The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
by Bailey Hunter
Old Zeb is a creature of habit and a slave to time. Every night at 6:50 pm he takes Ike, his Bull Mastiff, out for the evening constitutional. He never leaves a second earlier, nor a moment later. It is the same with everything in his life.
Order must be maintained.
Zeb and Ike are a team. They are greeted at the door of his complex by plastic smiling faces of people he couldn’t care less about and given wide berth by those who see Ike as a frightening sort, which is why Zeb got him in the first place.
“Evening Zeb, Ike. National Post?” The newsstand owner is just another caricature in Zeb’s orderly world. “We have a new magazine about dogs in. Would you like to take a look?”
“No thank you.” Zeb puts his money down and takes the newspaper.
As they head off into the park Zeb checks his watch. 6:54 pm. Right on schedule.
The watch is a peculiar piece of machinery. The gears are all visible and its timing is impeccable. It has never lost a second. Not a single one in the fifty years he’s owned it. He purchased it from the TimeKeeper during one of his shore leaves at an obscure Brazilian port. It was so long ago, but he remembers it sharply. The taste of bitter coffee and the scent of stale smoke lingered in his memory still.
He has seven minutes to get to the bench and read his paper. Timing is everything.
Ike keeps perfect pace with Zeb as he takes long, languid strides through the park, ignoring everyone around them. His arms and legs swing in synchronization to the rhythm of an internal metronome.
As they reach the bench, Zeb furrows his brow. It is full of unruly teenagers. They climb about like monkeys, shoving each other, cackling. Even when Ike approaches the bench, they don’t move.
“Excuse me. This is my bench and I must sit there.” Zeb checks his watch again, the second hand just passing 7:00 pm.
The group laughs.
“You don’t understand I must sit there now.” Ike begins growling at the teens.
“Pick another bench old man,” retorts the one with a face full of metal, pushing his foot at Ike.
“Please… I have to sit there. I need to!” Zeb’s voice rises to near panic, his face burns as he checks his watch again. The second hand is fast encroaching on 7:01pm.
Ike begins to bark furiously. Zeb looks up and sees the TimeKeeper watching him.
“You have to move NOW!” he screams.
Then the second hand ticks over. 7:01pm. Zeb moans, the blood draining from his face, his eyes riveted on the TimeKeeper.
Ike circls Zeb, whimpering, looking over to the TimeKeeper then back at his master.
Zeb watches helpless as a quick convulsion tears through the metal faced boy before he drops, followed closely by the two kohl eyed girls.
Zeb’s shoulders slump. How many more? How many other people have purchased their own slice of Hell from the TimeKeeper? He’d give it back in a second if only he could. He has tried. He travelled back to that Brazilian port more than once, following the dark alleyways to where he’d picked up the damned watch to no avail. The shop and Zeb’s salvation have long since faded to dust.
“I tried to warn them, Ike. They should have just listened to me.” Ike nuzzles up to Zeb’s legs. “Well, come on boy. Nothing we can do here anymore,” Zeb scratches the top of Ike’s mammoth head, “might as well sit down.”
Fiction © Copyright Bailey Hunter
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
More from Bailey Hunter:
Bailey is a publisher with Dark Recesses Press.
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