Since You’ve Been Gone

He followed the ticking sound down stairs to the basement, even though he told himself that’s how all the scary movie scenes started out. Still, the ticking irritated him. Louder than a windup clock, with a hint of raspy, like sand in the gears. The ticking had started three days ago, and now he heard it all the time, keeping him from sleep. He’d taken to leaving a radio playing in each room in an effort to drown out the incessant tick.

Three days ago, when she left. No conversation other than “I’m leaving,” as she carried her suitcase out the front door, the clacking sound of her heels on the hallway tiles and then on the wooden porch and finally echoing on the cement sidewalk. That same staccato rhythm caught by the house, a sympathetic vibration that rumbled deep in the bones, the foundation of the old brownstone.

Even before he turned on the lights, he was surprised at how bright the basement was with natural lighting streaming in through the windows. He traced the sound to the far corner, to a steamer trunk. Crouching before it, he unclasped the latch and lifted the lid.

Darkness consumed the room. He fell backwards onto his seat, legs splayed in front of him. Something touched him, sharp, against his pant leg.

He scrambled, backwards, tried to get to his feet, failed, and the sharp thing became sharp things, crawling up his legs, stabbing into his abdomen, crushing him into the cold cement flooring. Thrashing, pushing, to no avail. It held him in place, that raspy sound, powdered bone in a skeleton heart.

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