She hadn’t felt like that in years. The last time she remembered falling head over heels for a man was at least fifteen years ago, when she was still in college. But Alex was more than she could have ever asked for. He was gentle, polite, patient and most of all, he was hilarious when she craved for something funny and he was philosophical when she needed someone to hold a serious conversation with.
She was sitting next to him in the passenger seat. She had agreed to visit his place for the first time since they had gotten to know each other, more than one and a half months ago. She had asked of him to be patient with her because at that time, she had just exited a very possessive and tiring relationship that had virtually drained her. Alex had given her all the time she needed and today, she was feeling ready to take that next step with him. She was going to sleep with him, certain that he was the perfect man for her to start over with.
He was so handsome. If her life had been a fairy tale he would have certainly been the white knight, conceived in all his perfection by the tale teller to thrive over all evil and give her a life of freedom, happiness and exaggerated love. She felt alive when he caressed her, she felt shivers on her spine when he touched his lips onto hers and she felt valued and appreciated when their gazes met.
He was blond, his skin was so soft and his face so angelic, his thin but athletic build and his tall frame captivated her, his bright, blue eyes penetrated her, his expressive, thin lips bedazzled her… She could find nothing about him that she didn’t deeply want to make her own. There was no safe platform for her to drop on should this new relationship of hers went sour; she had fallen for him all the way.
Alex used the remote to open the garage door and drove inside what looked like an enormous living room. They climbed out of the car and walked inside the brightly illuminated, huge room. She had been shocked by the fact that the living room was big enough for the car to be parked in there, next to the leather couch, but even more so, she was perplexed with all the countless clocks that covered the entire surface of the walls around her.
Clocks in various sizes -of mostly black and white colours- were hanging on the walls, dead and silent. She counted no less than sixty eight clocks in the living room alone.
– Uhm! Alex baby, what’s the story with all the dead clocks on your walls?
Alex had already walked to the bar to fetch a couple of glasses and a bottle of scotch. He looked at her and poured some into the glasses. He walked over and offered her a glass while bringing the other one to his lips. He savoured a handsome sip and lowered his eyelids.
– They are my memories…
He always answered in short sentences. Most of the times, she found that to be very sexy. Sometimes however, like this one now, she was petrified in her anxiety to ask for more details. She decided to learn more about Alex’s memories even though the thought of questioning him made her uneasy.
– What do you mean they are your memories, baby?
She tried to swallow some scotch in hope that she would shake that feeling of uneasiness off of her. She was already feeling awkward about being at his house; maybe she had hurried after all.
Alex moved closer to her and placed a reassuring kiss on her forehead, he rested his left arm around her shoulders and used his right hand index finger to carve a route from the bottom left hand corner of the room to the top right hand corner. The ice cubes chimed against the glass as they cracked in the warm drink.
– Each of these clocks symbolises a certain vivid memory of my life. I would not be the man I am without the things that I have lived. These clocks help me remember all the things that made me the man that I am today.
He smiled at her and kissed her softly on the lips.
She hadn’t enjoyed love making as much in years. They lied next to each other, their fingers weaved, sweat dripping on the silk sheets, she turned on her side and gave him a soft kiss on his right shoulder. She caressed his chest with her tips of her left hand fingers and closed her eyes to sleep.
Alex sprung out of the bed when the breaking noise penetrated his dreams! She was not on his side anymore but her clothes were still crumbled on the wooden floor. Loud noises of stuff breaking came from the living room. He bolted out of the room before allowing himself to put on any clothes and dropped on his knees as soon as he witnessed the catastrophe that had taken place while he was asleep.
There were springs on the marble floor, metallic Latin numbers and arms; hour and minute arms from the clocks that were once hanging on the walls.
– What have you done?…
He could barely mutter as his heart felt like it had been pulled out of his chest. There were tears forming in his eyes. His lower lip trembled.
– Who is Sofia? Who is Catherine? Who is Helen, Dora, Kat, Beth, Lillian, Demi … Are those your memories? The bitches you’ve had in your life? Would I too become a clock on your fucking wall? Is that it? One more trophy up on your sick, demented collection?
She was still dropping the clocks from the walls, smashing them on the floor. On the back of each clock, there was a sticker with a name.
Alex felt empty. He tried to remember. Who was Sofia? Catherine? Helen, Dora, Kat, Beth, Lillian, Demi? It felt like he was hearing those names for the first time in his life. He tried to remember the women he had been with. When she picked up the clock that was hanging over the sofa he tried to scream “Not Angelica!” but as soon as the clock had crashed on the ground, he could no longer remember what he had intended to say.
She had cleared the walls of any clocks in less than five minutes. The walls were now empty, the floor was littered with pieces of dismantled clocks. She walked past him and into the bedroom, where she started getting dressed. She was not going to spend another minute in that psycho’s house.
Alex was still on his knees when she got out of the house, slamming the door behind her. He was feeling lost, emptied of emotions and anamneses. He buried his face into his hands and started crying, only later realising that he had absolutely no idea what he was crying over. He stood up, walked to the bathroom, where he washed his face, wiped the soapy water on a cotton towel and walked back into the bedroom, where he dropped on the bed to sleep.
He was standing over a pile of broken clocks, trying to realise what had taken place in his living room. He didn’t remember much from the previous night but he did remember seeing a glass and a bottle of scotch resting on his bedside table when he woke up. He had probably had too much to drink the previous night.
He grabbed a sweeper and cleaned the floor, he mopped and then he walked back to his bed, beaten by depression. He tried thinking back to the things that made him smile and laugh but nothing popped up. He could not remember anyone he enjoyed spending time with or any important experiences he had lived. He felt drained and empty. He closed his eyes and tried to go back to sleep. In an effort to shake the sadness off of his mind, he rolled on the other side of the bed, as if he was turning his back on sadness.
Something poked into his ribs. There was a little glossy bag resting underneath him. He sat up straight and took the bag into his hands. It was a woman’s bag, one he could not remember seeing before. He opened it and turned it upside down, a bunch of things fell out. There were lip-gloss, powder, make-up, nail polish, a wallet and other things that he didn’t even notice as he had already fixed onto the wallet. He picked it up and opened it. There were credit cards inside, about two hundred Euros in cash and an ID card. He read the name.
It didn’t ring any bells. Who was this Lucy character? Why was her bag on his bed? He squeezed his brain but he could not remember a single thing about her. He walked out in the living room and looked around. He wasn’t sure about what he was looking for but whatever it was, he didn’t find it. He walked back into the bedroom and refilled the bag with the stuff that he had dropped on the bed.
He was ready to drive to the nearest police station to deliver the bag there, when the front gate bell rang. He looked at the live video feed from the camera on the gate and saw a brunette, chubby woman looking back at him through brownish rim, ivory glasses.
– Can I help you?
She didn’t answer. At least not verbally, as she lifted her hand to the camera and gave him the finger. He was thrown back by her rudeness. He was not going to let that go easily. He pushed on the green button and the front gates opened. He walked to the front door, he opened it and waited there for the stranger who dared act so foully. Before he could speak however, she pushed him in and stormed to the bedroom shouting about a forgotten bag.
She returned to the living room after failing to find her bag and looked around.
– So you cleaned already. You and your stupid clocks, you lousy asshole!
Clocks! He started remembering. He had cleaned pieces of smashed clocks earlier in the morning. He could not remember what they were being used for or where they were before being smashed but he could definitely remember having cleaned the floor off clock debris.
The woman was cursing and shouting but he could barely hear a thing as he drifted deeper into the emptiness of his mind. “Clocks!” he thought to himself again.
She found her bag resting on one of the dinner table chairs. She grabbed it and then walked towards him and attempted to move him away from the door, so that she could leave his house. But this time he did not move. She cursed him even more, he only registered some disjointed words like “psycho”, “memories”, “clocks” and then, he realised that her face was virtually glued onto his own when she called him a “mother fucker”.
Alex couldn’t have been sure about how long it had already been, when he finally realised that he had throttled her with his bare hands. He stood back up and took a step away from the dead body that lied immovable on his marble floor. Cold sweat was dripping from his eyelids, his legs felt shaky, he imagined himself falling into turmoil without the luxury of a safety net.
He started walking around the living room fast, back and forth, biting on his fingernails, shaking his head, lost in terror. He could not relax or think straight. He took in a large gasp of air and decided to take a pill to calm his nerves down. “Pills”, he thought to himself. “Where would I store my pills if this was my house?”
He walked to the kitchen and opened the cupboards and the drawers, one after the other, maniacally. A yellow envelope rested in the top drawer. On its upper side, there was a note written in red ink: “In case of emergency”. He opened the envelope and retrieved the white sheet of paper that was inside. He read what seemed to be a step by step set of guidelines starting with a warning.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Follow the steps below one by one NEVER move to the next one unless you've already completed the previous one.
Calmly now, he walked to the dead body and lifted the left arm. Lucy’s watch read “11:11”.
“Eleven minutes past eleven”, he thought to himself. “Eleven, eleven”, he repeated. “One, one. One, one”, he said again. “One plus one equals two, one plus one equals two, two plus two equals four”. “Four”, he thought to himself. “One minus one is zero, one minus one is zero, zero is zero”, he carried on.
Steps one and two were: 1: try and relax, you've been through this many more times than you can imagine. 2: calmly, make a note of the time displayed on the victim's watch
He picked up the dead woman and carried her downstairs. He placed her on a metallic platform, some kind of oversized grill, he removed her clothes and shoes, looked at her naked figure and marginally overcame his spontaneous reaction to throw up. His conscious sense of taste was offended by the amount of fat a body could accommodate, as well as by the grizzly bear fur that it yielded.
He then jumped off to the solid cement, as if his life depended on it. As soon as his weight was off the grill, the metal construction supporting the dead body lowered into the ground and a thick glass cover slid over it, creating some kind of a display slot embossed into the floor. He turned around, flipped some switches on, rotated some knobs and with a loud noise, yellow flames emerged and consumed Lucy inside the glass display.
Steps two to five were: 3: place the victim on the grill in the basement. 4: remove all clothing from the victim and get off the grill. IMPORTANT NOTE: Do never step off the grill while working on the body and do never attempt to step back on the grill once you've stepped off!!! 5: switch on numbers two and three behind you. Rotate the knob, one click to the right.
He walked back up to upper floor and headed towards the study. He jerked the mouse on its resting pad so that the computer screen would light up, he looked at the date on the operating system taskbar and made a mental note of it: “November 14th, 2008″. He typed the name “Lucy Becâcie” into a blank document, ignored the spellchecker, which immediately underlined the name with a curly red line and clicked on the print icon. The printer spat out the paper quickly. It was a piece of adhesive paper, now, a sticker with a name.
Step six was: use the computer in the study (second door on the left) to print the woman's name on a sticker. Also make a note of the date.
On the second floor now, in the room above the study, he looked for the piece of rope that he had read about in the sheet of paper that he had taken from the envelope. It was hanging from the ceiling in the middle of the room. He pulled it down and the lower end of a wooden ladder dropped down from the attic. He climbed up and looked around. There were clocks piled up all around him. He grabbed a large black and white clock, jumped down on the lower level, the ladder folded back up as soon as he had lifted his weight off of it.
The “Lucy Becâcie” sticker went to the back of the clock, the hour hand was set to 1, the minutes hand went right next to it, just a click to the right; the mechanical date display was set to today’s date. He walked to the living room and hanged the clock on the lower left hand corner of the wall, right next to the entrance from the garage.
Step seven was: there is an assortment of clocks in the attic. Go grab one (use the rope to pull down the ladder that will get you up to the attic). Set it to the time that you read on the victim's watch earlier. Set the date to today's date (you did make a note of the date on the computer, right?). The name on the sticker goes to the back of the clock. The first clock always goes to the bottom left hand corner of the living room.
He was feeling quite uneasy. It’s not every day that you realise you have just murdered someone with your bare hands. However, the guidelines were in fact helping him keep busy and think about the incident less than he normally would. Scenarios were building up in his mind. Maybe he was a government spy? Perhaps that woman was someone that was going to destroy the country and he had been brought in to make sure that nothing like that would happen. Maybe that was why he had no recollection of his past life. Maybe they were drugging him after each mission. He could at least relax about the killing. He was not a killer, he was a programmed terminator of foreign threats.
Perhaps it was the woman that had drugged him. Being a spy didn’t make much sense. But perhaps that woman had drugged him in order to chop him up and sell his organs to the black market! That was certainly it. He was not a murderer, he was just protecting himself. The drugs must have somehow not worked on him. He was already feeling better now; he had just survived a very painful death.
Perhaps this was not even real! He did remember himself getting up earlier but maybe that was part of a dream as well! Could he really still be asleep in his bed? Could all of this have been a terrifying nightmare? Would he wake up any minute now, full of memories, experiences and knowledge of who he is, what he likes and all the things that make a man the man he is?
Maybe the answer was on the sheet of paper that he still had in his hands. Who was behind that paper anyway? Maybe that too was explained on the paper. He raised it to eye level and read what he was supposed to do next.
He walked to the kitchen, opened the leftmost cupboard and got a glass jar from inside. He uncapped it, grabbed a handful of green leaves from the jar, boiled it for a couple of minutes and then poured the foully smelling tea in the sole cup that rested next to the stove. He walked back to the living room, placed the cup on the table next to the sofa, walked to the study and fetched an enormously thick book, returned to the sofa in the living room, where he sat and placed the huge book on his lap. He could find no reason for him to own such a huge book, especially not one with such a title.
He was tempted to open the book but he resisted. He was tempted to read the next step in the set of guidelines but he resisted that urge as well. He brought the cup to his lips, tried to hold his breath to avoid the god-awful smell and drunk the whole thing in one go. His vision got blurry, his head felt heavy. He managed to place the cup back on the table before his arms fell to the sides of his torso, almost paralysed.
Step eight was: There is a bottle of green leaves in the cupboard on the left (go back to the kitchen!). Grab a hefty portion and boil it for two minutes. take it back to the living room, leave it on the table next to the sofa and go fetch the "History of the Balkan Clashes in the Post Classical Era" tome from the first bookshelf in the study. Place the tome on your lap and drink all of the tea you just made. It's some kind of relaxant, trust me, you do need it and you will thank me afterwards. IMPORTANT NOTE: Do not move to the next step unless you have already drunk the tea portion that you prepared earlier.
Perhaps someone had poisoned him. Probably someone had tricked him into killing that poor woman and now, thanks to his stupid persistence to following guidelines to the letter, he was going to die because of some stupid tea! They had poisoned him! Those green leaves were probably poisonous. His head felt dizzy. His eyelids were dropping.
He managed to focus onto the sheet of paper. With great difficulty, he read the final step. He was certain that it was going to be some kind of a mocking goodbye by the person who had set him up to kill a person and then fall into the deadly trap that would definitely kill him.
After reading the final guideline, he wished that it had really been a mocking goodbye by the person who had set him up. For the final step was much worse than he could have ever expected.
He gathered all his might and managed to flip the book cover open. The first page was full of text. On the bottom right hand corner, there was printed the number 443.
“I’ll kill myself. I’ll kill myself. I’ll…”, his head dropped forward, the tome slipped from his thighs to the floor and he dozed off, unable to win over the drug effect of the tea.
The final step was: The tome is one thousand, six hundred and seventy -two pages long. Numbering starts on the sixth page. Tear a page from the book, crumble it and read the number on the next page. As I told you, you've done this many more times than you could remember. IMPORTANT NOTE: if you somehow made more tea than you can handle, you will drop asleep before tearing the page from the book. Do NOT forget to do so when you wake up in the morning. By that time, as you will soon know yourself, you will be more proud about what just happened today than angered and scared because of it. It's your nature. How do I know? Don't be stupid. Me and you are the same person. I just so happen to remember, all the things that you will too remember tomorrow. IMPORTANT NOTE 2: you now probably remember all the steps and might be tempted to throw this paper away. Don't be stupid. Place the sheet back in the envelope and lay it in the top drawer in the kitchen. This too has happened more times than you can remember. You're bound to need this sheet of guidelines again.