Glyph awoke suddenly. He lay staring up at the ceiling for several moments and forcibly tried to calm his nerves. His heart was racing and sweat beaded on his brow as he sat up and looked out the window. It was just before dawn, and the sounds of the garbage truck down the street came drifting by.
“What’s next?” He thought aloud. “What could possibly be next?” It was his time, his hour, the only hour.
Rubbing his eyes, Glyph jumped up from his bed and stumbled down the hall, feeling his way to the kitchen. He opened the fridge and began pulling out anything edible, stuffing lunchmeat into his mouth as he put more food on the table. Like a ravenous dog, Glyph attacked half a pie until it was demolished, then went on to the pork chops and the mashed potatoes. He was finally bloated as he chugged down the last of the milk.
“Eleven minutes, not bad, not bad.” Glyph commented as he checked his watch. He could remember how much easier his hour had been before the ravenous hunger started.
Moving hastily down the hall into the bedroom, he stopped briefly to search through a pile of dirty clothes for a pair of jeans that would fit his emaciated frame. Glyph wasn’t sure why he even bothered to look; he knew there were none there. He decided he would have to poke another hole in his belt when he had time, then sprinted to the bathroom.
Glyph took a dump and quickly jumped into the shower. The hot water was a feeling of luxury he could really no longer afford the time for, but did anyway, just to spite them.
Finishing his shower in record time, he dried off, put on his clothes, grabbed his wallet and ran out the door, stopping briefly to hop on his bike. Glyph pedaled down the block to the grocery. His money had run out, and his credit was about to reach the limit. The store had just opened a few seconds before he arrived; he glanced at his watch.
“Thirty-three minutes,” he shook his head, rushed inside, and grabbed all the food he could then ran to the register. The checkout girl was moving slowly as she ran each item over the scanner, and he had to suppress the irritation rising inside of him.
“That will be $72.57 sir.”
Glyph handed her his card, she swiped it and waited. She made some sort of “Hmmm” noise and took a step back.
“I’m sorry sir, your card is overdrawn, I’m going to have to reject it, do you want to try another card, or cash?” She said, eyeing him up.
Glyph turned around, then turned back “What now? I can’t keep this up!” He muttered to himself.
“Sir?” the girl said tilting her head slightly.
He began to sweat, and without warning clenched his fist and plowed it into the side of her head. She flew back into a magazine rack and dropped to the floor. Glyph snatched what he could and fled through the door, his feet momentarily getting tangled in the bags as he jumped on his bike and began pumping furiously.
“Fuck! Fuck, fuck, fuck, damn!” he screamed inside himself.
His eyes were beginning to tear up. Glyph reached his apartment building and glanced back to see if he had been followed. He made for the front door and quickly brought the bike inside with him. Huffing and puffing, Glyph half-dragged, half-pushed, the bike and groceries up two flights of stairs and ran to his apartment door. His hands were shaking as he unlocked the door and pulled his bike inside into the kitchen. He threw the food into the fridge, bags and all, forcing the door closed with his shoulder while sliding to the floor. He began to cry, but only for a moment, before looking at his watch.
“Fifty-one minutes.” he whispered.
Wiping his nose with his hand, Glyph rose up shakily, grabbing a chair at the table for support. Pulling his last pack of smokes out of the cupboard, he hastily lit one up and began to pace back and forth. This was his thinking time, whatever was left of it, of the hour.
“How do I stop this?” Glyph began saying out loud. “I can’t, I can’t! I don’t know how… There’s nothing left, I…I can’t pay the bills, electric company is cutting me off, haven’t paid the rent in months!… I have to end this!” His eyes glanced at the closet. “No, no, think man, think. I have enough food now for a few more of my hours.” He said, and wiped his nose again, rubbing off a tear. “I’ll just hold out, until then, and then…” He looked at the closet again. “I have to find a way; there has to be a way.” Glyph extinguished the cigarette and checked his watch. “Fifty-nine minutes”.
He stood up straight, steeled himself, and walked calmly to the bedroom. He could feel his heart going cold as he lay on the bed, closing his eyes once again. Glyph had lost track of how many hours he had had, but no matter how many times it happened, he couldn’t get used to it; didn’t want to get used to it. The beep of his watch chiming the hour was the last thing he heard as the world turned into a vacuum, went dark, and the searing pain began…
— oOo —
“Aaaahhhggg!!” Pain oozed from every pore of Glyph’s body, making him shake uncontrollably. His only thought was ‘don’t open your eyes, don’t open your eyes!’ But he knew it was futile. He felt the leathery hands grab his face and pry back his eyelids.
“Aaaahhhggg!” Glyph screamed again, as another wave of searing, burning, torment coursed through his body.
He was lying on his back. The hunched, lizard-like being he saw before him was no shock. He had seen him before, and always had. Glyph even knew the creature’s name, as it had introduced itself the first time; Simeon the torturer. The demon carefully applied a hook to each of Glyph’s eyelids, pulling his eyes open, then attached the hooks to a tether above his head. Another wave of pain slightly different than the one before made his body arch upward. The pain was always different, always more excruciating, than the one before. Simeon looked at Glyph, then his snake-like mouth opened and clamped down on Glyph’s left shoulder. Its fangs sank deep into his flesh and muscle.
“Ssswelcome baack” Simeon said from the corner of his mouth, while gnawing on a bit of Glyph’s bloody sinew.
Glyph desperately wanted it to end, but as usual, he was unable to move, or even pass out. After an unknown amount of time, his throat raw and blistered from his own screams, Glyph saw something he had not witnessed before. Through blurry, bloody eyes, he saw a hideous demon towering above Simeon. They seemed to exchange words, but he heard nothing, knowing only that for the first time, he was conscious and not being tortured. Glyph forced himself to look around. The walls of his prison seemed to be made of hewn rock, and ancient. He then looked back at the two demons. Sounds started to reach his ears.
“…care how you combine them, just get it done!” The large one demanded.
Simeon seemed to bow down. “Sssyess my Masstersss.”
The large demon walked away, and Simeon shuffled back over to the table, looking almost disgruntled. He reached out and grabbed Glyph’s chin and mouth, digging his dagger like claws into his cheeks until they punctured through into his mouth.
“Ssswhere wasss I?” Simeon growled, and picked up a medieval looking set of pliers, and began to rip the nails off of Glyph’s toes. “Tellsss me Glyphsss, how wasss the hungersss thisss timesss? Wasss it insssatiablesss?”
Glyph nodded yes, at least as far as the leather strap across his forehead allowed. He had found early on that it was best if he answered the demon the first time he asked a question.
“Goodsss, then we isss almossst readiesss forsss the nextsss ssstepsss.” Simeon spoke casually as he tapped razor-sharp metal shims into the wounds left from removing his nails…
Glyph screamed himself unconscious a dozen times in the next 23 hours.
— oOo —
Glyph awoke in a cold sweat on his bed; he sat up and looked out the window. It was almost dawn again, with the sound of the garbage truck greeting him as usual. ‘This isn’t good’ he thought as he got up and started down the hallway. He knew he was losing his mind, he knew he was crazy. He had hoped to wait it out, hoped desperately that it would pass, but it had only gotten worse.
Grabbing a bowl off the filth-ridden counter, he began to wipe milk scum residue out of the bottom with the corner of his t-shirt. He opened the fridge, and several grocery bags fell out. He dug through them until he found a half-gallon of milk and the box of Cocoa Puffs he had managed to get away with from the store. Pouring cereal into the bowl, he plopped down into a chair at the table. Glyph dumped on some milk, picked up a semi-crusty spoon that was already on the table and started shoveling the cereal into his mouth.
The end was quickly approaching, and now that his credit had dried up there was nothing left. He was already overdue on his bills, and he was certain he would likely be evicted any day now. Glyph poured more cereal, followed by more milk, and continued to munch away furiously. He paused for a moment in between bites, and began to sob. It was only for a moment though before he pulled himself together and finished chewing, as he stood poised with the next spoonful at the ready. ‘What am I going to do?’ He thought to himself. The image of the checkout girl hurling backward into the magazine rack came rushing into his mind, and he sobbed again, bits of chocolaty cereal spewing out of his mouth. Once more he quickly pulled himself together. Glyph knew this day would come. The problem was, there was never enough time to figure out what he would do when it did.
There was enough food for a few more of his hours, five at most he guessed, as he glanced down at the grocery bags laying on the floor in front of the open fridge. After that he would either have to steal or starve to death. Glyph checked his watch. Seven minutes had already passed.
“I am not a criminal.” Glyph stated resolutely, and dumped the last of the cereal into his bowl. ‘I’ll have to run.’ Glyph thought, as he swallowed the last several bites whole, then lifted the bowl and drank the milk. ‘Where can I go? I’ll end up being committed and spend the rest of my days in a straight jacket. They would find me, there’s no way they wouldn’t find me.’ The thought of his father briefly crossed his mind. He had gone insane as well. His mother had always told him that he didn’t have to worry, that she didn’t think it was hereditary. ‘Looks like Mom was wrong.’ He thought, and wondered if his father’s illness had been anything like his.
He picked up the bags and jammed them back into the fridge and forced the door closed. Then Glyph snatched a candy bar off the counter and fled to the bathroom, leaving his dishes on the table. Sitting on the toilet, he unwrapped the candy bar and downed it in two bites. Though he didn’t think so at the time, his hour was so much easier before the hunger. “Why does that fucker want to make me so hungry? It doesn’t make sense!” He shouted. As if anything made sense anymore.
Suddenly there was a loud rapping on his front door. Glyph’s eyes went wide. “Shit!” He whispered fiercely. Glyph finished quickly and stood perfectly still; maybe it was the neighbor’s door. Rap-rap-rap-rap-rap. “Damn it!” He whispered again. It was definitely his door. Glyph crept silently down the hall into his bedroom, and peeked out the window into the street below. He began to feel sick. There was a police car sitting right out front.
Then he heard the click of the lock being turned. They were coming in! Lifting the window, Glyph started through onto the fire escape.
“Look at this place. God damn!” Glyph heard what he thought may have been his landlord say as he slid the window back down behind him, then bounded up the tiny stairs toward the roof as quietly and as quickly as he could. He threw his leg over the small wall on the rooftop and climbed over. ‘This screws everything up!’ Glyph thought as he crept over toward a small shack that had been there at least as long as the building had. He checked his watch again; fifteen minutes. His schedule for surviving his hour depended on getting certain things done at certain times. All that went out the window with Glyph, and he would have to make up whatever he couldn’t get to today when his hour came tomorrow. If there was a tomorrow.
Glyph collapsed into a heap beside the shack. His heart was racing and his thoughts were out of control. ‘What are they doing? Why do they want me?’ He immediately remembered the store during his last hour. ‘Someone could have seen me, they might have followed me!’ Glyph thought frantically. ‘They must have had a warrant, they’re probably searching my place—my bike! If they see my bike they’ll know for sure—fuck!’ Glyph buried his face into his hands and started to rock back and forth. ‘What am I going to do?’ He asked himself and then started to cry uncontrollably, the stress on his mind nearly pushing him to the breaking point. He became incapacitated by his thoughts and sat there weeping for what seemed an eternity.
Glyph finally forced himself to look at his watch. Forty-seven minutes had passed. His survival instinct began to take over. He would need shelter for his body, and food. The hunger pains had his guts in knots, and fear had him trembling so much he nearly fell back down when he tried to stand up. They hadn’t found him; that thought struck him as odd. Surely they would have checked the fire escape if they were serious about arresting him. He peeked over the edge at the street below. The cop car was gone, but why would they leave? Glyph climbed carefully onto the fire escape and made his way down to his apartment window. He looked in but couldn’t see anyone.
“Here goes nothing.” Glyph said to himself as he opened the window, and listened intently. There was no sound. He slid through onto his bed and walked silently into the hall. Still nothing. When he reached the kitchen, he saw it. An official looking document taped to the inside of his door. It was an eviction notice. He had seven days to get his things and leave. Glyph started to laugh, “A lousy eviction notice!” The police weren’t after him for robbing the store, they were just here to serve him his walking papers. He exhaled deeply and looked at his watch; fifty-eight minutes. Glyph snatched another candy bar from the bag on the counter and quickly wolfed it down as he went back to his bedroom to lie down. It was a relief, but a fleeting one. Soon he would be back in Simeon’s deadly care, and when he returned his hours, those in the safety of his apartment anyway, would be coming to an end.
Glyph lay down on his bed. The feeling of security his apartment afforded him was over, and he wondered how much longer he could go on. As he stared blankly at the ceiling, the winds came blowing through the apartment, pulling the air away as they left and the darkness descended upon him like a shroud of death.
— oOo —
Glyph’s eyes popped open as the red hot metal poker seared into his chest. The lines of red blisters had crisscrossed all over his body, and were now layering on top of one another. By the third line he had passed out, only to be jolted back awake by the fourth. It had been going on this way for several hours. His mind was numb from shock, and his throat was once more raw from his own shrieks of horrific pain.
Simeon had paused in his work to eat his dinner. Usually the demon waited for him to pass out before taking his breaks. This time Glyph could still see through his swollen bloody eyes, and his head was already turned to face the disgusting creature, so he watched. The sight would have made him wretch if he hadn’t already been forced to regurgitate upon his return. Simeon had sifted through the contents of his vomit and took notes on what he found there. One might ask why, but Glyph had learned early on not to ask questions; he was only made to answer them. Glyph could still see the bird parts it swallowed as enormous lumps along its long scaly neck, like a snake that had eaten something too large.
Tears once again slid down Glyph’s face. He wouldn’t have even realized he was crying if the salt in his tears hadn’t burned when they ran into the razor thin cuts that Simeon had carved into his face earlier that night.
Simeon gulped down his last bite and looked at Glyph.
“Itsss ssspeaksss?” Simeon asked, as if he wasn’t sure if he had heard Glyph’s whisper.
“Kill me!” Glyph yelled as he locked eyes with Simeon.
Simeon’s mouth stretched into a sadistic grin.
“Kill me!” Glyph screamed at the demon as if his voice could somehow cause Simeon harm. “Kill me you fucker! Kill me! Kill me! You god-damn-shit-hole-mother- fucker! Do it! Fucking do it!” Glyph screamed, his whole body struggling violently against the straps that held him in place.
Simeon leaned back and his eyes grew wide for a moment, and then he chuckled. “Toosss sssoon.” Simeon replied as he slipped a chinstrap over Glyph’s face and pulled it tight. “Massstersss would notsss approvesss.” Then he leaned over to his cart of tools and opened a drawer. Pulling out a long sharp needle, he deftly threaded it with a stiff sinew, tied a knot, and pierced Glyph’s lower lip, and began to sew the lips together. Glyph’s muted cries were soon drowned out by Simeon’s laughter…
— oOo —
Sighing heavily, Glyph rolled out of bed onto the floor. He didn’t bother checking himself anymore; the wounds and afflictions were never there, just the memory of them. He stumbled down the hall to the kitchen, turned on the oven, got out the roasting pan and put it on the counter. Upon opening the fridge, a bag of groceries fell out onto the floor. Rummaging through it, he found some chicken breasts and a pack of pork chops. He quickly opened them and tossed them into the pan, drowned them in a bottle of barbeque sauce, shoved it into the oven, and set the timer.
Glyph checked his watch, “Six minutes; there should be just enough time.” he thought.
This was cooking day; it had taken a long time to get into this routine. He no longer knew the days of the week, just what had to be done to survive. Grabbing a carton of eggs, he cracked open a half dozen into the food encrusted pan already sitting on the burner of the stove. He cranked it up to high heat and began scrambling them; his hands a blur. Glyph scooped them onto the table, smothered them in the last of the ketchup and ate them down in the time it had taken to cook them. He stood up, grabbed a block of cheese, and went to the bathroom munching furiously on his way. He took a crap while still eating, stood, and went back to the kitchen. Snatching a box of lunch cakes, he sat down at the table and started to jam them into his mouth. When he got to the fifth one, his eyes fell upon the eviction notice, and Glyph began to sob uncontrollably.
“Seven more days…six now!” He wailed. “I can’t do it! I just can’t do this anymore!” he cried out and threw the half eaten cake across the room.
“Fuck you Simeon!!” he screamed as loud as he could. “Fuck you!! Fuck you! fuck you.” he yelled again, trailing off softer and softer into a river of weeping.
Suddenly he stopped and looked towards the closet. He pulled himself up straight and stared at the closet door like he was looking in a mirror.
“It has to end. No, it will end.” he spoke coldly.
Glyph rose from the table, walked to the closet and opened it. He couldn’t remember the last time he looked inside, but he knew what was there. Reaching to the top shelf he grabbed a shoebox, brought it down, and placed it on the table. He sat back down, wiped his face with both hands, and then wiped them on his pants. Scooting to the table, he placed both hands on the top of the shoebox and carefully removed the lid.
“It has to be done, it has to be done.” he thought, and slowly reached inside and pulled out a small revolver. It was given to Glyph when his father had passed away many years ago. Glyph reached back into the box, pulled out some loose bullets, loaded the gun, and cocked the hammer.
“I can do this.” He said, raising the barrel and placing it to his temple. Glyph broke out in a sweat again, putting his finger on the trigger. He sat there for several minutes. Sweat now dripped onto the floor, and his legs bounced nervously.
Suddenly, screaming like a wild banshee, Glyph slammed the gun down onto the table, grabbed the edge and upended the table sending it crashing into the wall.
“Why me!” he howled at the ceiling “Why me! Go fuck with someone else, damn it! What have I done to deserve this!?”
Just then the timer on the stove buzzed. Glyph looked instinctually at his watch.
“Fifty-one minutes, fuck me.”
He leapt toward the stove, turned it off, grabbed a pair of potholders, and removed the pan from the oven. Taking off the lid, he dumped it onto the plate that had held his pork chops from the day before yesterday, and jammed it into the fridge.
“Fuck me.” he thought again, as he placed the potholders back on the stove, walked to the sink and thrust his head under the faucet. He turned the water on and began to drink like a man in the desert, with one eye, as always, looking at his watch.
At fifty-eight minutes he turned off the water, stood up, cracked his neck to the left, then rolled it around towards the right. Glyph drew himself up, set his jaw, and walked back into the bedroom. He lay down on the bed, closed his eyes and thought, “Fight it Glyph, fight it Glyph, fight it Glyph.” over and over in his mind. His watch chimed, and all sound was sucked out of the room. The world turned into a vacuum, only this time something was different…