When Time Stopped

In that night of heavy, heady heat, the sweat swam across my skin. The lethargy that moonlit eve inspired allowed for no thought of sleep, indeed, for no thought at all – it was too hot to think. Like the aftereffects of a thick, warm, red wine, it was too sticky and syrupy for my concentration to rest on anything but my body’s functions. That which had always been automatic and reflexive now sapped strength with effort. My lungs required a conscious thought to draw a breath and another to exhale. Every detail of my digestive process vied for my mind’s attention. Even my glands pleaded for recognition of their work, as they filled organ after organ and pore after pore with fluid; the overflow trickling across my skin and gaining speed as the rivulets slid downwards, snail-like, leaving viscous trails in their wake.

Had any curious observer or peeping tom peered in my open window, my dim kitchen would appear lifeless; my body nothing more than another object left behind by its careless owner. Every neuron was captured in the microscopic tasks of existence and, for the time being, perceptible motion required energy which was not to be spared. But no observer commented upon my corpse-like state, for none were there to view it. Even the grey-striped cat who regarded my home as his domain had abandoned it in anticipation of the sweltering heat.

I knew not how long I sat in the wooden chair, sweaty and unfocused. My clock was broken. Not that it made much difference, for I understood that time was running unusually that evening. The grains of sand in the hourglass hanging from Time’s belt had lost their edges and run together into a massive lump that the thin, glass neck couldn’t choke up or down. The moon disregarded her set path and began to swing lazy arcs in the dark purple sky. And the heat, the heat continued to rise in a silence that outsang the crickets and locusts. It was a night where the temperature created new rules and the normal laws of nature were rendered invalid. It was, quite simply, a night of insanity.

At the sudden bang on my door, I jumped as if electricity of enormous voltage had slammed into my body. After the jump-start, my brain began pumping with intense velocity, jolted out of its semisonia. I threw open the screen door and looked out into the giant maw of night heat which awaited me outside. Nothing but those gaping jaws and their rank breath stood there. I turned in confusion, the screens pressing into my back, the wire springs whining their desire to close. My distorted face appeared threateningly before me. The washed out skin and white-purple lips glared while dark hollows met my eyes in a a challenge. For a moment longer, I stared into the glass of my open front door before returning to my seat, more than a bit disconcerted.

The pumping of my heart asked for no help now. It slammed against my ribs like a caged animal throwing itself at the bars in futility. I stared at my broken timepiece, stopped somewhere between two and three. There was something eerie in a clock that continued to tick after the hands stopped moving. That signal of time continuing, yet passed by, filled my ears. I found it inherently evil that underlying this innocent face of false information, the gears still slid and slithered into place. The phony pretenses that this helpful grin evoked left a chill in the heat as the metal snakes wrapped and locked around each other.

Softer this time, another thud came at my door. Startled from my nasty reveries, I glanced over at the open door, but once again, nothing unusual made itself apparent.

I turned back to the chronological malevolence, contemplating its devices. Perhaps this pounding in my head was not just an onset of a simple headache; was it possible this was a juxtaposition on the clock’s part? It kidnapped the natural beat of my soul and replaced it with its own perpetual mechanisms. I tried to shake the irrationality from my thoughts, but it was impossible. The moon began to giggle as another unknown object made my screen door shudder. This time, I didn’t even turn around, so enrapt was my thrall in this object of treachery. It had worked its nonsense into my skull where it began to fester and smell of rot.

Slowly, the clock took over all the functions I had found so difficult earlier. My breathing began to run concurrent with the harsh clicks and I could no longer discern the difference between the rhythm of the metronomical measure and the rhythm of my own pulse. The waves of heat swelled through the orifices of my house in time to the clock’s beat. Faster and faster the clock chirped, the automation not seeming to maintain the rules of mechanics any more than nature was adhering to its laws any longer. Faster and faster the moon swayed. Faster and faster the door banged and the heat buzzed and my mind swirled.

Some part inside of me rebelled against the tempo of this dance of death and it pushed me from my seat. I stared at this instrument of oppression for a moment before I reached up to it. The clock seemed to pulsate underneath my fingers. Heated from the environment, the smooth wood of its frame took on the feel of human flesh and for an instant, I feared that it would grasp back at my hands. Within the next moment, before I had time for another thought to wind its way through the wires of my mind, I had flung the clock upon the ground with all my force. I stared down at it, where it lay shattered upon my floor, relieved that the ticking inside my brain had finally stopped.

At that moment, the heat rose up like an infernal succubus, groping at my body, drawing me down. I turned, feeling faint. I knew then how foolish I had been. I sought the table for support, my weakened knees stealing my balance. I was mistaken in thinking that the clock had been my enemy. In my triumph over the pounding in my head, I had neglected to notice the complete and utter lack of a cessation of the banging at the door.

I could not overcome the horror in my heart as I searched for a way to disprove the vision in front of me. Pressed against the door, so tightly that it had become an act of self-mutilation, the wings mangled and pressing into the grille of wire metal, was a full plethora of enormous night moths. That screen had made its imprint on their furry bodies, even larger than my hands. Those I could see were most certainly dead and those who had arrived later were pressing down in a frenzy upon those already there. They had slammed into the door, kamikaze-style, battering their brethren to death. And still they came, again and again, the soft thuds the sound of them throwing their bodies upon the mutilated dead in their way.

I fell to my knees as I noticed that which was inevitable. I tried not to look as the wire scraped against the metal door frame, but I could not move my eyes from the scene. Slowly, the upper right corner of my screen tore away from the door. I tried to scream, but the heat had stolen my voice as it swallowed me alive. The first of the creatures fluttered into the room.

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About E

Even as a child, I read voraciously. Writing has always been a natural outlet. Sometimes bordering on macabre or edgy, I was not always safe and even today I look at some of my writing and raise an eyebrow. Read me at your own risk. I am but a 30-something professional (don't ask a professional what, for I won't answer!) who spends nights as a dreamer and sometimes writer.
This entry was posted in 1995, horror, short story and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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