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The clock kept ticking. It was kind of boring, watching the hand slowly move across the face of the clock. Hah, imagine that. A hand moving across a face, what a ridiculous notion. I pushed the thought from my mind. I needed to focus. I suddenly became aware of my surroundings, as if I had entered someone’s house and was observing the new environment for the first time. The black and white checkered tile floor gleamed; I could tell it had just been waxed, even though for some reason, I knew that wasn’t possible. There were candlesticks mounted all over the room, one on the piano, several on the shelf, three on the bookcase, and six on the mantle, right next to the clock. Three candles sat on each side of the towering clock, and next to them sat a large candelabra, one on each side. The brass gleamed in the light of the other candles, and I could see my grotesque burned and scarred face, staring back with haunted, lonely eyes and brown hair that was matted to my forehead. I jumped.
The clock suddenly chimed and I knew I needed to focus once more. I turned to a wood table. A candelabra, the largest in the room, was suddenly sitting across from me at the other end of the table. I don’t know how it got there, yet I knew someone had to have carried it in. However, the room was doorless and windowless, releasing a sense of being trapped. I was scared and claustrophobia seemed inevitable. Nothing made sense here. But then it made perfect sense. It frightened me. I welcomed fear - it replaced the love that was subtly scratching at the edge of my mind, beckoning me back somewhere. Somewhere familiar and all right. But then wrong. Somewhere where I had a home that was not mine to call home. Somewhere where someone hated me with a passionate love. Then, the thought vanished.
I picked the candelabra up, finding that it was surprisingly light, and placed it closer to me. A match suddenly landed in my hand. I lit the rest of the candles and pulled out my cleaning cloth. For some reason, I needed to hurry. I started to polish the brass on the candelabra, breathing on the brass to fog it up, then shining it with the cloth. I glanced at the ticking clock that was once just a face. Wait… I recognized that face. I paused, staring intently, trying to recognize… understand. It was all too familiar. Extremely familiar. A woman. Someone I had dark feelings for, with graying brown hair so soft to the touch and a face as hard as chiseled rock. A withered face. Eyes so dark they could read into your soul. Decrepit eyes, demon eyes. They scared me but I longed for this woman. So close to understanding. So close… The thought vanished.
I hurried, polishing, breathing, polishing, and breathing. Out of the corner of my eye I could see the longer hand of the clock slowly creeping up towards the twelve mark. I went faster, polishing, breathing, polishing, breathing. The candles on the candelabra started to flicker. I became so focused on the task at hand that when the clock boomed at twelve, I fell out of my chair, the candelabra clattering to the floor. Wax splattered on the tile.
I grabbed the candelabra trying to place it back on the table, but it was like lead. The candles were still lit, and if anything, they were oddly shining brighter than before. I tried again to pick the candelabra up, but the brass suddenly started to boil and it became increasingly hot to the touch. I cried out in pain, shaking my hand to be rid of the stinging hotness. No, I pleaded, not again. I backed away as the brass and fire melted into one big pool and formed a huge mass. This gigantic clump seemed to engulf the whole room in its madness, turning everything into hot flame. I could feel the pain. It felt too real to be pain. Is this what pain felt like? I wouldn’t know. Yes, I would. I know what pain is. I’ve felt it much too often. Suddenly I saw the face again. I felt pain. I screamed. I screamed again. Where was that love I had felt? Yes, it felt good to scream. Where were those demon eyes? That beautiful brown hair? Those thoughts were all growing, taking over my mind and causing me to scream with more intensity. Screaming felt better than fear. I screamed more. Yes, I wasn’t afraid. I would die happy knowing that. I screamed more and more. I wasn’t afraid of the woman. Ah, it felt too good. I could almost feel the iron on my lips, crushing my thoughts, singing my hair and burning my flesh. I screamed as I was engulfed in the fiery hell once more.
A man with a white coat sat behind a desk in a cold room that smelled strongly of disinfectant and chemicals. His desk was stacked high with papers, and he mused himself with a magazine so as to take his mind off the paperwork. Suddenly, a woman burst into the room.
“Dr. Benson? Where is he? Where is my husband?” the woman demanded. Her brown hair glistened in the dim light. “I received a call from the front office saying I needed to get here right away.”
“Hello, Mrs. Walker,” Dr. Benson said, standing up. “It appears that your husband is having another one of his ‘spells.’ The nurses are trying to sedate him so he won’t be able to injure anyone else.”
“What do you mean?” Mrs. Walker asked frantically. “Was someone injured?”
Dr. Benson sighed. “Yes, unfortunately. When your husband started showing signs of struggle, he started convulsing so violently that a nurse who was giving him his medication was knocked unconscious. He had to be moved to another room and put in a strait jacket.”
Shaking, Mrs. Walker asked, “Where is he now? I need to see him! Please! He’s my husband!”
Dr. Benson nodded, opening the office door, ushering her into a sterile hallway. The two walked down the hall to the elevator and rode up to the third floor. Neither of them spoke.
When the door opened, the two stepped out, marked by the silence of the hospital. It was quiet as the two stepped down the hall. Dr. Benson stopped outside a door marked “Mental Illness Treatment Ward.” The two stepped inside. It was cold and smelled strongly of chemicals. A couple nurses milled around, checking monitors and fluids around the room. Mrs. Walker noticed that there were no windows or doors anywhere; the whole room was lined with glistening white tile, including the ceiling. Dr. Benson flicked a switch and suddenly, a window appeared.
“What’s that?” Mrs. Walker asked tentatively.
“It’s a two-way mirror. We can see your husband but he can’t see us. Safer this way.” The doctor turned the volume knob so Mrs. Walker could listen in to the other side of the mirror.
Through the mirror a man in a straight jacket was shaking violently. His scraggly hair was matted to his forehead, his skin glistening with sweat. His face was covered in burn marks and his eyes were squinted tightly shut. He was thrashing so violently that he was shaking the two-way mirror.
What made it worse were his screams.
He kept screaming and screaming, thrashing, convulsing, and screaming. He screamed as if all the pain in the world were seeping through his dismembered skin and throughout his whole body. He continued, his voice piercing through the subtle beeping of the monitors.
Mrs. Walker turned away. “Oh my god. No, oh no,” she started sobbing quietly, making small shuddering motions and finally turned back to the doctor. “Please, I’ve seen enough.”
Dr. Benson nodded knowingly. “I understand,” he said softly, having done this hundreds of times before. He led her out of the hospital room back into the hallway. “Shock treatment may help stimulate his brain to try and rid him of this trauma. We can start on that, if you’d prefer it. It’s a new method, but it might help bring your husband back to his senses,” Dr. Benson said softly.
Mrs. Walker turned, her cheeks and eyes dry from crying. “If that’s how you deal with these kinds of…” She paused. “These kinds of conditions, then I guess so.”
Suddenly, the screaming stopped. With the door still open, Mrs. Walker looked around to see what had happened. She jumped. Her husband was staring at her through the two-way mirror, his eyes wide in fear as he moistened his lips with his tongue.
“There you are,” he whispered, his voice rising and falling at odd intervals. “I knew it. I knew it.” He then went into another fit of shaking and screaming.
Mrs. Walker stared at her husband, and though he was thrashing and shaking, his eyes were fixed on her.
Mrs. Walker turned to leave, her fake tears running down her withered cheeks. As she left, she took one last look at her staring husband and saw her reflection in his eyes. Mrs. Walker’s usually soft blue eyes had turned dark and decrepit. Almost demonic. But vaguely familiar.
Mrs. Walker grinned, turned around, and slammed the door.