It had been snowing for twenty-one hours and thirteen minutes as Chris limps slowly back through the desolate village, thinking about the devastation in his life.
Chris is a clockmaker.
Evening does not ‘creep in’ during winter.
The phrase ‘darkness falls’ is not just a metaphor, at least not in a small village in the Carpathians, where not even electricity has been introduced.
Despite the clear sky, the darkness closes in, like a wall, for the moon is not yet up.
A full Moon will shine tonight.
There is nobody on the street.
As Chris drags his foot through the fresh, crunchy snow, he counts every one of his steps. He always had the need to measure time, and now he curses himself for forgetting his pocket-watch at home; an old relic inherited from his father, who got it from his father, all of them clockmakers. There is a safety in counting time, a sense of control. And of all nights it is on this one that he lacks that feeling. He quickens his pace.
Dim, yellow lights start flickering in the windows around him. Candles are being lit revealing ghoulish faces with a cadaveric pallor, seemingly floating in the pale light like the ghosts of disembodied heads.
Chris is near his house when a long howl is released somewhere in the woods.
Drops of sweat start dripping down his back as he feels his temperature rising.
A candle is dying on his desk, and the low light reveals hundreds of glazy eyes staring at him. All the clocks he has collected over the years, regardless of shape and size, hang from his wall, and if until now he felt their constant ticking reassuring, now he feels harassed, as if an omen keeps reminding him of the little time he has left. “The black wolf with the white glowing eyes” he mutters without realizing.
His heart is still beating at an agonizing pace.
He checks his daughter’s room.
It is empty.
She is at her grandparent’s, as he had arranged.
He hasn’t got much time.
Suddenly a loud noise crushes the silence.
The grandfather-clock announcing the sixth hour.
He has little time left.
Old folk used to scare little children in the village with the tale of the black wolf with glowing eyes. The man eater who had plagued the villagers for centuries, a pawn of the Devil. People sometimes came to the pub, all pale, mentioning just two eyes glowing in the distance. But wolves rarely came as far as the village, and attacks on humans were even rarer. His wife had been the only case in thirty years. She had been dragged off five years ago, and they had found only blood and scraps of clothing.
Then, a month ago, five years to the day, Chris was chopping some wood one night when a dark, huge figure lunged at him out of the darkness, biting his foot. He swung his axe at it, and the wolf made for a run, looking back only once. Chris still wasn’t sure if in that second the creature’s eyes did glow or if it was the light of the moon.
He didn’t think it was anything else but a lone hungry wolf, but since then he started having cravings. He felt like eating raw meat, still soaking in blood. His temper was quicker, and he had nightmares of tearing people apart…even ripping his daughter to pieces. And last night, after going to sleep, he awoke in the garden howling at the moon.
He has no time.
He cannot risk harming anyone.
It is probably all just in his mind.
But he cannot take that risk.
The ticking of the clock grows ever faster, and so does the rhythm of his heart beat.
A terrible pain hits his chest, and moves to his whole body. His bones and muscles feel as if they are stretching and tearing. He runs for the door, and goes towards the edge of the village, towards the forest. His leg stops limping, his body seems to grow stronger. He moves faster. He can still hear the clocks ticking in his mind.
He feels the urge to kill.
He fights it.
He must press on.
He hears footsteps.
He moves faster.
The steps follow him.
“Papa, where are you go…?” the girl manages to say before she starts screaming.