There’s Someone Out There Called The Clock Man And He Knows When You’re Going To Die

Alexis Nyal
Alexis Nyal

“Give me your animal crackers,” Tommy said sternly.

“I don’t have any,” I replied.

“Graham bears, then,” he said, not missing a beat.

“I don’t have those either!” I answered.

“You know what this means, right?” he asked, eyes narrowing as he motioned to the rusted metal door, “You’re going down in the basement!”

“No!” I whined pointlessly.

There was no reasoning with Tommy. He’d been held up a year after flunking his grade, which meant he was the oldest in our class. People were naturally afraid of him, and the other bullies were quick to join his clique. He could get away with anything. He was bigger and faster than me. Before I could even try to run, he had me by the collar. He threw the door open and tossed me into the darkness, shutting the door behind him. I tried to open it, but I could tell he was putting all his weight on it to keep me from escaping. My only choice was to wander down and hope to find a light switch.

The basement at our grade school was a really spooky place, and we weren’t allowed down there. That didn’t stop Tommy from using it as his personal prison. You see, the door was in a secluded area behind the stairs at the back of the building, out of sight from the security cameras. All Tommy had to do was post a couple look-outs in the hallway, and he had the ultimate bullying spot. He’d pick on our weaker classmates and threaten to lock us up if we didn’t give him our snacks. Everyone always caved. That day was my turn, but mom hadn’t bought the groceries for the week yet.

I don’t know what was worse, the fear of the unknown, or the possibility that the rumors I’d heard were true. I’d never met anyone who’d survived being in the basement before, but I’d heard plenty of people talk about the ‘Clock Man’. Apparently, if you stood in the darkness for long enough, you’d hear him whisper tick tock, tick tock from every corner of the room. The numbers of ticks added up to the amount of years left in your life. In hindsight, it sounded stupid, but to a kid, it was terrifying.

As I stood there in the bleak room, I nervously touched the cement wall and tried to find my way around. Maybe I’d find another exit, I hoped. My heart pitter-pattered faster and faster as I went down the stairs. I wish I had grabbed the heavy stapler in my desk when I saw Tommy eyeing me in class earlier. That way, at least I would have had something with which to defend myself. What would I do if the Clock Man appeared?

From the corner of the room, I heard a shuffling sound, and let out a scared yelp.

“Who’s there?” I screamed, clutching my book bag tightly against my chest.

Tick … tock … tick … tock … tick … tock …

I panicked. I didn’t even think to count how many ticks I heard. I just darted back up the stairs and to the door as fast as my little feet could take me. My arms slammed against the metal in desperation.

“Let me out!” I shouted, “The Clock Man’s going to get me! Please let me out!”

There was no answer from the other side, not even the sound of Tommy and his friends laughing.

Tick … tock … tick … tock … tick … tock …

I tried the handle, and found it unlocked. I pushed the door open, only to stagger into the empty hallway. Tommy had had his fun and hadn’t stuck around afterwards. He’d gone after some other kid in the hopes of getting fruit gushers or something.

Trying to hide my tears, I shuffled to the washroom and hid in one of the stalls. I didn’t want my fellow classmates to see me cry. I’d never live it down. More importantly, I didn’t want Tommy to see me like this. If I showed any weakness, I knew he’d start picking on me full time. It wasn’t fair, but that was life in grade school.

I eventually convinced myself that one of Tommy’s friends must have been hidden in the basement the whole time, and that the clock man wasn’t real. It was the only way I could sleep that night. From that point on, I made sure to always have animal crackers on me, just in case Tommy picked on me again.

I’d love to say that Tommy got his comeuppance soon after, but it took a few years, and I wish I’d just let it go.

Grade 6 had just started, I had had quite the growth spurt over the summer, and easily towered over everyone in my class—including Tommy. My parents had put me into soccer camp, so I’d also gotten in shape as well. While Tommy had seemingly forgotten about my little stint in the basement, I hadn’t.

He was getting ready to bully Peter, one of the scrawny kids in my class. Tweedledee and Tweedledum were sticking to Tommy like magnets. Typical. Without Tommy, they had no authority. I watched and waited from the stairwell as they harassed poor Peter, pushing him against the door. I knew Peter wasn’t going to be able to “pay” Tommy, because I’d temporarily taken custody of his lunchbox. You know, for the greater good. I waited until Tommy opened the basement door, before jumping into view pushing Tommy inside.

The look of shock in his eyes was well worth the trouble. Peter ran off like a scared rabbit, and Tommy’s accomplices followed suit. I guess they never expected anyone to fight back and didn’t know how to react. With a smirk, I shut the door just as Tommy tried to leave.

It didn’t matter how big he was, I was bigger now, and I wasn’t letting that door budge. His irate yells and banging noises soon stopped, and I assumed he headed down the stairs to explore, just like I had.

After ten minutes without a sound or escape attempt, I brought my ear to the surface of the door. I could hear the muffled sounds of whimpering inside. That’s the difference between me and people like Tommy. He didn’t care who he hurt, but I did. His cries formed a knot of guilt in my stomach. With a sigh, I opened the door and called out to him.

“All right dude, you can come out now. If you pull this crap again, I’m locking the door and throwing away the keys.”

Tommy was sobbing.

I rolled my eyes, “I won’t even tell people you’re afraid of the dark. C’mon.”

I got a little worried when he failed to reply, so I used my bag to prop the door open and wandered into the basement. I could barely see his silhouette in the farthest corner.

“Tommy, c’mon. Let’s go,” I murmured.

Tick … tock … tick … tock … tick … tock …

As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I began to make out the silhouette, and it sure as hell wasn’t Tommy. The man was large, bald, and completely naked. He was curled on the floor, hugging his knees as he ticked away the time. The hairs at the back of my neck stood on end at the sight of his patchy, rotten skin.

Not far from him was Tommy, staring at him like a deer in the headlights. Tears were falling from his paralyzed face. I grabbed him and yanked hard, dragging him towards the stairs in a frenzy. Tommy snapped out of his stupor once we reached the top, and ran down the hallway without a single word.

I shut the door behind me, trying to cast away the image of the Clock Man while wondering what I should do. Tell a teacher? I’d get in trouble for going into the basement. Run after Tommy? Pretend it never happened?

I decided to follow the trail of tear drops and the sounds of Tommy whimpering. I found him in the same bathroom stall I’d hidden in years before.

“Listen, you’re fine, all right?” I said, reluctantly trying to reassure him.

“Y-you saw him too, right? Th-the Clock Man?” he asked me.

“Yeah …”

“How many ticks?” he asked.

“Uhn … I don’t know. He was still going at it when we left. Why?” I replied.

“… h-he only ticked once for me,” he replied.

I didn’t know what to tell him, so I just stood outside the stall and kept him company. It’s weird. I’d hated this kid for years, but seeing him break down made him seem like a completely different person. Under other circumstances, we might even have become friends.

Eventually, we went back to class, and never spoke of the incident. He was never the same afterwards, always obsessed with the clock on the wall and looking over his shoulder.

Exactly one year to the day, Tommy was in a fatal car accident.

Honestly, I’m glad I didn’t count my ticks. I don’t think I could deal with knowing when I’m going to die. TC mark

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