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Just Like in the Storybooks
It begins as a slight tremor on the face of the clock, whisper-soft and too quiet to even create even the lowest of echoes in the near-empty room. It’s impossible, these sharp, awkward movements against the hollow darkness, yet they are as true as any word that the boy shall ever speak. As though waiting for something to occur, he crouches by the chair, parked lazily besides the table on which the clock sits. He doesn’t say or do anything that might shatter the silence and watches only the clock’s slim black hands, one racing past the dashes of time while the other two barely answering at all.
It, the clock, slides closer towards the edge of the table as though shoved by a clumsy hand, but the boy does not react. Not when the clock rings three times, fast, not when the clock levitate above the scratched wooden surface of the table, not ever.
“Hello,” says the boy, to the clock, finally.
And to you, the clock seems to reply, though he doesn’t really know precisely what it tries to communicate aside from the meaning.
“You’re not asking me whether I’m feeling fine, are you?” he asks the clock, resting his head on his hand as though it will topple off his neck otherwise. “Because I’m not.”
No, the clock agrees, looping in the air until the marks on its white face blur into obscurity as it spins. And that’s okay.
“You’re condescending.” And he is whining, of course. The clock doesn’t reply, settling onto the table from the air once more, unmoving. “You are. Like everyone else,” he tells the clock when it ignores him, staring at him as time passes in ticks and tocks on its face, but he doesn’t want to leave it anyways.
The clock thinks the boy is absurd while the boy can hardly bring himself to disagree. “She’s dead, and they’re wondering whether I’m okay? That doesn’t make any sense at all, if you think about it.”
She’s dead, and you’re alive. The clock’s minute hand stops abruptly. The boy hates the smugness woven in the syllables of the clock’s words, the vague hints of knowledge that adults fill into the consonants of their sentences that mean nothing.
“I should just break you. You can’t talk if I smash you to bits, can you?” he threatens, anger lurking beneath the steel of his tone. He really wants to, if just to revel in the sight of the clock’s remnants, spilling out in metal pieces over the carpeted floor, glinting silver.
His mother is worried about the boy, who she thinks spends far too much time in the shadows of his room. She hears his voice seeping through the crack beneath his door at night sometimes, having one-sided conversation with invisible strangers, imaginary friends. You’re not asking me whether I’m fine, are you? She hears things like that coming from his lips, in a harsh, hushed voice and remembers all the times she had done just that to him.
Because I’m not. She sighs a sound mournful like bleak wind sweeping up broken leaves. She thinks about why the boy might possibly be having a conversation with himself, wonders why she’s still listening in on what seems to be his innermost thoughts, but no logical answer arrives.
I should just break you. You can’t talk if I smash you to bits, can you? he says.
She had already lost one child, the wound still aching fresh in her heart and hands, so why is she to lose another, and so soon?
Days past and weeks past and he goes through the days absent and soundless until daylight fades into vacant darkness and it is night again. The clock remains his one companion through the hours, as the boy grows increasingly idle, wanting his anger to dissolve so badly but it never does, not once. Things do not, and will not, fade away like an angry purple bruise on one’s knee, no matter if one accepts it, no matter if one leaves it for the sands of time. “She thinks I’m insane, you know,” he says.
She does, eh? replies the clock.
“This is stupid and sentimental.”
The hour and minute hands are perfectly aligned in the clock now, hearing.
“She listens to me talk to a clock outside my door. I go to school, I do my homework, and it’s not like I’m beating people up and slitting my wrists. It’s like she thinks I’m going to have a mental breakdown any minute now. I mean, she’s probably the one slowly breaking down. I hear her crying in her room at night, trying to do it quietly so nobody would know she was doing it. She’s the one breaking down, not me,” he says, his voice shaking like stone columns ready to collapse.
“I’m okay. I really am.”
He wraps his fingers around his sister’s clock and lifts it up from the table for the first time.