05 Nov Tick Tock Man
“Tick Tock Man”Written by Elias Witherow Edited by Craig Groshek Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek Narrated by N/A
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available
⏰ ESTIMATED READING TIME — 23 minutes
How do I even begin to tell you about the… the fucking nightmare I’ve been through?
Give me a moment… Let me gather my thoughts… Let me prepare myself to relive the events that led me here. You’re going to think I’m insane… You’re going to think this isn’t true. I can’t say I blame you. I still have a hard time believing any of this is real…
But Jesus… the things I’ve seen.
It’s been five years now. Five confusing, hard years. You can’t comprehend what I’ve had to go through. There’s no way you’ll ever know what I’ve been forced to surrender. You can’t fathom how many things I’ve had to relearn. And there are still so many questions that absolutely terrify me…
But I’m rambling. I told myself I was going to sit down and record everything that happened. I suppose I should start from the beginning.
Christ… I don’t even know where the beginning is anymore.
It started with the watch. I bought it at a flea market on the day I was going to meet Megan for the first time. I had a date with her that night. A blind date, something one of our mutual friends set up. But, but the watch, that fucking watch…some kid was selling it at a table, along with dozens of others. They were all different, but I remember that specific one immediately caught my eye. It was made from some kind of black stone, the polished ebony band coiling around my wrist as I tried it on. It was breathtaking, a one-of-a-kind piece. The face was colored red in the center and then faded to black along the edges. The hands were colored in swirls of matching shades. The round face was encircled with beautiful shining stone, that same inky black practically glowing as I inspected it. It was heavy on my wrist and I remember liking that.
The kid… that fucking kid. He was watching me carefully the whole time with this glint in his eye. He knew…of course he knew. I know that now. He told me I could have it for five bucks. The price was unbeatable and he could tell I had fallen in love with it. I didn’t hesitate, purchasing it as quickly as I could pull out my wallet. I was thinking about how it would impress my blind date.
The kid snatched the five dollar bill from my hand and started packing up his table. I didn’t think anything of it, but as I turned to go, he called out to me. I turned around, expecting him to ask for more money. Instead, he had a torn look on his face. Finally, he spoke.
“Listen… That watch has an alarm on it… It goes off randomly. It’s important you turn the alarm off before it beeps three times. Just… just trust me, okay?”
I remember being confused, and rightly so I suppose. I asked the kid what would happen if I let the watch beep three times.
His eyes filled with darkness, “If it beeps three times… he comes.”
The kid leaned towards me and whispered, his voice hoarse, “The Tick Tock Man.”
I think I said something rude after this reveal, brushing off the warning as some kind of immature superstition. He was just a kid, probably ten or twelve, with fears he hadn’t worked out yet. I think he made me promise to remember what he said before I left.
Obviously, if I had actually listened to him I wouldn’t be sitting here right now. I wouldn’t be telling you all this.
I wouldn’t have met The Tick Tock Man.
I drummed my fingers on the bar, checking the time on my brand new watch. This Megan girl was late. Not a good sign. I was fighting with my nerves and trying to come up with ice breakers so the date wouldn’t fall into uncomfortable silence at any point. It was something I did for most dates, preparing a mental list of questions in case the conversation faltered.
I looked around the bar, pleased with the place I had chosen to meet. It was an intimate location, the brick walls giving it a cozy feel and the candles on the tables steamed the atmosphere. The interior had a high energy vibe to it and the tattooed bartender chatted with the patrons in a friendly fashion, making sure everyone had what they needed. It seemed like a perfect first date spot.
Every time a girl walked in, my heart would jump, expecting it to be Megan. One of our mutual friends had text me a picture of her and she was beautiful, out of my league, and that made me even more nervous. What was wrong with her? Why was she going out on blind dates? Why didn’t she have a boyfriend? I pushed these thoughts away, irritated that my mind was already trying to talk itself out of the situation. She was probably lovely and had just gone through a slew of horrible men and wanted to try something different, something fresh.
About ten minutes later, she walked in and my heart skipped a beat when I saw her. She was just as beautiful as the picture I had seen. Flowing brown hair, bright blue eyes, and a smile that could knock you dead. I waved her over when our eyes met and she lit up. My stomach did a flip as she slid onto the barstool next to me and introductions were officially made.
After I ordered her a drink, our conversation flowed into each others lives, poking and prodding with genuine intrigue about who we were and what we did. She was a college student, about to start her last year of school. I had graduated the year before and so she drilled me for tips on writing her thesis. She was fun and I liked how she always had a smile on her lips. Talking to her was easy and the longer I sat there the more comfortable I became. Soon the preliminary questions faded away and we began to just shoot the shit. It was easy, wonderfully easy, and I found myself absorbed by her.
The drinks kept coming and I soon found myself enjoying a nice buzz. I made sure I didn’t say anything stupid, the alcohol pushing me to try my luck with her sexually. I resisted for as long as I could, but eventually I caved and began to flirt. To my surprise, she flirted back with enthusiasm.
I had my hand on her thigh, and a big grin on my face when it happened for the first time.
Megan looked at me, a slightly tipsy grin on her face. “Was that your watch?” she asked, nodding towards my wrist.
I blinked my buzz away and held my watch up to my face. Well the kid hadn’t been lying about the alarm. I began fumbling for a button, some way to turn it off before it beeped again. I wasn’t even thinking about the kid’s warning, I just wanted to stop the annoying interruption.
“Am I keeping you from something?” Megan asked as the watch blared out another note.
My fingers finally found a small button on the side and I pushed it, shaking my head, “Sorry about that, I just bought this thing. I guess someone programmed an alarm on it before me.”
“I really like it,” Megan said, reaching out and taking my wrist, “It’s a very handsome watch. Makes you look smart.”
I was enjoying the way her hands felt on my skin and I felt my heart begin to race as her fingers traced my wrist along the band. Our eyes met and I saw lust behind her shining blues. I swallowed hard. Did…did she want me to take her home?
“It’s getting late,” she said coyly, turning my wrist in her hands to check the time, “You want to get out of here?”
“Y-yeah, absolutely,” I stammered, scrambling to remember how long ago I had purchased the condom in my wallet.
“Any ideas on where you want to go?” Megan asked, still smiling.
“W-well,” I said, mind avalanching, “my apartment is… It’s trashed right now.” I died a little inside as the honestly poured from my lips like vomit.
She chuckled, “That’s okay, I’m staying with my parents over summer break and they’re gone for the weekend. So we can go to my place if you want. We have a pool.” She said this last part with a wink and I could not believe my luck. Did that mean she wanted to go skinny dipping?
“That sounds great,” I said, reaching into my back pocket for my wallet.
I cashed us out and we left the bar. She told me her parents place wasn’t far, about ten minutes outside of town, out in the country hills. She said I could follow her in my car and so we parted ways momentarily. I climbed into my vehicle and let out a soft cry of victory. I couldn’t believe this was happening. Who would have know things would go so well?
As I followed her car out of the parking lot, I forced myself to calm down. I wasn’t going to get laid if I was a nervous wreck. I had to play it cool. I had to act like it was…you know… like it was whatever.
“You’re such a fucking dildo,” I muttered to myself, but smiled just the same. I couldn’t remember the last time I had gotten laid, and so easily to boot. And never with such a high caliber girl such as Megan! I thought back on who the last girl I slept with was and what she looked like. It slowly dawned on me and I immediately shut her face out of my mind.
“You had way too much to drink that night,” I said out loud, shuddering.
The streets were dark in the late hour and soon I left the town behind me, my eyes trained on Megan’s taillights. I rolled down the window, letting the warm summer air fill the car with electrifying possibility. I was in such a damn good mood.
The full moon hung fat and yellow in the sky. I made a gun with my fingers and shot an imaginary bullet at it as the wind whipped through my hair. I felt pretty cool.
Again? I thought, immediately annoyed by the noise. How often does this thing go off? No wonder that kid had been so eager to get rid of it. I fumbled in the dark interior of my car, keeping one eye on the road as I felt for the “off “ button. I searched for the slight incline along the side of the watch and when my fingers made contact, I pushed it. I waited for another beep, but none followed.
Not long after, I was pulling up behind Megan, a fairly large house looming before us. I stopped the car in the driveway and got out, appraising her home. The house was big, maybe five bedrooms, and the yard looked well kept. Everything about it boasted money. It was on a spacious plot of land, rolling green hills spanning around the sides and I heard the gentle sway of heavy woods from the back.
“Not bad,” I stated, walking to Megan who was getting out of her car.
“My dad makes pretty good money,” she said, smiling. She suddenly took my hand and pulled me along after her. I didn’t resist.
We went around the side of the house to the back, towards the pool. It was surrounded by a white fence and Megan pulled the gate open to let us in. The water glistened in the moonlight and I felt a shiver of excitement run through me despite the warm air. Megan went to one of the white plastic chairs that lined the sides of the pool and sat down, kicking off her heels and reaching behind her to pull her shirt off.
She saw me watching and grinned. “Turn around and don’t look until you hear a splash.”
I complied, licking my lips in anticipation. This was like a dream come true. I heard her undress and then a loud splash followed shortly after. I turned back around as her head broke the surface. The house was dark, emitting no light, but I could still see her smiling at me in the moonlight. I kicked my shoes off and pulled my shirt over my head. She watched me, wading in the middle of the pool, eyes alight. I took my pants off and then carefully undid my watch and placed it on my pants. Even with my boxers on, I felt exposed. Behind the fence, the thick woods danced in the warm breeze, as if to laugh at me.
“Well, come on in,” Megan invited.
I didn’t hesitate and took a running leap into the waiting water. My breath was robbed from my lungs as the cool water enveloped me. I sputtered to the surface, gasping and wiping my eyes.
Megan laughed at my obvious shock and dove underwater. I followed her lead, enjoying where this was headed. We splashed around for a little while, chasing each other and laughing. I commented on how good she looked in the moonlight and she swam closer, her glistening skin an absolute wonder. I swallowed hard as she stopped in front of me and wrapped her arms around my neck.
“I think I like you,” she said softly, smiling.
I didn’t hesitate. I wrapped my arms around her and pulled her into me. I kissed her, letting the moment last, the water quietly lapping around us. It was perfect, the full moon, the dead silence, the isolation and sexually charged energy, everything.
I ignored my watch, the alarm barely registering in my mind. I pressed Megan against the side of the pool, both of us lost in each other.
Megan reached underwater and began to grope me, her hands working around my boxers. I let out a sigh and felt myself surge with desire.
Megan had wrapped her legs around me and I walked us towards the pools stairs, desperate to get her up on dry land so I could further our course of action. Our eyes met and I could see she wanted it as much as I did. I pulled her from the water, both of our bodies rising in a rush of sound.
“Inside,” Megan said breathlessly. “Come on.”
I didn’t argue, my sex drive roaring with the intensity of a locomotive.
We went to her back door and as she placed her hand on the knob, a noise echoed through the night, stopping us in our tracks.
It was the loud gong of a clock. And it came from the woods.
We both looked at each other, the eeriness of it momentarily stalling our intentions.
“What was that?” I asked, my view of the woods blocked by the pools white fence.
She looked back at me and I saw she was just as confused, “That sounded like an old grandfather clock, right? What the hell?”
I cocked my head at her. “Is there a house in the woods? Because that’s where it sounded like it came from.”
“No,” she said, shaking her head. “There’s nothing out here.” It looked like she was about to say something else when the sound repeated, this time much louder.
“What in the world,” I muttered, jumping at the noise. It had sounded like it was at the edge of the woods, behind the fence.
The kids warning suddenly rushed back to me. Don’t let it beep three times…
That was ridiculous, though. What did he say would happen? The Tick Tock Man would come? Whatever that meant. Besides, that was just some dumb story he had just made up. It was just a watch. It didn’t hold any power. It couldn’t summon some weird figment of imagination.
“This is kind of freaking me out,” Megan said, huddling next to me, her shivering body dripping wet. She wasn’t naked, but she might as well have been. Seeing her out of the water urged me to deal with whatever this distraction was so we could get on with it.
“Let me go around and take a look,” I said, taking her by the shoulders. “There’s nothing to be afraid of.” I felt a little uneasy, but I thought if I showed her how brave I was, it’d get us back on track.
Megan nodded and I went to the gate. I pushed it open and looked towards the treeline which began at the edge of the fence. I thought I heard something making its way closer, walking along the length of the fence towards the corner in front of me.
I trained my ears and felt my heart begin to thunder in my chest. There was definitely something coming, the snap of branches and foliage underfoot announcing the arrival of whatever it was.
And there was another sound I was picking up as well.
It sounded like the ticking of clocks. Dozens of clocks, their passage of time all mixing together to create a constant jumble of tick tock tick tock…
“What the fuck,” I muttered, trying to calm myself. The noise grew closer… closer…
And then something walked around the corner of the fence towards me.
I felt a scream rise in my throat as my eyes tried to make sense of what I was seeing, my breath drained from my lungs like air from a tire. My legs turned to liquid and yet my knees locked in place, cementing me where I stood in frozen horror.
It was about seven feet tall, its black skin absorbing the moonlight around it. Its body looked human but twisted and bent over, its movements coming in short jerks of twitching muscle. It walked on two legs, like a person, but its feet were solid slabs of coned black meat. Its chest and shoulders were embedded with glowing red circles of different sizes. As I stared, I realized that the orbs were clock faces, all burned into its tormented flesh and slowly ticking, the source of noise made clear now. Its head was bloated and mangled, its mouth hanging limply open, its jaw swaying as it walked, held onto its face by cords of thin gold chain. It had no eyes, but instead, a giant clock face filled the top half of its head with black infected skin growing around it. It glowed red in the center and then faded to black, just like my watch. The hands on the clock were in a constant twirl of chaos, spinning with no discernible meaning.
And rising out of its back, in a mass of wood and flesh, was the top half of an old grandfather clock. It jutted from the creature’s torn flesh, rising from its body three feet high. The weight of it pushed down on the monster, causing it to hunch over slightly, its movement slowed. The grandfather clock was made of charred wood, tiny spires rising from its peak. The face was colored like my watch as well, but the hands held steady at midnight, a smaller third hand ticking away the seconds.
I slowly backed away from the creature, never taking my eyes from it. It was about twenty feet from me and slowly advancing. I felt a trickle of sweat run down my spine as my mind tried to make sense of the impossible figure before me. I kept expecting to blink and have it vanish, but it just kept walking towards me. Its face was trained in my direction, the large clock hands spinning madly.
Its jaw swung limply from the gold chains, the blast of sparkling color a sharp contrast to the black of its skin. The creature emitted a noise, a low growl like the turning of gears and heavy machinery. I had never heard anything like it before and it chilled my bones right down to the marrow.
It flexed its long sharp fingers at me, the ends coming to needle-like points. As it came closer, I sensed that this entity intended me harm, that it was coming to kill me. The constant tick-tocking from its body filled the night air and seemed to count down the seconds I had left to live.
I suddenly snapped from my trance-like state, the danger of my situation igniting me into action. I turned and ran, throwing the gate open and sprinting to Megan who waited for me by the back door. Adrenaline coursed through my veins, turning my blood to fire. Megan sensed my panic as I charged her and her eyes went wide with fear. Questions began to blossom from her lips, but I cut her off in a hurry.
“Inside NOW!” I yelled, skidding to a halt and throwing a look over my shoulder. The open gate showed nothing but a slice of night, but I could hear the thing ticking its way closer.
“What’s wrong?! What is it!?” Megan cried as she fumbled with the door.
I didn’t answer as she turned the knob and I pushed us both in. I quickly slammed the door behind us and locked it, turning to look out of the small square window in the center of the door. I cocked my head so that I could see and my breath froze in my lungs.
It was staring right at me, its body filling the gateway. It was slowly moving its fingers as if thinking, the clock in its face glowing red. I ducked down and slid to the floor, placing a hand over my beating heart. I sat with my back to the wood as Megan stood over me and peeked out the window. Her reaction was similar to mine, a sharp gasp of horrified confusion, and then she was sitting next to me, clutching me, asking me what that was. I didn’t have an answer for her so I remained silent, begging my mind to kick into gear. I needed to do something. I didn’t know what this thing was or where it had come from, but I knew it wanted to kill us.
I sat there stupidly, soaking wet and in my boxers, as Megan’s desperate pleas washed over me in a numb wave. I didn’t know what she wanted me to do, what she expected me to do. After a few minutes of sitting in the dark, Megan slowly stood and took another look from the window.
“It’s gone!” she announced breathlessly. “It’s gone!”
For some reason, her words didn’t comfort me. She might not be able to see it…but it surely wasn’t gone.
Why didn’t you listen to that kid? I thought, why didn’t you just turn off the stupid alarm?
I knew in retrospect that it was easy to blame myself, but realistically, why should I have believed the kid’s warning? We don’t prepare for the impossible because it’s just that: The Impossible.
I slowly stood, the house silent. I looked around, and in the dim darkness, I could see we were in the basement. At the far end of the room, a staircase led up to a closed door. I turned and took a quick look through the window and saw nothing but calm night.
“We need to get out of here!” Megan whispered urgently.
“I know, I know,” I said, running my fingers through my hair. “Just let me think!”
My thoughts were cut short as a loud noise exploded upstairs above us.
“Jesus Christ,” I whispered, “did it just kick in the front door?”
Megan’s eyes were wide and I felt her hand grip my arm.
Suddenly, the basement door erupted in a violent blast of splinters, the wood fragments rocketing down the stairs towards us. Megan let out a scream as the Tick Tock Man filled the dark doorway. The clocks that were fused into its skin gave off a soft red glow, washing his skin with haunting color.
The grandfather clock on its back was too tall for him to fit in the stairway and so it slowly got on its hands and knees and began to crawl down towards us. Megan was clawing at me, screaming for me, but I just stood and watched in horror as it slid down the stairs, the basement filling with the sound of a dozen ticking clocks.
It reached the end of the stairs and stood back up, not ten feet from us. My heart was a block of ice in my chest and my legs felt sluggish and heavy as I begged them to move. Air hissed between my dry lips and my throat burned with an effort to breathe.
As the Tick Tock Man stood, I noticed the time on the grandfather clock had advanced. Instead of midnight, the hands read 12:15. I didn’t know if it meant anything and my brain was too scrambled to try.
“Get away from us!” Megan was screaming. She turned and grabbed the door behind us, fumbling in the dark trying to unlock it.
Just as I heard the “click” of her successful attempts, the monster before us moved.
I expected it to rush us, but instead, it gripped its own throat and pushed its head back. The clock hands on its body began to spin faster and the red color in the center of each of them began to glow brighter.
Suddenly, noise erupted from its mouth, a deafening blast of sound.
GONG! GONG! GONG! GONG!
I slammed my hands over my ears and saw Megan do the same, the volume of its chimes aching in my ears. I felt like my head was going to split and I squeezed my eyes shut against the blasts. I felt myself growing weak, the black behind my eyelids swimming in and out of focus.
Something was happening to me.
The gonging kept going, each note followed quickly by another, the offensively loud sound cracking my skull open and rattling my brain. I felt like my head would pop, unable to take the shock waves of pain with each toll.
And then suddenly… it stopped.
My head rocked with agony and I clutched my temples, eyes still shut. I felt the world shimmer and then refocus around me. Slowly, I opened my eyes.
Something was…wrong. The proportions of everything was off, the furniture and ceiling looming overhead. I felt dizzy and I stumbled as I took in this contorted reality.
No. It wasn’t reality that had shifted.
It was me.
I looked down at my body and felt panic roar in my chest like a screaming inferno.
I was… young again. I looked at my hands and little legs, testing my weight in a hurried attempt to acquaint myself with this new horror. I couldn’t be more than two years old.
But my mind remained the same. It was trapped in a younger version of myself and as I opened my mouth to speak, nothing but a choked gurgling sound came out. It was like the words became garbled as they rose from my throat, distorted by the inexperience of youth.
I turned my head and saw Megan had suffered the same fate. Big tears rolled down her face as she stared at me in absolute disbelief. We were toddlers, shrunk back down as our years were taken back from us. Broken syllables and sounds poured from her mouth as she tried to speak to me, but I couldn’t understand any of it. We were trapped inside younger versions of ourselves, our minds held captive in underdeveloped bodies.
Suddenly, the Tick Tock Man was towering above us. He looked terrifyingly huge from where I stood, my neck craning to take in his looming form.
Megan screamed, her voice a high pitched wail, and she scrambled to get away. She stumbled and fell, unaccustomed to the way her body worked. She struggled to pull herself upright and I saw her arms quivering with effort.
And then it hit me just how defenseless we were right now. The danger suddenly horrifyingly real, I took off in the opposite direction, away from Megan, away from the monster. My little feet took me across the room towards the couch where I ducked and hid. My muscles already ached from effort, and I sucked in big breaths, trying to fill my lungs with oxygen. I couldn’t believe how weak I was, how easily I tired. I heard Megan screaming and I got down on all fours and crawled under the couch.
I peeked through the skirt on the other side and saw the Tick Tock Man bending down to pick Megan up. He clutched her in one hand, his long sharp fingers wrapping around her head, and lifted her squirming body from the floor.
In one quick motion, it twisted her head and pulled it from her shoulders with a sick popping sound. Blood splashed to the ground and Megan’s cries were cut short as she was forcefully decapitated. I felt bile charge up my throat, the horrific scene slamming into my senses, and I vomited onto the floor.
The creature turned my way and I noticed that the hands on the grandfather clock now read 12:30. I hurriedly scooted backwards, hiding myself under the couch’s skirt. I held my breath, eyes squeezed shut as tears leak from them. I rubbed a chubby hand against my nose, wiping away snot, begging to turn invisible.
Suddenly, the couch flew off of me, tossed aside by the enormous monster. I screamed, my underdeveloped vocal cords vibrating in a high shriek. I scrambled to get away, but my sluggish muscles wouldn’t react fast enough. I saw it swing its long sharp hand at me and I ducked, desperately trying to avoid the same fate as Megan.
I wasn’t fast enough and I took the impact across my shoulders. Pain splintered through my body and I went airborne, soaring through the room and into the window. I crashed through it and went tumbling into the night air, landing hard in the pool area, the rough cement unforgiving on my skin.
I came to a stop by the pool’s edge and lay gasping, my breath beaten out of me. Everything hurt and jolts of sharp pain coursed along the left side of my small body. My legs and knees were bleeding leaving red streaks on my vulnerable flesh.
I blinked back darkness, forcing myself to keep my eyes open. I knew that if I closed them, I would never open them again. In a daze, I saw the Tick Tock Man climb through the shattered remains of the window, ducking down to allow the grandfather clock access to the outside. It read 12:45.
That can’t be right, I thought numbly, the hands are moving too fast.
And then another thought drifted up from my scattered mind, Maybe time is different where it comes from…
I forced myself to get up, my body screaming in protest. I realized that I was crying, my cheeks wet with tears.
Move, I told myself, you have to move or you’re dead.
Crying out, I hobbled towards the open gate, a last-ditch effort to get away from the murderous monster. It had pulled itself completely from the window when it spotted me, pathetically limping towards the open gate, a look of utter terror on my face.
I wasn’t moving fast enough.
He’s going to rip your head off, I thought, tears flowing from my eyes, you have to do something.
I suddenly turned around, hearing the creature close behind me. My body in shambles, I dashed to where I had left my clothes, my shoulder screaming in protest. My legs felt like they were on fire and every time I exhaled, blood and drool flew from my lips.
I reached the chair I had left my clothes and snatched the watch from where I had left it. I turned around, holding it out in front of me like a shield.
The Tick Tock Man froze, mere feet from me, the sight of the watch freezing it in its tracks. I had no plan, no hope, just a prayer and a dying wish.
We stood staring at each other, neither one of us moving. For some reason, the sight of the watch kept it frozen in place. The black stone it was made from felt hot in my hands and I gripped it tighter. I didn’t know what kind of power it had over this entity, but I slowly backed up, keeping the watch held out in front of me. I never took my eyes from it, circling around the pool, waiting for the creature to suddenly lurch into motion. But it remained where stood, slowly turning to watch me as I came around the far side and slowly made my way to the gate. I could hear a mechanical growl coming from deep in its chest, a roaring anger, a deep hunger.
I got to the gate and glanced out, my eyes going to the treeline. I had to try and make it, it was my only hope.
I turned and ran, going as fast as my broken body could take me. As soon as the watch broke contact with the monster, I heard it howl, the sound echoing in the night like clanging chimes. I knew it wouldn’t be far behind me and I begged my clumsy body to move faster, trying my best to ignore the agony it was in.
My bare feet shuffled through the grass, the treeline seeming impossibly far away. A breeze rustled the treetops, and I heard the Tick Tock Man explode through the fence behind me. The earth vibrated under my feet as I felt it take long strides towards me, but I dared not look back.
Suddenly, I fell, my body simply giving up. I crashed to the ground with a cry, the watch flying from my hands. I hit the dirt with a grunt and a new wave of pain gripped me. I grit what teeth I had and began to crawl towards the trees, my tiny fists grabbing handfuls of dewy grass. I knew I was dead.
Suddenly, I felt a strong hand grip my ankle and I was lifted into the air. I dangled upside down, screaming, as the Tick Tock Man pulled me up.
Its form was hideous up close, its skin reeking and giving off a nauseating heat. I battered at it with powerless fists, yelling, howling.
It gripped my head with its other hand and I was flipped upright, dangling from its grip in a helpless heap.
This was it.
It growled with pleasure, a rumbling turning of gears, and I waited for the end.
I closed my eyes.
I snapped my eyes open, the sudden sound unexpected and deafening. I blinked and saw that the grandfather clock on its back had struck 1:00.
Suddenly, the Tick Tock Man went into a rage, thrashing its arms about, its dozens of clock faces exploding in red color. The hands spun at an increased speed and I was tossed to the ground. I landed in the grass, wincing and letting out another cry as I came to a stop. I turned my head and saw another impossibility.
Gold chains snaked out of the grandfather clock like the coils of a hundred snakes. They moved on their own accord, sliding around the Tick Tock Man’s flesh, wrapping themselves in tight knots, binding him. The monster screamed in rage, furious that it had been mere seconds away from killing me. The chains continued to snake out from its back, covering its body in layers and layers of dense gold.
In a matter of seconds, the creature was completely enveloped by its bindings and I watched in horrific fascination as the cluster of gold began to shrink. I expected flesh and blood to come squirting from the chains, but they remained spotless and shining in the moonlight.
The howls from the monster never ceased as the chains seemed to shrink in on themselves, the mass grower smaller and smaller until finally…the nightmare simply winked out of existence.
I lay there in the grass, my breath coming in burning gulps, unable to believe what I had just witnessed. Blood pulsed in my ears and my heartbeat was a desperate drum beat.
I closed my eyes and let the darkness take me.
It’s been five years since now. I survived that bloody night, though, I don’t know how. My body was a mangled mess and I’ve had to do intense rehab ever since.
In a stroke of pure blessing, Megan’s parents came home early from out of town. When they saw the broken glass and the blood, they called the police. And then they found the headless body of their daughter, inexplicably reduced back to her early years. I wasn’t conscious for any of this.
The police found me laying in the grass when they arrived. I was rushed to the hospital and by some miracle, I survived.
When I woke up… When I woke up in the hospital, I rubbed my eyes and felt something heavy on my wrist.
Somehow, I was wearing that fucking watch.
You see…I can’t get rid of it. No matter how hard I try, no matter what I do, when I fall asleep, I wake up wearing it again. I’ve tried smashing it, burying it, burning it, but nothing works. It always returns, looking brand new.
I’ve thought back to when I bought it…from that kid…and I wonder if the only way to…to pass this curse off of me is to sell it to another unlucky soul. I’ve thought about it, oh have I thought about it. But no matter how much I hate this, how much this monstrous thing has destroyed my life, it is, in fact, my burden to bear.
I can’t pass this off to someone else. I can’t give them the horror I know will come.
Because you see…the alarm still goes off. It’s random, completely unpredictable. Sometimes months will pass and it will remain silent. Other times it will go off three times in one day. There’s no pattern or reason for it, it’s a monster of its own makings. I fear going to sleep, afraid that if it goes off in the middle of the night I won’t hear it.
I’m afraid the Tick Tock Man will come back and finish the job, summoned by the watch on the third chime.
So now it is a part of me, this goddamn watch. I’ve learned to live with it, as best I can, but the fear won’t go away. I don’t think it ever will.
Because I know… I know that one day I won’t turn off the alarm in time… I know that it’s going to come back for me.
And I have a lot of years ahead of me.
I’m seven years old now…I’m seven years old again. I live in a foster home, a quiet outcast who just wants to be left alone. The family I’m with are good people, but they don’t understand the weird things I say sometimes. And how could they…
I’m a twenty-eight-year-old trapped in a seven-year-old’s body.
And let me tell you… living through life again is not something I would wish on anyone…
Life… It’s full of monsters waiting to rip you apart over… and over… and over again.
🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None AvailableElias Witherow Edited by Craig Groshek Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek Narrated by N/A