The Clocktower

Date: 7/12/2019

By PixelPink

The station is empty. Too clean. Who even takes a train anymore? The woman behind the teller glass turns another magazine page. The only sound in the station. I look down at my ticket, but it's just a blank strip of paper. The train is late. I make my way across the floor, my shoes clicking on the tile floor, and wait patiently for her to look up at me. Her hair is black, her kimono red, and her lips painted into a heart; she looks up at me."When will the train arrive?" My voice sounds miles away at the end of a gully as she holds out her hand. I slip the ticket through the small opening and she glances at it before pushing it back through and motioning me toward the seat again. A prick to my finger makes me yelp and I stare in disbelief as the ticket absorbs my blood to trace the outline of a train. In the distance I hear the whistle of a long, red train. I turn back to the teller, but in her place is a kokeshi doll with dark hair and hear lips. I find my car and sit next to a young child whose blonde curls bounce with the train and mother who absently reads a little yellow book. Clutched in her hand is a teddy bear of soft brown fur."Is this your first time on a train?" She doesn't look away from the window and I put on my best talking-to-a-kid voice."I was scared when I was little too." Her face turns toward me and I notice how much like a doll her skin is, but what pulls the scream from my throat are the gaping holes where her eyes should be. Her fingers grip my wrist and the burning starts in my chest as she crumbles to Ash and floats out the open window. I cough up Ash as well and soon my body is out the window and on the cold breeze too. My ashes float through a white sheer curtain and I am in a large room. A four poster bed stands elegantly among antique dark wood dressers and vanity tables, but it's the bloody handprints and smears on the bedcurtains that catches my breath. They move like fingers playing on them and I move closer, my breathing quick and my heart racing as my shoes clicking slowly toward the bed. I pull back the cloth to find the kokeshi doll from the train station laying on the pillow, and I touch its smooth face. It cracks and crumbles into dust, a bright blue butterfly shaking the debri from it's wings and taking flight. It flutters to the window, then around me, making me spin with it until it lands on my palm. It's wings flutter up and it is still. I touch it softly, but it doesn't move. I take it to the vanity and lay it softly on a doily, movement catching my eye and I look to see if he bed. Sitting on the edge is the little girl from the train, but instead of horror, her curls frame a porcelain face and bright blue eyes. "Do you want to play with me?"She smiles sweetly and hops to the floor."Let's play hide-n-seek." I nod and she starts to count. I hurry out the door into a dark hall and duck into another room where I steal into a wardrobe. I wait quietly, hearing her little heels clicking down the hall. I can't help but laugh, but it dies as another voice joins the clicking. Heavy breathing outside the wardrobe, sickly and ragged, makes me press against the back and I close my eyes tight as the knob turns. The door bursts open."I found you! My turn!" The little girl giggles madly before running out of the room. I count, my voice trembling until I reach ten. I head down the hall to the bedroom and begin my search. The wardrobe is empty. The bathroom, empty. Even under the blankets. I dip to my knees and pull the edge of the covers off the floor and squint into the darkness under the bed. As my eyes adjust a hand shoots out from the shadows and wide, red eyes as hot as coals stare back at me. She pulls me under, giggling to herself. I scream. Maybe I'm falling, maybe I'm floating; I can't tell.. The darkness around me is whole and complete, cool against my skin but not uncomfortable. A soft light appears through my eyelids and I open them. A clocktower I'm sure is bigger than it appears looms in front of me. I'm floating. The hour is unmakable, but that's not what catches my attention. In the corner of the ledge under the golden clock is a door. Boarded and chained shut. My eyes follow up the clock to the very top where a spindle rests as a crown. The feeling of being watched pulls my attention back to the ledge where a hooded figure stands. Facing me until he runs to the door and flings it open. I try to call out, but I have no voice. I squeeze my eyes shut and open them to see the door in front of me and feel the ledge under my bare feet. It's warm. Dark wood with a shiny brass knob, the door is welcoming and forbidding all at once, but I turn the handle and pull it open to reveal a winding stone staircase. The flash of a cape ahead and I begin my ascent. In the center pillar the steps wrap around notches house sputtering candles that withstand the cold drafts from above and though I want to take one with me for warmth, a tickle in the back of my head tells me to leave them be. I keep climbing. My legs grow tired and I'm sure I must have passed the top of the clock tower long ago, but there will be nothing below to return to. I keep climbing. A soft melody played on an out of tune piano reaches me and I urge my tired legs and feet numb with cold to move faster until I'm running up the spiral. The last turn nearly runs me into a tall carved door of gold and red. The handle is brass. The music comes from inside. I turn the handle and step into a warm room full of antique dressers and a vanity. A four poster bed waits in one end of the room, curtains red satin and drawn to show red sheets and pillows of silk. A picture on the vanity Sparks my curiosity and I cautiously creep across the room. I stand in the photo next to a man with silver hair to his thighs. His bright blue eyes peirce my soul and knock the wind from my chest. "I've been waiting, Princess."Familiar. His voice is familiar and I turn to see the man from the photo. His embrace is kind and full of love."I kept something for this occasion. Come with me." He leads me to the balcony through a white sheer curtain and I stare out into the void I had come from. Above me the light of the clock casts a golden glow about us and he pulls a silver braid necklace from his sleeve."Turn so I may return it to you." I lift my hair and smile as he loops it around my neck and brings his lips to my ear."Together again. Now and forever." Forever sends a shiver up my spine as the necklace scratches my throat and I place my fingers on it, but it is not good metal I feel, but the rope of a noose and I feel tears roll down my cheeks as he steps from the ledge and I shriek, slipping from the ledge as I reach out for him. As the noose tightens I watch him burst into a swarm of blue butterflies and I close my eyes. Ready to follow.