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Brass Clockwork

by Adam Hardy 11 months ago in psychological
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The Screaming Silence

Thunder rolled in the distance and the gentle sound of rain began to patter against the ramshackle roof of Heinrich's shack. As the last gravekeeper within the small town of Eiselbracht; he had spent the majority of his life living among decay and deceased. Chill had begun to creep down from the mountains near his home, bringing frost and cold mist in the mornings and evenings to settle upon his headstones and cobbled pathways.

He was alone, and preferred it so. Chewing on the stump of a cigarette while slouching over his table; the remains of his meagre breakfast laid out beside him next to a small wooden box covered in dry earth and clay dust. An irregular ticking sound echoing from within. Yet despite Heinrich's best efforts, this simple wooden box remained clasped shut and secured with a tiny padlock.

Heinrich had discovered this box months ago, in the woods. He had been out walking that afternoon and had heard the ticking overpowering the ambience of the breeze and wildlife. After following the sound a short distance, he came upon a large elder oak tree. With giant gnarled roots that clawed into the earth for what could very well have been miles. Hidden under the roots, he discovered a small chest that seemed to be the source of the ticking. But upon opening the chest, he found it completely empty save for the musk of earth and decaying wood. The ticking had stopped as soon as he lifted the lid. Heinrich had passed the event off to not getting enough sleep the night prior, and didn't think terribly much of the incident. He had left the chest at the base of the tree and continued on his walk. Later that evening when he had returned home, he found a smaller box sitting atop one of his headstones. The very same that he now keeps with him, quietly ticking away. It was bizarre, to be sure. But Heinrich felt compelled to hold on to it.

Ever since the auroras several months ago, the paths and towns have been devoid of all life save for the chirruping of unseen birds. The desolate echoes of past livelihoods are all that remain to drift through the streets, as the buildings begin to show their neglect. No people remain, save Heinrich. No children, no elders, not even any portraits or journals that might have indicated the presence of an individual at the location. Just buildings with dusty furniture and shadowed squares on the walls where the pictures used to hang. Heinrich had no explanation for this phenomena, nor why he seemed to be spared this rapture.

Heinrich took another puff of his cigarette, the orange glow of the tip darkening the crags and wrinkles on his face. He spent his time looking at the box, listening to it tick away. Listening to the non-existent birds chirping outside in the dusk. Listening to the walls of his shack creak with the wind.

Listening.

Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.

The sound was maddeningly off of the second mark by just a hair, and this had begun to mess with Heinrich's sense of time. Days felt longer, he felt that he slept for even more hours than before. His circadian rythm was slowly being changed. The ticking felt as if it was steadily growing louder the longer he looked at the box. Days would pass by and the box would demand his attention, yet he could not bring himself to smash the lock open. He would burn through cigarette after cigarette until his shack was filled with smoke and he coughed up black tar. Why was this so important? Why did he need to pay the utmost attention? He did not know. But the ticking grew louder by the day, yet it would tick slower.

Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.

The day eventually, over one year after the Auroras, where Heinrich would break his trance. He, an emaciated and withered husk that one might say was once a man, would step outside with the box under his arm and his mud-encrusted spade in his hand. The ticking continued as he set the box atop the bench outside his hut. Continued as he lifted the spade above his head with what remained of his strength, and bellowed a final ear splitting crunching sound as he brought it down upon the box, shattering it into splinters.

Inside the box, among the remaining splinters; lay a heart shaped brass locket set upon a heavy looking chain. A locket that may have decorated the nape of a maiden centuries ago, for its old age was obvious. Heinrich dropped the spade, and fell to his knees. Eyes fixed upon the locket. It was masterfully crafted, with a copper trim around its edges and what looked like a single small amethyst cut into the metal.

Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick

From within, the maddening ticking sound continued, Heinrich made to pick up the locket but found it to be extremely cold to the touch. A coldness beyond ice or the winter chill at midnight. It was a coldness that pierced his very being and crept up his arms and into his body. Heinrich dropped the locket, but as it clattered to the stone ground, he heard it.

Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.

Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.

Behind him. In the earth beneath the headstones that he had neglected in his obsession. His breath became visible as an arctic gust permeated his core. The ticking sound was quickly getting louder and faster. Mortified of his failure, Heinrich lowered his head and wept as the cold took hold of him. Turning his pale flesh to the consistency of concrete as it froze. The sound of his own heart struggling to pump warm blood to his extremities; drowned out by the incessant ticking from the graves behind him.

Finally, his vision darkened. His heart became cold and still. The small brass locket laying on the ground before him in this now perfectly quiet and desolate world.

psychological

About the author

Adam Hardy

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