The clock had read 12:19 for days. As tradition dictated, as he would have wanted, she'd stopped its hands when he'd died.¹ The silence was deafening for the first two days, but that had been preferable to the sound that filled the void now.
It was the worst at night. After the relatives stopped ringing to “just check in.” After all the well-meaning (but entirely too numerous) condolence flowers and treats and casseroles were delivered. After she was truly alone. The sporadic tap-tap-tap’s filled the space. Coming from the walls.² And she knew what it meant this time.
Death was knocking again.³
¹According to The Journal of American Folklore, a common superstition in the Northeast, with roots in Britain and Germany. Stopping the clock was supposed to stave off misfortune. The custom also has a practical purpose of informing any visitors of the time of death, without surviving kin having to repeat themselves.
² Walls here decorated with a Scheele's green wallpaper, a popular and toxic green color used in the 1800s.
³ The sound of the deathwatch beetle (Xestobium rufovillosum), as seen pouring from the cuckoo clock, have been superstitiously confused with the sound of Death knocking, portending imminent death. The tapping sound is actually a part of this beetle's courtship ritual. In the silent rooms of the dead or soon-to-be dead, the sound can be easily heard.
This piece was for Light Grey Art Lab's final gallery exhibition, "The End is Nigh."