Short Stories

Short Story: Ticktock Heart

The day always starts and ends with a plan. It is pre-designed, nothing ever changes, yet I have to push and pull myself to go through the motions. Winding up for another day with an endless list, going through the motions tired and as satisfied as a laboratory mouse on an electric pad. The hours go past; the years go by, and I wish for a change, but no one ever gives me a choice. I push on, crossing every line from top to bottom despite my fatigue. The list has to be fulfilled, or I deem the day as a failure.

At first, I never fail. Results speak for themselves. But after years of this, I glance around to deviate from this monotonic routine I love. All around me, smoldering piles in a low flame remind me of the fire that once roared is gone. I wonder what has turned the best dreams I have into a mechanical map to be followed without a soul. Is that what I have lost? A construction, I believe in not. Yet, I know it is gone, all I touch with my ticktock heart turns into a task, a routine to be added on to the existing one.

I plot my escape, going from bottom to top. A revolutionary for a vanishing moment. I glance longer out through the window, forgetting the fires and taking in the blue sky and free birds. No, not free—as constrained as I to their nature. Is there no escape for me? Only a path to acceptance, I refuse to believe. I lie to myself that these moments I take are enough to bottle up the noises in me. Pictures of gardens with neatly arranged patches that are safe and controllable, flashes before my eyes, soothing me enough to glance at what is next on my list.

I cross that one over, feeling the pen slide over my planner’s paper. Such a smooth motion, welcoming me to let it go forever. My hand stops on the last letter. It shakes, fighting against the flow of the world. My eyes seek for a release, and there it is on the next line. The ballpoint pen with a perfect size tip is put back to its place. I turn to add on to the existing one, forgetting the escape I plotted.

Then when everything is going on like it has always gone, the fatigue following me around, I start to breathe. It begins with one innocent breath, moving insidiously to the next one—my heartbeat slows down. There is the usual tick with a mellow tune, and soon it is lost as I gaze the list for today. I go back to the usual routine, winding up to the next task to come. But again, a memory of that air pulsing through my lungs fills my body, and even the tips of my fingers tingle. This is it. I know it. The only way to get my soul back.

I took the planner and shut it for today, feeling a tightness in my chest, unlike anything I have felt. I don’t go for the instant release; I hide the planner with unfinished lines. The chest is burning, and I fan it with my breath. One of us will break my heart or me. I drop to my knees but instead of gears shattering on the floor, I search for a spot to lose myself. In the nothingness, I find my meaning again to quiet the ticktock of my heart.

Thank you for reading! Have a serene day!

© K.A. Ashcomb

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