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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A young man and his friends are just normal underemployed folk killing time until their lives start, when they are thrust into some strange circumstances.

Submitted: November 07, 2014

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Submitted: November 07, 2014



It was closing in on the end of August, the end of summer, when every person of school-age returns to their classrooms and every career-minded young person returns to not-going-out-on-a-Monday-mode, except for the 3 types of the misguided youth: the underemployed, unemployed and/or unemployable.The temperature would still soar during the day, but every few weeks we could feel the nighttime dip in temperature for a few nights and that tug of fall and winter would creep into our conscious. 

Just about every day during these few weeks of the Indian summer Coke came over to my apartment around 3 when I got off work.  We called him Coke because his last name was Coker and coincidentally he had a passion for both the soft drink and the narcotic.  I would drive past him a few blocks up from my place sitting on his porch smoking a cigarette and he would meander over to my place a few minutes after, giving me time to hang up my work shirt and typically take care of the post-work bowel business.  He would climb up the flight of creaky covered stairs you might imagine would be outside of any antique store featuring tenants above and preface his visit by two quick knocks and a ubiquitous and purely ceremonial, “Yo, anybody home?”

Coke was a sometimes electrician who had been living the high life off of workman’s-comp benefits since he had taken a big (he always said it was “just the right size”) hit from an IED in the insurgency stages of the War in Iraq while he was working on a contract.  He spent most of his time, when outside my apartment, dicking around on the internet, watching every movie on Netflix and maintaining an immaculate and illicit weed growing operation.  He claimed this grow-op was the result of an arrangement he worked out with God while immobilized in a hospital bed, that he would forgive the almighty for really fucking him over in the desert if he would forgive him for committing a few felonies.  When he woke up to a stack of “High Times” magazines next to his hospital bed he figured his prayers had been answered and was in the clear.  In his rabid spiritual excitement I assume the nurse never told him I sent him those, and I’ll be damned if I’m gonna tell the guy Santa Claus might not exist.  The free samples aren’t bad either. 

It is a good thing he made all his money before he invested in his little hobby because he certainly wasn’t making anything the way he consumed his harvest.  Not to say that I didn’t help.  Every day by approximately 3:30 I would be sitting on my couch peeling off my socks from work and Coke would be handing me the little hitter he carried around with his left hand before using his now free hand to put the finishing touches on a joint with his right.

“I think this Is probably most comparable to a Jack Herer type of strain.” Coke tossed me what must have been just shy of an ounce of weed in a zip-lock baggie. 

“oh yeah?”

“Yeah definitely, I went for a really Sativa Dominant strain this time, can you tell?”

“I dunno, give it a second” I really never remembered the difference between sativa and indica.  I inhaled and sharply held in my breath as the smoke filtered into my lung tissue.  I have read that holding weed smoke in does nothing to increase your high, just makes you light headed, but a true lack of vanity is rare on this Earth, so I smoked till I choked.

“I can definitely see the sativa….influences” I said in between hacks as tears welled up in my eyes.

Coke sparked his finished product and hit it a few times before saying in the guttural voice stoners talk in when they are mid-hit, “Yeah I think I really prefer the sativa influences myself, like to get up and DO STUFF when I’m high.  Speaking of which, we should watch….” 

As he passed the joint and began talking, in succession, about the movies he had watched in the last 16 hours since we had seen each other, I got up and cracked the two living room windows, sliding a box-fan facing out into one.  I hit the joint and crossed the living room, trailing a thin plume of smoke as the papers and weed burned between my fingers and passed out of my nostrils as I exhaled.  As Coke told me about particularly vicious foreign film he had watched that morning I reached for the final window when we heard the stairs creak as someone lumbered up them.  Coke stopped for a beat and turned his lineman’s physique towards the door.  I subtly passed him the incriminating evidence and he obligingly hit it while continued his stare at the door.

 Now we could hear slow steps scaling the stairs methodically, as if someone was making an attempt at stealth.  After 5 or 6 steps we could hear a slight sound that could be best described as “jangling”.  We turned to each other and exchanged looks of disdain while simultaneously murmuring :


No more than 15 seconds later the door came swinging open and Teddy and the keychain attached to his skinny jeans (too tight to fit a keychain in the pockets) proclaims himself in the door with a “POLICE, HANDS ON THE GROUND!”

Which, Coke and I choose to ignore. 

“You guys just gonna ignore my texts?”

Also ignored.


“What Teddy?”

“Let’s go play darts down at the Hairy.”

“It’s fuckin not even 4:00 Teddy.”

“Can’t ya see we’re busy Teddy?”

“You stoners, thanks for offering me some.”

We ignored this comment, Teddy rarely smoked anyway, and when he did it only served to make him stranger than usual.

15 minutes of silence later Teddy raised the darts issue again.

“I don’t want to play goddamn darts, I’ll go down to the Hairy, but I just want to sit outside and enjoy the weather.”

“You wanna play bags instead?”

Coke inhaled the last viable hit out of the joint, tossed it in the ashtray and we left for the Hairy.



As another burnt day transitioned into dusky evening, Teddy and I lost our 5th consecutive game of bags and as many pitchers to a duo of presumptive Frat guys .  We refused to pay for a round of shots and instead Teddy decided to throw  whatever was left in our pitcher at those guys, missing in an unathletic fashion that is routinely accompanied after consuming  in the neighborhood of 100oz of beer and instead hitting one of their girlfriends sitting at the table adjacent almost spot on.  Showering women with a loser’s lukewarm domestic pitcher is never a good look so we exited around the corner as fast as we could while Coke’s size and eagerness to physical confrontation after consuming a similar neighborhood of beer provided much desired cover.

Coke caught up to us  few blocks away outside of my place where Teddy could no longer control either his bladder or his laughter and was emptying both as obnoxiously as possible into my neighbor’s property.  I implored Coke to help me manhandle him upstairs.  As we carried the belligerent upstairs I noticed the owner of the antique store I lived above struggling in the back of his truck with something. 

“Hey Hal, can I help you lift something?”  The elderly shop owner typically came to me if he had trouble with a heavy or awkward item, he probably came upstairs and to find out I was gone.

“Oh yeah, give me a hand with this thing.”  Hal was stooped in the back of his pickup over something covered in a blue tarp.  I leaned in and placed my hands at the corners.  As I lifted the package was so light that my momentum almost pulled me over backwards. 

“Shit Hal, you must be getting old, this thing can’t weigh more than 5lbs!”

Hal seemed perplexed and mumbled something about getting old before recovering and saying in a feigned ‘old man’ voice “Just bring it inside you.”

I followed him inside the dark store to the backroom where he gestured me to sit my load on an already well-covered workbench. 

Now, with something so light I would normally just set it on the table on my hands and slide my fingers out after it was down, which is what I began to do.  As soon as I set one side of what I would momentarily find out was a clock down and slid my fingers out the other side suddenly felt like it was 500 pounds and slammed down on the workbench.  In the split-second I had to get my fingers from under what felt like a solid lead block I remember precisely each shorter finger making it out, until just the half an inch height advantage my middle finger enjoyed was in the shadow of the clock.  Then it was under the clock. 

I’m not sure which expletive was my choice in that moment but I’m just going to guess it would be censored on network television in our enlightened age.

For a moment Hal didn’t know what to do and only reflected my energy, though I think he used a different censorable expletive.

I grabbed the clock with my free hand and while I had no success moving it an inch, I was able to get the tip of my finger out from underneath the clock by twisting it in a sheer panic. 

After I was able to remove my finger I demanded to know what this witchcraft I had brought in was.  I was immediately embarrassed to have used to word witchcraft in so unironic of a way when Hal, now laughing hysterical old man laughs at my misfortune, opened up the tarp to reveal a heavy wood and brass clock, the “tick-tock” sound still emitting from it as it continue to tell time, albeit the wrong time. 

“It’s a clock you drunk bastard, I told you it was heavy, you smell like a goddamn distillery, and you were trying to call me old.”

Before I could respond I heard a loud crash upstairs and abruptly told Hal I had to run to try to uphold the integrity of his building.


A fitful sleep found me that night.  My conscious was dragged to a variety of strange and unsightly places.  In between typical dream fare of naked ex’s were strange visions of someone I had never seen before lecturing me in a language I had never heard before and did not even remotely recognize.  The figure was of a human shape but I could not distinguish any facial features or a gender.  I could only see the shape and hear the deep voice that sounded like it was being filtered through a lagoon of water and reaching my ears in an unfamiliar cadence.As it spoke I strained to understand what it was saying, I approached the entity and as I got closer I could make out two shapes flanking him on either side.  Behind the figure towered two clocks, both of which were identical in shape and color to the one that had nearly separated my fingers from my hand a few hours before.  The entity said no more that I could make out, at times I could swear I was hearing English, though could make out no discernable words, and after that the dream fades from memory.



A week later I was returning home from the bars, much later than the previous week as Teddy’s influence was shot down by Coke and my insistence on a more European bar schedule.  Teddy and Coke had stayed behind to close down the bar with some rough looking women and there being only 2 of them I was left out, hardly to my chagrin.  As I strolled across the street towards the stairs I noticed that the light from Hal’s shop spilled out into the night.Curiosity got the best of me and I decided to be a good neighbor and make sure everything was alright.  Hal often stayed working on projects in the shop but never after midnight and it was a bit after.

I cautiously stepped inside when I heard muffled conversation emitting from the backroom.  I entered the store and tiptoed through the hallway littered with antique store fare; a large selection of junk and broken trinkets in various stages of disrepair.  The hall opened into the room I had previously hauled the clock into and occupying this room was Hal and a mostly empty bottle of Canadian-whiskey.  With his back to me he stood hunched over the workbench.  His body seemed especially tense and the perspiration on the back of his neck was acting as a tributary to an almost perceptibly increasing triangle of sweat staining the back of his shirt.  He was slowly and hoarsely breathing.  He was mumbling to himself, and I quickly announced my presence for fear that I had walked in on something potentially embarrassing to both him and I. 

After a long and concerning 10 seconds Hal turned around and, half expecting to see unzipped pants and more Hal than usual, I made an effort to execute urinal etiquette and avert my glance up.  In his hand was another bottle of Whiskey (bourbon), this one half gone.  He looked to be totally drenched in sweat.  His hair had regressed to full “mad scientist” and his button-up shirt was disheveled in such a way that one sleeve hung much further down his arm than the other, which bunched up and strained against his neck.Though fully clothed and standing up, his state appeared to be closest to someone who had just woken up from a feverish nightmare, rather than someone knocking back a few drinks.

It was another dozen awkward and concerning seconds before I issued an explanation for my intrusion.

 “Hal?  Sorry if I’m disturbing you, is everything alright?”

Despite the rest of his appearance it was the look of his face that startled me.  His mouth hung slightly agape, his nostrils flared with every heavy breath and his eyes, which did not appear to be looking down the same line of sight, sat in dark circles of someone who had been a few days without sleep and seemed to look far past me, while his pupils scanned around the room, landing on me more than a few times and sending me piercing, unsettling glances. 

Suddenly, the tension in his appearance suddenly lagged and from his mouth sputtered a very slurred and mumbled, “just tending to some things around here.” 

I asked him lightheartedly if he was drinking again, to which he neither said “yes” or “no” but replied with mostly indistinguishable speech.  After a few more mumbled lines Hal began to sway and before he fell I managed to get in front and catch him on the way down. 

“How much did you drink?”

I was able to make out his mumbled reply as: “Take me outside.”

I gladly obliged him and with his arm slung over my shoulder we shuffled our way outside, though not before knocking over the majority of the items lining the narrow hallway. 

We managed to make it to the steps that led up to my apartment and I let Hal slide off my shoulder.  He reeked of Whiskey, so much so that it made me regret getting so intoxicated on the same spirit in the preceding hours.  I let him sit for a moment as I ran upstairs quickly to grab a glass of water, which upon my return he greatly appreciated. 

“I’m not drunk.” A much more coherent Hal abruptly said to me after a few minutes of silence.


“I don’t think I’m drunk.”  The inflection with which he said it made it sound like a question more than a statement. 

He must have registered my disbelief, though the exasperation with which he was speaking was chipping away at my skepticism. 

“I was at home, eating dinner…that is the last thing I remember.  I feel this pressure on me, in my chest, and it’s not a heart attack because I’ve had those already, it’s different.  Tonight I somehow ended up here.”

Hal peeled his shirt-sleeve from his arm and turning his head lifted it to his nose. 

“I think I poured Whiskey on my shirt,” he looked down at the crotch of his pants, “and hopefully on my pants.” 

“Hal, with all due respect, I could barely understand you a few minutes ago.”

He looked down again, this time towards his shoes, and let out a long sigh before looking up again. 

“I don’t feel drunk, but I definitely blacked out for the past few hours…”

“Maybe a senior moment?” 

My half-joke wasn’t taken as a joke, as he sighed again and slowly shook his head from side to side.I started to offer an apology before he cut me off.

“Something is wrong in my head….” He started to continue but trailed off and shifted his glance towards the night sky.  He asked me to go inside and get his keys so he didn’t have to go back inside.  My meek protests against him driving were brushed off and he only said he didn’t want to be around the open bottles inside again and asked more sternly if I would get his keys.

I acquiesced and as I entered back into the workroom I looked first on his desk before turning toward the bench he had been hunched over.  On top in the very same spot I had set it down was the clock, the second hand churned around the face, powering the minute hand to move its few centimeters every 60 seconds.  The hour hand however sat pointing towards the exact same number it gestured towards before.  The long iron hand pointed still straight down towards a number that on this clock face was painted in a different style than the other numbers, noticeably bigger and in a medieval-inspired font.

Upon closer examination the number was not actually a number at all.  It was some kind of different symbol, vivid and strange in comparison to the “5” and “7” that flanked it on either side.  I inched my face closer to the symbol, trying to make out if it was my drunken eyes blurring out an obvious “6” or if it was some kind of other discernable symbol.

A strange feeling came over me and I found myself looking at the clock as you might a painting at a museum.  I was deeply fascinated by the carvings along the edge of the piece; most appeared to be ancient symbols that my brain most closely associated with tribal decorations adorning the biceps of a certain kind of dude.  The base featured these symbols but curiously featured a solitary, humanoid figure at the bottom.  The figure was simplistic and featured nothing interesting outside of a blindfold that covered where the eyes would be.

  My fingers began ran along these symbols in repeated patterns that did not feel predetermined by me, like commercials you see for Ouiji boards.Inexplicably I felt my finger pushed over the glass face of the six and felt a feeling I describe as fear, though if this was fear than I have never before felt fear in my admittedly privileged life.  My heart raced and my knees buckled as my whole body tensed up before I pulled myself away,  I felt like I had been underwater as I gasped for breath, though I was unaware that I had slowed or ceased my breathing.

My eyes suddenly darted from the clock and next to it were Hal’s keys.  I quickly grabbed them, and turned out of the backroom, turning out the light behind me as I left. 

I found Hal sleeping on the steps where I had left him sitting before I ran inside.  I gently nudged him awake and with another weak attempt at talking him out of driving I gave him his keys.  He yawned, rubbed his eyes, and without a word more than a mid-yawn “goodnight”, drove off. 

I headed to my room and felt that sudden wall of fatigue one gets after a night of imbibing in the spirits.  I found myself unwilling and practically unable to do even the basic personal dental hygiene human beings typically do before sleep and fell straight into bed fully clothed and shoed. 

I went into a nearly instant sleep.  Before I fell asleep however I distinctly remember checking my phone and being puzzled by the time.  I had run into Hal close to 1am and my clock read closer to 4am.  Had it taken me 3 hours to take care of Hal?  It surely felt like it took under 30 minutes when it was all said and done.  I managed to puzzle over the issue for barely a minute before a deep sleep took over. 


“And is that the last time you saw Hal Rastrelli?”  Agent Pope pulled off the “good cop” schtick to perfection, though I had been repeatedly assured he wasn’t a cop, that he was a federal agent not involved in law enforcement.  He certainly talked and acted like a cop, though a cop might have tried to pull more mileage out of the joint-roach graveyard that was right there in front of us on the coffee table. 

“Yeah that’s it, I went upstairs and fell asleep, woke up, Coke came over and we started up again, I haven’t seen Hal for the last few days but that’s pretty standard in our landlord-tenant relationship.”

“And….Coke,” Agent Pope had paused every time he said  “Coke” as if it pained him to say the man’s nickname, “And….you’re other friend….”

“That’s Naomi.”



“Coke and your friend Naomi, they haven’t been around to see him?”

“No, Coke has been with me and Naomi…well this is her first time at this particular apartment.”

“I see…” The Agent jotted down a few more notes then took a glance outside.  Coke and Naomi stood outside smoking cigarettes and staring in different directions awkwardly.  Coke was not a typical tobacco smoker, but the scare he got when a federal agent pounded on the door at 8:30 this morning must have pushed him into the vice.I made a mental note to ask him where he hid the weed after he realized he couldn’t eat 2 ounces of fresh cut before the feds would bust us.

 The smell must have been so incriminating that after repeated attempts to shut him out when he failed to produce a warrant he had come right out and said “I don’t give a shit if you have a fucking grow-op in here, I need to talk to you about the death of a Hal Rastrelli.”  That got the door opened up, though I guess that could have been a real good guise to get inside. 

Since then he had refrained from telling me any details, instead asking if there was a place we could talk in private, as I had only two rooms I had to ask Coke to vacate the living room.  In the commotion earlier, Naomi had woken up and decided that she didn’t want to be implicated into whatever shit we were getting ourselves into and excused herself to the stairs outside, Coke gladly followed her. 

After some assurance Hal hadn’t killed anyone driving home the night I found him in his workshop, I filled in some  of the more incriminating details for the agent.

 “So is there anything else about the night in question that you last saw Hal Rastrelli?  You said he was drunk, that he denied being drunk, and that you last saw him driving off, though you are unsure of the exact time, it was between 1 and 4am, anything else that maybe was strange about the night you can recall?”

“Well there was a weird clock thing….”

I noticed the agent look up from his notes.

“A clock?”

“Yeah, this weird clock….annnd I already feel stupid for even saying it.”

The agent implored me to go on, much to my surprise he intently listened to and questioned my description of the clock and the strange events that unfolded the two times I encountered it.

“Anyway, I think I was just super messed up, maybe more than I thought at the time…”

The agent cut me off abruptly and asked me if I thought I would be able to identify the clock.  I replied in the affirmative and asked if it had something to do with Hal’s death.  The agent looked as if he was going to reply then held out his index finger , gesturing for me to give him a second, as he turned on his phone and began to thumb through it. 

A few seconds later he took the phone and held it close to my face so I could see the picture blown up to full screen. 

“Is that the clock?”

The picture showed a clock covered in blood and what appeared to be what I imagine a combination of brains and skull looks like.  The clock, though doused in blood, was undoubtedly the exact same one I had helped haul in a week and a few days before. 

After allowing me a few minutes of silent shock, Agent Pope repeated the question and I replied in the affirmative. 

“Can you show me where that clock is....I mean where you found the clock last?”

Was this a slip of the tongue?  I was looking at where the clock was, covered in Hal, on this pixilated screen.  A scream pierced through my heart as that feeling of fear began to bubble in my stomach; every second of silence between the two of us compounded the effect.I could not make myself muster a response, or much of anything to alleviate the pressing silence.  I craned my neck with excruciating effort towards the agent who I had not laid eyes on since he had passed me the phone.  I wasn’t sure if I had betrayed my fear to him in my silence and demeanor, but his casual air had completely evaporated.  His face began to twitch and sweat poured out of his pores. 

“Son….please tell me where the clock is.”  He desperately stammered out the sentence in a guttural voice that was barely identifiable with the easy-going tone he had exhibited just five minutes prior. At a loss, I found myself unable and unwilling to reply.  I had never seen someone come unhinged so fast; everything that might indicate to a fellow human that he was of the same species was rapidly eroding.  He repeated the question, his syllables were tied together by a slither in his voice, he seemed to be attempting to recover some credibility as he witnessed the look of horror rapidly filtering through my face.  He repeated the question again, and then another time, at varying cadences.  I continued to be unable to respond, I felt a fear identical to the one that had gripped me nights before via the clock. 

His body contorted, the originally physically imposing man began to writhe and his skin seemed to crack.  Now despite seeing and hearing the gruesome sight of what I can only describe as his skin “sizzling”, it was his eyes that drew the greatest fear.  They bulged nearly out of his skull, completely devoid of white and overwhelmed by a tomato red, before slowly liquefying into dark streams that dripped down the same path tears might follow, leaving what I assume to be empty sockets.

I say assume because it seems that liquefying eyeballs was just enough to turn off my brain and just act.  If it seems a little extreme of a line I agree with you, I would prefer a “just stop looking at her and kiss her” threshold but we all have our strengths and weaknesses.

I bolted from the living room to the front door.  I crossed the kitchen and as I got to the door I ventured a look back towards the living room.  The chair where Agent Pope had been was vacated and this might not have been as alarming had there still been a door handle where the door handle was supposed to be.  I looked down, and there was an empty socket in the door where my hand had assumed the handle should be. 

I took another glance towards the living room and saw the door handle as it left Agent Pope’s, or what was left of him, hand and hurtled right into my nose.  Blood poured from my nose and impaired my vision as I fell against the wall.  I managed to reach into my pocket and grab my utility knife, and as the now hunched and lumbering shell of Agent Pope lunged towards me I buried the dull end of the blade into his exposed neck.  He fell into me, knocking one side of my head against the wall and the other side against the floor as we went down.

Having not been in a fight since the 3rd grade really fucked me in this one, I tried to roll him off me but could not make much leeway before he recovered.  He threw the knife away after pulling it out of his flesh, and straddling me landed a few blows that would cause a ref to end any UFC fight, the last two of which were aided in their devastating impact by his recovery of the door handle that had helped him land the initial blow on me.  The Agent landed a few more on me before stopping.  I could only see fractions of my field of vision through the blood in my eyes and mind numbing pain pulsing through my face.

He leaned over and grabbed the knife that had previously been in him, and held it as if he wanted it to instead be in me.  I could hear banging on the door.  Agent Pope responded to the banging with a loud response in an unfamiliar language and said to me: “I told them this was MY interrogation.”

He menacingly gripped the knife and held it up against my face, though it was obscured by my limited vision, I could feel the dull steel against me. 

“Now, I have sliced many humans, just like yourself, and I can tell you, a sharp knife would have been better for me and you both, so this could get messy.  I would use my knife, and maybe if you’re lucky no knife at all if you could just tell me where the clock is.”The Agent moved the knife close to my eyes before adding, “I think you know I could use a pair of these.”  He lined the tip of the blade into my now closed eyes. 

“So what will it be?  Where is the clock?”

I don’t know what did it, but in between his reinforcements banging on the door, the realization my friends had certainly suffered a similar fate, the multiple severe blows to my head or the fact I had gotten laid the night before, I did something kind of stupid and possibly something I can be proud of.  I told him to go fuck himself. 

I was desperate, hopeless, my nose was definitely broken and I could hear my asshole boy scout leader chiding me for never taking care of my knives.I was broke, I had no career aspirations, nosignificant other.I was an alcoholic, stoner, loser who was going to die in flyover country.  I had no marketable skills, nothing that I could offer society of value and was being beaten to a pulp and about to lose one of my top 5 favorite organs.  But telling that negative-two-eyes freak to fuck off made all that go away, gave me the top rung on the ladder to go out on.  I wasn’t dying in some hospital bed, I had gotten to struggle, to feel fear, to fight against a force right in front of me and outmatched and beaten I had not given him the satisfaction of victory.  I was playing for the tie.

Still, despite all this flowery description of my dying moments, it still hurts like hell to get your eye gouged out by a dull utility knife, a feeling I only know halfway, because as I was screaming in terrible agony brought on by a knife pushed into my eye socket by some otherworldly monster, I didn’t hear the deadbolt give way and the door crack open.  I only barely heard the gunshots, six in all, and truly only realized what was going on when I felt the pressure released and the knife, not quite yet lodged in my skull, fall to the ground. 

Partly out of exhaustion and part out of curiosity I let my head fall to the side so I could see who the new intruders were.  In the doorway, standing beautiful as the night I met her (the previous one), was Naomi, brandishing a handgun, standing above Coke who was laying just into the doorway, thrown down both from the momentum that carried him when he finally smashed through the door and by an understandable desire to not get shot.

 “I think I owe you breakfast”  was the last thing I could muster before I passed out.

© Copyright 2019 Nate Walton. All rights reserved.

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