A Clockwork Dead
Not a single cloud marred the blue sky. Mid-spring brought a multitude of color to the world at Oak Wood Retirement Center. Overall it proved to be another beautiful day. Normally William Palmer looked forward to days like this where he could volunteer in the gardens or helping Larry Miller with some project. Today, however, was not one of those days. Despite the sun gleaming down upon William's world, there seemed to be a muting to its radiance; not something visibly but more of a gloom feeling. William sat on the edge of his bed trying to place a finger on something he could not understand, yet it was right there. Maybe if he went for a walk he could then pinpoint the problem. Exiting his room he turned left and walked down the hall. Passing by an open doorway, he glanced inside and waved to Mrs. Weaver who was in the process of cleaning her own room. She also volunteered to take the place of any of the cleaning staff that happened to be off for the day. Director Doris Rosefeld had no problem with the residents that wanted to pitch in and help with the small stuff. It kept them active and happier.
The hall ended at a door that said house keeping continued to the right. The building was shaped in a square bottomed U. This section held the main entrance, personnel offices, and the sitting room which was actually used to meet with future clients and their families. William spotted Doris walk out of the sitting room followed by two delivery men. The delivery men left and Doris returned to her office. Probably brought in a new piece of furniture. Letting his curiosity get the best of him, William decided to take a look.
The room consisted of a round oak table with six chairs, two sofas with matching chairs, a coffee table, two end tables, and a side board to place refreshments. A door lead out to the vast backyard with its gazebos, gardens and large shaded oaks. Even with all the furniture the room still had plenty of room to move around and not have a cluttered look.
His eyes immediately riveted onto the new addition against the left wall of the room. A deep chill filled his veins. There stood a large grandfather clock tick-tick-ticking as the pendulum slowly moved back and forth. The casing was a little wider and a little thicker than most grandfather clocks he had seen. It was constructed from light oak and its fluted columns were made of cherry. Nothing fancy but still quite handsome.
This was it. There stood the cause of William's gloom. "My God, what have you done? What sort of evil did you bring here, Victor?"
"Beautiful isn't it? Oh, I'm sorry Mr. Palmer, I didn't mean to startle you."
"Oh, its ok, Mrs. Rossfeld. I guess I was just lost with this, umm, new addition."
"Quite understandable, it is a very nice piece."
"Where did it come from?" He already knew the answer to that but was hopping he was wrong. "That's the funny thing about this. The receipt says Holland Storage and Delivery but they wont say were it came from. Just that it was donated."
"Feel free to enjoy, it is here for everyone." Doris left the room to return to her office. William gave the abomination one last look and left. He had a lot of thinking to do.
Larry Miller double checked his measurements on the boards that would soon be new shelves for Mrs. Anderson's room. The table saw whined to life, drowning out Tammy Wynnettes voice on the radio. Larry only listened to Country music and not any of that new crap either. he set aside the boards and turned off the table saw. All he needed new were the wall mounts and the screws so he climbed the ladder to get the needed hardware. The radio switched from Ernest Tubb to an infernal racket of electric guitars and drums with some guy telling about his sweet child. "Damn it Brent, what the hell have I told you about touching my radio when I'm here? Turn that damn shit off." The whine of the table saw startled him, causing Larry to drop the jar of screws. It hit the step below him and shattered, spilling it's contents everywhere. "Son of a bitch. You think that's funny, Brent? I'll show you funny." As he climbed down his left foot slipped on a screw while his right foot was still in open space. Holding his grip on the ladder and bringing his foot back up the the rung it was on he just about recovered his balance then he felt something like a hand grab the back of his shirt and jerk backwards. Larry screamed as he landed on the table saw, its viscous blade chewing through flesh, bone and lung. Blood sprayed, filling the air with a red mist from his mouth. Just before his mind shut down in death, he could have sworn he heard the chime of a grandfather clock.
The news of Larry Miller's death spread quickly. Brent Callum, who tended the grounds part-time was the one who found Larry's body. William sat in his room that evening brooding over the new. Larry had always been careful. This was no accident. A knock came to the partially open door and a young nurse walked in carrying a tray. "When I heard you weren't at dinner, I decided to bring you a tray." She sat the tray down on the table near the bed. "Thank you Jodie, I'm afraid I'm just not very hungry tonight."
"Want to talk about it?"
"I wont make very good company tonight either."
"Its ok. you just talk and I'll just listen." William gave a long sigh and leaned back. "Why are you here Jodi? I don't mean here now. Why are you here in this place. Your a brilliant girl. you shouldn't be wasting your time with a bunch of broken down old geezers." She laughed. "Your not broken down. I like it here. At first I took this job to get into the nursing field while I was in school but the longer I stayed, I stopped thinking everyone as patients and more as friends and family."
While Jodie and William held a pleasant conversation, not all was well in the dinning room. Mildred Insley just sat down to eat when she begin to cough. her throat felt tight and it was getting worse. Grabbing her teas with a shaky hand she tried drinking but instead of going down her throat it ran back out of her mouth and spilled down her blouse. She couldn't swallow. The glass slipped from her hand, hit the table's edge and spilt onto the floor. her eyes opened wide in panic and she started banging on the table knocking off her plate and sending silverware flying. mark Fairington, who sat at the same table started calling for help. Two nurses and an orderly rushed over. Mildred slumped back in her chair, her eyes beginning to bulge, face turning purple, lips turning blue. "Lay her down." The orderly took her out of the chair. Once of the nurses went to work checking Mildred's airway. "I don't see any blockage." Immediately she tried to breath for Mildred but the air refused to move into her lungs. Another nurse was calling for an emergency tracheotomy kit while the orderly brought over an oxygen tank and an air mask. In the background, a clock chimed six times and Mildreds body stiffened, her eyes rolled up and she let out a long gasp then lay very still. Mildred Insley had died. One of the nurses noticed that there was something that resembled finger marks around her throat.
Breakfast talk was dominated by Mildreds death. William thought back to the way he felt when he first laid eyes upon that infernal clock. Two deaths in one day could not be a coincidence. With a sigh he pushed back his half eaten breakfast, no longer having an appetite. Without a word he left the room and went for a walk. Not intending to, he found himself standing in front of the damn clock. The ornate face said 9:30. He had seen many grandfather clocks in his life and this one definitely had more depth to it. This struck William as very odd. Without a doubt, he knew Victor had something to do with this. Victor Gruene had been living at Oak Wood before William had moved in. He wasn't just argumentative or a little ornery; Victor was truly a mean spirited person, taking pleasure in other people's suffering, especially if he was the cause of that suffering. For some reason that William could not fathom, Victor never went out of his way to cause William any grief. He actually liked William. Victor talked a lot about the occult and had a fascination with time. He had told William that one day everyone who had slighted him would get what was coming to them. Each Friday Victor's sister would come by and pick him up for the weekend and bring him back Sunday evening. Then one Sunday he never returned. Victor's sister called to say that her brother has passed away. A grateful sigh of relief could be felt by everyone. It just occurred to William that the day the clock arrived was on the same day that Victor had died one year ago.
Doris left work late. The clock in her red Fifth Ave said 8:12 pm. Normally she was out of the office no later than 5:30. Tonight she had a ton of paper work to do dealing with both deaths. Since she missed rush hour the flow of traffic was good, giving her the opportunity to set a good cruising speed of 60 mph. The familiar ring of her cell phone filled the car. Reaching into her purse she pulled it out and the caller id showed it was from Marge Caspin. "Hey Marge. No, I just left work. I would love to stop by and have a drink but I am just too tired. Ok, I'll talk to you later, bye." She placed the phone down on the passenger seat. The phone rang again but this time she glanced over with a puzzled look. That wasn't her ring tone. It sounded like the Westminster chime. Picking up the phone, she saw that the call was coming from Oak Wood. She answered the call. "Hello?" All she heard was the gong of the grandfather clock. "Who is this? Who ever it is this is not funny." Ending the call she placed the phone back on the passenger seat. Who would do such a childish thing? Bringing her attention back to the road she saw the jackknifed 18 wheeler. Tires screeched as she slammed on the brakes but she was too close. The car slammed into the trailer. Glass shattered and metal ripped. Doris never got the chance to scream before her head was removed from her shoulders.
On her brake, Jodi joined William in the dinning room for a cup of coffee. They were the only ones there. "Jodie, thank you for coming."
"Not a problem. You look troubled."
"You could say that."
"What's wrong." He could see the genuine concern in her eyes. William let out a sigh. "It's that damn clock." She gave him a puzzled look. She had never seen William so agitated. "Is it the chiming?"
"No, it's not that but more along the line of where it came from."
"You know who donated it?"
"I am most certain I do. A former resident by the name of Victor Gruene. he was here before you came aboard. he was the meanest sum bitch you had ever met. Went out of his way to make others as miserable as he could. I swear that old man would sit around and think of new ways to become a pain in someone's ass. Victor held a great belief in the occult and in time itself. His sister would come by and pick him up every weekend. I believe he designed and built that clock with order for it to be delivered on the one year anniversary he died. The day it arrived was the day he died one year ago. I know this is going to sound crazy but I believe that the recent deaths are connected to that clock. He swore that he would get his revenge against everyone here for all the imagined wrongs that was done to him when in reality he was the one doing all the wrongs. Ask around, others can tell you what Victor was like. Jodi, I don't want to see you get hurt. Turn in your resignation and leave."
Jodie could not believe what she was hearing. This was the most sanest person she knew and here he was sounding like a paranoid schizophrenic. She didn't know what to say. Jodi finished her coffee and looked down at her empty cup. A touch of profound sadness entered her heart. Here was a man she looked to like a grandfather and now the beginnings of old age started to affect his mind. "Its ok, Jodi. I didn't really expect you to believe me. If you take a good look at the clock, you'll see that there is something strange."
"I really wouldn't know what I was looking at. I admit, the recent deaths are strange but they cant be blamed on some inanimate object. Even if the clock wasn't here, those deaths could have happened anyways. I got to get back."
"Just think about what I said ok?"
"I will." She gave him a small smile and returned to work. Jodi rationalized what William had told her and came to the conclusion that he couldn't handle the close death of his friend Larry Miller so he had shifted blame to the clock that just happened to arrive on the anniversary of the death of someone that he did not like. But why the clock? Because facing up to the death would mean having to face his own mortality. So subconsciously he blames the clock, a marker against against his own mortality, a battle against time. Perhaps later, with subtle talk about the subject she might be able to help him come to terms with his feelings.
After breakfast, William saw a police officer enter Assistant Director Linda Meyer's office. No one knew anything about Doris so he assumed it had something to do with the recent deaths. Walking back to his room he saw Ester Lewis turn the corner. She held a particular wild look in her eyes and was walking rather timidly. "Good morning, Ester. Better hurry for breakfast before its all gone." She quickly backed up against the wall to put as much space between herself and the creature that stood before her. What she saw was a fat drooling, long toothed creature. And when it spoke, what she heard was, "better hurry so they can eat you for breakfast."
She had no idea where she was. last thing she remembered was working on her knitting last night. When she grew tired she placed the knitting on a table and went to bed. This morning she awoke in a room made of stone and bars over the windows. Her knitting had been replaced by heavy chains. Despite her strange surroundings , it was still a beautiful day outside and if she could make it out there she would be free. And now here she stood in a blood stained hall with what was obviously one of the denizens that inhabited this place. Had she died in her sleep? Did God banish her to Hell? There had to be some mistake. She was a believer and all believers go to Heaven. Maybe this was one last test of her faith. heaven waited outside. "Stay away from me you filthy beast. In the name of God I command you." William was taken aback by her behavior. Ester had one of the sharpest minds here. It was the clock. It had to be influencing her mind. The creature had backed up but followed at a slow pace. So God had some influence here after all. "Your not going to eat me."
"Everyone is going to eat you."
She continued on and made it to the front entrance. Beyond the heavenly bared iron gates she could see the beautiful land that awaited her. All she had to do was make it past the scaly female creature that sat behind a desk with blood stained papers and small body parts scattered haphazardly across the desk. With one eye on the creature, she edged towards the portal and it hissed at her. "In the name of God stay where you are." The creature picked up something that resembled a telephone except it was made of human bones. "Yes, this is Brenda. I need assistance up front. Mrs. Lewis is acting really strange." She was told that two orderlies would be on their way. Just as Brenda hung up the phone, the police officer came around the corner. Ester heard movement behind her and turned to see a large blue demon. She jumped back, startled by the appearance of this new creature. This caused the demon to stop in surprise as well. Perhaps it wasn't expecting to see her here thinking that she should be in the kitchen already getting chopped up for some devilish recipe. With the strength and swiftness allotted only to the mad, she sprang forth and took the blue demons weapon and stepped back. She held the gun up in front of her with steady hands. The officer raised his hands and tried to reason with the woman but she didn't understand a single word it said. Two more demons came into view. Both wore white trying to pose as angles but their grotesqueness told the truth. Their scalp and been ripped away to expose bloody craniums beneath. They had no eyes or nose, just a very large mouth taking up most of their face. The scaled creature stood up and hissed. Ester swung around and fired, placing two rounds in its chest. The force of the hit slammed her into the wall where she slid down and fell onto her side, leaving behind two bloody smears. Blue demon yelled and lunged, she swung back around and fired. The round caught the officer just above his right eye, blowing out the back of his head in a spray of blood, bone and brain matter. Another round took one orderly in the throat where it fell choking and on its own blood. She shot at the second orderly as it broke back around the corner, catching him in the shoulder before he made it.
With no more demons in site, Ester approached the gates and pushed but they wouldn't open. They weren't going to let her leave. Brenda had activated the control mag locks before she died. God had abandoned Ester. Silently she weaped for being denied entrance into Heaven and not even knowing why. It must have been something she forgot about that she had done really really bad for God not to even give her a reason. But no matter what she would not allow them to have her. The grandfather clock chimed away. Raising the gun she placed it against her temple and pulled the trigger.
William had stayed back out of sight when her heard the first gun shot. he saw the officer drop back the orderly fall, and now the other orderly sat against the wall with Linda tending to his wounded shoulder. William motioned for her to stay put. He eased his way forward. The carnage was unbelievable, blood everywhere. Ester lay on the floor with half her head missing. William threw up his breakfast. "Linda call the police and an ambulance for him. Its over." Of course it wasn't over. It never will be as long as that damn clock was still there. he walked into the sitting room. "You chimed for the last time." Walking out the door, he crossed the yard to the maintenance building. The door was unlocked and no one from maintenance was inside. It didn't take much time to find what he was looking for. Grabbing the axe he headed back to the sitting room.
Standing before the clock, he waisted no time. With the first swing the clock gonged as if it cried out in pain. Again and again he swung, wood and gears and other pieces of the clock flew everywhere. Linda heard the commotion from the hall. "What now?" She walked in to see William viciously tearing the clock apart. Is everyone going mad here? "William, what the hell are you doing?"
"What should have been done long ago." She stood there too stunned to move. Sirens could be heard approaching. She had five dead bodies in the main hall, one injured orderly, and a mad man swinging an axe at a grandfather clock. Banging coming from the front door brought her back to reality. She left to let them in.
The front and inside of the clock was utterly destroyed, yet there was a back wall. This was the false wall William had expected to find. The wall was a thick hard wood, different from the rest of the clock. William figured it was Hickory. Each swing held the force of anger at seeing friends die at the hands of this infernal clock. Soon he had a wide open hole in the panel. "Drop the axe, now!" The axe slipped from his hands. Ignoring the officers and their guns he walked up to Linda and pointed behind him. "Victor Gurene." She looked at the skeletal remains inside the makeshift casket. "Victor. William, are you sure?"
"Positive. He built this clock and used it as his coffin. Burry the bastard and all the death will go away."
Everything at Oakwood returned to normal. William no longer felt the gloom that so permeated the atmosphere. he stood under a large oak looking down at the valley below. Looking back he saw Jodie standing under the awning by the back door. he smiled and started to walk over. She saw him and waved. A sharp twang sounded from the lawnmower and William stopped. Jodie came running over when she saw him fall over for no reason. "William? William, you ok?"
She saw a trickle of blood on his cheek. It's source came from the rock buried in his temple. On a beautiful sunny day, William Palmer died. Even through the thorough cleaning in the sitting room, a tiny stubborn splinter tenaciously clung to the carpet and survived the attack of the vacuum cleaner.