Challenge Submission tick

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Challenge Submission tick

puzzlez

Knight
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Age
31
Some days, he daydreams about killing time.

i.

"Tick," they say.

He knows he is insane. He has known this for a long time. He was cursed with a weak mind and a nasty temper in life. It is a quick recipe for a monster.

"Tick," they mock.

He understands that there is something evil inside of him. He just never cared.

Maybe he deserves this torture.

"Tick," they sneer.

He rocks on the floor in the dark. He sobs. "Please."

They ignore his plea.

"Tick," they say.


ii.

Final girls are supposed to be the ultimate challenge. The most difficult piece to conquer, the one that takes a touch of genius. The real masters take down their final girls. The failures are felled by them.

Once, he cared that his final girl got away. Once, he paced and gnashed his teeth like an animal, seething with the fury that came with knowing his not only got away, but that he was left behind, trapped like an animal.

Like any final girl, she managed to do what none other could: slay the beast that roamed the woods. He died in this cabin in the woods, his body falling next to those of his victims, his blood mixing into theirs.

But then, he woke, whole and intact but not completely corporeal. The crime scene had been cleaned, the bodies removed and the blood no more than rust staining the wood of the floor. He assumed the cabin had been abandoned, deemed a cursed site made infamous by the nine teenagers he managed to butcher before facing his own slaughter. He assumed he was to be the only poltergeist that haunted its empty halls.

It was an accident that he discovered that was not the case. He was not alone—far from it.

He was not the only spirit trapped here. He had nine cabin mates.

At first, he was euphoric to realize that his time on the stage was not over. His mouth salivated like a hungry dog's at the sight of fresh meat when he realized he could lay hands on the others. Whatever they were—ghosts, spirits, poltergeists—they could be torn limb from limb each night and the damage undone in the morning, each of them made whole and intact, fresh for the next round.

There was nothing but time for him to explore all the ways in which he can tear and rip and cut and slice and saw.

iii.

Most days, he does not bother to move. There is no point. He lays huddled in a corner.

"Tick," they say.

There is no escape. He knows that now.

"Tick," they say.

They don't come near enough to touch him. They never have. Once, he would have gleaned pleasure in knowing that even as he lay crying, he instills fear into them.

"Tick," they say.

Now, he is too broken to care.

iv.

They tried hiding. They tried fighting. They tried running. Nothing worked.

Always, he found them. Always, he overpowered them. Always, they found themselves running through the back door as they scrambled out the front door.

He took them apart piece by piece night after night after night after night after night. They screamed and begged and yelled and shouted for help. Perhaps the living could not hear the dead, or perhaps they were too far from civilization for anyone to hear. Perhaps the cabin was a condemned site after the bloody night that turned it into a crime scene.

Nobody ever came. Not even curious teenagers wanting to peer at the carnage wrought by the psychopath who butchered nine.

Night after night after night after night after night after night. Scream after plea after shout after yell after scream after plea.

Days passed in a blur. Weeks flew by. Months sprinted past. Years marched into decades.

The roof collapsed.

v.

Tick. TiCk. tick. tICK. TIck.

They say it over and over. Sometimes, they chant it together like a choir singing worship. Sometimes, they take turns saying it one by one with different octaves and inflections, acapella style. Sometimes, they sing-song it to show tunes.

Tick ticktick tick tick ticktick
(On the first day of Christmas)


They do not speak any other words. Not even to one another. Not even in secret. Not even in confidence.

"Tick," the one asks another.

"Tick," the other replies.

Always always always always it's

Tick TiCK tick tICK Tick

vi.

He could not stop himself from wondering what would happen when enough time passed that the cabin crumbled into mulch. He was never to escape, that much was for sure. He knows.

He watched as one by one the nine fools tried to scramble through the fissure in the roof, hoping that they had found a loophole, a secret emergency escape hatch. One by one they disappeared through the hole in the roof and one by one they reappeared elsewhere: the bathtub, the closet, the kitchen.

He enjoyed turning this new activity of theirs into a game of hide and seek.

Days passed in a blur. Weeks flew by. Months sprinted past. Years marched into decades. Rain rotted the floor and softened the walls.

And for the first time, a true bolt of fear struck his heart as he realized: when the house disappeared, so would he. His cabin mates would leave, and he would be swallowed up and spit into the fiery pits of hell where he belonged.

He knew this with the same animal instinct that he knew that final girls were a puzzle to carefully solve. He knew this with the same confidence that he knew the harder they ran, the more rewarding it was when he caught them in his web.

Once, he thought heaven was what you made of it, and this limbo was his. That euphoria faded as he realized his heaven had a time limit, and it was ticking away.

vii.

The thing is, they don't need

"Tick," they say.

to touch him to hurt him. They just need to

"Tick," they say.

say a single word, and say they do. Again

"Tick," they say.

and again they say it, like a broken record. It is why

"Tick," they say.

he lays, huddled, tick hands over his tick ears, not moving. Because if he tick doesn't move tick maybe he won't hear tick it and maybe he will not tick be pushed to tick the limit of his sanity.

tick

viii.

How badly he wished he could slay the passing of time. That was the one thing he could do, and do well. He could skin the life out of someone slow and sensual, peel it off of them in layers. He could carve the life out of someone with the precision of a surgeon and the heavy hand of a butcher. He could cut just right that the life drained out of someone in seconds.

Four seconds was his best record so far.

Impressed? It took centuries of practice.

And yet, despite his skill, there was no way to harm time.

How he tried, though.

He took to smashing the grandfather clock that stood in the living room. He unleashed his darkest wrath upon it, smashing and ripping and punching and tearing it until it was nothing more than splinters of wood and metal and glass.

Like all his victims, it was whole and intact the next morning.

He remembers snarling like a feral animal at the sight of the thing and flying into a rage, trying again.

And yet, once more, it stood undamaged the next morning.

He saw red.

He does not know how long he tried to destroy the clock. But like a fool, he let his fear jangle his nerves and displayed a weakness. He should have known better. A monster does not experience fear, but elicits it. A monster who fears is not a monster at all, but a human. And humans are not omnipotent. They make mistakes; mistakes that can be used to turn the tables.

They suspected. They scented blood in the water and watched closely, examining for wounds.

There is nothing more terrifying than prey hunting the predator.

ix.

Some days he just sobs. He sobs like a child, loud and snotty. It is an act of desperation. He knows it makes him look even weaker, but he cannot stop himself. He wants nothing more than to drown the sounds out.

"Please," he sobs.

"Tick," they answer.

"Please," he begs.

"Tick," they refuse.

"Stop. Stop please. Please please please," he pleads.

"Tick," they say, standing firm.

"Please!" he screams.

"Tick," they repeat, reminding him that there will be no negotiation.

He screams. He is not trying to say anything, merely to drown them out. He screams long and hard. It is blissful to hear nothing—

He stops to take a breath.

"Tick," they are still saying, again and again.

He screams and screams and screams until his vocal cords rip and he tastes blood.

The next day, as the sun breaks the horizon, he tastes blood no longer and knows that his throat is healed once more.

"Tick," they greet the new day with him.

Just in time for a new round.

x.

They grew brave.

He hunted the first one down and grabbed her by a fistful of hair, eager to unleash wrath upon her that he could not vent on the clock, on time. His knives were sharp and his teeth were bared.

"Tick!" she cried, sobbing. "Tick tick tick!"

Her words were desperate shrieks, high pitched and ear-shattering.

For the first time, he hesitated.

It made her bold.

"Tick," she said through a sob. Again and again, each word calmer than the last as each one caused him to flinch: "Tick, tick, tick."

The others were watching. They planned this. He knew that they had to have planned this. It was the only—

"Tick," another one said.

"Tick," the first girl said.

"Tick," said the other.

"Tick," said the girl, taking turns.

He dropped his grip on her. He backed away, teeth bared but eyes wild. He was spooked prey, not deadly predator.

"Tick," they said again and again.

And then they grew bold.

For the first time, the fear relaxed from their expressions. Their lips curved into malicious smiles. They wore the same expression he usually wore. Only now, it was all backwards.

"Tick," they mocked.

He ran.

xi.

He tried tick to hide at first. He thought that tick if they could not tick see him tick the would tick not prowl the halls chanting tick. He hoped that they tick would assume he was gone tick a black cloud that passed.

It did not matter tick if they could not see him tick. They knew he could not tick leave. They had spent tick decades scratching at the tick bars of the cage they tick were all trapped in tick learning the harsh tick truth. There was no tick escape to be found.

He tried it all tick. He hid in the tick bathtub. He locked himself in the tick closet. He curled up under tick the kitchen table.

"Tick," they said, silhouettes on the shower curtain.

"Tick," they said, their feet visible in the crack at the bottom of the closet door.

"Tick," they said, circling the kitchen table like it was an alter and he the sacrifice.

"Tick," they said.

"Tick."

xii.

Most days, he just screams.
 
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