Fiction: “Watching the Clock”

Did you ever watch the clock… waiting… praying for the time to pass? Did you ever have that happen so badly that each tick of the second hand was followed by an eternity before the tock, and another eternity followed before the next tick?  Did your mind ever race with thoughts you couldn’t control, looking back at your life and all the decisions you made as you waited for each minute to crawl by?

I could hear the clock on my office wall.

Tick.

Eternity.

Tock.

Eternity.

As I waited for the sun to set.

===

So where were you when The Wave arrived? The Wave, a wall of mystic energy that swept across the world in a silvery shimmer, asking every living person what they wanted to become.  Dragon?  No problem.  Elf?  Sure?  Great white shark?  Absolutely.  Alien?  Just say the word.  Anything short of a god, you could be.  What did you wish for?

Mark and I were sitting in my corner office, the office I’d gotten after breaking through the glass ceiling at other companies gaining experience to start my own. I built my company to the pinnacle of the industry through ruthless competence, long nights, hard days, and sacrifice of everything outside work.  We were talking right after lunch, relaxing in my glass box office.  Mark sat on the sofa, feeling the sun caressing him.  My desk was still in the shade.  The afternoon sun would sweep across the entirety of my office before slipping behind the wall to the hallway.  It made for a cheery place.

That helped, because most of my waking moments were in the office. I had no boyfriend, no husband, no nothing besides my career.  Sometimes I felt empty, but I’d think about my career, my bank account, my penthouse condo and vacation place on the Riviera, my Benz… and I’d get over it.  I was Number One.

So Mark and I were talking about the next quarter. He was my VP of Sales, my best salesman, and a long-time friend.  My best friend.  Really, my only friend.  As driven as I was, our conversation focused on work and was interspersed with numbers, goals, and how we were going to take my company to the next level.  Then something shimmered through the window like sunlight on rippled water.  We both look outside, and started to stand in shock, and The Wave rushed the building then swept through it.  As it hit us we felt, in our gut, the truth of what it said: Anything you want to be, you can be.

He looked at me. I looked at him.  We smiled and said, in unison, “Vampire.”

I felt myself shuddering, suddenly feeling cold as my body died, and the fangs sprouting in my mouth pushed my jaws apart. I looked at my hands, fingernails growing slightly into subtle claws.  I was instantly thirsty.  I looked up at Mark, also looking at his hands.  He smiled at me, a toothy smile that showed his new fangs… and then his face turned to horror and terror as the sun’s light ignited him and he burned, flames bursting out from multiple places on his skin as he writhed in agony and his frame collapsed into ash.  Acrid smoke filled the room.

Immediately I upended my desk to form a barrier against the light, crouching down to hunker inside the foot well. Escape was impossible as the sunlight bathed my door.  Even the sun’s reflected rays hurt.  And I knew it would get worse as the day progressed and the sun moved to light up my whole office, but at least I wouldn’t be directly touched by it.  I settled in to wait for nightfall.

Howls came from outside my door, and I somehow sensed that two of my employees had chosen to be werewolves. Trying out their wolf forms, they ran through the halls.  The building shook, rhythmically, as though something large was walking nearby… and then the shrill shriek of Godzilla ripped through the air.

The smoke from Mark’s incineration filled my nose. The reflected sunlight burned as the sun crawled across the room, bouncing off the wall and seared my skin.

Tick.

Eternity.

Tock.

Eternity.

I wanted to sleep. To close my eyes and lay dead until sunset.  The pain from the light was too much.  I squeezed my eyes shut.  I saw things… I saw my life.

I saw… my first lemonade stand at age six. I was so proud, sitting there at the end of the driveway, selling glasses to passers-by for a dime, and so thrilled at the end of the day having made a small pile of coins which went into my piggy bank.  Every weekend I was out there in good weather.  Soon I added cookies to my portfolio, then pretzels and peanuts too, in small bags.  I had to buy new piggy banks.  I learned about gross and net profit as my parents stopped subsidizing my business so I had to buy my own supplies.  I learned about price per unit to minimize my costs.

I saw… my flier for helping others around their houses, a flier I put in all the neighbors’ mailboxes when I was 12. I would rake leaves, shovel snow, clean houses, and run errands.  All to earn more.  I learned about scheduling, and profit per task, and focused my business efforts on chores that would give me the most profit per minute.  I learned to get by with less sleep so I could do more.

I saw… my first-place trophy from the university’s Entrepreneur Club sitting on my desk at school. I had won first place not only for a killer business idea, but for having a detailed business plan and even an investor all lined up.  It was my first real business.  I started it, built it, sold it, and leveraged that experience into a series of management positions that I exploited to gain knowledge.  I did everything to get ahead, including sleeping my way up.  I stepped on people like footstools.  All so I could then start my own company.  Only now do I see how ruthless I was, always looking to exploit every situation for gain.

I saw… my last boyfriend, George, walk away, shoulders hunched, slumped, after he had proposed and I had said no. He wanted a simpler life, a less hectic life.  He wanted a family.  He would have been a great father.  I wanted to be Number One.

I saw… my mother, on her deathbed, asking about George and where he was. She asked when I was going to have a family.  I lied to her, saying that George was just away on a trip and that he’d proposed.  I didn’t, I somehow couldn’t tell her I’d spurned him.  She smiled, closed her eyes, said “He really loves you,” and breathed her last.  My last words to her were a lie.

My mind snapped to the present again and I opened my eyes, squinting at the sunlight reflecting off the wall.

My best, my only friend, was dead, the stench of his smoky death still coloring my office. All the friends I didn’t make.  The children I would never have.  The sacrifices and compromises I made, the vile things I did to get ahead, the business I built which was now dead with the new society that would have to form in this changed world.

All just ashes like Mark.

Tick.

Eternity.

Tock.

Eternity.

Tick.

Eternity.

Tock.

Eternity.

Why is that clock moving so slowly? When can I escape from this sunlight prison?

And I’m thirsty… so very thirsty.

 

© 2016, David Hunt, PE

P.S. My first fiction story, Butterfly Dreams, is a sci-fi fantasy romance short story.

4 thoughts on “Fiction: “Watching the Clock”

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