The clocks ticked loudly, their pendulums swinging as he dodged through the maze of clockwork mechanisms, each second amplifying each click like bullets in his brain. The light was eerie and damp, creating a metallic glow amongst the levers and chains of the toothed gearwheels. Bells began chiming in succession. The sound was deafening as he ran wildly through the terrifying maze, searching for a way out, his hands over his ears. Upon the spring of a very large gearwheel, he saw a woman’s head dropping from tooth to tooth, and as it dropped the face turned toward him. Familiar ice-blue eyes released frightful recognition before the head was crushed between two metallic teeth, popping like a bloated wood tick as the pulped skull dropped to the floor. He howled in agony as a lever behind him caught the collar of his jacket, and began sucking him into the machine. Then he awoke, screaming into the silence of his quiet bedchambers. No one was there to comfort him.
It was a beautiful day for a ribbon ceremony, and Mayor Alexander Hoffman looked on proudly as his brother’s family held the large scissors and cut the ribbon together. The small town cheered them on, grateful for the promise of new jobs and prosperous futures. A family business was reborn, and the Hoffman Clock Factory was sure to bring in more people and help the community grow. The mayor’s brother, Joe, grinned, kissing his wife Loretta, as they hugged their three children, crying tears of joy.
“It is a great day for our town,” the mayor proclaimed, “Bridgetown will profit significantly from this enterprise! My father would be proud to see his clock factory restored.”
Bottles of champagne were uncorked, glasses clinked, and colorful streamers and confetti filled the air. Loretta’s crystal blue eyes sparkled as she raised her glass to the crowd and looked over at Alexander. Their eyes met, and they shared a hidden glance full of power and greed.
The mayor hailed the crowd. “Come to the factory tomorrow and fill out your applications for work. There are many jobs to be had, and many clocks to be made. Join us, and see Bridgetown restored with abundance!”
In years past, the previous Hoffman Clock Factory held the community together, but after his father’s passing ten years ago, both he and Joe had no interest in continuing its business. When it folded, smaller franchises also lost ground, closing their doors and looking for more prosperous locations. His brother, spurred on by a wife with greedy aspirations and a good head for business, convinced Alexander to reconsider the clock industry. Loretta proved herself to be a shrewd manager of figures and statistics, creating research reports, obtaining funding, and gaining tactical information and mergers from European clock factories. Her husband didn’t appreciate her ruthless nature, though he enjoyed the monetary gain. Neither did he share her sexual appetites. When she turned her eyes to Alexander, he welcomed the comfort and the risk. She was always in control, but he liked that, and they shared ideals on how to profit from the clock factory. However, she went home to her beloved husband and family, while Alexander went home to his mother.
The townspeople continued to celebrate, and Mayor Hoffman took his leave. The people cheered him as he smiled and waved his approval. He bowed to his brother’s family, grabbed a bottle of fine champagne, and headed home.
As Alexander drove down the long gravel driveway to the old family farm he saw a light in the window of the house. He had inherited the farm when his father died, and by decree of the will his mother was allowed to stay living in the house until her death. As Alexander had no wife or family, it had been of great comfort to know his mother would live there. Now, it was a curse. Her mind had fallen to Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia was overtaking the woman he loved so dearly. As he pulled up to the house, her caretaker stepped out the door.
“I’ve put your mother to bed. She should be comfortable until morning.”
“Thank you, Liza, we appreciate you so much. I’ll need you to come early tomorrow, as I have business at the clock factory. Can you come at seven tomorrow morning?”
“Certainly, Mayor Hoffman. I do need to leave by five.”
“I’ll be home by then. How was she today?”
“Bright as a daisy, sir, with energy to kill a horse. I had to use the restraints on her for a few hours, as she took flight after her bath and refused to be dressed. I managed to calm her enough to sit in her rocking chair, but tied her arms securely. She has started clawing out at me when I assist her in getting dressed or help her to the bathroom. I’m afraid I may not be able to physically handle her on my own for much longer.”
“I’ll look into the proper arrangements, Liza. I hate using the restraints, but I do understand the need for it. I don’t want you to be injured. I’ll talk with the doctors and see what can be done.”
“Thank you, sir. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Good night, Liza.”
Alexander rubbed his balding head, wiped the sweat from his eyes, and walked into the old farmhouse wondering if he would get any sleep tonight. His mother had been waking up during the night, screaming obscenities and thrashing about in her bed. He had begun to restrain her, but only he and Liza knew of this. He was afraid of her hurting herself, as almost everything in her room had been smashed and broken. He felt he now understood what it was like to hold someone prisoner against their will.
Alexander awoke to the sound of her wailing, “Let me go, you fucking bastard! Get your hands off me, and don’t lay a fucking finger on me. I gave you two sons, what more do you want of me? Get off me! Get out!”
He left his bed and started up the stairs to her bedroom. He opened the door to see her writhing against the restraints. One arm had gotten free, and she would soon turn the bed over if he didn’t stop her. She looked up to see him standing there at the door.
“You. I’ve had enough of your fucking affections. Don’t come near me. I’ll cut your fucking cock off before I feel it inside me, again!”
She thought he was his father. The abuse had happened long ago, but no one knew. He had discovered the truth in her ravings, but he wanted no one to know of it, as it would tarnish the good name of his family. The caretaker had first told him about her blasphemous words. Liza didn’t believe them, at first, just considered them rants caused by dementia. But, the more his mother spilled of this family secret, the more believable it became. Alexander began remembering moments from his childhood where his mother had cried out in pain during the night. He remembered days when his mother sent him and his brother to town to do the grocery shopping, while she stayed home, hiding behind large dark sunglasses masking the bruises on her face.
“Come mother, it is your son, Alexander. He can’t hurt you anymore, he’s dead.”
She lashed out with the arm that was free, toppling the twin bed over onto herself. Alexander jumped forward to set the bed upright, and in doing so both of her arms were set free, and she began to claw at him mercilessly, screaming out his father’s name as she scratched at his face.
His father’s many clocks in the house began chiming midnight. The grandfather clock bellowed the hour as the smaller clocks answered in their varied tones, loudly striking their bells with each blow between mother and son. He grabbed the lamp on the nightstand, and as he brought it down to smash her skull the last of the chimes echoed through out the house.
Silence. Except for the ticking of the clocks.
What was he to do now? She lay there, dead. His mother was dead.
He would call Loretta. She would know what to do. She would help him cover up this mess and make it right.
The crunching of stones in the driveway alerted him that she was here. They had argued on the phone, but she agreed to come. She didn’t want word to get out that the mayor had killed his own mother, that would not be good for business. Joe wouldn’t understand, he would want things done according to the law, so she agreed not to tell him.
The azure blue eyes that so enticed him were now ice cold and the color of steel. “A fine mess you have made of things. We had such a glorious celebration, and now you’ve fucked it all up.”
“I didn’t mean to kill her, Loretta, I was only defending myself.”
“Against an old helpless woman? Who would believe that?”
“Never mind, just help me figure out what we should do. Liza will be coming at seven this morning and we can’t have her see this.”
“WE will not be doing anything. I will have no part in this. YOU will do as I say. So, Liza is coming. You will blame it on her, make it look like they struggled and both killed each other in the process.”
They walked up the stairs to his mother’s bedroom. In the hallway outside of her room the grandfather clock began to chime the hour. Alexander grabbed the hair at the back of Loretta’s neck and pushed her face full force into the face of the clock, smashing the glass and exposing the clockwork behind the display with her head. Again, and again, he smashed her beautiful features into the glass, until there was no flesh left, but her dimming eyes staring out from bloodied sockets.
“You will be the one they find,” he said.
© 2016, Rebecca Braun. All rights reserved.
The author has granted WritersCarnival.ca, its affiliates and syndicates non-exclusive rights to display this work.