Only one more hour before 8:47pm, December 2nd. What is there that a person can accomplish in one hour?
I reclined on my couch, petrified by fear. Perhaps my stillness would negate any claws of fate that grabbed at me. Nothing could happen if I refused to move. My pulse synchronized with the seconds on the mantel clock, achieving a calm rest at the realization of this peaceful loophole.
Other consistent parts of the ambience joined in the rhythm. The fan overhead whirred at top speed, each passing blade landing a thud within the melody. The heat of the lamps burst out with light, the filaments buzzing with the searing fire passing through. Varied pitches of creaks shook the ceiling as the residents upstairs continued about their lives without a care in the world.
My heartbeat inadvertently quickened to match the rapidity of these other noises. The blades whooshed by, the fires simmered, the structure warped, threatening to buckle. Each tune produced a new danger, and my cardio couldn’t bear it, rallying against the song until my own, hurried beat drowned out everything else.
I resolved that sitting at home was the opposite of what I wanted. Hopping around as I precariously slid my sneakers on, the ticks of my mantel clock screeched at me with each lurch of the seconds hand. 7:51pm.
As much as the passage of time daunted me, I needed to track it, even while venturing out to avoid it. Rummaging through the drawers of my bedside table and tossing aside a plethora of old, forgotten junk, a shimmering, mistreated watch rested on top of a deck of cards. The metal fastened around my wrist with a comfortable fit. The reading was off by an hour due to daylight savings and I readjusted it to match the mantel. The accuracy of every instant counted.
I trotted out the door and winced at the cool, evening air. Despite the biting of the breeze, every prick of every nerve brought me hope. As time wore on too quickly, my bodily functions seemed unaffected.
My instincts carried me to the curb to hail a cab before I drew back in uncertainty. Car accidents proved an overabundant reality of human life. Motor vehicles should be avoided until I safely set my feet on the opposite side of 8:47pm.
I strolled down the sidewalk, calculating the balance of each step as if any error might be my downfall. Many hazards awaited me out here as well, yet the expanse of the outside world offered me the freedom to run if need be. I preferred this to the confinement of my apartment.
The waft from the nearby bakery caressed me with its aroma and beckoned me to the display window. An array of muffins, croissants, and cinnamon rolls smiled up at me with their natural, alluring quality. Before thinking my actions through, I stood at the counter and volunteered the last of my change to the clerk in exchange for a pecan turnover. I wrenched the treat from the bag and teased it at my lips as my stride returned onto the street. One last goodie before the inevitable time came.
I paused the scrumptious breading before my teeth sank in. This posed a choking risk. Perhaps I should save this celebratory snack for later. I deposited the bag into my jacket pocket.
I memorized every site of the city that I had passed a thousand times but never truly appreciated. If this would be the last I gazed on them, I wanted the imprint to stay with me. Each building stretched high above in majesty and the glistening lights of advertisements brightened the way for me. Sauntering along this path, no perils seemed to meet me and for a minute I chanced a bit of optimism. Such a beautiful world could not possibly conjure the cruelty that I so dreaded.
The orange color of caution slowed my pace, having the decency to warn me of its presence. A stone staircase veered off to the right of the sidewalk and had poorly timed construction scheduled on it. Despite the innocence of such a renovation and of such a decline, my paranoia searched for an alternative route that would circumvent this obstacle. No detours readily presented themselves, so I tried random turns along unknown streets for a while until I reached an area of less popularity.
The isolation left a bittersweet taste in my mouth. With less people around, the dangers had to decrease a bit. Yet an uneasiness nagged in the back of my mind. Though strangers could potentially catch me in their web, their presence could also work as a safety net. In this abandoned part of town, I had neither.
With a peek at my watch, blood rushed through my ears with a deafening swish.
Only minutes left.
I circled around myself in heightened suspicion. Nothing disturbed me. Not a car graced the roadway and not a pedestrian crossed my course. All was quiet and I disliked the reassurance. No tranquility could be trusted until after these coming minutes.
Headlights rounded the corner and zoomed down the street to intersect with me. Though I remained firmly on the sidewalk and away from their lane, the singular presence, so close to the end time, startled me to the maximum. Reacting rather than reasoning, I ducked into the opening of an alleyway as if the high beams might disintegrate me if their glare caught against my clothes.
Pressed against the dilapidated bricks in the sanctuary of shadow, the car rolled by without any sort of waver. An exhale released the tightness of my chest as the danger left me.
A click from the darkness of the backstreet swiped away my relief in an instant. Recognizing the distinctive clank, my trembling hands lifted in surrender.
The voice of a young man barked out, “Money on the ground.”
I shook my head in despair. “I spent the last of it.”
Annoyed, he bargained, “How about that pretty watch then?”
The gun quivered in his hands, his anxiety as acute as mine. I carefully reached down and fiddled with the fastening, intending to obey his request. The time lashed back at me with a mighty vengeance.
My breath ceased and my limbs froze as if death already cast his spell on me. The time came. My chest caved in anticipation of the one life threatening item within the vicinity. His bullets must tear through my chest within the next sixty seconds. The end was now.
To be concluded in Tock II...
© 2020 by Kelsey Garber