Tick-Tock, hissed the clock.
We’re waiting. Time’s wasting.
An icy hand touched me. Bony fingers surrounding my foot. Threatening to crush it. Nails piercing the tender flesh of my skin.
I gasped. Nothing touched me. Just a draft of cool air across my toes. Only a dream.
But it did not feel like I was fully in a dream state. Maybe Morpheus is toying with me.
I pulled my foot back under the comforter and curled into a ball. I tried to will myself back to sleep, but it was not going to happen. My heart pounded. The memory of finding Mrs. Batchalder had me in its grip.
And don’t forget the creepy clock.
Dugo responded to my movement by inching closer for some petting. Having him around full time was nice. Things seemed less lonely with a furry companion.
As Dugo resumed his purring, I thought about his owner and wondered how she was doing. I asked Chloris to make a special bouquet of flowers to send the hospital.
For a few minutes, I resisted the urge to get up and start to work. Lately, it was rare for me to have time alone to just sit and think. The chaos of family life (as disjointed as it may be) and everything going on with my various work projects had me running in circles most of the time. The surprising joy of being around extended family caused me to spend more time at the OA than I ever thought I would. Dinlas, Arty, Nike, Nyx, and Eros were such staples in the building, I often became sidetracked.
The sound of the creepy clock seemed to be haunting my penthouse. I shuddered. It was definitely time to get out of bed and get the day started.
If a cat could roll its eyes, Dugo most certainly would have rolled his over my abrupt departure from bed. He stretched and then went back to sleep. I envied his ability to nap at a moment’s notice.
I flicked on several lights and opened the blinds. Sunlight streamed through the windows and settled my nerves.
“Hermes, shuffle my Happy playlist,” I called out to the device on the kitchen counter. Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen poured out of the speaker, and I couldn’t help but smile.
The project with NASA popped into my head and fought to compete with Freddy Mercury.
I fired up the computer and switched on the panel of screens across my worktable. Still singing along, I reached for the grey messenger bag and pawed through the contents to find my latest round of calculations and notes. As I was ready to start working, my landline rang, causing me to jump.
For a nanosecond, I imagined Mrs. Batchalder’s crazy cat clock calling me.
This time, I thought I heard a small muffled sound.
The tail of the clock swishing.
I felt like slamming the phone back down on the counter, but then heard a frail voice.
“Hello dear, it’s Caroline.”
“Ohmygosh…how are you?” I asked.
“As well as can be expected at my age.” Her voice sounded labored. Her words were loose, and sloppy, like she barely had the energy to speak. “I broke my neck in the fall. I had a slight stroke, so I need rehabilitation. I’m being sent to a skilled nursing facility today,” she explained.
“Oh, no. That sounds serious.”
“It was. I’m lucky that I am not dead. Or paralyzed. And that you found me,” she paused. “How did you find me?”
The cat clock sent for me.
“Uh. Dugo. He took me to you.”
“Like Lassie…” her voice trailed off.
My memory banks scanned for her reference. A television show from the 50s?
“Yes, I guess so,” I responded.
A long silence spread across the line.
Swish swish swish.
“I’m here. Just slow.”
“I wondered if you could bring a few things to the nursing home for me. I have an assistant who usually helps me out, but Gerald has a bit of a flu bug and doesn’t want to risk getting me sick,” she said.
“Sure. What can I bring?”
She relayed her list of toiletries and clothing items that she needed for the rehabilitation period. As she slowly communicated the items, I wrote everything down, but my mind had already made the leap.
I have to go back into that apartment.
And remember her grabbing me.
And the clock.
We’re not finished with you yet.