7th December

The Clock of Horror

The clock that hung in the hallway was not behaving. It didn’t like the winter. The fall in temperature affected it, causing the brass pendulum or the hands or some other part of the mechanism to slow. First it didn’t make it through the cold hours of the night. Then it had trouble during the day. Its tick faded, then stopped, the minute hand finding the uphill journey from six to twelve too much.

‘Did you restart the clock?’ he demanded one night. He knew he sounded aggressive.

‘I haven’t touched it,’ she answered, almost as sharply. They were going through the hall on their way to bed.

‘Well, somebody has. I set it going at eight but it stopped again at ten to nine. Now it’s saying twenty to ten.’


‘I didn’t restart it at ten to nine. I just left it.’

‘I didn’t touch it.’

‘Somebody has. Look, the case hasn’t been closed.’

‘You must have forgotten to close it after you set it going.’

‘I always close it.’

‘On this occasion you must have forgotten.’

There was the possibility of a fight. He drew back.

‘Aye, maybe. I was sure I closed it.’

She acknowledged the concession. ‘It has a mind of its own, that clock.’

‘It plays tricks on us,’ he agreed. He adjusted the hands, letting the clock strike ten and eleven before he swung the pendulum, then closed the case.

They switched the downstairs lights out and went up. He opened the bedroom window and turned down the covers while she was in the bath- room. They passed on the landing. The clock’s steady tick was below them.

‘It’s lulling us into a false sense of security,’ she said.

‘As soon as we’re asleep, it’ll stop,’ he said.

Later, in the darkness, she said, ‘Are you awake?’


‘It’s ten past midnight. Did the clock strike?’

‘I didn’t hear it.’

‘Yet I still hear ticking. You know what I think? That clock’s come down from the wall and up the stairs, and it’s waiting for us out there.’

The Clock of Horror,’ he said, inventing a movie title.

They lay still, neither of them wanting to move till daylight.

Reader: Kirstin McLean
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
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