When the clock stopped at midnight, Wilson knew he was going to die.
He'd sat for most of the evening in a candlelit silence dominated by the clock's insistent tick-tock, watching the brass pendulum swing, remembering. At one minute before midnight he'd poured more whisky and waited for the second hand to reach twelve, the clock's chimes heralded by a series of clicks and whirs muffled by its tarnished walnut casing. But the pendulum stopped, the chimes were stillborn, and Wilson knew he was going to die.
Rebecca had found the clock. They'd been in town seeking more practical items to furnish their new home when she wandered through the open door of an antique shop. “We must have it!” she'd exclaimed. “How can we live in an old farmhouse without a grandfather clock? It will look wonderful in the corner of the living room.” Wilson could deny her nothing. For three years he'd spoiled her and loved her and been happy to do so. Only three years.
A log shifted in the fireplace, generating a brief burst of heat soon lost in a room chilled by freezing fog that penetrated every chink in the two-hundred-year-old building. The power had failed hours ago. Wilson shivered, crossed to the windows and pulled the heavy curtains more tightly across them, then returned to his armchair and downed the whisky. He slopped more into his glass, careless of drops that spattered the dust-covered table top.
Maybe a minute, maybe an hour had passed when Wilson became conscious of soft movement behind the curtains. He stood, uncertain for a moment, gulped more whisky and strode across the room where he flung back the rose-patterned brocade that Rebecca had loved. Written in the condensation on the glass was a single dripping word: “TIME”.
Wilson hadn't meant to kill Rebecca. How could he harm someone who meant so much? But when she told him there was someone else, someone less... intense, he remembered nothing, heard nothing, until the clock struck twelve and he found her body at his feet.
Three heavy thumps on the farmhouse door jolted Wilson back to the present. He lifted the candle and crept from living room to kitchen, each step slower than the one before, until he faced the door, oak illuminated by quavering flame.
The reply was silence, shattered by three more thumps.
Wilson seized the iron handle and wrenched the door open. Freezing air poured in. The light was snuffed out. In the shadows he could see no-one.
“Rebecca!” he yelled. “Rebecca, please!” No answer.
Around him, the fog danced and shifted to reveal the frost-shrouded apple tree they'd planted in their first year at the farmhouse. Wilson took a long shaky breath and stumbled into the garden, toward the mound beneath the tree. There, he lay down beside her, stared up, far beyond the night, closed his eyes, and waited.