© Photograph by Alan Dobson (credit)
Once there was a time I believed that a day consisted of a mere twenty-four hours, twelve in the morning, twelve in the afternoon. That was a long time ago. Going back thirty odd years, I recall the day my perceptions of time changed, for there is an extra hour in a day, between midnight and one o’clock in the morning. Upon reading the following story you may conclude that I am insane, but please let me assure you I am of sound mind and body. The information I am about to divulge is a series of chilling events that changed my life forever and, if you still think I’m mad by the end, perhaps it’s easier that way, and I pray you never experience the same. For this is just my tale, it is but only one persons revelation, in a long line of many. The revelation of the 25th hour.
It all started when I was a young lad, fresh out of university, driving through a small Hampshire town named Aldershot. The town was renown, once given the glorious title, the home of the British army. My business there was simply passing through. Only for a few seconds, I took in the sights of army recruits training and large razor wire fences with armed guards, when I was involved in a collision. My memory of the incident is hazy as I was rendered unconscious. Nevertheless I was taken to Cambridge hospital, upon Hospital Hill in the small barrack town. Although primarily an army hospital, the ambulances still attended to civilian casualties like my own.
I awoke slowly to the eerie repetition of a heart monitor, and the warm scent of illness that festers in a hospital. The ventilation was poor and I remember feeling sick the moment I awoke. The dullness of the strip lighting added to my already distasteful feelings towards a place I had been brought. I hated hospitals, and I spent my life trying to avoid them whenever I could. Now I was bound to one. Bound to a disease mongering slaughter-house supposedly used to treat the sick. I was not sick however, just in an accident. I did not belong here. Soon after my awakening I noticed I was attached to a drip, only angering me further. The nurse attended my bedside, informing me of my accident and injuries.
“You were lucky” she told me. “Just a few scratches. But we need to keep you a couple of nights for neurological observation but the Doctor will explain it all.” I said nothing. Instead I stared at the corner ceiling where a spider had spent hours, possibly days, spinning a web. It seemed fitting for a spider’s web to have a place in a hospital, much like the web of deceit portrayed by the very fat cats that run it. The doctors, the nurses, the directors, all intertwined in a complex web of lies to peddle the drugs of a pharmaceutical company that funds them. That’s the real purpose behind them, making sure only they hold the treatments to maintain the power. I felt there was always a somewhat sinister feel to the place. The long walls of white seemed to me, to be hiding something. I continued to think these thoughts as the doctor arrived and told me the procedure. A few tests were done, flashing a torch in my eyes and other such tasks, before he enforced the idea of my overnight stays. I detested such an idea, but I was unfamiliar with my surroundings therefore I had no choice.
Perhaps it was the general sickness of the ward that disturbed me at first. The coughing, spluttering and whines of others made me feel uneasy. I had no anger towards the patients, just unease. To the right of me there was a window, a greasy pane of glass, set in a wooden frame. On the left was another bed, I was the last of a row of about ten. In the bed was a frail old man, must have been in his seventies. He had no hair on his head but a short white beard. His general condition looked stable, although I believe he was recovering from a chest infection. The old man’s pale complexion could have made milk look murky. He had wrinkled up boney hands that looked as though they would crumble to dust with a sturdy handshake. His face was wrinkly and his skin drooped around the eyes, as if gravity was too much for it. Personally I never intended to pay much attention to the old man, but instead I was drawn to a magnificent, and yet darkly gothic antique on his bedside table. The antique was a small clock face, of regular shape, on an ornament the size of a small candle holder. The face had slanted spikes protruding outward and pointing slightly clockwise, made of dirty bronze. Behind the spikes was a background of black and bronze carvings of what seemed to be artists’ impressions of demons and gargoyles, all with eyes shut. Upon the top was indeed a candle holder black and bronze again, with an intricate weaved design. A small, fat, black candle stood in the holder with drip marks set, obviously used. On the front of the black candle stood the number thirteen, white in contrast to the black. The ornament itself looked like some kind of demonic ritual tool but I saw through that instantly, I knew it would be worth a fortune. It was unique, I had never seen anything like it. This was how I came to speak to the old man.
“It’s a beautiful clock” I told him. He smiled at me and replied,
“It’s one of a kind. I’m Arthur.”
“I’m Thomas.” I said. We engaged in conversation about how we came to be in that awful place. He told me of his infection and I spoke of my crash, what I remembered anyway. In order to find out more about that which intrigued me, I turned the conversation to the clock.
“Where did you get it?” I asked.
“It’s an ancient mechanism, dating back many generations.” The old man replied, “The clock was given to me by my father in law when he died. My wife always hated the thing so I got given it instead. I think it is fantastic. I make the candles myself mind, adds to the character.”
“What’s with the thirteen?” I asked him.
“That’s the number representing thirteen o’clock. A very mysterious part of the day.” Confused, I asked him if he meant one o’clock pm, to which he replied,
“No. Thirteen o’clock is between midnight and one o’clock.” I must admit I thought the old man was crazy or deluded, so I humoured him. If I was going to get my hands on the clock I needed to keep him sweet.
“So your wife eh? She coming to visit?” I said.
“My wife died a long time ago” he replied, but to my surprise, he didn’t seem to look upset.
“It’s okay. I know she is still with me. She was beautiful lovely long locks of blonde hair, stunning body.” He explained.
“Sounds wonderful” I said.
“Oh she was. She was a nurse here you know.” I was surprised but I let him continue. “She was always so good to her patients, always looking after them no matter what, she lived for her work. You see occasionally, only very occasionally, people let politics get in the way of their job, but not my Rose, she treated everyone equally, rich, poor, squaddie or civilian. Rose ensured everyone got the same treatment. And then one day, she was in a car crash, hardly a scratch on her, but she suffered a brain hemorrhage. She was in recovery when it happened, much like yourself, but no-one detected it.” Arthur fell silent, but soon took his mind off the event. “Still she loved her work. And I light a candle for her every night, always have. That’s how I know she is always with me.” After he told the story I had a sense of respect for the old man. And although his previous ramblings seemed to be nonsense, he seemed very genuine. The day passed quickly.
Night fell on the ward, and the patients were resting, asleep. There was still a few coughs and splutters on the ward but the curtains were all drawn, giving a false sense of privacy. The moon was full, giving a creepy blue glow over the curtains. I got up and peered out, and the glow seemed to flood the place. It was a weird time of night, I couldn’t sleep. All I could think about was the clock. My mind wandered to the riches it could bring me if only I had it. It could have sold at auction for thousands, I thought. I listened hard through the curtain of my neighbour, and heard a slight stirring. Peering into his area, I saw he was fast asleep, and the candle was lit. Slowly and steadily, I crept in. The clock was stunning. The light from the flame reflected off the protruding bronze spikes, illuminating the clock face with a magnificent golden colour. The black gothic hands read almost, but not quite, one o’clock. It must have been just under a minute away from one. Stepping forward to admire its beauty, I heard the old man whisper,
“Rose. I love you Rose.” His voice was low and husky, and his eyes shut. I looked back at the clock and it struck one. As it did the candle went out with a slight, unnoticeable gust of wind. The air went cold and I felt a chilling energy run through me. It started at my feet, raising up to my body through my spine. The hairs on the back of my neck, I could not explain why, but I felt sheer terror. Then there was a long and quiet roar from the old man, as though he was breathing all the air out of his lungs. The chill passed in that second, the air returned to the warm, stale, smell of sickness, and the old man was dead. Noticing that the man had ceased breathing, my conniving wit returned to me, and I grabbed the clock and put it under my bed, then went to sleep. The old man was a good guy, but the clock mesmerised me. I could think of nothing but the clock and how amazing it looked with the candle lit. My dreams of riches had even evaded my thoughts, the clock became an obsession in the mere few minutes I laid in that uncomfortable hospital bed. Even when I slept, the image of the clock face flooded my dreams.
The next day I wanted to leave. My drip was unattached as well as the heart monitor but I was told I had a swelling on my head, and that I needed bed rest on the ward for another night. First thing in the morning Arthur’s body was wheeled away. When I asked the nurse what happened with a mock concern, she informed me he died peacefully in his sleep, natural causes. It was perfect, I was free with the clock. I checked under my bed at regular intervals to find it staring at me. It angered me slightly that it did not look as magnificent as when the candle was lit. For that I had to wait. I did not wait long however, as night soon fell once more. The nurses came round in their usual manner and drew all the curtains, allowing each patient their own personal area. I shut my eyes and pretended to sleep as the shine of the moon illuminated the area with the familiar blue glow. I could not wait any longer, I had to see the clock in its full glory once more. I looked under my bed and reached for the antique. As I clasped it I could feel the demonic carvings surrounding it. Onto my bedside table it went. I remember it was a heavy ornament for its size, possibly due to the amount of bronze it held. The clock faced me in a gloomy demeanor. I wanted for the beauty so much but in my obsession I had forgotten, I needed a match or a lighter. I crept across the ward and looked on the bedside tables of each patient until I came across something I could light the candle with. I soon found a box of matches, which I quickly snatched and quietly but swiftly returned to the clock. I struck the match against the side of the box and lit the wick. I could see the warm air rising from the flame and almost at once the clock face was illuminated. It read half past midnight, with the small hand between the twelve and the one, and the big hand on the six. I laid down staring at it in awe, and I felt at peace. I then drifted off into a deep sleep, as one o’clock drew ever closer.
Whilst still in bed, I felt a great discomfort I felt hot, not warm, actually hot. Only about half an hour had passed since I fell asleep. I threw down the bed covers to air off but still sweat pushed through my pours as I lay still, with eyes closed. In a kind of half sleep I sat up and blew towards the candle, but the flame would not extinguish. Frustration set in so I stepped out of bed to open a window however the window were not the kind that could open. Awake now I stood in my gown and found myself staring out of the window. Clouds had consumed the moon rendering the outside pitch black, but I could just make out a figure. At first I assumed it was my reflection as the ward was not on the ground floor, but soon I noticed the person staring at me was wearing a white coat. The apparition appeared to be holding something in its right hand. It was black with a hint of silver, but what the object was I could not tell. The temperature seemed to rise, hotter and hotter as I stood, almost entranced by the window. Suddenly I realised that I was staring and snapped out of my trance. The figure dissolved into my reflection. I felt very uneasy at that moment, so I turned around to fetch one of the night staff. Perhaps they could sort out the temperature I thought. I walked slowly across the ward. Something told me to watch my step. There was a light in the corridor outside the ward flickering on and off. One instant there would be light, the next pure darkness. Walking through the double doors I made a right turn, it seemed like the right choice. A few steps down the hall, I could see a woman, walking up and down. The woman was holding a sleeping baby, wrapped in a white blanket, and she wore a hospital gown. She was smiling and saying things like,
“There, there, everything is alright sweetheart.” I continued on as the creepy lights flickered on and off, until I came to an office on the left. I slowly pushed open the door to see a doctor and a nurse arguing. I stood outside and listened.
“I can’t do this anymore. Always expecting me to have all the answers. I am not a God.” The doctor fumed.
“Please calm down dear. Have you taken your pills?” The nurse replied.
“No! No more. They give me headaches. No more!” He screamed at her. Listening to the dispute, I realised I no longer felt hot. It must have been a fever I thought, so I started walking back. On the way I passed the mother and baby, however this encounter somewhat shocked and disturbed me. Upon reaching them I found the mother was crying, still repeating,
“Everything is alright sweetheart.” Looking down at the blanket I peered at the baby’s face, which was purpley blue. The baby did not scream, cry, or even breathe. The mother sobbed as she continued to pace, then I noticed blood dripping down her gown from her elbows. Her wrists were slashed several times and blood was oozing out relentlessly. I ran back to the office. As I arrived, I could see down the hall the doctor marching quickly in the opposite direction. He held a small black object with bits of silver on, but I could not make out what the object was. I shouted for him twice, but he just ignored me. I pushed open the office door and found the nurse, sitting at the desk her body was slumped back in the wooden chair and her throat was slit. Blood gushed from the wound as she lay still and lifeless. I ran down the hall as the lights flickered on and off. Once again I could feel heat, intense heat. Down the hallway echoed a loud scream. At first I could not pinpoint it but it continued, getting louder and louder as the air grew hotter. Buckets of sweat were pouring out as I reached the doctor. He was wearing the usual white coat, but it was drenched in blood. His eyes were wide and his face stern, he looked like the embodiment of rage. The screams were at their loudest, as he stared through the double doors’ window of another ward.
I looked to see a sign, it was the burns unit. Glancing at the window I could see a horde of patients, screaming and banging the doors, scrambling to escape. Behind them was a sea of orange and red, and black smoke sneaked through the gaps in the doors. The violent heat of the flames melted flesh from the face of its victims, in a cruel, malevolent torrent. I was sickened and terrified to discover the double doors were locked. I touched the metal handle to open the door but it burnt my hand, leaving a painful red mark across my palm. I looked to the doctor who held a small black object, it was an old-looking pistol, black with bits of silver. He raised it up and put the nozzle in his mouth, then fired the trigger, emptying a single bullet, into his brain. Blood and brain tissue flew out the back of his skull, but still he stood breathing heavily and looking violently angry. Standing terrified and quivering, I took a step back. The doctor averted his stern gaze from the doors, and looked straight at me. Blood dripped out of his mouth, but he breathed still. His gaze paralyzed me momentarily, it was as though I had looked into the eyes of Medusa. I ran back faster than I had ever run before. The heat was still on and the lights flickered. I peered into the office as I ran and saw an image, that registered shortly after. The nurse with the cut throat was filing some paperwork. The screams echoed still down the hallway as I passed the mother and baby. By now she was pacing up and down in a pool of her own blood. I bolted into the ward I was staying in. It was the only direction I knew, I figured the other patients could help, but they all slept, as though frozen in time. Arriving at my bed I looked upon the magnificence of the clock. Even the beauty of the antique mechanism did not put me at rest, instead it increased my terror. The demonic carvings surrounding the face had changed. All their eyes were open, where they were once closed. The eyes had in them small rubies that, together with the fire light, gave a hellish red stare. The clock face had also changed. The big hand was on the five, and the little hand pointed up towards what should have been a twelve. Instead there stood the number thirteen. The clock now had thirteen hours in it. I blew hard to extinguish the flame but it just blew in the wind I created, then returned to normal once I stopped.
I threw myself at the mercy of my bed and pulled over my covers. I put the pillow over my head and tried to block out the screams. With great discomfort I tried to forget about the heat and screaming. I tossed and turned for half an hour in a semi sleep state. My forehead was sweating greatly. My breathing was heavy and fast, and I was panicking. Suddenly and without warning, the screaming stopped and there was a cool sensation on my forehead. An ice pack had been held on it, calming me severely. I opened my eyes to see a beautiful nurse. She smiled sweetly and assured me,
“It’s okay, you’ve got a fever.” Still quivering, I tried to explain the horrors I had witnessed.
“There was screaming. People burning. They couldn’t get out.”
“It’s okay,” she said, “You’re just having a bad dream. Fevered dreams can be horrible, and may even be hallucinations. With a swelling on your head like that I am not surprised you feel the way you do.” Again she smiled sweetly as she brushed aside her pretty blonde hair. I remember my eyes wandering up and down her body, and it was gorgeous. I glanced over at her left hand and, to my disappointment, saw a golden wedding band.
“He’s a lucky man!” I said as I saw it.
“I’m a lucky woman!” She replied. As I did many times I decided there was no harm in trying my luck. I complemented her by saying she was the most beautiful girl I had ever laid eyes on. She again smiled and blushed slightly.
“I’m still a little shaken from the dream. Will you sit with me for a while?” She looked at me with a sense of pity, and took her hand off my forehead. To my surprise there was no ice pack, just a very cold hand. She put on a cute smile before replying,
“I’m sorry, I can’t. My shift finishes at one and my husband is waiting.” Startled by her words I looked towards the bedside table. The number thirteen was still on the clock, and the flame was still lit. It must have been under a minute before the clock would strike one, and the demons’ eyes were still open, glaring at me.
“The clock!” I told her, “Look at my clock!”
“That’s not my taste.” She said, “But my husband had one just like it.” With those words I watched her walk away. I slight breeze blew out the candle and I felt a creepy cold energy flow from my feet to my head, making all my hair stand on end. I felt the same the night before, when Arthur died. I looked back at the clock, the eyes were shut, and the clock face had only twelve numbers on it. The nurse was gone. I felt a pain on my right hand. I looked down at it to find a long burn mark across my palm. The cold chill of the air left, and returned to the warm, stale air of sickness.
I retell this story now for the purpose of informing the ignorant, however I relive this story every night. The locations change, the people change, the situations change, but the time of the event is the same every time. Thirteen o’clock, the 25th hour, and there is violence in almost every vision. I travel constantly to find a place free of rotten history, but to no avail. My only consolation is that I kept the clock, the wretched beautiful antique which hypnotised me into seeing these evils. This is the price of my obsession.