This flash fiction was originally published in Tales from the River: Volume One (Dark River Press, 2012). Honestly, I hate it, but it was my first published story and, even though it was Kindle-only, I feel I should forever wear it as a badge of equal honour and shame.
‘some of the finest new and emerging horror talent from around the world such as Christian Larsen, Thomas James Brown, Brett A.P. Janes, Brandon Ford, K.A. Opperman, Marcus Tsong and more.’
06:59:48 – My eyes snap open, chucking sleep from lashes like sherbet. It stings.
06:59:49 – It stings more as my abs contract involuntarily, sitting me up a mechanical-perfect 90 degrees from the mattress.
06:59:52 – I hear/feel a buzz as the starter motor flicks a pulse from the back of my neck, down vein-coloured wires and into the cogs that are bored into the joint of my jaw. Three definite clicks drag my jay wide open- one centimetre per second- and hold it there.
06:59:56 – I say a big aaahhh, a few decibels of defiance, then take a breath. My larynx gives way, squeezed-to by the speaker sliding out of its compartment.
07:00:00 – The time She set me. The speaker sounds off,
beep-beep beep-beep beep-beep beep-beep…
It will take her till 07:00:50 until she gets up.
Muscles still contracted, I sit upright and paralysed. Tears from the sting in my eyes roll down my face and join the saliva dribbling from my gaping mouth. My arms don’t work so I can’t wipe them away. I sit here doing my job.
07:00:50 – There’s a gentle yawn and a stir in the sheets beside me and, in no particular rush, she playfully wriggles out from under them.
beep-beep beep-beep beep-beep beep-beep…
She sits up beside me and run her fingers up my torso, feeling the iron-like contours of my abdominal muscles. The bristles on my chest break up the cracked red of her nail varnish as they move further up, until they emerge, uninterrupted, at my throat.
07:01:00 – She slides her finger and thumb across either side of my jaw line. Reaching the back-, she gives a firm squeeze. The cogs release with a crack only heard by me. My muscles relax and the beeping stops. I feel the pressure ease off my larynx as the speaker retracts back into the compartment and I gasp for air.
07:01:20 – She considers me, wipes the dribble back up my chin and into my mouth, then closes it.
07:01:30 – She leaves. I will be needed again tomorrow morning.
I’m her alarm clock. I’ve been so for some time. Tomorrow at 07:00:00 I’m going to kill myself.
06:59:00 – I’m already awake. My eyes opened by my choice. I leave the sleep clinging to the lashes and I smile while my jaw still can.
06:59:48 – My eyelids flicker, nothing else. It doesn’t sting.
06:59:59 – My abs contract involuntarily and put me up a mechanical-perfect 90 degrees from the mattress, but the sting is softer than before.
06:59:50 – I prepare for the trigger, jaw clenched as hard as possible. Strong jaw muscles are one of the few job perks, so it’s no surprise that my molars give way to each other, crunching and shifting like tectonic plates. The cracks go through my head like dry cereal as they break.
06:59:52 – I hear/feel the buzz of the starter motor and keep my jaw locked.
The first turn of the cog turns and cracks, splintering my jaw bone downwards, stretching the skin beneath it to abnormal peaks. My eyes fight to close, to wince in pain as the nerve endings are exposed and then quickly covered by the blood and the salt of my tears.
06:59:53 – Another turn. The splinters of my bone penetrate the skin fully and rips through the masseter jaw muscle that keeps it shut. My flesh and my bone hang from my limp jaw like meat on a butcher’s hook.
06:59:54 – There is no bone left intact, so the cogs whir round, splaying the facial artery open, there really is a lot of blood, with a light smear of oil.
06:59:56 – Still a mechanical-perfect 90 degrees, I gargle one last defiant aah. The blood and oil and saliva pours from my mouth. The fluids throb in time with my heartbeat, bubbling as a gargle I make less sound as the juice sloshes back, into my lungs.
The speaker slides out of its compartment.
07:00:00 – beep beep-
Only one before the fluid interferes with the speaker. The speaker has successfully blocked my throat, the blood dams above it and I get the inevitable shock as the whole system is short circuited. I am sat up, throat dammed, leaking, suffocating.
With a chance to reflect on the pain, it isn’t that bad. I’ll keep bleeding after I die and She’ll wake, eventually, soaked in a puddle of me.