The Clock Starts at 12:04

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
A man wakes repeatedly in the night... but why does the clock always say 12:04?

Submitted: October 29, 2011

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Submitted: October 29, 2011



The Clock Starts at 12:04

It is 8:00 in the evening.  I just worked late to finish a project, and I’m exhausted.  I pick up dinner on the way home, but I’m not really paying attention.  I eat as I drive and throw the packaging in the backseat.

I pull into my driveway to my empty house.  I take off my clothes, take a hot shower, and watch some television.  I could go to sleep now, if I wanted, but I just want to wait until the clock says something other than 9:15.  An hour later, I walk up to bed.

I turn on a lamp and read my current bed-only novel.  I always have at least one book which I only read sitting up in bed, so that I don’t have to connect the world with my literature.  Right now I’m reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  It’s okay, but it’s not great.  I muddle through a little each night.  After about fifteen pages, I turn off the light and go to sleep.

Take One

I wake uneasily in the middle of the night.  I blink to adjust my eyes, and reach around for the lamp.  Flash!  Now I try to adjust to the sudden light.  The clock says that it’s a little past midnight.  I read for a few minutes, and fall asleep again.

Take Two

Again I wake.  It must be morning.  I rise from bed and start to change out of my pajamas, when I look at the clock.  12:04.  12:04!  What just happened?  This is probably a dream.  I’m groggy, so I’m reliving what just happened.  Or maybe I misread the clock last time.  Or I could have just not fallen asleep as long as I thought.  I return to bed.

Take Three

What’s going on?  I jump out of bed, turn on the light.  12:04.  I decide to read a little more.  If I read the same text and everything’s the same, then I’ll probably stop being so groggy.  “A huge furry creature bounded through the door with his lunch tray.  It was grinning like a maniac.  Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz…” why am I doing this?  I walk downstairs to my living room, and after watching some crappy sitcom for a few hours I let myself fall asleep on the couch.

Take Four

… What the heck?

I’m groggy.  I can’t think very straight.  Again.  Still, it’s evident that I’m not lying sideways on the couch.

Lights on.  I jump out of bed.  12:04 again.  That’s it.  I’m just going to stay up all night.

I walk downstairs to the kitchen and make some coffee.  I’m determined to stay up for the entire night.  I don’t want to let my guard down, so I just pace through the kitchen.

After half an hour, I was bored, so I watched some old movies on my laptop.  Then I played some games.  I pause, and look at the clock on my dim monitor.  1:45.  Not bad.  In a few hours, I’ll be able to justify making some breakfast.  Then I can just drive to work early and get away from this nightmare forever.  I resume playing games.

Take Five

What’s going on?  I’m cold.  I feel vaguely like something is wrong.  I turn on the lamp. 

As I look at the clock, I remember everything.  “What’s going on?” I say out loud to myself.  12:04.  12:04.

What’s so important about 12:04?

12:05.  It’s now 12:05.  That’s good, isn’t it?

12:05.  It’s not 12:04.  It’s a minute closer to being over, right?  But then, time is passing strangely tonight.

Not again.  I’ll just stay up the night.  I won’t go downstairs.  I’ll read.  And think.  The first person I see I’ll throw open the window and actually talk to them.  Anybody.  Even my neighbors.

12:06.  It’s 12:06.

12:07. 12:10. 12:15.

It’s 12:30.  I haven’t been able to do anything but stare at the clock, like if I stop paying attention it’ll happen again.

12:40.  12:50.

What’s that?  Who’s there?  It’s not me.  I’m not even sleepy.  Oh, God, it can’t happen again! It’s 12:53.  My doorknob jiggles like crazy.  I bury myself in my covers.

Take Six

What’s going on?  Who was there?  Who’s going to be there?  Are they here now?

It’ll happen again if I just sit here.  I cautiously open the door.  12:04. 12:04.  12:50, what were the footsteps?  12:53, who was there?

What happened?

I decide to take with me a small digital watch.  I walk downstairs into the kitchen. 12:07.  It’s 12:07.

Suddenly, I see a man in the kitchen.  He turns to me in horror and shoots at me.

Take Seven

What just happened?  I died.  I died, and now it’s over.  It’s definitely not heaven, so I must just be in hell.  But then, if that was the first time, how did it all start over every time?  That guy’s been killing me for hours, and I’m sick of it.  I’m not tired at all.  For the first time… tonight?  For the first time in this nightmare, I’m completely aware of everything.  I’m slightly cold.  I can see a dim reflection of the moon shining on my thick comforter.  I stare down at the thick green carpeting.  A killer is standing beneath it somewhere.  Is there a point in trying?  Will I ever survive this night?  Will I ever again wake up at a time other than 12:04?

It’s 12:10.  I have about forty minutes before he enters this hallway.  Is it safe to go downstairs?  I’ll wait.  Last time, he was there at 12:07.  Right now, I know this much: he’ll be in my hallway by 12:50.  He’ll be in my bedroom by 12:53.  And he’ll be in my kitchen by 12:07.

I grab the watch, and once it hits 12:15, I walk downstairs.  I enter the kitchen at 12:17, and he’s not there.  I grab the phone.  Will he hear me if I dial the numbers?  Where’s a safe place to hide?

I take the phone and enter the garage.  It’s much different than it is in the daytime.  I don’t dare turn on the lights, and I doubt he will, either.  It’s just telling the other person, “I was here.  Come and find me.”

I dial in, 9-1-1.  “hurrrrm… hurrrrm…” it rings four or five time, before I hear a woman’s monotonous voice.

Is it for the police?

Nope.  “You are experiencing difficulty.” She has no idea.

Why is this happening to me?  When you fall asleep, you wake up.  When you’re murdered, you die.  It’s not like this!

I decide that I’ll leave the house in the morning.  In the car.  I run into the kitchen for the keys, and then I hide in the backseat.

I don’t dare fall asleep.  I hear my heart beat.  I hear heavy footsteps.  But they can’t be real!  It goes on like that for hours.  At least, it seems like that.  It’s too dark to see my watch, and I don’t dare rise from this position.  Any movement could restart the clock.  Any movement could be my last, before I start over.

Now I wish I’d have taken better care of my car.  The wrapper from before is still here, with about a dozen others.  Some of them still have rotten food in them.  I guess when you never have somebody in the back seat, it doesn’t seem to matter.  But now I’m in the back seat, and I’m staying.

My clock is digital.  It has no hands.  So why do I hear ticking?

Tic tic tic-tic tock tic tic-tic tock tic-tic-tic…

And the grasshoppers.  The ones you only hear when you listen with your full attention for a long time.  CREEEk-chirp chirp CREEEk chirp chirp…

Tic-toc CREEK tic chirp-chirp.

I can only see the dingy, stained floor of my car,  I can’t think about anything, because I’ll just drive myself mad.

Therefore, I will listen.

CREEK tic, tic, tic…

A peaceful part of the night.  Murder is still in the back of my mind, and I’m still terrified, but it’s nice to have a few waking hours not filled with active fear.  Nothing is happening right now.


This isn’t the crickets!  This is my garage door.  It’s being opened from the outside.  Manually.

Oh God!  Be calm.  Who would look inside the car?  Maybe it’s the cops.  They got a tip from a neighbor and the doors are all locked up.


After minutes of prying, the door is finally flung open.  I hear one person walking into the garage, then picking the lock to the car!

He wants to get into my car.  He wants to get away in it.  He thinks it’s too late to catch me, but he’s in for a pleasant surprise.  What do I do?

He runs inside, I suppose to get the keys.  I fling open the door, and scramble out of the car.  I run as hard as I could outside the garage door and onto the driveway.

Take Eight

No.  I can't let this happen again.  He must have seen me running.  Why am I never able to comprehend the moment of my death?  How does he never wake me, or shoot me so that I don't die immediately? 

Footsteps.  Is he coming down the hall?  Crick-creak.  Where's the lamp?  Where's the clock?  Tonight has all been  a lucid dream.  I have been muddling through an insurmountable labyrinth of time, logic, and horror.  I feel like I keep being dipped into a lake of fire, only to be pulled out just long enough to make the re-entry as awful as possible.

I look at my clock, whose hands seem now to represent the four horsemen of the apocalypse.  Each movement of the second hand is the development of a nightmare. 

The time is 12:15.  Is there a point in trying?  Maybe I'll get used to it.  I'll have forty-nine minutes rest, then he'll run in here and shoot me.  Forever.  Maybe I'll get used to it, and I'll be okay to ponder and read for eternity.

What would happen if I killed myself?  Punch open the thin, shiny pane through the thick, strong wooden bars. Jump out the window headfirst.  I wouldn't die, but I'd be unconscious until he found me, and lord knows I won't be able to sleep the regular way anymore.

If I commit suicide, won't I just wake up?  Or does it only work if he kills me?

The timw is 12:21.  I decide to take a book from my shelf and read.  The Raven and Other Writings, by Edgar Allen Poe.  What will it be like to read a horror story when you're in one? 

I turn open the thin white pages, then close it again and stare at the dark raven on the cover.  I again open it and open to a random story.

"The Pit and the Pendulum."  It is a story about a man waiting to die, after he is thrown into a dungeon and sentenced to, eventually, be killed by a swinging metal pendulum.  It sends excited shivers down my spine.

I put the book down about halfway through the story.  The time is 12:45. I feel like an actor, resting in-between shows.  I know that nothing's really about to happen, just more of the same, and yet I prepare just before I go on again.  Soon I'll have to go through another thirty seconds of horror, but it's no big deal in the long run.  12:49.

Do I have the means to fight back?  No, he has a gun, and the best I can do is blunt objects.

12:51.  I can hear his footsteps, right on cue.  It will be over quickly if I unlock the door.

Wait, why is my door locked?

I live alone.  I have no reason to lock my door when I go to bed.  So why did I?

The door swings open, and the man looks surprised to see me standing. 

Take Nine

Whenever I'm awake to be murdered, I can only hear the beginning of the gunshot.  Is that how quickly it moves through the air?  I suppose I am the first to realize this and live to tell the tale.  In a sense.  It's not right for me to stand by and do nothing; I should try to escape.

I stare at my tall, thick, flat wooden door.  If I choose to stay here, I may be in this room for eternity.  If I leave, I may just be making things worse for the moment.  Can I escape?  Kill him, get him to leave, or escape?

I turn on my lamp and pull out a piece of paper and a pen.  I begin to scribble out a map of my house.

I'll need to memorize it in case this happens again.

I stare at my messy sketch and try to memorize it.  Right now, I know that at 12:07 he is in the kitchen, at 12:50 he is in this hallway, and at 12:53 he is in my room.  The current time is 12:10.  I cautiously walk downstairs.

They foyer is empty.  I turn the knob to my front door.


Cans.  The door was booby trapped with cans, and the screened door is chained from the outside.  Now he knows where I am and I can't get out.  I run into the den.

What could I use to attack him?  The rest of the schedule is thrown off.  There's no way he'll still be here at 12:53 this time.  Before then either one of us will die or I'll escape or the police will get here.

What can I use to attack him?  Television remote.  Sofa cushion.  Comforter.  Telephone that won't work.  But who knows?  I've interrupted the timeline.

Beep... Beep... Beep...  "You are experiencing difficulty.  Failure to connect to network."

He must have disabled the line before he entered.  Oh, God!  He's opening the door.

I catch a quick glimpse of him

Take Ten

I get this rush of adrenaline when I get murdered every time.  Not physically.  That gets undone, I suppose, but in the moment I'm alive and don't have time to comprehend it, I have a sense of inhuman fear.  Fear you shouldn't have until you really are going to die.

Does this happen to everybody who's murdered?  They continue reliving it, creating a new universe every time they return?  Does this mean that there are already nine worlds where I've been killed, and there will be only when where I'm not?

Are all of the survivors trauma cases?

I go downstairs again, this time with the digital watch.  At 12:10 I enter the kitchen.  I grab the two biggest knives I could find, and walk over to the door.

I carefully cut them off of the door in one piece, and then I set them down on the floor.  I push open the door an inch, so that I can work at the chains.  It's evident that this is meant only to slow me down, not to block the entrance completely.

I know I can't hack or cut at the chain.  It would take too long, and make too much noise.  So what?

I look at my watch.  12:24.

I hear loud footsteps behind me.

Take Eleven

He got me again?  There is something very anticlimactic about these murders; at the moment the horror would reach its peak for an observer, I am no longer aware of what's going on, and only realize I have been murdered from waking up.

What am I doing? It is 12:05.  I have twenty minutes to take care of everything, before he goes back downstairs.

I go down.  This time, I don't wait until 12:10, I just listen until he has left the room.  12:08, two minutes shaved off my time.

I enter the kitchen and already know which knife to take.  I re-enter the foyer, and take down the cans in thirty seconds flat.  12:11.

Now comes the difficult part: How do I get out of the house?  I stare out the glass door with an insect screen for hotter days. 

Suddenly, I have an epiphany; I grab the top latch of the window, and unlock it.  Then I pull downwards.

All that is left between me and the outside world is a screen for insects.  I cut out the edges, and climb over through the top half.

The time is 12:15, and I have left the house safely.  I go to my neighbor's house, and tell her that I need to call the police with her phone.

9-1-1.  Three beeps, finally followed by, "911, what is your emergency?"

I finally tell her everything.  Well, not the part about the multiple realities.  Just that a man was chasing me in my house with a gun.

At 12:22, three police cars and an ambulance arrive at 4452 Clemsford dr.  A man is dragged out.  In eighteen minutes, the night is over, and I go to the police station for questioning.  And therapy.

The clock started at 12:04.  It did it as much as it needed.  I'll probably never recover, and the real impact of the night hasn't hit me yet, but in theory, this was a happy ending.


The murders were almost five years ago.  I'm still in therapy, and now I live in an apartment.

I don't think I'll ever live alone again.

My therapist says that reliving the nightmare may never have happened, that I may just have warped memories.  But if your memories can be faked, then who are you?  If you remember something, you believe you did it, and if you forget something, it's like it never happened.

I don't believe in magic, and if it exists, it's not the reason I had a long night in hell.  Maybe it was just my mind, which remains a labyrinthical wasteland where I can still see and feel the moment of anticipation before the clock was reset at 12:04.

The man's name was Alan Ginsky.  Ginsky didn’t know me.He killed three people before me.  He's on death row.

He's insane.

I don't understand why we execute people who are obviously insane.  What’s the use?

What if I went mad that night and killed somebody too?

What if... I made the clock start all over again for somebody else?


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