It was the ticking of the clock that awoke Seth that day. Not the alarm that buzzed like a siren. Not the busy city streets outside. Nor the scuttle of the next apartment inhabitants. In fact, it hadn't even woken him up. He had never even slept that night.
The rings under his eyes were sure proof of that, his hazel eyes appearing gray and dull. He watched the second hand tick...tick...tick. The minute hand moving one miniscule mark over as the second hand ticked by the numbered twelve that rose above the other numbers as if infinitely more important. That wasn't true.
Time is precious. Every moment of it. Every hour, every minute. Every second counts. Ever half second, quarter, tenth, hundredth. Time appears so endless, yet that is something it is not. Time is not endless. Not yours.
The minute hand struck the twelve mark and an echoing ding sang through out the apartment. Seth knew he should get up, but that didn't mean he wanted to. He would've been getting ready for work at this time on a Tuesday morning. He would've been taking a shower. Washing off the morning's drowsiness with steaming warm water that cleansed his mind and opened his eyes. He would've gotten in his uniform. Combed his hair. Drank that cup of coffee that sat in the coffee machine, ready for him to gulp down. Eat. Put on his shoes. Check for his keys. Maybe read some of the newspaper. Perhaps watch the news on the television for a few brief moments before turning off the remote or folding the newspaper back up and checking his wrist watch.
Surely, he would've been in his car by now. Buckling his seat belt. Checking the mirrors. Releasing the parking brake. Set it to drive. Carefully leave the curb. Head towards the station uptown. He would've found his parking space. Locked the car as he walked towards the glass doors. Pushed them open. Said 'hi' to the receptionist at the entrance. Gotten on the elevator. Gone downstairs to the B10 floor. The elevator doors would've opened after the quiet ding. He would've stepped out. He would have greeted and and been greeted by his comrades. Friends. Dear friends.
But, this day was different. Everyday for the past week had been different. He did not get ready for work. He did not watch the news on the television monitor. He did not drive his car to work. He did not enter the elevator. He did not greet his friends, nor was he greeted.
Lately, his routine had consisted of one thing; Keep a secret.
A large, dangerous, and daunting secret. Always, it hid in the back of his mind. Every time he opened his mouth, it threatened to be blurted out. Every time he saw a familiar face, a friendly, comforting and calming face, the secret crept from the far reaches of his conscience, waiting to be spilled from his lips. It was haunting. Whenever he approached a friend, thoughts ran through his mind.
'Perhaps I should tell them... maybe they could help?'
'What's the worst that could happen? On second thought, telling them would be...'
'I need to talk about this! I need to tell them!'
'I...I can't... I couldn't, and I know I shouldn't. I must not tell them...'
'I can prove it! I'm not insane! I'm not troubled! I am healthy! I'm perfectly healthy, damn you!'
'No... I am troubled. Troubled by this secret. Why? Why must I be the one to keep it? I cannot keep it... not forever. It'll be my end. My ruin. No! Everyone's end and ruin! No! It can't get out!'
Another tick of the clock.
Seth was frozen. His eyes locked to the clock. Watching the hands tick away.
Time was going by. What will he do with it?
Seth gave a sigh, rubbing his temples. His fever had bared through the night, but thankfully weakened. He threw the covers off himself and let his feet touch the chilly floor. He inhaled sharply at the cold draft that froze the heat from his bed. He let out a shuddering breath, rising to his feet and quickly changing into something simple.
He sat at the dinner table, idly stirring his cup of steaming coffee. He gazed into the cup of black liquid. It was like an endless abyss, sinking to the deepest depths were a bottom never existed. The drumming of his fingers against the oak wood soon joined the ticking of the clock. His eyes glanced over to his wrist watch, the second hand moving to the beat.
The clocks became louder and louder. Pounding in his head. You're late. You're late!
Late for what? He no longer needed to go to work. He couldn't. He wasn't allowed. He can't. Not able. Can't. Can't. Can't.
He slammed his fist onto the table surface.
"God dammit!" He swore out loud, closing his eyes and shielding them from sight with the palm of his hand. He took in a shuddering inhale, exhaling slowly. He checked his wrist watch once again.
He couldn't stand it any longer. He grabbed his jacket from the coat hanger near the door, picking up his keys on his way out. He locked the door behind him, rushing down the stairs and storming out the apartment building and into his car.
It didn't take long before he reached the station. It was just as he left it. Yet, it was different. It was foreign. He didn't know what was happening. What was going on? What cases were they working on? Did they add a new policy? What was everyone talking about? He was a stranger to it now. And it was a stranger to him.
He debated entering the glass doors that beckoned him with the promise of happiness, though he knew better. He'd get nothing by grief and discouragement entering those grand and welcoming doors. He'd see familiar faces, yes, but they would not be greeting him, they would show confusion. Puzzlement. Raised eyebrows of suspicions. Whispers of his problems. Questions. Hands pointing to the exit. There wouldn't be any greetings nor welcome backs.
He sat in his car, watching the building from it for moments longer. He felt as if he should be there, helping along. It was his job. His duty.
It wasn't his job anymore.
His phone buzzed, diverting his attention from the taunting station for a moment. The phone vibrated repeatedly, telling him to answer. He held it up in his hand, the number reaching his memory. It was the psychologist. The doctor was certainly persistent. His thumb immediately slid to the end button, but something stopped him.
If he answered this call, perhaps he could return to where he truly belonged. Right in the station. He bit his lip, mulling his thoughts and mind for an answer. A way out where everything worked out perfectly in the end.
The choice was simple; keep his job, or keep the secret.
His thumb hovered over the button, yet his eyes were set on the building out his window. What will he do!?
The phone buzzed once more, and he knew he needed to make a decision. He flipped open his phone, listening to silence before he spoke.
"Yes, doctor. I understand. See you for the next session."