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Sep 7, 2008 at 9:23am
#1783539
Entry (previously too short so withdrawn)
The Eleven O’clock Nurse

By Mike Day

He didn’t give a damn.
The wind that howled around the eves and the rain that threw it’s self against the window could go to hell for all he cared. She wasn’t coming back.

The thin man with his dark hair and darker eyes sat on the edge of his seat, hunched protectively over a bottle of whisky. In one emaciated hand the contents of an oversized tumbler shone gold and orange in the fire light. He was in his late fifties, an early widower whose small business afforded him a comfortable, quite life.

Forgotten and silent the television flickered in the corner throwing ghostly shadows passed the antique furniture onto the walls behind.

The room was tastefully decorated, fashioned after some long gone gentleman’s club complete with dark leather, wing backed reading chair. The walls had been covered in fine oak panelling and an overly large desk, complete with leather inset, and glass inkwell.

Every night as the grandfather clock began to solemnly chime eleven the woman would walk across the living room, open a facsimile of the doors onto the balcony, and step through.

Every night he would watch, every night he would feel the cold fingers of despair crawl over him to wrap into a fist around his heart. It had begun six months ago, on the very night after he had moved into the third floor flat.

He had seen the elegant ex hospital from the road as he drove into town. It’s Victorian architecture, towers and high window had seemed so serene and peaceful in the summer sunshine. The price was within his reach, the salesman had been enthusiastic and within a month the letter of contract was in his hand.

Each night, after the first night, he would sit and wait for the apparition. Listen to the steady tick, tick, tick of the long case clock and hold his breath as the opening, sonorous, note began.

Then just as a momentary hope began to flare that tonight, tonight she might not come. The nurse would step through the wall. She was grey, like the colours of a winter cloud, her hair pulled into a tight bun beneath a starched white cap, grey blouse puffed out at sleeves, white pinafore, black stockings and dark sensible shoes.

Head bowed she walked slowly, inexorably towards the balcony. She seemed to pause and stare out at the great trees in the park for a long moment as the chimes beat slowly on, then with new determination, chin suddenly up and proud, she pulled the imaginary doors open, stepped through and was gone. Eleven seconds, eleven notes, the last fading with her.

He had not once in all those months considered sharing his nocturnal visitor with another living soul. Somehow this torment was a private thing, personal. He found himself checking his watch during the day, counting down the remaining hours.

This night he was going to break the cycle, step out of the loop that kept bringing him back to this point. He had stopped the clock at half past ten, stuffed a cushion from the sofa into the long hollow cabinet where the pendulum swung back and forth, to slice away time strip by strip. Taking care not to break the fragile mechanism he had slipped the closed blades of a pair of scissors between the bell and the striker. That way the two could not possibly come together.

On the TV a pair of cartoon chipmunks scampered over an anthropomorphised bear, who itself, was attempting to decorate a two dimensional Christmas tree.

He watched feeling the sour alcohol rolling around his empty stomach. He had drunk half the bottle whilst he made his preparations and now the room was spinning badly.

Watching the creature’s antics made him feel sick so he turned away to focus on his desk. He had hoped that its solid weight would arrest his eye, allow him to reach an equilibrium that he no longer felt. However his eye fell upon the small marble clock that sat next to the green partner’s lamp.

Eleven o’clock.

He heard the first strike of the bell and span around in his chair and saw to his horror that the grandfather clock agreed. His head reeled from the motion.

A shiver ran up his spine as the same cold, creeping, fingers began to crawl over him. He pushed himself a few degrees further and saw her begin the same terrible, walk. Twenty two steps, eleven chimes, one ghostly figure.

He pushed himself up from the chair; dropping the still full glass onto the floor. Its contents splashed onto the carpet unnoticed. The room span and pitched like some twisted fair ground ride as he clutched the back of his seat for support.

He yelled at her to stop, screamed at her, begged. Nothing availed him, toll, step, step, toll, step, step, and toll. Seizing his courage in both hands he staggered towards her; he would make an end to this once and for all time.

He staggered forward, the ground swaying more violently with each step.

She was at the glass double doors. As always she paused and took hold of the handles.

He reached out behind her seeking to grasp her around the waist, restrain her, and force her to face him at last.

She swung open the imaginary doors and, as he lurched forward, stepped through.

His right foot tripped over his left as the last chime faded. The glass disintegrated into a galaxy of tiny cubic fragments as he crashed through, taking the central frame with him. The balcony was really intended more for show than any practical purpose; it barely protruded a foot passed the frame.

He had the oddest sensation as he and the shattered pieces of the glass and door hurtled over the wrought iron balustrade and down towards the pavement below, as though the nurse was with him, looking at him with sad, sympathetic eyes.


Word count 1006





Mike J Day
Writers write, right? So write, writer, write.
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Entry (previously too short so withdrawn) · 09-07-08 9:23am
by Mike Day

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