Tick-Tock


"Time stops for no one, Norm."

Norman can't bring himself to stare up at the man, shell, and just stares down at his files, sifting through them easily, surrounded by a flurry of red and orange and yellow that remind him vaguely of a storm. Norman analyses the files and for a few minutes forgets about the voice, the shell, until it speaks again,

"They warned you. They warned you, and you know too-fuckin'-well what'll happen if you're not careful."

Norman tries to ignored the voice, focusing on the tid-bits of information in front of him, the loose ends Blake had seemingly not noticed. The flurry of red and orange autumn leaves surround him with the comfort of something beautiful, something so perfect, something that Norman knew wasn't real but believed in it anyway, like a little kid that still believed in Santa Claus.

"Do you really just want to forget, Norman? To dip yourself in a reality that you know is fake? Is this what you want?"

Norman circles the clues with his ARI glove and sifts through them once more, checking for anything he might've missed before he went back out there and argued with Blake about something stupid. The voice haunts him relentlessly, and he forgets about it again for a few minutes, going over his augmented files while a storm of autumn leaves rage around him like an angry storm. As if his subconscious had been trying to warn him that enough is enough will you quit doing this, why are you doing this, you'll end up a basket-case, stop, stop, stop.

He hasn't missed anything, he knows. But he wants to stay in the comfort of this beautiful world for just a little longer. He wants to stay far away from reality and its drenching, treacherous rain and its stupid office politics and its damned red tape and its fucking stupid men who can't tell their elbows from their asses.

"Tripto doesn't help you with shit." The voice says, so quietly that Norman almost doesn't hear it. "It's an addictive drug those bureaucrats and desk jockeys gave you so they wouldn't have to cover their asses if you ended up a basket case."

Norman clenches and unclenches his ARI gloved hand, and changes the environment to the ocean, where he can stay underwater for as long as he wants, unlike in reality where he would drown. Sharks and sting rays swim by him leisurely, a squid passes above him, and Norman looks through the map once more, scanning it.

"You shouldn't want to forget, Norm." The voice continues, as Norman scours the Origami Killer's Modus Operandi. "It's not healthy."

Norman snorts as this. As if this voice had any jurisdiction to tell him what was healthy and what was not. Norman had committed many things that were considered unhealthy and wrong, yet justified. And if that were the case, then everything, from his addiction to the fucking Origami Killer's existence was justified in some stupid way.

"This will kill you,"

Norman sighs, and presses his hand to his forehead. There's something trickling down his cheek. Warm, like a river of sun pressed against his skin, yet the feeling gave Norman chills. He wiped the something from his cheek with his ungloved hand.

"If you're not careful."

Norman pulled his hand away from his warm, weird-feeling cheek, and saw the dark smear across his skin. Insignificant, it might have been…

But the smear was a gleaming, wet blood-red crimson.

The ocean fades into the autumn environment, then back again, then back to the autumn background. There's a real storm raging around Norman now, not one of his own imaginings, from staring at the leaves as they swirled around in a tornado-like way. Complete with rendered lightning, and cackling thunder.

He's afraid now. Very afraid. He flings the ARI glasses off his face, just as another trickle of blood leaks down his other eye, and he's scared. So very scared.

The stormy area fades, and Norman is back in the broom cupboard he calls his office. He takes a deep breath, which turn into many gasps as he realizes, he needs Tripto now.

"What did I tell you, Norm?" The sound, the voice, comes from within the room. Norman craned his head to the side, staring at the shell, the man, from across the room.

Himself.

The Other Norman leans against the wall, the words ARI engraved into his temples, his eyes a shocking, surreal shade of blue, and Norman, the real one, is even more afraid than he was before. He's hallucinating.

Hallucinating himself.

"Time stops for no one, Norm." Said the Other One.

Norman, the real one, reaches for the vial of Tripto, fingers fumbling as the vial very nearly escapes his grasp. He's very scared, too scared, and he needs to calm down, he knows. But he can't. He can't. Norman finds the vial, snorts it quickly, hand cupped around the vial and his nose like one who lights a cigarette and his mind goes blank.

The Other One smiled. Then faded. Just a hallucination.

But the words ring in Norman's ears, like church bells in the morning.

"Time stops for no one."

No one.


Bizarre little thing, to help overcome my Writer's Block. Working on Cyanide And Happiness, for any of my fans who read this.