Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Pocket Watch - (for Halloween)

I didn't intentionally write this for Halloween, but I thought I might as well put it up. I wrote this as an assignment for an American short story class last year. Try to guess what short story author I'm trying to imitate.

 The Pocket-watch

The Clock

I Hope.

I lay awake that night; as I did every night, sweat beading on my brow as I listened to the gold-gilded pocket-watch tick next to my ear. Tick Tock, Tick Tock. Every tick a boon. Every tock a gift of life. I breathed to its rhythm, in, out, in, out, tick, tock, tick, tock. I moaned as I tossed and turned in my bed, my mind at last traveling away from here and now, but not in the direction I wished.

I went back. The butler had disturbed my dance, saying there was someone at the door who wouldn’t leave until I came. Exasperated, I followed him. There she was, standing at the door of my mansion. If only I had let her in! “Would you give a poor old lady shelter from the storm?” she asked, pleadingly. If only I had said yes! But no, my memory would only tell the truth, no matter how long or hard I tried to change it. “No, why should I, hag?” I replied, turning away. “Very well,” she answered back, her voice suddenly harshly cruel and strong. “The pocket-watch,” she said.  I turned back to the witch.  I glanced down at it, then my prized possession.  It hung at my side every day, on my bedside table every night. Although I shall admit I got it by rather unscrupulous means, I was proud of how it glittered in the light, how it set off the vivid hues of my waistcoat. “What of it?” I had said, raising an eyebrow. Ah, how haughty I still sounded, how unworried, how proud! She gave me a silky sly smile, and then declared, “Yes, that beautiful golden-gilt watch, a testimony of your wealth, indeed that very watch shall be your death. The day that watch stops shall be the day you die.” Then, even then, I was arrogant as ever, that twinge of fear was ignored, “You silly crone, I shall merely wind it up again. In fact, I may not, for I do not believe in such superstitious nonsense,” I declared. Cunningly she smiled, and then turned around and hobbled off into the night, gone within the minute. I thought no further of it that evening, how merrily I danced with the girls, how loudly I sang, how ravenously I ate. But that very night, as I lay in bed, I could hear it. Tick… Tock… Tick… Tock… It lay on my bedside table, and after half an hour of listening I groaned, heaving out of bed, and took it into the parlor. After that I fell into an exhausted sleep, but that crone’s voice, cackling in my ear, followed my dreams mercilessly, mockingly saying, “Tick, Tock, Tick, Tock, The Clock Never Stops.” Over and over again she chanted the phrase, until I awoke in a cold sweat. I couldn’t fall asleep again that night, tossing and turning restlessly, but still the ticking followed me. The pocket-watch in the other room echoed in the silence, even though I knew I couldn’t possibly hear it from all the way in the bedroom. At last I hauled myself out of bed and walked into the parlor and scooped up the watch. I fished around in my dresser and at last found the miniature key to the watch. I stuck it in the small hole and started slowly to wind it. Then I blanched. The key spun uselessly in the hole, it wouldn’t catch, wouldn’t wind.

Aye, five years, far too long to live under the curse of a pocket-watch! Every day pretending to be at ease, pretending to be happy.  Every night lying drenched in my own sweat, listening to the clock as if my very life clung on it. Indeed, it does! I cannot bear it, cannot bear listening to the clock, but cannot bear to be parted from it.

I hid it, once, in the depths of a closet, and for the rest of the day I gave barely a thought about it. But again, when night’s black cloak fell, I caught myself straining to hear it, worrying endlessly that perhaps it was slowing and I could not hear it. Rushing, I hurried down the hallway to the particular wardrobe, nightgown flapping against my legs in my haste. I dragged it from the depths of the wardrobe and gave a relieved sigh that it was still ticking steadily. Soon however, I turned pale again, realizing that I would not, could not, bear to be away from it.

 Ah, cruel one, cruel life you have doomed me to. It would be almost better to crush the vile thing, to stamp on it, to stop having to listen to the cruel ticking! Yes! To kill the clock! It could not be that I would die, could it? Superstitious. My imagination. Indeed, too long to live under the curse of my own mind! Kill that dreadful ticking, come what will. On my pillow, there it lies. So easy, so simple, just to smash the dreaded thing. The bed creaked as I crawled out of bed. I took the little silver hammer from the mantle, a memento of my father’s occupation. Snatching the still ticking clock, I held it on the desk and smashed the hammer down upon it. I looked away a second before the hammer crashed down, wincing as it flew downward. There was a dreadful crunching sound, and then… nothing. Not a tick, not a tock, not a sound. Silence. I slowly opened my eyes, and then looked at the pocket-watch. Its silver insides were spilt all over the floor and desk. The wood of the desk was horribly dented, but who cared of that? The ticking was gone. Forever, and I was fine! Bah, horrible witch, filling me with such horror for nothing. Just then a great, old grandfather clock down the hall started booming, Dong, Dong, Dong. I had hunched over warily when it began, but straightened as I listened, horror dawning on me. Dong. Each peal a mournful funeral bell, my funeral bell. The ticking was gone. Dear God what had I done! Dong. That ticking was my life! Every second of it! Gone forever! I got cold all over, and fear swept in a cold dark wave over me. I fell to the floor slowly, and everything faded to black, as the last ‘Dong’ filled my mind, echoing back and forth, never ending.

The next morning, a maid entered the room, and gave a scream of horror. Her master lay on the floor, and his face was white as the dead. A policeman showed up within the hour. “Nope, no foul play. It was a heart attack, I’m afraid. Strange for one so young.”

The End

 Well, did you guess? I was trying to imitate Edgar Allen Poe's writing style... particularly the Tell-Tale Heart.