A Story by Claudia MelGregory

And the clock ticks down the last hours of a lost cause



Claudia MelGregory
Copyright © 2000-2003

We were trapped.

Ona set dinner on the table on that last evening, as she had every night since we’d begun living together. We were no longer lovers; but amicable roommates. Too intimate in the knowledge of each other, after ten years, to just settle into roles of best friends, and too attached to each other to simply walk away.

The silence was suffocating. Fear and anxiety spoiled the air like noxious fumes.

The invasion had been intelligently thought out, precise and deliberate. It had been sudden, as most horrors are. And successful; escape routes from our town had been cut off. Outside communication had been jammed.

Individual by individual the conversion had taken over the township. Sometimes, whole families at once, until only Ona and I were left—a pitiable last resistance.

She glanced up at me across the table as I reached for a buttered roll: her eyes wide and desperate, looking for some inkling that I knew how to get us out of this: my own eyes wide and trying desperately to assure her that we would be okay.

She knew me well enough to recognize that I was afraid. She wanted to believe that I wasn’t as frightened as she. After all, I was the brave and strong one. Truth is—I would have done anything to have someone stronger and braver than I there. I would have welcomed a reassuring smile. The same smile I was giving Ona.

I was tired.

My body was bruised and it ached. I had fought them for months now, along with friends and neighbors, and had watched as those same people I had fought beside fell victim to the transformation. And though I’d managed thus far to keep them from taking Ona and myself, I had paid dearly.

We tried to eat dinner, to at least, keep this bit of normalcy about us. But the food was tasteless on my tongue. And we both knew I had no need for it. I shoved my plate away with a suddenness that startled her. It was just five past six.

I glanced at the small mahogany wood grandmother clock hanging on the wall. Ona had always hated that clock. Said it made her feel rushed, as though time was slipping away. Not so with me. The loud ticking, marking the passing of each human second, soothed me. Something about the swinging of the pendulum comforted me. With each swing, I cherished another second, another minute and another hour of freedom.

"Midnight. They’ll be here at midnight," she whispered. “They always come at midnight.”

It was terribly ridiculous of her to tell me this, as though I had not been there for over a hundred midnights fighting them as she cowered behind whatever barricade she could find. I thought for a moment to tell her just that; instead, I looked at her and nodded. Reaching across the table for her left hand, I gave it a gentle squeeze, mindful of our differences in strength.

The first time I had taken her hand during that first stage of transformation, I had nearly broken it. Now, I held her hand as though it were some rare and delicate flower. We both looked down at our interlocked hands. She gasped. I felt as well as saw what had frightened her.

She drew her hand back in fear and revulsion, and then looked down at her lap in shame, only daring after a moment to glance at me with a silent request for forgiveness. I merely smiled at her with understanding and rose from my seat at the table.

I felt the activity once again under the skin of my forearm and glanced down to catch movement. It was like watching a cat rumble under sheets but not quite so amusing.

The skin strained and stretched from the movement beneath. I clenched my jaw willing back the acrid bile in my throat as the thing crept around under my flesh stinging my veins until they popped up.

I moved to the kitchen sink and grabbed a clean scalpel blade. I made a quick incision just below the bend of my elbow. I flinched, though I hardly felt any pain at all. Quickly now … I had to work quickly before it spawned.

I reached in and grabbed the small, slimy tentacled creature. It resembled a tiny jellyfish or man-of-war. It struggled valiantly in my grip, wrapping the thin stinging appendages around my hands trying to press its way back into my body. I fought dizziness as it peered into my gaze with snail like eyes.

Carefully prying it away, I dropped it into the garbage disposal and turned the switch on. It squealed and screamed in agony until finally it was silenced and the only sound was the loud grinding noise of the disposal.

Mesmerized by the blood and mucous-like material that had splattered everywhere, I barely remember flipping the off switch over the sink. Those things are inside of me. I was nearly overcome with hysteria. It was not a thought, one easily grew accustomed to.

My body began to tremble but I forced myself into stillness. I had not the luxury of time to fall apart. Ona was depending on me. My lips curved into a vicious resentful sneer. I didn’t know if Ona realized it but such episodes had begun occurring more often. Sometimes, I thought about not stopping it.
But only sometimes.

I began the ritual of cleaning up the mess.

"Bandages," Ona was tapping me gently on the shoulder. “I’ll get the bandages.”

"No need." I spoke softly, not turning to look at her. "It’s already sealed." I held up my healed arm for her inspection. She gasped. She did that a lot lately.

"It’s never healed that fast." I turned knowing there would be more fear in gray eyes brimming with tears. What could I say to her? How many times had I assured her we would be okay? How many times had I told her we could beat this? It was a lie but I was always convincing.

I felt selfish in that moment. I didn’t want to hold her or offer her comfort. I had no words of reassurance left; maybe later I would find the stomach to spew out soothing platitudes. But for just a little while, I wanted to be alone, just a few moments alone with my own fear and pain of the crushing truth.

"You go rest, Ona. I’ll awaken you in a few hours." She looked at me doubtfully. "I promise," I told her. "Please. Get some sleep. You must be tired." She nodded quietly and graciously left me there to mourn my lost mortality.

I listened a while to the moan and creak of the stairs as she retreated from my presence and to the bedroom. I cleaned the gory mess from the sink and the splatters tainting the wall above it. I left the plates of unfinished meals on the table and left the kitchen, feeling queasy having remained to long in the area of that latest episode.

I hurried down the hall past the large baroque hanging mirror which had been covered for weeks now with a silk green sheet. Even so hidden, I could not bare to tarry too long before it. Just glimpsing the sheet, too brutally reminded me of what I’d last glimpsed beneath it, in that cold reflecting glass.

Glowing eyes of blue, now hidden behind dark glasses, hair once black now gone pale and growing wildly beneath a gray knit cap I wore for Ona’s peace of mind. Flesh fluctuation between my normal color and red, which could not be so easily hidden. There were bumpy knobs of flesh about the shoulders, neck, and arms. I did not want to see these things reflected back at me from a shiny surface.

Covering every mirror in the house, did not change what had happened, what was happening to me. There had been more changes ... changes that had at first begun happening over a series of days ... and now seemed to occur within a matter of hours.

The living room was silent but for the ticking of the clock and the click of its pendulum swinging. I paced the floor, dispelling the quiet with the creaking and groaning of the floor boards beneath each footfall.

There were a few hours of peace now, to mourn for my own loss—to indulge in thoughts that I could not, in good consciousness, entertain during the hours of Ona’s wakefulness.

I questioned the fate of my soul as humanity slowly slipped away. Would it die? Simply fade from existence? Would there remain no memory, of the person I was? Would all sentience of that human being be lost forever? Or would my consciousness be trapped in this transforming shell, imprisoned and helpless, as I became like the depraved creatures that would in hours, be converging upon the house.

I glanced at the boarded front door and windows; it felt like a hundred years since I’d last seen the sun, since I’d last peered up at a night sky glittering with moon and stars. A day too many had past in siege, held up within the house ... its stale claustrophobic atmosphere making me feel suffocated, and withering inside from lack of fresh air.

Impatient with pacing, I sat in a rocking recliner and rocked for hours and staring at everything yet nothing in particular: the fixtures in that room, a small touch-lamp with a brass body and base, topped with a mauve shade made of glass decorated with black swirls, the clock, the small antique collectibles on coffee and end tables, and bric-a-bracs charmingly placed about the room for aesthetic pleasure.

Ona had always had a talent for such things.

I wanted to shatter every single charming little piece. So tired was I of that quaint little prison.
I ... I ... I wanted my freedom—wanted nothing more than a moment’s succor of giving in to rage and violence. Only a moment’s worth.

I wanted to gather the pricey Persian scatter rugs, protecting the hard wood floor, and rip them to pieces, shred them like tissue paper. I wanted to dig the metal like claws, growing from my nail beds, into the floor and scrape them across the perfect wood grain.

I rocked and rocked, my gaze skittering across everything, no longer able to remain too long upon one item, lest I lose my composure and succumb to the frothing beast within. I, who’d so cherished my civility and self-possession when others came apart at the merest touch of adversity in their lives.


In those winding hours, the clock slowly ticking away towards midnight, I found myself not so much mourning the loss of my humanity at all. Freedom was the desperate craving. But I clung to human reason, digging the mental claws of my consciousness into it, lest Ona fall prey to the nightly swarm that would be gathering at our doors.

As long as I had the strength of will to fight they would not take her.

As long as I have the strength of will...

At ten past ten I walked up the stairs of our two-story home to awaken Ona. I reached the top of stairs and walked quietly down the hall sliding one hand along the smooth cherrywood banister and the other hand along the bare wall, paying no heed to the viscid smears I left behind.

Our bedroom was at the end of narrow hall to the right of the stairs. The door had been left open and the light from the bedside lamp spilled out into the hall casting my shadow upon the wall and floor.

I looked at my shadow briefly and then hurriedly averted my gaze. It was grossly misshapen and I did not like to see it any more than my reflection. It was too much like staring at ones own gangrenous limbs.

In the room, I glanced from Ona to the nearby empty water glass and the bottles of pills on the nightstand. She had daily increased the dosage of the medications to an unimaginable amount. Fear and anxiety were constantly building immunity to Ona’s many prescriptions.

Each time I entered our room and found her thus sprawled across the bed, her arms thrown across her eyes as though to shield them from horror, I found my breath slightly quickened at the idea that this time she might have taken too many of the little blue pills or the tiny green ones with little crosses on them, or the oddly shaped pink ones. I thought to myself, perhaps this time, when I touch her to shake her awake, her body will be cold and lifeless. I suppressed a smile and tried to feel guilty for such ungodly imaginings.

I stood over her for a several moments watching the uneven rise and fall of her chest in sleep. Her lips trembled and at times opened partially as though in soundless screams. Night terrors … she had them often. Although, whether they were caused by her mixture of sleeping pills or our present predicament, she was uncertain.

I suspected the night terrors were product of both.

I never suggested she stop taking her pills. For the few hours the narcotics comforted her I was free from that obligation.

Often times at those moments when I prepared to rescue her from her nightmares I wondered if what I was doing was much more cruel and unfair to her than allowing her to be taken. We both knew how this would end, but she needed to believe otherwise until the last inevitable second.

The strain on her nerves was relentless. There had been days when she would slip in and out of sanity or reality as easily as one might step in and out of slippers.

Selfish thoughts. I knew that. I had them often. I was loathed of fighting for her; resentful of having to do so when there was no longer a reason or need to fight for myself. There was no cure or salvation for me. I fought the metamorphosis as hard as I did, only, because I had made a promise, a promise that now left me resentful and imagining gripping her slender throat in crushing hands as she slept.

I awakened her. She lay there mumbling unintelligibly, groggy and disoriented from her multi-colored pills and as usual, of no use to me in her own defense. I helped her sit up and grabbed the glass of water from the nightstand. I doused her face with what was left in the glass.

“Ona!” I snapped sharply. She stared at me, now fully awake. “It’s time for me to prepare. Go find a place to hide.” She looked at me, her eyes wide with terror. I had undergone more transformation as she slept but I had at least, kept those things under my skin from spawning.

“You’re going to give me to them, aren’t you?” she whispered. “Aren’t you!” she screamed and would have run for the door but I caught her easily, my arms stretching well past their normal lengths, wrapped around her and dragged her back to me. I hugged her fiercely to me, cradling her head to my chest, simply because I knew that looking upon me would cause her further distress.

“Shh,” I crooned. “I’ll protect you, Ona.” I rocked her like a child as she begged and pleaded for me to take care of her—to keep them from taking her, and I promised her I would; at the time, they were promises I’d meant to keep.

At the time, I had no idea that come midnight I would change my mind.

© 2008 Claudia MelGregory

Author's Note

Claudia MelGregory
No special notes; just review, enjoy and tell me what you think.

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Very disturbing. The situation felt completely hopeless. The atmosphere was very dark. Good writing.

Posted 14 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

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Added on February 19, 2008
Last Updated on February 19, 2008


Claudia MelGregory
Claudia MelGregory


My writing is predominantly F/F. As I'm a flexible sort of individual, very open-minded and I generally love the diversity of all Sexual Orientations (which my S.O. refers to as my being a horn-to.. more..