Within

Tick, Tock, Tick.

“What’s your name?”

She hung there motionless, two feet above the floor. Her arms were held up, strapped by thick chains from the ceiling. Her robes were soaked in sweat. Slowly, she lifted her head. Her eyes were a gateway to hell. Fire rose from her pupils, but were soon put out by exhaustion. She mumbled but one word.

“Autumn”

My pocket watch held onto it’s gold chain as I spun it in small circles beside me. Pretending I hadn’t heard her, I turned my head to the side and nodded. A man in the room behind us sat watching from a tinted glass. With the signal in place, her body jolted with electricity. I waited as her muffled screams filled the air. At the snap of my fingers, the surge was interrupted and she once again hung silent.

Tick, Tock, Tick.

“How old are you?”

With all the strength she had left, she rolled her head to one side and looked between me and my watch.

“Seven”

A short smile pulled across my face as I nodded once more.

* * *

In a weathered old mansion hidden between the trees, Autumn had cowered beside the lifeless bodies of a retired doctor and his fiancee. Discolored, dark bruises pocked their necks. The coroner declared it strangulation, though the murder weapon was never found. That day she was brought here to the Rainy Care facility, a place for the “unstable”. Speculations and whispers hung in the empty halls as doctors tried to figure out how she’d ended up in the house that night. I had an answer. But it was one I wasn’t willing to share until I drained a confession from Autumn’s lips. I knew she’d done it, but proof was slight.

Later that day, my heeled boots clicked along the marble floor as I made my way down a long white hallway to see her again. I could hear the silent conversations patients were having with themselves and the banging of heads against the concrete walls.

The first time I saw her, Autumn held a gold watch tightly in her fingers. Once the doctor’s restrained her, they handed it to me. They told me to put it with her files. I put it where it belonged.

For 38 years, my father kept a gold watch in his pocket and never once let anyone touch it. He had been a surgical practitioner but soon was the director of this facility. He treated thousands of patients in my youth and would come home to tell me all the stories.

But after my mother died, he retired and moved out to the countryside. He was soon engaged though, to another local woman of my age and not long after, they were expecting a child. Only, father told that the baby hadn’t survived birth. I had tried to give them space after that, but “space” soon turned into 8 years where none of us shared a word.

No one at the facility knows that the director was my father. No one knows that I chose to treat the monster who strangled my father to death.

When I reached door number 66, I motioned for the guard to unlock it. As it creaked off to one side, I slowly entered the claustrophobic room. She was strapped in her straight jacket, her small head tilted upwards towards the ceiling. Her eyes were closed but her lips were moving, though no sound escaped.

I twisted the chain of my watch between my fingers, listening to the infinite sound of the ticking.

Tick, Tock, Tick.

Once the door was again sealed, her eyes popped open.

She slowly allowed her head to fall back down, then she tilted it to one side, like a dog.

“Good morning” I said calmly.

She tilted her head to the other side, as if she hadn’t quite understood.

“Aren’t you going to say something?” As I said this, I slowly pulled back the front of my jacket to reveal a taser. She stared, not at the taser, but at my watch. With my jacket pulled back, it was now visible, protruding from my pocket.

“That’s mine” she nodded.

I looked down at the small round object, then back at her and chuckled.

“This? No. You found this when you killed those people. It isn’t yours.”

“It’s mine!” she screamed as she lunged at me.

I jabbed the taser into her middle. She screeched as her whole body shook. I released and stepped back, watching her body crumble to the floor.

“That’s better,” I stated simply, straightening my jacket back out.

“This is not yours!” I yelled, “Do you understand you little witch? This watch was my father’s and you…” I had to resist the urge to go on. I let the thought sit, trapped in my throat. I knocked on the door to let the guard know I was finished. She didn’t move from where she lay, but I could see her breathing. She was fine.

I exited the room, holding tightly to my father’s watch as I tried hard to let it’s ticking drown out my thoughts.

Tick, Tock, Tick.

***

I sat at my desk later that night, looking out the window as I smoked a cigar. Thunder rumbled the gloomy sky. I closed my eyes and rested my head in my hands.

Tick, Tock, Tick.

I opened them and looked to my watch at the corner of my desk. Of all things to steal in the house after killing the owner, why take this? Why did she want this?

The wind made the trees outside my window rustle, while the curtain flew around carelessly. I got up and closed the window, watching as the rain came pouring down. I took another drag of the cigar, then suddenly noticed something. A face in the window reflection that was not my own. It looked like it was near the door of my office. I spun around. But no one was there.

“Aren’t you going to say ‘Good evening’, mister?”

I searched the room frantically, but found no source of the voice. My cigar fell from between my fingers as I grabbed onto the window pane for balance. My breathing became heavy, but just as I started to feel lightheaded, it spoke again.

“He reacted the same way when I got out” the voice giggled. It was her.

Her voice seemed to come from every nook and cranny. It echoed enough to paralyze me where I stood. With all my courage I asked her,

“Who?”

“Who do you think?” she spat “I was born in a really big boring old house. But my friends used to play with me. I told father about them. I could hear their voices, in my head. I can still hear them. He said that he would have to take them away. I told him no. He chained me to the wall of the basement and said that I wouldn’t be allowed to come out again until they went away.”

My mouth was dry, I couldn’t even utter a sound.

“He used to leave that shiny thing with me, that tick tock machine so that it would drive my friends away. I always hated that sound. Tick, Tock, Tick. Tick, Tock, Tick”.

As she replicated the sounds, I slowly saw her figure rise up from beside my desk. She crawled up onto it and grabbed my watch. She held it out in front of her, letting it hang from the chain.

“He used to strangle me with it until I went to sleep. He told me that I just needed to sleep it all away…”

“You’re lying!” I yelled, feeling the tears fall down my face. I looked away, collecting myself before speaking again.

“How the hell did you get out?” I whispered.

“Don’t you remember mister? You left me a present this morning”

She held up my taser gun in her bony fingers. I reached for my belt, but as expected it was gone. I looked to the door and tried to stumble for it but it was too late.

The shock hit my spine first. My whole body vibrated under the electrodes, dropping me to my knees. She pulled me down onto my back, slipping the chain around my neck. I started to sob.

“Who did this to you?” I choked.

She looked down at me as lightning cracked across the sky, revealing a toothy grin.

“Our father”

She tugged at the chain, blocking the passages of my air. I tried to rip it back. I kicked and clawed, trying to scream. But nothing came out. I laid there, feeling my body go cold as I listened.

Tick, Tock, Tick.

Tick, Tock…

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