized stroking the smoothness of the clock’s face and transfixed by the second hand slowly winding itself around and around and around. That’s pretty much my life. Slowly going around and around the same center day in and day out, never tiring, never changing until I slowly wound down and collapsed.
The next morning the routine repeated itself. The alarm screeched at me mercilessly. I tossed it into the red shopping bag with the faded Indian elephant on the outside and once at work placed the clock next to the black plastic trays that fit neatly atop one another. The clock sat comfortably all day as my in-box filled, deadlines came and went and the boss roared. I found myself speaking to the clock on several different occasions and I swear I could hear it tocking back at me. It was after all a tocking clock.
When I returned home that evening after picking up a small meat lover pizza, I placed the clock on top of the television. I thought it might like to know where I was and what I did when I wasn’t sleeping waiting for it to wail at me. It felt good having the clock with me.
Wednesday morning came and once again I left barely in enough time to sneak into work just a few minutes late. I would have been on time, but had decided to take a plastic grocery bag and tie it around the passenger headrest of my truck so the clock could look out the window on its way to work with me. I saw people driving happily down the street with pets and children tied securely by their sides all of the time. I’d been alone for a long while now and I wanted a sense of that happiness. Clock behaved just as good clocks do inside the little sack. It was time going nowhere fast. Oh wait, I was going somewhere. I was going to work. Ah, what the hell, I grabbed my cell phone and blatantly disregarding headphone laws, called in sick. I thought clock and I might go for a bit of a drive. After all, there was no time like the present.
I drove a while, making my way up the winding road to a favorite lake which I hadn’t been to in a long while. I had in mind the top of this minor mountain, if mountains are ever considered minor. On the top I could look out over the city, over the plain, and see for miles and miles. I always felt so triumphant on top. I had taken extra drugs and a vicodin earlier and although I wouldn’t climb in record time, I’d make it to the top eventually as long as I took my time. I thought clock would like that. I hummed tunes as I made my way watching the S curves glide past until finally I arrived a the park rangers small house I paid my three dollars and I was in for the day. The lake was beautiful. It seemed to be a bit misty and I hoped the humidity wouldn’t harm clock. I put it inside my shirt and unbuttoning the bottom tied it securely. I was wearing slacks rather than jeans but still, that should be just fine. I began to walk chattering happening. I could feel clock tocking away against my breasts warming my heart.
I arrived at the bottom of the rocks and began the ascent. I’d done this many times before. I knew I had to pay attention and to be very careful. This was no time to get hasty. I laughed at my own joke. I felt clock tocking against me. I was sure it got the pun as well. Testing each foothold I gently placed one foot at a time in a crevice using my long fingers with their polished and jeweled fingers to pull myself higher. I was an arms way to the top. I pulled clock out of my bra, where I had secured it, and set it on the rock on the edge so it could watch enjoy the freedom of the timeless space.
It was then hanging on with one hand and with just one foothold as I moved the other forward that the clock began its shrieking one last time. It startled me and confused me. I had definitely pushed in the little button to shut off the alarm and it wasn’t close to the time I’d set for it to go off. This was impossible. I flinched and at the same time a small snake slithered out and over my hand. I don’t know if it was a rattler, I’ll never know. I am terrified of snakes and without thinking of the consequence, I pulled my hand away. My long fall backwards toward the jagged rocks below seemed to last an eternity. As I fell, I could see clock winking and jangling its loud tin raucous roar at me. A moment before I hit the rounded boulders which shattered the bones in my upper back and snapped my neck I realized it did hate me. It had always hated me.
I survived obviously. I use a pencil in my mouth to write this tapping slowly on a keyboard. It’s a long laborious process. They tried to put the clock in my small room with me. That was before I learned to use this machine that could record my thoughts, even though I was now a quadriplegic with nothing but time, time and more time on my hands. I’d become so hysterical they had to sedate me. I don’t know what they did with the clock but it’s not here. I hope it is crushed, lying broken in a landfill somewhere with it guts spilling out, just like I had ended up.
I tried to explain that it was the clock. It was the clock glaring at me and bearing down with its bad intent, hounding my waking thoughts that had led to the accident. They called it a suicide attempt. They just don’t get it. I stopped trying to explain and now I let them think what they want. I had a woman contact me a few days ago. She wanted to speak to me alone. She understood. She was missing an arm. A crocodile had the rest of it. She came up from Florida and she’d also sent off to the small mail order company and bought a clock herself. It wanted to see the everglades so she had taken it. They didn’t believe her either.
I drifted off to sleep totally unaware that in a small room, smaller than the one I spent my days in, that a young college girl who tended to party late into the night was unwrapping a clock she’d sent off for. It promised her that it would end it all for people who don’t respect time. She thought that is just what she needed. Time was always getting away from her. She placed it on the overturned plastic crate she used for a night table and slept while the clock watched and bided its time because that is what good clocks do. Tick-tock.