Cactus Gallery LA
THE TELL-TALE CLOCK by artist Joan Charles
The Tell-Tale Clock
When I was about 11, I led a secret life. Every night after my bedtime, I’d wait in my darkened room until I was sure everyone in my family was sound asleep.
Then I’d spring into action. I’d snap on my bedside lamp, snuggle deep beneath the blankets and pull out the book I’d hidden under my pillow. I would read anything and everything, but the books I looked forward to most were chilling tales by HP Lovecraft, Ray Bradbury, or my favorite, Edgar Allan Poe. There was something deliciously dangerous about scaring myself while I was safe and snug in my own room.
One night, I had just gotten to the part in The Tell-Tale Heart where the protagonist hears the old man’s heart through the wall, when I became aware that my alarm clock was doing something very strange. It was one of those old-fashioned wind-up clocks, a big brass number with bells that went off like a fire alarm. I put down my book and listened. Tick..tick..tick..TICKTICKTICKTICK!!!!! The clock seemed to be ticking louder and louder and faster and faster, when suddenly it stopped all together. The silence was almost more frightening than the erratic ticking. Then, after an eternity of eerie silence – it started ticking again! Slow, fast, slow, fast, loud, soft, loud soft, on and on it went – like it was possessed by the spirit of Edgar Allan Poe!
I didn’t know what to do. I was genuinely scared, but I couldn’t risk waking my parents because I knew I’d be in big trouble. I thought about getting up and moving the clock, but I was too frightened to even touch it in case it might be haunted. Finally, I threw the book under the bed (somehow I thought hiding it would make me feel safer). I ended up sitting up all night with the light on, watching and waiting impatiently for the sunrise.
That morning, the first thing I did was ask my mother if I could get a new alarm clock – a silent, electric clock – one that didn’t tick.