Tick. Tick. Tick. [Short Story]
“Listen, you don’t understand.” Rodney Daniels muttered impatiently under his breath, his mouth pressed directly into the receiver of his blocky, beige rotary telephone. As he spoke, he absentmindedly twirled the corkscrewed phone line between his thumb and forefinger - as if trying to straighten it out - a habit he’d held for his entire adult life. “I’ve got the catalyst - Yes, it’s in my house.” As he said the words, his eyes drifted carefully towards the pink and white plumes of color that embellished the door to his daughter's bedroom. It was still cracked ajar, and from the murky darkness, he could just barely make out the comforting glow of her butterfly night light delicately illuminating her slight silhouette as she lay, sleeping soundly in her bed.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
Rodney Daniels was smiling. As he reached his hand out to return his corpulent telecommunication device back to it’s plain and modest cradle, his eyes momentarily wandered around the solemnly lit room. The thing sat there, innocuous enough, he supposed. It was as inky and bulbous as a bowling ball, and just as cumbersome to the hand. The translucent, three-pronged, plastic stand that had arrived along with it seemed to struggle just to keep it up, lofting it unsteadily only a few inches above Rodney Daniel’s living room table. Across it’s deep, onyxian surface, a timer ran down resolutely, displaying itself in vibrant, room padding red. Only seven more hours to go, Rodney thought unabashedly to himself. Seven more hours and they were set. That fucking fat-cat-sicko-moneybags-cunt would pay up, just like he had for the folks before him. And then it would finally be alright. He could get Kaley out of that school, and into Hemsworth Academy, where she belonged. He could get the car fixed so he could take her. He could quit that fucking hellacious, soul-sucking job down at the Mill. Hell, even just getting the goddamn water turned back on would mean the world - to both of them.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
He looked back suddenly towards the sullen purple glow emanating from his daughter's bedroom, set on edge all at once by nothing else besides his parental instincts alone. Before the door could move more than what couldn’t have been even an inch, having been pushed gently from the other side by his little girl, Rodney was before her, glowering and afraid. But before he could even utter a syllable, her faint, melodic voice came floating effervescently up his to perked and anxious ears. “What is it, daddy?” She smiled her cherub’s smile up towards his red and blustery eyes, like an angel fallen from heaven, using every charm in the book to find her way back. “What’s wrong?” Rodney Daniels could do naught but smile. He bent down onto his right knee, and lifting her up in one, swift motion, he replied with a renewed vigor in his voice. “Nothing’s wrong, sweetheart, nothing at all. Now go back to bed.” She looked directly into his eyes, and for a split second, her smile momentarily faltering at the sight of his wretched, worry lined, visage. Seeing her sudden discontentment, Rodney relaxed his face immediately, into something more reminiscent of what it had been before as if it’s worry and frustration had been suddenly superheated, and flash frozen again - allowed to melt just a little bit before it was over. Whispering softly now, right into his daughter's ear as he held her still in his powerful arms, Rodney did his best to convey comfort. The young girl, who looked more and more like her mother each and every day, stared balefully into her father’s wet and worried eyes until she said simply. “Daddy. Can I have a glass of warm milk?” Rodney Daniels’ face cracked wide open. His terror having been bleached away but the pure sincerity of his young girl. He smiled sweetly down at her, as he stared resolutely into her cavernous, orbicular brown eyes. Her mother’s eyes. “Of course you can, sweetheart. Just crawl back into bed, and I’ll bring it in in a second.” Releasing his young daughter back down to the musty hallway floor with a subtle poof of dust and other various organic particulates, Rodney Daniels turned his attention towards the fridge.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
As Rodney passed by the living room, he saw the stark red numbers again as they flashed out in stunning contrast to the subtle blue glow coming from his little run down television set. The rabbit ears above the fuzzy pictured metal cube danced luminously back and forth, in and out of the darkness with each flash of that quiet, delicate glow. “Now where is that carton…” Rodney Daniel’s muttered uneasily to himself, as he bathed in the harsh glow of the open fridge.
Suddenly, there was an explosion of sound from the living room, and the subtle red and blue that had so inconspicuously coexisted for the last eighteen hours was thrown into utter chaos. “Kaylee, run!” It was all that he could think to scream, as he ran back towards the living room, back towards that fucking thing. Red lights were screaming and flashing themselves all across the stark living room walls as if the thing were suddenly alive - deranged and unstable - hurling it’s body helter-skelter this way and that, rolling and crashing as it moved along. “Daddy!” Kaylee screamed as she stood, so horrified at what she had done that she could have been cast in stone, next to the squat living room table; that three-pronged, translucent plastic stand laying ineffectively on its surface, having been knocked haphazardly astray and onto its side.
On the floor between them, the Catalyst rolled hither and thither, to and fro, as if it were held fast by some sort of unseeable, ephemeral wind. “Kaylee, get to your room, right now!” Rodney Daniels screamed at the top of his worried and haggard lungs. As his daughter dashed diligently across him, Rodney bent to halt the progress of the rolling and terrible thing.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
He stared deeply into it’s shadowed surface, it’s flashing reminder of his own mortality blinking unerringly up into his shattered and soulless eyes. Only six hours left until it was over. Until they were free. From her bedroom, he could hear his young daughter sobbing breathlessly, cocooned adamantly within the soft dark comfort of her bedding sheets. Returning that horrible thing back to its translucent, three-pronged, plastic stand, he began to move towards her bedroom - towards her pitiful cries. Through the door he spoke, his forehead pressed firmly onto the soft pink and white paneling of her bedroom door. “Kaylee, don’t worry, okay?” He let out a defeated sigh. “I’m sorry I yelled.” And with a hopeful smile, he finished. “Everything is going to be alright.”
Tick. Tick. Tick.
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The story you just read was written by me, Matthew Munsey @matthewmunseyart
This is the second edition of this piece, hopefully finally error free for your reading pleasure!