This is a story I wrote about five years ago, back when a group of friends and I had a weekly short-story writing club. I like a bit of in media res.
The knife makes only the smallest of splashes as it is condemned to the bottom of the river, to rust and fade away with the cruel march of years.
She can hear sirens. Time’s run out.
Ten minutes ago.
Oh glory, what has she done? Did she want this? Why the hell did she want this?
The clock strikes ten.
Her brain screams at her, run, run! She doesn’t bother doing anything with the body; her instincts are just feeding her snippets of useless trivia gleaned from TV murder-mysteries. Get rid of the weapon. Get rid of that and they’ll never find you.
She has to hurry. The neighbours will have heard. The clock is ticking, but the river is near.
Two weeks ago.
He hasn’t even bothered to call her with an excuse. He’s not even trying any more. She knows that he’s probably cheating on her, but she can’t pluck up the confidence to confront him about it. She decides it would not only be cliche of her to think of men as unreliable, but incorrect as well. Her father was reliable. She has inherited his characteristics as assuredly as his fondness for the clocks.
She was meant to going out this evening with him. But as he is not doubt fucking some slutty temp from his office, she stays at work, in the back room of the jewellers, and disassembles an old Waltham pocket watch in the same casual, relaxed manner that a bored man would do the morning paper’s Sudoku puzzle. She then spends the better part of an hour putting it back together, meshing gleaming gears with buck-toothed cogs to make a tiny mechanism that awes her with its beauty and intricacy.
Its a game her father taught her when she was younger, when she started showing an interest in his work.
Her father; reliable, brilliant, precise. Everything he isn’t.
Twelve minutes ago.
The blood is everywhere, on her hands, her arms, her face, the carpet.
Ten days ago.
She tried to confront him, to no avail. He threw a lot of bullshit back at her; how could she accuse him of cheating, she was just being paranoid, Tracey (or was it Tara?) from the office was just a friend… the excuses came with such predictable frequency, she could’ve set her watch to them; her real watch, not the vile neon pink Fossil he bought her a few months ago (“I thought you liked clocks and shit?”).
She was building up the courage to say something to him, but he got up and left her in mid-sentence.
Twenty minutes ago.
She rings the doorbell. She wonders for the fiftieth time if this is the right thing to do. She seemed so convinced, so sure of herself a few hours ago. Is she ready for this?
Of course she is. It’s the right thing to do, she tells herself. She just needs to talk to him properly, straighten some things out, and then end it. It’s time for closure.
Three days ago.
She saw them together this evening. She was walking home from another late night at the shop, and saw him and the girl get out of the taxi outside the block of flats and go inside together. His hands were all over her.
That night, at home, she methodically dismantles an old cuckoo clock her grandfather once owned, though when it comes to it, she can’t see the point in reassembling it. The pile of engraved wood gets shovelled into the bin, and she cries herself to sleep.
An hour and a half ago.
She hangs up. He’s at home, and he’s prepared to talk to her, though he doesn’t make it a secret that he’d rather do anything but. He has no idea what she’s got in store for him.
Twenty-six hours ago.
The call finally comes, and it happens over the phone. It’s nasty, and it’s bitter. It’s probably the most wretched conversation she’s ever had. These past few weeks, she’s stopped loving him, but it doesn’t make the inevitable any less gut-wrenching.
He probably thinks he’s redeeming himself by coming clean like this. It sounds like he takes some satisfaction when he tells her exactly how long he’s been seeing Tanya (or was it Tracey?), when he realised he didn’t love her anymore. He tries to get sympathy by whining how weak he was, and how it was killing him inside to live the secret… to be honest, she tuned out most of it. More of his lies, more of his bullshit.
Afterwards, she sits on the carpet in the living room, surrounded by the mechanical components of all the timepieces she has dismantled in an attempt to take her mind off things. But she doesn’t care about her father’s old game now.
She only cares about the silver-cold metal of the knife in her hand, reliable and precise in a way that even the most tightly-wound watch can’t be. She’s found her confidence.
Ten years later.
This place and its four blank grey walls; what have they done to her? Where in this prison is the thief that has stolen all that time from her?
She tries not to remember the evenings she spent with screwdriver and tweezers, reassembling shining brass and copper treasures; the memory is too painful, and it makes her ache. She hasn’t touched a real watch or clock in ten years. Ten long, awful years with crass digital analogue. Where’s the fucking beauty in that?
Thirteen minutes ago.
The slap leaves her face red-raw and numb. She doesn’t hear the ugly words shouted at her. She reels, hurt and dazed.
Her hand goes into her pocket.
Time stops. It’s self-defence, she tells herself. He’s mad. Crazy. Needs to be stopped.
Time snaps back. The seconds flash in fast and sharp and vivid like a rain of blades. He sees the knife in her hand.