The Clock

Edgar shifted his frail body anxiously atop the wafer-like mattress, the metal springs having begun to bore into his bones. Reaching high into the air toward the concrete ceiling, he attempted to soothe the ache which suffocated his spine. Hands grasping for the heavens or whatever it was that existed so far past his reach, he remembered how mother would scold him for his bad posture, so he sat that much taller. But then he remembered how much he didn’t care and how little time he had left, so he let his body slump forward into the hideously curved position which felt most comfortable.

For a moment he sat perfectly still, relishing the sunlight which spilled in through the small dingy window of his enclosure. The deliciously warm rays kissed the pruned skin which loosely hugged his decrepit frame, causing his thin cracked lips to curve into the slightest of smiles. And he realized something odd. It was quiet but for the tick tock of the clock down the hall. And it was this tick tock which caused his smiling lips to tumble back down into the forlorn expression he wore almost every day. And his thoughts began to swirl and twirl back to a time and a place he had long since tried to push from his mind…

~~

He sat not on the edge of his bed any longer, but the edge of the couch in their living room. He was there on that dayThat day had seemed no different when he’d woken. Had seemed normal. Not great. But not bad.  And certainly not a day which would shape the remainder of his tortured existence.

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He sat perfectly still. Perfectly quiet. And for several long minutes nothing seemed to fill his mind. Nothing of any real consequence, anyway. He looked down at the dull hardwood floors and wondered if any amount of wax could make them come back to life.

But then a deafening silence captured his attention. The clock. He looked up and across the living room, to the crookedly hung round oak clock which stared back at him. It had stopped. And he laughed a little at the hands which pointed to the 6 and the 9. The distinct moment when life as he knew it had ended, 6:45, and he wondered what the chances of something like that happening were.

There was a stack of mail on the table before him and he grabbed one of the opened envelopes. He reached into the pocket of his crisp linen shirt and found it empty, so he reached down toward his wife’s purse – its contents spilled out onto the floor – and retrieved a pen, clicked it, and wrote:

Floor wax
Batteries

But as he wrote, the ink which flowed from the pen was quickly covered by a thick crimson which ran down his hands and stained the bright white paper.  His body began to shake as the reality of what happened gripped him and held him tight. The whoosh of the blood coursing through his veins drowned out the sirens, drowned out the sound of the gravel driveway giving way to the hurried footsteps of the police officers coming for him.

He looked back down at the dull hardwood floors and saw what he refused to see before – four bodies slashed open.  He opened his mouth to scream or talk or utter some sort of sound, but nothing but raspy breath escaped him. There lay his wife, her lover, and two of their children. He’d walked in and found them – his wife and his best friend. A heated argument ensued, which ended in him bludgeoning the two of them to death.  And as if that had not been enough, he’d run to the kitchen and found a knife – the biggest one he could find – and returned to stab them and slice them open. A man he was no more, a rabid beast with an insatiable hunger, he lost himself completely in revenge and anger and pain. So when little Randy and Susie walked in from school and stood frozen at the door and screamed, he didn’t see the children he loved, he saw witnesses and reminders of all that he had lost. And so he lunged for them and drove the sharp blade covered in their mother’s blood deep inside of them, silencing them forever.

~~

“It’s time,” said the warden who stood before him. And just as the officers had done that night, he was dragged away.

Inside a small cream room, his ankles and wrists were bound, and the sleeves of his fresh linen shirt pulled up. Tears still streaming down his face, he blinked violently, desperately trying to make out the faces of the people who were there to kill him. But it was of no use, his regret blinded him.

Goosebumps covered his flesh as cold alcohol was slathered on his forearms and the needles plunged into his veins. The screams of that day filled his ears, and so he heard nothing of what was spoken to him, but he nodded anyway. Whatever it was they were about to do, however they were about to do it, he knew one thing – he deserved it.

And just as the liquid death was injected into his body, his tears finally dried and his head fell to the side. Seated in a blue plastic chair in the back of the room outside of his chamber, a woman with red curls and emerald-green eyes nearly caused his heart to stop right there. His daughter, Amelia, all grown up, a stunning replica of her mother, sat with her hand over her mouth and mascara running down her soft porcelain cheeks. His first-born and the one survivor. The one who had come home just as the police were dragging him away. Just as her mother and brother and sister were being zipped into bags. His one living reminder of all that he had done and all that he had lost.

A single tear danced down his cheek and his lips trembled as he attempted to mouth “I’m sorry,” but the darkness came galloping toward him and robbed him of the chance. His body shook for a brief moment. A single gasp of air. And then, right as the clock struck 6:45, he was perfectly still.  Perfectly quiet.

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