Drawing of a grandfather clock, against a room with blue and white wallpaper. Caption reads, "The only thing in the room was a grandfather clock."

Clock short story by Iris Carden

“Careful!” Jessica called out.

She was too late. The removalist had scraped a chair leg across the wallpaper of her new dining room. She took a closer look, to see if she could repair the damage without having to change the whole room’s wallpaper.

What she saw surprised her. The tear ran across a door edge. Someone had closed a door, removed the handle, and simply wallpapered over it. Her new house had a room she hadn’t noticed.

Curious, she went to find her toolbox. That had been unloaded and was in the garage. She found her utility knife and a fairly large screwdriver. Back in the dining room, she used the knife to cut around the edge of the door, and to cut out where the door handle should have been.

She inserted the screwdriver into the space where the doorknob should have been, and turned the mechanism. The door opened inwards into a room with neat blue and white wallpaper, which contained a grandfather clock. There was nothing else in the room at all.

Jessica entered the room for a closer look. There was a significant layer of dust on the clock and the floor, and a window frame. She hadn’t noticed this wall had more windows outside than she’d seen inside, although she trusted she would have worked it out sooner, rather than later.

While the rest of her possessions were being moved in, she cleaned the newly revealed room.

The clock was stopped, at twelve o’clock. There must be a way to wind it up or something, she was sure. She’d look it up online, after she unpacked all of her boxes.

Looking around, she decided the room would make a cosy library, she could fill it with bookshelves, and have a lovely comfortable armchair right in the middle with a reading lamp, and possibly a coffee table for coffee or wine to enjoy along with a good book.

She couldn’t imagine why anyone would simply close the room and wallpaper over the door. When she’d bought the house she’d been told it was part of a deceased estate, which distant relatives had inherited. They knew nothing about the house, little about the family member who had owned it and really just wanted to be done with it as quickly as possible. She doubted they would be able to explain the mystery.

That first night in her home, she slept fitfully. It was always like that, the first night in a new place.

She heard the grandfather clock strike twelve, and looked at her phone, confirming it was midnight. In the morning, she convinced herself that had been a dream.

She was able to find a clock repairer who came to look at the grandfather clock. He told her most of the workings from inside the clock were gone and what was left was damaged, as if someone had inexpertly pulled it apart. He gave her a hefty quote for repairs, which she said she would consider.

Someone had tried to destroy the clock, and had then just sealed off the room with wallpaper. It made no sense to Jessica at all.

That night, she was woken by the clock striking twelve. She checked her phone and it was indeed, midnight. She knew the clock couldn’t work, so clearly she’d dreamed or imagined it. That was two nights in a row, and both times right on midnight. It was very strange.

Weeding the garden the next day, she struck up a conversation with the woman next door who was also out gardening.

The neighbour had been in her house for a very long time, and had known the man who owned the house before Jessica. She’d known his wife and daughter too. They’d both died, years apart, both in the middle of the night. Neighbourhood gossip had been he’d killed both of them, but there’d been no proof.

It was a strange story, but Jessica couldn’t find a way to relate it to the hidden room, except that perhaps the old man had been insane, and insane people did things that didn’t make sense.

For the third night in a row, Jessica was woken by the clock striking twelve. Again, her phone confirmed it was midnight. She wonder if the non-functional clock would know when daylight savings started.

Sure she couldn’t have dreamed the same thing at the same time three nights in a row, Jessica went to room with the clock, turned the light on, and looked around.

Strangely, there was a knife on the floor in front of the clock. It was a large knife with one side of the blade sharp and straight, the other with large, nasty-looking serrations. She’d never seen a knife like it but suspected it was intended for hunting or military use. She had no idea how it got into the room. Looking at the clock, she saw a reflection in the glass, not her reflection, but her brother who lived on the other side of the city.

“OK,” she said out loud. “Rational explanation: someone is messing with me, breaking in, playing a recording of a clock chime, and that person left the knife.”

She looked at the reflection. “And that’s just a trick of the light. Alternate logical explanation: I’m dreaming.”

The next morning, the clock was still silent and there was no sign of the knife. Obviously the “dreaming” explanation was correct.

Again, on the fourth night in her house, she was woken by the sound of the clock striking midnight. She went to the room to look again. On the floor in front of the clock was a gun. Jessica knew nothing about guns, but this one was long and she thought it was either a rifle or shotgun. Again she saw her brother instead of herself reflected in the glass. “I’m dreaming,” she told herself firmly and went back to bed.

In the morning she was tired. Hadn’t she heard somewhere that sleep deprivation was a form of torture, or used in brain washing or something like that? For some reason Ben, her brother was in her mind. She called him, and told him the whole story.

“I’m up for an adventure,” Ben said. “Let’s investigate this properly. We’ll both camp out in the room with the clock tonight, set an alarm for quarter to twelve, in case we fall asleep, and see what happens for ourselves.”

Ben arrived in the afternoon. He brought small cameras which he set up in and around the room, around the yard and outside the window. He connected set this all up to monitor on his laptop, which was on the dining room table, just beside the door to the room with the clock.

Then they ate pizza and played cards, and talked about favourite childhood memories, until Jessica declared herself utterly exhausted.

“Go get some sleep,” Ben said. “I’m fine to stay up and watch, and you’ve got an alarm set so you can be up again before midnight.”

Jessica slept unusually well, so well she slept through her alarm, but was woken at midnight by the clock. She went downstairs to the room with the clock, and there saw Ben, lying on the floor, dead, with the military type knife of two nights prior in his chest, and a half-eaten slice of pizza beside him.

The police would later check the footage from the cameras which would show, Ben standing in front of the clock staring at it while eating a slice of leftover pizza, the screen going blank for a fraction of a second, and then Ben on the floor, as the sound came of the clock striking midnight. As the final bell sounded, Jessica was seen running into the room.

The feed from from all of Ben’s other cameras showed nothing happening in or around the house, except for Jessica running from her bedroom as the clock sounded.

Jessica moved to a hotel until the police investigation was completed. Then she sealed up the room properly, plastering over the doorway before putting new wallpaper in the dining room. Outside, she walled up the window to the clock room, sealing it and hiding that a window had ever been there.

She had considered getting rid of the clock but realised that might pass the problem, curse, or whatever it was, on to someone else. No-one else deserved what she had been through, or what the previous family in the house had been through.

She slept better with the room sealed, but occasionally she still heard the clock toll midnight.

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By Iris Carden

Iris Carden is an Australian indie author, mother, grandmother, and chronic illness patient. On good days, she writes. Because of the unpredictability of her health, she writes on an indie basis, not trying to meet deadlines. She lives on a disability support pension now, but her ultimate dream is to earn her own living from her writing.


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