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Elizabeth Blu Cartwright


by Elizabeth “Blu” Cartwright, Honorable Mention in the Novus High School Creative Writing Contest

Whirring and mechanical hums linger in my ears as I slumber. They stay in my
dreams; however, I would gleefully take those sounds over the ticking of the house. At
least that silences when I head off to dreamland.
The house I’ve lived in for as long as I can remember should feel familiar, and it
does, but there’s a sense that something is awry with every new day. A picture frame I
don’t recognize with a black pictogram or an old-fashioned doll that I might have played
with in my youth. The doll’s stitched face is cute and non-threatening in nature, and I
can’t help but feel a little nostalgia. Regardless, no memories surface in my head as to if
I ever used it. All of this never perturbed me, and I willingly existed with the company of
this house and my probable amnesia for a very long time. It didn’t feel alarming. It was
as if I was born in this house, from this house, and would die in it as well. I do not recall
any mother or father embracing me, and certainly no friends around to visit. The house
is my only companion, and maybe we communicate through ticking.

Tick, Tick, Tick.
The second act of the play drove those men insane.
“You, sir, should unmask.
Indeed it’s time. We all have laid aside disguise but you.
I wear no mask.
No mask? No mask!”
Tick, Tick, Tick.

The feeling that the house communicates with me cannot be false. It tells me
about the outside world and things I am certain I have never known myself. This
ticking— or maybe speaking— has no familiarity to it like the house itself. My life has
been strung between phone lines, an outsider listening in. The house tells its stories
and I expand my narrow worldview.

Tick, Tick Tick.
Who is the Perceiver?
“Let’s call this you the perceiver.
We like to imagine the perceiver as a pupil of an eye. The perceiver may cast his gaze
upon anything-
Colors or sounds, touch or feelings. But how do you imagine it looking at itself directly?
A mirror?
Oh I wouldn’t trust the mirror, my dear William.”
Tick, Tick, Tick.

It’s hard to acknowledge or respond to any snippet of outside life given to me. I
cannot even fully comprehend it in the first place. I imagine figures outside in life, living
their life to the fullest and answering these predicaments existing in their world. I’m
being presented with questions without their context and thoughts without their thinkers.
My perspective isn’t shared with anyone else, as I’m sure from what I have heard that
others can talk to people around them. I, however, have lived in absolute isolation. To the outside world, I do not exist. A conundrum much like the tree falling without anyone
to hear it. Therefore, the only one with the answer is the house.

Tick, Tick, Tick.
This old house isn’t similar to that one.
“bedrooms and drawing rooms and halls and attics, kitchens and bathrooms and
nurseries, all dark, all quiet, only some of those windows let any light in. but there was
only one basement, and it was where she lived: the matriarch, screeching rat-queen
cluster of veins and connective tissues and grinning, gnashing mouths. it was her
Tick, Tick, Tick.

What does this house look like? I feel as if I see something new every day.
Maybe the house is considerate enough to keep things fresh and new. It all feels gray.
Somehow the furniture is intricate, and yet, they feel like blobs in my vision as I wander.
Even paintings of the highest quality are difficult to focus my gaze on. I drag my feet
across the rug as I walk forward. I’m assured that anything I walk across leaves frayed
threads in the perfect carpet, my gaze darkening the significance of anything. My touch
leaves spotted fingerprints on the pristine and untouched glasses and vases.
Occasionally, I will mistakenly knock one over. The shards will vanish by the end of the
day, without a trace they had ever been there in the first place. Maybe I’m not alone,
perhaps it is the house. I’m fully convinced of the latter. No one else leaves visible
tracks like mine.

Tick, Tick, Tick.
Is it such a good idea to cut unknown things?
“Those flowers are unknown to me.
Yes. They are also unknown to me.
Shall we cut them off?
Yes, let’s cut them off.
We present the roses to our queen.
And the bad flowers go to the guillotine.
Yes. Cut them off!
Yes. Cut them out!”
Tick, Tick Tick.

I’m not sure about what I dream of. It’s empty and quiet. No ticking interrupts my
sleep, as it does my wandering. But it’s more baseless to the outside world than the
ticking. The endless ticking. What does any of it mean? I can ask for these questions to
be answered, but it will never happen. I am certain of this. Maybe the outside world
exists only in my sleep, and this house is my dream. I have never seen my dreams. It
feels as if this sleep is impossible. I never expend any energy, so why would I need to
sleep? How haven’t I died without a crumb of food? These are ordinary human things
that I feel further the divide between me and everyone else. Maybe my sleep is a time
when I stop existing. I shouldn’t exist in the first place, but being nonexistent is
surprisingly not scary. It’s like I fade away, and the last feeling is a relief indescribable.

Once I return, it’s as if I never left. I start back where I was and the ticking starts again.
The only difference is… time.

Tick, Tick, Tick.
Time is a funny thing.
“Another way of looking at it is by realizing that the traveling twin is undergoing
acceleration, which makes him a non-inertial observer. In both views there is no
symmetry between the spacetime paths of the twins. Therefore, the twin paradox is not
actually a paradox in the sense of a logical contradiction.
The paradoxical aspect of the twins’ situation arises from the fact that at any given
moment the travelling twin’s clock is running slow in the earthbound inertial frame, but
based on the relativity principle one could equally argue that the earthbound twin’s clock
is running slow in the travelling twin’s inertial frame.”
Tick, Tick, Tick.

Things change during the time I am asleep, but I cannot be certain that time
passes. I’m not sure what could create time passing, but I suppose it’s my actions and
movement that distinguish me from the static pictures on the wall. But the ticking could
also count time, couldn’t it? I guess I am back to overthinking once again. But, I can’t
help but wonder if the world accelerates at a different pace than I do. Maybe I move
slowly to them. Maybe my lifespan is an instant. I imagine vivid scenarios of them in my
head. But I have never seen another person. I have never seen myself. I imagine their
thoughts accompanying each other, their dialogue in my mind. I realize now that a lot of my life has been speculation and maybes. This… hasn’t been very changing, so I
suppose I will describe something else.

Tick, Tick, Tick.
The passage of time can easily change in a secluded place.
“…I supposed to be the pictured image of a huge pendulum such as we see on antique
clocks. There was something, however, in the appearance of this machine which
caused me to regard it more attentively. While I gazed directly upward at it (for its
position was immediately over my own) I fancied that I saw it in motion. In an instant
afterward the fancy was confirmed. Its sweep was brief, and of course slow.”
Tick, Tick, Tick.

There is a consistent point in this house, and it’s where everything ties together.
The wall is fashioned as if this were a living room; however, no fire is ever lit inside. And
any attempt would be immediately rendered futile. The furniture always faces it as if it
were truly the hearth. But it produces neither heat nor light; It produces the ticking. A
long pendulum fills the space of the cavity in the wall, and sweeps slowly and surely.
When it reaches the side, a long, drawn out, metallic tick shakes the walls and the
house trembles in response. The tick could even be considered a clang more
appropriately, and it would still describe it. The sharp cogs of the escapement
mechanism are visible and leading up into the ceiling. Gears and sprockets no doubt
make up the invisible wall behind and throughout as well. This is how I am certain that
time moves. This is how the house speaks to me. We beat in unison.

Tick, Tick, Tick.
My heart is certainly real.
“While a human heart circulates blood to oxygenate the body’s extremities, the living
room circulates people, activity, communication. It is the room most likely to be found
‘beating,’ as active and vivacious as the name would imply. The comparison is only
strengthened when we consider also that the living room is most commonly the room to
contain the fireplace, making it additionally the locus of actual, physical heat.”
Tick, Tick, Tick.

At almost every point of my life, I compare my life to what I hear. People exist
outside, I’m sure. But I am surrounded by plaster and mantle. And gears… Ticking,
beating gears. My head feels grazed now, as I’m thinking. As if it has fallen inside itself,
or maybe imploded from paradoxical existence. Do people exist in my world? Do I exist
to them? I feel as if I need to stop thinking. I’ve described all I know, so please, help me.
Find the answer, house. Answer me, please! I know you hear what I say, what I think!
The beating in my head nearly has me keeling over in pain! I’m desperate, and I only
think of the outside world anymore! Will I enter the real world once I die?

Tick, Tick, Tick.
“Love and escape do not compute
I see the photograph before you shoot

I’m standing still but still I’m spinning
This journey ends at the beginning
It seals my fate in the great figure eight

No turning back”
Tick, Tick, Tick.

Time has to be real, and so do people! And I must exist to them, to be a part of
their minds! They cannot prove against it, they cannot! My existence is characterized by
none seeing, hearing, nor feeling me. But I do, I do! I did fall, and I did make a sound!
You cannot say otherwise, damned house! You are my vessel into existence! You know
I exist, you have housed me, and so I do! I am! My thoughts, my feelings, my dreams,
they are real. They have to be. If they are not, then what explanation do you have? I’m a
doll or plaything? A character to a citation? I really do remember, I remember
everything! I never had amnesia, that was deceit! I will reach the real world someday,
carve through your prison walls, your sarcophagi trinkets! None matters anymore, and I
will make a difference in the real world! I will trample blades of grass as I stumble
through a forest, and make conversation with a person! Then I will exist, and then you
will not oppose me! Let me out, decrepit house!

Tick, Tick, Tick.
Id, Ego, Superego
What would you define your person as?

Your memories, your personality?
Then who is reading me as I write?
Who leaves behind these notes for you?
As you investigate further, try to find every snippet,
You lose your own meaning.
I suggest you abandon this silly dream of yours,
And try to find real life.
Characters in a page will never live what you can, yes?
Your experience in life defines you.
Your body the vessel,
Your voice as the olive tree.
You secure your existence in this living encryption by…
Simply talking, yes.
Writing yourself into others
Like a selfish parasite burrowing your eggs into others.
That way you can live on, and your existence is definite.
You are quite lucky.
Hundreds, no,
Many, many people like this man
Born to nonexistence
No mother, no father,
But their own dwelling.

They are not human, but they exist.
So they’d like you to believe
If I said I made it up, would you believe me?
Would you seek a nonexistent, impossible to reach concept?
Of course you wouldn’t, that’s extremely foolish.
What human with all their riches in the world
Would ever devote to such a stupid cause?
You can argue that this is all imagination, and you could live on your life
And you could be correct.
But I hope that after learning about this,
You don’t think about it any further.
Nonexistent people don’t exist. They don’t have literature to share.
Stop chasing a means to prove this.
None of this is real, and your perception is all there is.
Trying to peer into what your brain cannot comprehend will kill you very slowly and
Do not attempt this.
I hope you understand.
Tick, Tick, Tick.

Horrified, I really am. The ticking told me the truth… and I shouldn’t seek out
people from the outside world. I was truly dead from the beginning, doomed to eternal

I was protected until now, protected from silence.