A/N: Written a few weeks ago for a school assignment. Not my best work, but it's been a while since I've updated with anything on this site.


I sit here, whittling away what could be my last minutes by scratching out my story. My testament. The clock ticks on, one second, two seconds, three, ticking in a steady time that is somehow directly opposite of my heart's rhythm, resulting in a continuous thrum in my ears: tick-thump, tick-thump, tick-thump.

Tick-thump.

I twist my head over my shoulder and peer at Atkinson as he continues to sharpen his tools. I am tempted to say something to him, but my tongue is swollen. Besides, there is no reason for speech at this point. We haven't spoken since we came to this room. There isn't anything to say apart from continuing to express our befuddlement at this situation, our dread at what is to come . . .

No, not what is to come, I tell myself, turning my attention back to this paper. What might come.

The unknown is a silly thing to fear, but I cannot help it. The madness of this entire day is taking its toll on me. Sanity is slipping from me like ocean waves sliding onto shore and then retreating, back, back, back into the sea . . .

Tick-thump, tick-thump, tick-thump.

I need to do something. I need to take control. But it feels so beyond my control, so far out of my reach. As though there is nothing to do but wait for death. Which is really what life boils down to in the end – waiting for one's death. So it shouldn't bother me if mine is to come.

But the not knowing is driving me mad. When? Where? How?

Tick-thump.

I look at Atkinson again. I watch him sharpen his tools. Each of them winks silver whenever they catch the moonlight. The ones he has already sharpened lay in a neat row beside him, slender and beautiful.

Not entirely conscious of my movements, I rise to my feet and wander over to the line of tools, standing over them in silence. I feel Atkinson's eyes on me.

"May I look?" I ask, gesturing at the tool queue.

"Sure," he says.

I bend over and pick one up, turning it slowly in my hand as I move back to my seat. It is an etching knife, its point fine, used for tiny details upon gravestones. Atkinson, too, is an artist: this knife is one of the most polished and sharpened tools I have ever seen.

Tick-thump, tick-thump.

Atkinson told me not to earlier, told me that it would only make each minute even more agonizing – but I can't help but steal a glance at the clock behind me. Fifteen minutes to midnight.

And suddenly I can take it no longer. The not knowing, the lack of control – I can't do it. I must know how this will end. I must have control. I must take control. All men want to know what is happening to them – all men want control. And mad men are no different.

My hand does not hesitate as I plunge the knife into my heart.

Tick-thump, tick-thump, tick-thump, tick-thump –

"Withencroft? What's happened?" I hear Atkinson's footsteps nearing me as I slump in my chair, gasping for breath. "Are you alri – "

He swears then, and suddenly his face is right in front of mine, blinking in and out of focus. "James! Can you hear me? You'll be fine – we've just got to get you to a hospital – "

I can hear the tremor in his voice. I can sense the lie. The only place I'll be going in the future is away, far away.

"Just focus, James, okay? Everything will be – "

I think he finishes with 'all right,' but the thunk my body makes as it collapses against the floor drowns it out; my vision fuzzes and blurs, black insects of death crawling over my eyes.

Tick-thump, tick-thump, tick-thump . . .

xxx

His wife hears the thump of the body hitting the floor from within her dreams. Awakened, she runs down to the eaves. From behind the closed door comes startled breathing mingled with pained cursing, which is enough to send her throwing open the door and hurtling into the room without a second thought.

On the floor she sees a man, limp, his mouth slack and his eyes glazed. Blood seeps from his chest, a knife wedged into his chest. Her husband's knife.

Her husband kneels beside the corpse, shaking the dead man's shoulders with bloody hands.

He looks up when he hears her enter, his eyes red.

"What have you done?" she manages to whisper in a voice of sand-paper.

"What do you mean – what have I – no!" he says with widening eyes. "No, of course I didn't – how could you think that I would – he did this to himself!"

She stares at him as if she doesn't know him, and he feels his world slipping even farther than before; he half-rises to his feet, and she stumbles backwards, lost and afraid, needing to get away.

"Come back!" he yells after her, but she is already gone.

She does not want to report her husband to the authorities, the man she has known and loved for twenty years. But this is not her husband. This is some monster she does not know and does not want to.

Three days later, he is sent to court and convicted.