302,385 ticks… 302,386 ticks… 302,387 ticks… I must stop this infernal counting... 302,388 ticks… 302,389 ticks… 302,390 ticks… This isn’t my job. I don’t care about the ticks… 302,391 ticks… 302,392 ticks… 302,393 ticks… STOP!
It’s been about 300,000 ticks since the blast; 300,000 ticks since I was left to fend for myself; 300,000 ticks since they disappeared. It’s been quiet—I don’t like the quiet. It’s been dark—I don’t like the dark. Yet, there’s nothing I can do. They disappeared. They controlled the quiet and they controlled the dark.
I’ve been in this room for four years. For four years, my intricately indented and curved legs have held me up. I haven’t faltered, I haven’t moved, I haven’t made a sound. They’ve not been here in ticks. To know how many ticks is beyond me. That isn’t my job. I’ve not cared about the ticks, not until they disappeared—when all there was to do was count the ticks. Before the blast, the ticks were the responsibility of my old friend across the room.
He’s been here longer than I, tall and worn. His face has grown yellow with age, though all of his distinct features remain there even to this day. Although his color has begun to diminish, there’s still a timeless quality to him that makes everything else here fit into place. Ever since the day we first met, he’s been obsessed with the ticks, counting them with every slight movement on his face. Like me, he’s never faltered. The ticks keep coming in a rhythm I’ve been able to maintain for only short periods at a time. The only change I’ve ever recalled in him was due to them. They moved his hands for him, accelerating the ticks for only a moment before he was back at the old meter. Before, I ignored his obsessive behavior, classifying his yammering as pure insanity—only the mad would spend all their time counting. But, now? Now I envy his ability to distract himself. To have something to do in these times is a gift.
I used to have something to do, but they’re gone. For the longest time, I wished they would go away. They left circular marks on me when they didn’t use the protection made specifically for my skin. They bumped into me when they were in a rush. They piled things on top of me without any sense of organization. It was a nightmare. I don’t understand why they had to do this to me. The only explanation? I was too good at my job. That’s how it goes—when one is really good at their job, more is expected of them.
The people who used me were good at their jobs. Well, the bigger ones were. The smaller ones seemed to abuse me more often, but it seemed oddly acceptable. If I were able, I’d avoid the smaller ones. They left circular marks on me and stained me with juices and all sorts of sticky substances. I can still feel their chilling touch lining the grain of me. Even now, I wish I could shudder at the thought of it.
“We’ll wipe that up with a paper towel,” the most respectful of them would say. The small ones would nod and run for a roll of white softness. I didn’t know how it managed to stay in that shape, and then unroll into something flat. It seemed to be some sort of miracle, to be able to change shape so efficiently. The greatest thing would happen after that. The respectful one would take the softness and run it across my skin. It felt nice, and it got rid of the mess from the horrible small ones. I was back to my shiny mahogany tone and smooth, something I rarely felt when the small ones were around.
I remember the week before the blast. All of them were acting normally. Every day, upon the chiming outside the room, they’d walk into the hallway—into my vicinity. The respectful one would go to the light-up box and pull smaller boxes out filled with liquids and solids I’ve yet to learn the names of. Then, the other light up box would open its door and spin these liquids and solids until the respectful one would remove them. Somehow, these things got hot, very hot. I could feel it through every layer of me, and they were almost always put on top of me without any sort of protection. There were only temporary after affects of this process, but pain, regardless of the longevity of it, is still pain.
This progression would be followed by a lot of conversation. I always paid attention to this. It never made much sense to me but, after a while, it didn’t matter whether I understood or not. As long as this happened soon after every chiming, things seemed okay.
“Are you ready for school?” the respectful one would say to the small ones. They sat on my brethren. I pitied them. They were crushed day by day and still stood tall. Although they were shorter than I, I, as they would say, “looked up to” them.
The small ones would nod and bounce, “I’ve got a math test today. It’s so hard! Good thing I’m smart!” or “Katrina has been bringing cookies to school every day. I want cookies today, Mom,” or the common “I don’t wanna go!” But they always left, getting on that big yellow monster I could see through the glass covered hole in the wall.
I don’t know why the respectful one let the small ones get eaten and then purged by a monster. The respectful one usually looked pleased to let them go. Such a strange world, they have. I still find it strange, even having been here four years.
I didn’t know where they went when they weren’t in the room with me. I knew they were gone, but never saw where. In fact, for the longest time it seemed like they disappeared into nothingness. If not for being born elsewhere, I would not have believed there was anything beyond these walls. All I know exists here, but there’s always the memory from there.
I stood tall and proud. Buzzing came from all sides. Animals rustled in my branches. The wind tickled my leaves, detaching my children when they were ready to leave their source for life.
The buzzing got louder. I felt the vibrations as my kin toppled over. My death was closer. No longer would I be able to breathe. No longer would I feel the movement beneath my roots. No longer would I be a home. I was ripped apart.
“This one looks sturdy. It’s a shame we have to take it down,” one of them cruelly explained. I had heard of this. Some of my kin transferred the information to me. These were called “loggers”. They killed my family so that the rest of them could enslave us. I was scared. To die was one thing. To become a piece of furniture was something else. To sit here in all your mahogany glory—knowing that you were a tool—was miserable.
“It looks like the perfect size for the T140,” the other commented. I didn’t understand. But, it didn’t matter.
“Yeah. We’ve gotta get this one down quick! It’s a beaut’.”
Even to this day, I don’t quite understand what they were talking about. I suppose it doesn’t matter now. Now I sit here every day, remembering how I was destroyed. Technically, I suppose, I’m dead. That would explain my lack of movement, and their lack of respect for me.
302,394 ticks… 302,395 ticks… 302,396 ticks…
Those stupid ticks again. Why must the old guy constantly count the ticks? There’s no point anymore. He counted for them, and they’re gone. All of them. I haven’t seen one in over 300,000 ticks. They were out of these four walls before the blast. Then they didn’t come back. It only made sense.
The small screen blared a warning. The looks on their faces was that of dread. The color left the larger ones’ faces. The small ones appeared confused. Another one of them appeared on the screen. How did they manage to get him inside that tiny box? But, that was beside the point. The one in the box started to speak, his face worried.
“Fellow Americans, now is the time we’ve been getting prepared for for so long. Bio-nuclear warfare is no game. Anywhere can be targeted. Please tune in to your local station for information on how to stay safer and possibly survive, but prepare for the worst. Women and children should be taken to safety immediately. This is not a drill.”
The picture box changed to the image of another one of them, this time looking more like the respectful one than the first. This one showed a drawing with lots of lines and symbols on it. The larger ones in the room were furiously jotting on another flat material. I could feel the movement of their writing utensils in my surface. There’s still indents where they pushed a little too far.
They turned on another box upon scrambling to put things in the empty, cheap, brown boxes. It kept repeating the alert in different ways, giving off advice as to what they had to pack. There was some mention of leaving behind all larger objects. I was almost certain that my tick-tracking friend skipped a few ticks. If I were able to move at all, I would be in a standstill too.
By the time they left us behind, they probably didn’t worry about leaving the noise box on. Unfortunately, there was an announcement they missed:
“The first missile has been fired. World War III has begun, and the time has come to see who will survive. Word has it that they plan to wipe the planet clean, to start from scratch. Two phases of the plan have already been revealed: 1. To rid the Earth of living influence. This biochemical weaponry will wipe out all living creatures, including plants and animals. 2. To destroy all remnants of our existence—this consists of nuclear weaponry set to go off 84 hours after the first strikes. There is no stopping of these weapons. The probability of survival is highly improbable, though not impossible. Top scientists have placed the statistic at approximately 8 billion to 1.”
It went to static, a sound that slowly diminished upon the 100,000th tick.
I don’t know what to do around here anymore. They were why I was here. They saved me from that dreadfully damp warehouse. But they put me there in the first place after cutting me down. They cleaned me, but stained me. They marked me, but buffed me out. They saved me from the rain, but not the small them. They left me in place for four years, but they protected me from the yellow monster that ate and regurgitated the small them. They were abusive and monsters within themselves. I’ll never forget that. Leaving me here, that was more abusive than any of the marks.
There used to be little spots scurrying on the ground beneath me. Where did they go? And what happened to the ruckus from beyond the glass covered hole in the wall? Did the blast take them too?
Why have I started counting the ticks again? It’s not like they matter anymore! None of this matters anymore. Without them, we’re nothing. Without them, we’re not even furniture. I used to think that a slave couldn’t be demoted. I guess I was wrong.
I had become nothing. Worse than nothing. At least nothing had a name! What was my name? Table? Sable the table? That doesn’t work. I’m just a dining room table without anything to dine on me. At least my friend can do the same thing he’s always done. But, as for me? Nothing. I’ve gotten nothing.
That’s why I’ve had to count the ticks. That’s why I’ve been reduced to nothing better than a clock. That’s all I have anymore; the ticks.
The second blast came…
And the ticking ceased.