A story inspired by the cover picture.

Time Ticking By

Arnold began to walk. It was as though something was calling him, tugging him forward. This was no route that he’d normally take but today it was like a compulsion, an irresistible urge. He had no idea where he was going or why, but somehow he just knew there was a reason.

He walked on, further out of his neighbourhood than he’d ever walked before. The buildings became sparser, eventually disappearing all together. Strange that, in all his years living in the same area, he had never once set foot in the more industrial areas. Now even that was far behind him. One foot in front of the other, Arnold walked on.

There was still plenty of passing traffic, people going from one busy town to another. Nobody paid him any heed, and to him the vehicles were not much more than a noisy blur. When something told him to head off across the fields, he did not think to question it but turned and left the traffic behind him.

It was not raining but the grass was wet. Arnold’s shoes were not made for wetness, and he soon found that his feet were becoming both cold and wet. His socks made squishy noises with each further step that he took, but he would not, could not, let that deter him. The hill loomed steeply in front of him but he did not pause or falter.

The climb was steep. Arnold was not used to it, felt his breath shorten, his legs ache. He must have walked so much further than he had ever done before, his normal route being far less challenging as it remained pretty much flat. He would not be deterred but steadfastly planted one leg firmly in front of the other.

And then he was there, right at the top. To his right stood the ruins of a castle or abbey. Looking around, Arnold found that he could see for miles and miles. Perhaps it was the remains of an old watchtower then, the outermost of defence posts. Whatever it was, he could sense that this was where he was supposed to be.

As he stood there, on top of the hill, Arnold saw the sky darkening in the distance. Thick and black clouds were building and rolling across the sky towards his position. A storm, maybe? It was certainly going to rain, and his coat, although capable of keeping him dry in a shower was going to offer little or no protection against the approaching downpour. Should he head for home? Something in the air seemed to say otherwise and Arnold remained standing.

Out of nowhere, it appeared. Looking somewhat like a giant pocket-watch, the clock descended to hang there in front of him. Ten o’clock! The second hand, moved steadily around, counting off the minutes until it would reach twelve.

Arnold had no idea how he knew that, but he did. The second all three hands pointed at the number twelve the clock would disappear, just as his life would. He should feel panic, denial; should be running and putting distance between himself and that time-piece. Instead, Arnold felt nothing but calmness and a strange numbing peace.

For two hours he stood there watching the minutes tick past. His eyes followed the second hand as it made one hundred and twenty revolutions around that clock face. And then he closed his eyes and simply ceased to live.

In the hospital the machine let out a long continuous note. Arnold Mercer’s heart had stopped at exactly twelve o’clock, and his time of death was duly noted. He looked peaceful, all of his family that were gathered around his bed noted with some relief. In the end, husband, father, grandfather had shown no signs of suffering at all.

Submitted: March 23, 2018

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Add Your Comments:


Jeff Bezaire

A beautiful piece, Hully. I love how you depicted Arnold's final journey and his departure for the afterlife. Peaceful. Sometimes life flashes before our eyes; other times, it's a quiet walk to a serene place where we wait for our time to come. Excellent work!

Fri, March 23rd, 2018 7:53pm


Thanks so much for that, Jeff. And for taking the time to both read and comment too.

Fri, March 23rd, 2018 1:10pm


A nice showing of death as a natural process and not something to be feared.

Fri, March 23rd, 2018 8:28pm


Thanks for reading, MissFedelm.

Fri, March 23rd, 2018 1:30pm


A brilliant Flash interpretation, Hully.

Sat, March 24th, 2018 6:06pm


Thanks, jaylisbeth. It was an idea that came when I found the picture, although it ended a bit differently to what I'd first intended.

Sat, March 24th, 2018 11:56am

Sue Harris

This is a beautiful story, Hully. Arnold at peace with himself, just waiting calmly for his life to end. Quite thought provoking, actually. Another great story!

Sat, March 24th, 2018 10:23pm


Thanks, Sue. This was completely picture inspired. Glad you enjoyed it.

Sat, March 24th, 2018 3:48pm

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