The room was not large, just a conference room in the library where ten of us sat around a table writing. It was a typical Saturday morning workshop and the prompt was part of the lyrics to the Star Wars theme. The music rattled around my brain easily enough but for some reason I couldn’t recall it ever having lyrics. I was frustrated. I drew a blank while everyone else was scribbling away…and the music in my head became louder, incessant…persistent…..maddening!
It suddenly stopped when a new sound caught my attention. It was coming from Keith at the other end of the table. There was a tick, tick, ticking that quickly replaced my obsession – in perfect rhythm and beat – to those lyrics, whatever they were…tick, tick, ticka, ticka-ticka, tick, tick. I was tapping my toe on the carpet now…ticka-ticka, tick, tick. Louder and louder it got, tick, ticka, tick…Keith was writing intensely. Tick, tick-ticka. How could he not hear it? Tick-tick, ticka-tick. Was I the only one? Ticka-tick-ticka, tick. Was that smoke coming out of his ears? Tick-tick. Coooool! Ticka-tick-ticka. The ticking got faster as bright beams of light began to emerge from his skull. Tick-ticka-ticka-ticka-tick. It filled the room…blinding me…..ticka-ticka-ticka…BANG!!!!!
Like a mouse in a microwave, the walls, floor and ceiling were suddenly pasted with Keith juice and bits of sticky flesh and bone.
Still, nobody seemed to notice. Everyone just kept on writing even as a slippery chunk of bowel slid down Carl’s face and a bloody ear clung to the end of Joe’s pencil. Keith’s head and chest were gone and his fluids were squirting Susan’s cheek…but he kept on writing as well. Susan paused to open an umbrella and brush gore off her laptop, unmoved.
Everything was quiet for a few minutes as pens scribbled on wet paper and blood dribbled and pooled in my under shorts….then the ticking started again…but this time it sounded like it was coming from Nancy…..tick, tick, tick…coooool!
***The illustration was originally published as the cover for Analog Magazine’s Jan/Feb 2012 issue, for a story by Robert J Sawyer. -Marsha