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The Night the Clock Struck Thirteen -- flash fiction by Margaret James

One night, just before midnight, I heard a knock on my door. Tentatively, I went to open it. I peeked through the window at the front of the house. There stood--- if you can call it standing--- a shape. It was slumped over and did not appear distinctly human or animal.

I doubted for a long while whether or not to open the door, but the figure remained, ever unmoving, just waiting--- waiting for me to open the door.

At length, there came another knock. I kept my eyes on the Thing through the window and opened the door. When I turned my eyes to look at it directly, it was gone--- vanished, simply evaporated. Or, I thought, had it gone into hiding in the shadows of the bushes lining the walkway?

A chill wind picked up, and I closed the door. What if it had drifted into the house with the wind? No. I answered my unspoken question. No, it was impossible. Simply a trick and fear of my mind. That Thing was not real. It was nothing to fear. It had been a shadow that was blown away when the wind shook the object. Yes. It was a shadow.

That was all; just a shadow.

I walked back into my house and started heating some water for tea. I turned on the TV and cranked up the volume when I heard the floor creak. I occupied myself with many things that night to distract my wandering mind from the Thing. At long last, I ventured to go to sleep.

The next night, I waited, half expecting to hear another knock at the door. Half wishing I would, but wholly hoping I wouldn’t. But, in the end, nothing.

The next night, however, there came another knock. Just before midnight, as it had a few nights before. I pulled back the curtain slightly and looked. There it was, slumped over. I opened the door and it had vanished.

This continued for about a week until, one night, after I opened the door, it did not vanish. The wind blew, and it stayed stationary and unmoving.

Quickly, I shut and locked the door. It’s not a shadow. I thought. It’s not a shadow, it’s real. It’s a real Thing.

It knocked again.

I didn’t move.

Then again.

I shut my eyes and put my fingers in my ears.

One, two, three, four... seven, eight... twelve. The clock struck midnight.

I let my back slide down the wall until I was sitting on the floor opposite the door. I knew the Thing couldn’t see me because it was on the other side of the door; yet, I had a sinking feeling that it was watching me: that it could see me, that it was inside the house! That I hadn’t shut it out!

My ears started ringing and I held my breath. Every noise was a whisper. Every shadow was the Thing. Everywhere I looked I saw slumped shadows. They began to move and close in around me. They were on top of me. I could see them ripping my skin but could feel nothing. I screamed, but my scream came out silent. It only echoed in my ringing ears.

At one point, I was sure I passed out. For, the next thing I heard was the clock booming the hour.

One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten. Eleven. Twelve. But, wait! The clock rang out once more. Thirteen.

No! It was wrong! No, it was impossible! It was night! Not Day. Night! The moon was out. Yes, yes I could see the moon through the cloud cover. The stars were invisible, though. But the moon! It was spinning around and around and the clouds were moving fast, too fast.

The ringing in my ears got louder and louder. The shadows started to dance around me. Weaving in and out in a devilish ritual and whispering in an unknown tongue. I tried to scream, but no sound came from my mouth. I sat there slumped on the floor in the shadows with my back to the wall.

There was a knock on the door.

It opened.

The world around me started to fade out.

I was gone.


Margaret James is a Sophomore at The Covenant School of Charlottesville. During her 8th grade year, she won a music scholarship on the violin at the Wednesday Music Club. Margaret attended a singing school in England once travel was allowed. Amid Covid, she found an outlet in writing and her other hobbies, which include but are not limited to: dancing, singing and acting. When it comes to writing, Margaret enjoys writing about mysteries and romance. When she gets older, she hopes to go to medical school to become a surgeon.

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