Monday 20 – Thursday 23 June 2011
Sorry, this one’s a bit long, but it’s not the sort of story that would have worked well had I broken it into episodes.
It had been a long time since Bree had last looked at the clock on the waiting room wall; at least that’s what she thought. When she turned her attention back to silver monstrosity, it had in fact only been three and a half minutes since her last look. She sighed heavily.
‘You’ve been here a while, Mrs. Croft. Why don’t you pop down to the cafeteria and grab yourself a coffee? I’d offer you one from here, but it tastes revolting. Cafeteria coffee is much more palatable,’ said the nurse who had accompanied Bree to the waiting room six hours ago.
Bree barely smiled, ‘No, I’m fine. Thank you anyway.’
The second hand of the clock ticked over again, echoing through the near empty room. The nurse stood by Bree for a moment longer, patted her shoulder, and then left her alone again. Bree preferred it this way – just her and the clock, and no one to offer inane platitudes to try and make her feel better. After all, there was nothing to feel better about. There never was if one was sitting in a waiting room.
She lifted her head a little more, wanting to examine the clock. She’d looked at it, but hadn’t really seen it. Other than saying that it was silver and large, she really had no idea what the clock looked like, despite having looked at it for the last six hours. Bree thought it must be at least fifty centimetres in diameter. It was, quite possibly, the largest clock she had seen.
Made of brushed stainless steel, Bree could vaguely see fingerprints around the end. She wondered if that had come from putting the clock up on the wall, or from changing the battery. She snickered to herself, thinking that contemplating a wall clock was a stupid thing to do considering she was in a hospital waiting room. Still, she was drawn to the dial, its black second hand ticking around and around.
If she looked at it from the right angle, the glass covering the face of the clock reflected the wall behind Bree. The black painted numbers on the dial were visible from wherever in the room Bree sat, and she had moved around from seat to seat in the waiting room to stave off the boredom of having been waiting so long. And rather annoyingly, the movement of the second hand echoed around the room. Tick. TicK. TiCK. TICK. Every second of every one of the last six hours.
Trying to drown out the sound of the clock, Bree inserted her iPod ear buds into her ears, selected her favourite song, and pressed play. She was sure that the instruments and singing would distract her from the stilted rhythmic tick. It did not. The louder she turned up her iPod, the louder the clock became. And she was now beginning to feel the clock ticking. Every. Single. Tick. Pounded. Through. Bree’s. Body.
She turned away from the clock; flicked through a nine month old magazine; chose another song on her iPod; sighed; turned her attention to the pictures on the television; willed the door to the rooms beyond the waiting room to open; but was drawn again back to the clock, and its incessant ticking. Bree wondered if she sat there long enough, would she slowly be driven mad by the ticking?
Another nurse walked by, stuck her head in the waiting room, smiled wanly at Bree, and then continued on her way down the corridor. Surprisingly, for four in the afternoon, the hospital was still a thriving metropolis outside of the waiting room.
‘I guess emergencies don’t take a break,’ she said to herself. The clock ticked as if responding to her statement. ‘Shut the hell up,’ she threw the comment at the clock. It did not do as Bree requested.
Why do they have such a large clock in a waiting room where people are going to be overly sensitive towards to time? she thought to herself. Come to think of it, why does every waiting room need to have big clocks? This one, the silver monstrosity, was becoming mesmerising: she had to look at it even though time seemed to be standing still. It was always this way, waiting, and it never got any easier. But sooner or later, the news she was desperate to hear would be relayed to her and she could get away from the room and its ticking clock.
In her trancelike state contemplating the clock, she didn’t see the doctor walk back through the doors that led to the rooms beyond this chronologically controlled prison. When she finally registered that she was no longer alone, she was startled by his appearance.
‘Okay, Bree, we’re ready for you now,’ he said.
She screwed her face up, contorted it as she tried to make sense of the words he was saying.
‘Sorry?’ she asked.
‘We’re tick ready tick for tick you tick,’ he replied. She sharply sucked air into her lungs. Was she hearing correctly? Did the doctor just intersperse his sentence with the word tick? Was this some cruel joke at the fact that she’d been waiting for so long?
He apprehensively approached Bree, sitting beside her on the hard, plastic, waiting room chairs. Just as apprehensively, he placed a hand on her shoulder and spoke again.
‘Tick tick tick tick tick? Tick tick tick tick tick.’
Terror swept through her body, her ears only hearing him tick. No sensible words. No sentences that made any sort of sense whatsoever. She clawed at the ear buds in her ears, ripping them free.
‘What? What did you just say?’ Bree was frantic. This was impossible.
‘I said, why were you here so early, Bree? You knew your appointment wasn’t until four p.m.’ the doctor replied, puzzled by her sudden agitated behaviour but thinking she may not have heard given the sound emanating from the ear buds was horrendously loud. She sighed, relieved that his words made sense, and shrugged her shoulders in response to his question. He shook his head, and sighed in much the same manner that Bree had just done.
Standing up, the doctor took Bree’s hand and helped her to her feet. They walked towards the door that led to the rooms beyond the waiting room. Bree turned and took a last look at the clock.
‘See you next time, you ticking bastard,’ she whispered to herself as the doctor led her through the doors and towards the room with the sign Electroconvulsive Therapy across the door.