The Nature of a Second Hand

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
Cecil Weet, an old timer recluse, recently purchases a grandfather clock. But the clock itself has much more in store for this hoarder of dusty antiques and newspapers. It may even frighten him to death.

Submitted: July 30, 2012

A A A | A A A

Submitted: July 30, 2012

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I

Taking the stairs two at a time was dangerous business. I had more sense than that. I nearly killed myself trying to close my robe and trot down the steps at the same time. But something decided to give. The wrinkles of my face eased themselves for once to let the cascading smile break through my age.

Abel and Lambert were here.

They stressed energetically to me to be patient, that my order would take a while, but I had suspected that my two grandsons would try to surprise me with this visitation.

Unbeknownst to them, I hadn’t slept a wink, even with several glasses of warm milk, churning the night away reading some of my various mystery story collections in front of a roaring fire. Any other man the same age, with such poor ligaments and with blood that felt clotted every time he stood still, the warmth of the inferno would lull them to sleep.

But not me.

No rest for the wicked.

The sky through the windows emphasized a blinding blue tint. No doubt, the weather was immaculately beautiful to behold. The flowers across the street at Ms. Peaks house were lovely and full, even while catching brief glimpses of them through my dusty windows.

I knew they came bearing my gift that I had bought for myself. Spotted them through the attic window as I was searching for my duster which, coincidentally, was hopelessly packed with dust itself.

I would need a duster for my duster soon.

Shaking it, of course, ignorant of the enormous soot-like cloud it would make, I shifted to the window, cracking it open a pinch and witnessing, with my own eyes, them carrying the long box that would hold my timely gift; the thing that I so desperately longed for.

 

 

 

II

The front door cracked and groaned just as I was covering the final stairway. The door was old. Older than me. With another shove I could hear it budge as if a giant were kicking it with his big toe, mistaking it for a rough boulder of dirt.

“Abel, Please!” I heard from the other side.

On the last two steps I fell forward, arms out to protect myself and managed to fall on all fours without any injuries.

The door gave way.

It was a shocking thing to behold, a large wooden corner coming straight for my face. Luck be to me, the corner gouged into the planks without hitting me whatsoever. After the dust settled, I looked up to see both Abel and Lambert chewing on their fists in awe.

“Grandfather!” They both shouted.

Both young men hurried for me to help me up. I noticed, while they expressed deep regret for an aging old man that the shape of the box the object arrived in was not unlike that of a coffin. Not a fancied up one but of the lowest common denominator one. And if I were . . .

Good lord, I thought.

It was a coffin.

The wooden cross at the top was worn but I have eyes and those eyes were sharp in focus at this moment.

I turned to both of them.

“It must be time,” I said, already tasting the rising bile. “coming for me already. Had I known the pitchfork man acquired two apprentice reapers and disguised them as my grandsons, I would have made a break for the chimney and kept on going till I was able to scale the pearly gates.”

“Isn’t like that.” Abel said.

“Not at all,” Lambert patted the dust off me. “You wanted the item right away and, grim as it may be, this pine box was all they had to carry it in.”

“A fine business,” I carried on. “making their customers feel like the departed.”

At this, they sprung into laughter.

Right away, I knew it was the seed of Abel’s idea.

“May we have a better lark in store come April,” Lambert stated.

I should have known. Whoever heard of an establishment pawning off ready-made caskets to their loyal customers? Lord knew where the two vandals acquired it. Quietly, I tried not to picture the image, but, there it was. A few months prior there was a massive rainstorm which produced some flooding on the streets. Being that the graveyard three streets down was fairly new, the soil was loose and the few bodies that were buried in that seminal plot of land floated to the surface and coasted down the road to scare Mr. and Mrs. Taxpayer into their houses to be shut-in’s. For days they tried to recover as many as they could. All but three were accounted for. Reasoning told me that if these two did find this pine box in a ditch on the side of the road, where it most likely would be, that whatever remains that were inside floated out. Where that body went, only God knew.

“This is childish, degenerate and above all decadent!” I stamped my foot.

“Calm down, Grandfather. It was unoccupied.”

“Recently!” my voice screeched. “Recently unoccupied, you two dolts!”

I’m all for fun and games . . . but some boundaries, even unmarked ones were not to be crossed.

But all that does not amount to much in the eyes of younger folk. All they see is a crippled old codger throwing a tantrum when that’s exactly what they came to see. Such disrespect in them.

Thinking only of myself, and not wanting my prize to be tainted by this level of dilapidation, I told them to pry the nails back and to stand my gift on out of the box and in a hurried fashion, shaking my fist at them.

 

 

III

 

They propped it against the wall near the entrance where two life-size stacks of newspapers framed it perfectly. The newspapers themselves were nearly ten years old and yellowed but it gave me a chill in my spine to toss them out. My boy Daniel has frequently referred to me as ‘the shut-in pack rat with his head in the clouds and his feet in the past.’ I never reread them. Didn’t need to. I had all but committed them to memory.

With a dirty rag from his pocket, Lambert walked up to the face of the old grandfather clock, spit into the rag and wiped the face of the glass casing.

Remarkably, the tall clock had not one drop of water to sag it. It was something of a miracle. I noticed, as Abel slid the casket across the floor, a sound to shake your soul, that the base was dripping. Pulling my robe closer to my chin, I turned back to my gift.

The clock stood seven feet tall with a long statuesque body and with cherry wood color even underneath the dust.

It was mine.

All mine.

During my childhood, it plagues me now to see how far back I can remember, my father was poor. The only solace was the promise of more bread. All I would ever own during those precious years were a roll of twine, a frog which died three weeks after I had found him and a discarded ticket stub to a play entitled Our American Cousin, the only play my father ever took me to. The only time we ever visited Washington D.C. I was a lad of ten. My father, some could say void of humor, carried me out of there in the middle of the second act. I hated him for a brief period, but then felt relief years later after finding out that a deranged actor murdered the president at that exact same theatre the night we were there. That’s one scar of childhood my father inadvertently avoided for me.

When I turned twenty, father left. The startling event encouraged me to leave the nest since everyone else had left it. I traveled from city to city with the clothes on my back growing tighter as the years passed. I was able to acquire a brief job as a census taker to which I enjoyed immediately.

The mansion of Herman Molt was as grand as it was epic. Just standing on the porch gave me a feeling that I was under washed and would need to return when I had money for a proper bath.

Inside was a deluxe collection of rugs, tapestry, cats and . . .

Cook-coo

The clocks. The clocks shook me out of my concentration right as I was jotting down Mr. Molt’s business venture. But none could hold a candle to the grandfather clock I had spotted in his hall. He was in the middle of answering when I peered around him to see the majestic, hypnotizing pendulum of his grandfather clock. The hour was 3 in the afternoon. I’ll never forget it.

“Did you get all of that, lad?”

“Sorry?”

“I said,” his brows furrowed. “did you get all of that?”

“Oh. Of what?”

He set down his tea to follow my gaze behind him. When his face returned, it came with boastful pride.

“Young man?”

“Yes sir?”

“Tell me your name.”

“Am I in trouble?”

“No, I just wish to hear your name aloud.”

“I assure you, sir, my mind wandered. I was not looking at anything.”

“Son, that piece is my most prized possession. I’m delighted to see that you noticed it. I simply want to know what your name is to further congratulate your taste.”

He held out his hand to me.

I cringed at first, thinking he may strike me for my stupidity. Instead, I welcomed his palm into my own and shook it.

“Cecil Weet, sir.”

“Well, my new good friend Cecil Weet, let me give you some advice. A man of wealth needs only three things in life; enough food on his plate, a love for the written word and a clock to pass the time.”

“No need for money?”

He shook his head adamantly. “Man has no need for a gathered flimsy paper empire. Wealth is born by those who nurture the idea of time working for them rather than against them.”

It was a profound notion. One that I stuck to with vigor.

 

 

 

 

IV

Snapping me out of my reservoir of thoughts, Lambert held his hand out to me. He held the brass instrument up to my face. It was too close, so, naturally, I gripped his arm and furthered it from myself.

It was small. Sturdy. It reminded me of pepper grinders, the ones my father used to manufacture.

“Now you can turn it.” Lambert smiled.

“Turn?”

“Old fellow, do you not know what this is? It is a winder. You open the glass face of the clock, stick it in the porthole in front of the three and twist clockwise until you feel the hard, stiff click.”

Lambert unclenched the fingers of my right hand and dropped the winder into it. Gradually, I looked down at the winder then up at the clock’s face. Everything seemed in order. Looked in order. I counted the numbers. All twelve were there, flaunting their roman numerals. But in my intestines I felt shunned by my own shimmering possession.

It was the case of unwound time.

An ancient relic of frozen history.

“Yes, yes.” I said. More to myself, then to my two demented grandsons. “You’ll leave me now, vagrants. I want some time alone.”

And the time . . .surprisingly . . . I would receive.

They turned a quarter between themselves, clapping the dust away forceful as they could. I was rid of them already but, would they ever truly be rid of me. Would I fade in time, like dust in the wind?

“Ungrateful,” Lambert mumbled. Abel followed him out the doorway.

It was just me, the silence, and the uneven mystery of the grandfather clock.

“A treasure, no less,” I assured my trophy.

 

 

 

V

The hour was nigh and never. In my chair of ruby coloring, with a blanket coiled around me, I sat in front of the unwound clock.

Through the windows, night.

In the fire, burning wood.

But the hour was still unknown.

A powerful hour that tingled my dull, brittle spine with new fluid of life.

The hands, all three, would move at my touch; when I so command.

I unclenched my hand, rubbed the winder between my fingertips. “It is time,” I murmured. “And time so it shall be.”

With a jolt, I stood. I opened the case, fed the winder into the hole and cranked. Now, I know that age and loneliness plays tricks on the mind. Also burgundy, which I admit was beside my chair. But in that moment, cranking out the new birthing hours from my clock, the brass grew brighter. The wood hummed lightly in acceptance of giving it a breath of life. The dings and dongs grew louder, booming. I dared to wind on. My eyes stayed open against my will, my stance was unmoved. But my breath was growing short, struggling to find precious oxygen between me and the clock itself. The pendulum ticked to life.

Oh, the constant booming. I felt God knocking on my door, I swear by it.

It clicked. Once it clicked, the booming settled thereby giving my ears deserved rest. It was here. The hour spun into place. Four past six, I remember.

Pulling the winder out, I received a shock that stunned my crippled hand. Under inspection, I found no burn nor any singed hairs, but my palm was warm. I gazed at the face of him.

“Never bite the hand that feeds,” I spoke to it. Then carried on, watching the second hand tick my life away.

 

 

VI

 

I awoke, crouched in the chair, feeling hot and cold flashes. A constant spinning had me pinned to my chair, but not one that I could see clearly. The room stayed intact, yet aged rapidly, rotting at corners, growing small ponds of dust and plants.

The hair on my chin grew and trailed down to my knees, which were turning to bone, then ash. The need to scream was long since dead. Or was I?

Somehow, still able to gaze around my surroundings, the clock was in a fury, the hands spun so violently, two poor  gnats found their way into the whirling vortex and were sliced to tiny ribbons. The sun rose and set in blinks.

The clocks hands finally slowed, then rewound.

Back they went.

Faster, then faster.

Faster, faster, faster.

My ashes turned to bone, then skin.

The walls that surrounded me and the clock, breathed in all the dust out of existence.

My burgundy, which the bottle had overturned during the night, splashed back into the bottle. The bottle, feeling bold, stood upright and leapt into my hand.

And then, when the hands finally ceased, I screamed. I whimpered. I pat at myself to make sure I was there.

Tick, tick, tick.

The time was steady. The hour was four past seven in the morning. My fear subsided. I knew I hadn’t been dreaming. I was, I swear, awake.

That was my first day with the grandfather clock.

Though, now, as I see it, I had spent 269,200 days frontward as well as backward with it.

 

 

VII

 

Every day held a promise of absurdity. Fearful of the clock, I chose to sleep in my bed on the third floor. But even a change in location did not stop the clock’s madness. The clock would be normal for days then weeks, then it would choose an hour by which to flourish its demented desires.

On one such morning, I awoke to waterfalls filling up my house. Four past eight.

On another, dunes of sand spread and fell from holes in the roof as well as the chimney. Four past nine. I was in the kitchen at the time when the faucet saw fit to shower my hands in pebbles. I navigated sluggishly through the sand to the safety of my bedroom. I had stacked several books on my bed, as the sand was filling the room quickly, to preserve the one pocket of air I had left. The sand later reversed it’s order and sifted away into the cracks of the house.

When I collected myself mentally, I did research in my library. In ancient times, the most primitive form of the clock was a sundial. Then, right there on the page were the two other forms of keeping track of time; a water clock and an hourglass of sand. Now I creep, candle in hand, searching the cracks for a spurt or a light powder of dust to emerge. I expect it around every corner.

I do not trust this house.

More importantly, I do not trust the clock.

 

 

VIII

Again the clock torments me with this madness. In my sleep, I heard the hands of the clock downstairs growing loud. They thumped hard and firm, much louder than normal ticking. They thumped louder as if they were getting closer, coming up the stairs to my very room.

I awoke in the dark, hearing the thumps in my room. Then I felt seized by hands. The cold darkness that surrounded me shocked me back to sleep.

I awoke yet again, only this time within the clock itself! Huddled in a corner, I pressed my back against the wall, for I was only two inches tall, and, with great fear, I was dodging the oncoming pendulum from slicing me in two. Twas a sight to be seen. Edgar Allen Poe must have held this nightmare before me, no doubt to write the pit and the pendulum. But, to see that swinging mass of metal, swaying back and forth, seeming to come closer with each swing; I felt the very breath within grow short until I fainted dead away.

I awoke once more, this time, to morning.

 

 

 

 

 

IX

 

The clock was not mine, I knew. And it never would be. I did not own the clock, my friends. The Chronos of time owned me. It held me. It made my dwelling it’s playground. But for what reason?  I questioned how I should trudge on.

There was no defeating time. Time owned me, no matter what I do. At the hour of nine on a humid night in July, I chose to stand in front of the clock.

I promise, I had no Burgundy or bourbon or whiskey, nothing to cloud my eyes. As I stood closer, standing on my frail toes to get a better look at the face of the clock, I noticed it’s captors. The long hour hand was not a stem, but a man. A man fully clothed, but still a man clothed in a suit, blackened by age, frozen with his eyes closed. The minute hand, about half the length of the hour hand . . . Or man, I think I should say, was more portly and just as blackened, his tiny mouth frozen in a frown. His eyes, closed as well, thank the heavens, were drooped as were that of a crying clown.

But, and this was indeed odd, The second hand held no man. It was just a slender stem.

Why was there a man missing? I pondered.

And how long before he would take his rightful place between the two?

 

 

 

X

 

 

Today, the men disappeared. But I desperately wanted them back, my friends lost in time. What would it take to appease the beast of this house?

Did it crave another man?

Did it want me?

A sacrifice?

 

 

XI

 

I prepared my will to the letter. Cleared the entrance hall of everything except my comfortable chair. The clock struck eleven on that night . . . I remember. Good lord, I remember to the hour the time I got up from my chair, opened the hatch to the pendulum and walked inside the clock.

 

 

 

XII

 

From the time I merged with the clock, strangers have been in and out of my house. Some were foolishly concerned that I was lost, never to be found. I was not lost. I was home, right where I should be. Regardless, I overheard them preparing a funeral in my honor. A grand one at that.

I caught glimpses of my son, Daniel, sobbing as he held onto the side of my cherry wood side for support. I felt guilty of that. But he still held me without ever realizing it.

And what of my two nephews and the house? Well, as I’ve said before, I prepared my will to the letter, making absolutely sure these two misfits inherited the house and I.

They rejoiced for a time, ignorant to what I, Hower and Minnel had in store for them. I had become a third generation of timekeepers, able to bend time to my will. My friends followed suit. Yes, they were entertaining, to say the least. Hower would thrill me for hours with his stories of houses he haunted. Minnel only took but a minute or two to chime in. And as for me, Cecil second as the two called me, I discussed things with them. We talked of wine, women, our long love of books and music. Then, at night, we would render my two nephews helpless, toying with their perceptions. We made sure to only do this when they were full with drink but still awake and lively.

Yes, we filled the house with water and sand. We rifled through time faster than anything you could imagine. We had them, you see. And such a fantastic lark it was. One that no one would believe, even when the two drunkards invited friends over to look at us, hoping that we would turn the tables again. But we did not. We were gentlemen, you see. Not in front of company, goodness no. The two grew mad in the time they spent with us. But, no matter, we would rewind the time and do it all over again. My friends thought for sure we would be kindle for the fire. But my nephews were too frightened by us, too scared to even touch us anymore. The cold, mischievous realm of time is very different from the forgiving nature of mankind. And one should never fool or predict the nature of a second hand.

 


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