Short story: Ticking by Imogen Brown

Tick Tack by followtheseinstructions on Flickr
9 Jul 2013 @ 11.33 am
| News

Tick Tack by followtheseinstructions on Flickr
Tick Tack by followtheseinstructions on Flickr

by Imogen Brown


“I dreamed I was a butterfly, flitting around in the sky; then I awoke. Now I wonder: Am I a man who dreamt of being a butterfly, or am I a butterfly dreaming that I am a man?” – Chuang Tzu


I cough and splutter, waking up instantly from my restless slumber. The stale smell of sweat and vomit hang heavy in the air. Its acidic aroma stings my nostrils. I peer round the room through suspicious, bloodshot eyes. Everything is as I remember: the same meticulously clean walls, the same plain, minimal curtains, even the same incessant ticking of the clock.

It’s always been there, that clock. No matter where I go, I can always hear it ticking away. Tick, tick, tick, clear as daylight. I’ve spent days pondering, questioning, listening… trying to decide if it is counting down towards an event. Or counting away from something more important. I’ve come to take comfort in that clock – why, at times, you could even say it was relaxing.

But you see, my clock is an intriguing thing. If I were to turn my room upside down, I could never find that clock.

So you can understand why, to anyone else, my room would appear exactly as I had left it the night before. But not to me, I know far better. I say there’s always a bad atmosphere in this room. It shrouds it, like a mass of black cloud hovers over a storm. It lingers in the air, making sure the night’s events are not forgotten.

I do not mind it so much anymore; I have started to keep a record, evidence of what happens here when darkness sets in. I’ve drawn the sunken leering face that transforms the corner that the cleaners forget. Pages and pages, sketch after sketch! But still it’s no use. Can’t they see I’m doing them a favour?

Deciding I am safe for now, I lean back into the pillow and let out a deep sigh through cracked, parched lips. Groggily, I fumble around the cluttered shelf above my head and light a cigarette, sending a pile of papers crashing to the floor in the process. I curse and hurriedly sweep them up, my mind a static cloud of nervous energy. It would be no good to lose those, not now, not after so long.

After all, who believes the ramblings of a mad man?


  • A number of talented Huntington School year 10 students took part in a one-day writing workshop – and YorkMix is delighted to be the first to publish their work
  • To find out more about the creative writing workshop, and to read the other students’ work, click here