Delivery. Short Story.

The timer appeared without fuss or fanfare. One night there was an empty spot, the next, there it stood. It was tall, taller than you would expect, just over eight feet tall and about six feet wide. It was completely black, made of some shiny material that looked similar to plastic, but had a strange texture to it, almost as though it was stone. The face of the timer was two foot by five foot, it’s numbers were bright red and they were counting down. There were no other markings on it, no indication that it was related to anything at all, business or advertisement. At first people ignored it, after all, why would they care? Most dismissed it as some lame attempt at viral marketing, but the longer it stood there, and the closer it got to zero, the more interested people became.

No company or person took credit for it, it’s lack of markings sparked imaginations as people began to discuss what, if anything, the timer was counting down to. The time was set for exactly one month from the morning of the 7th of October, meaning that it would finally reach zero on the morning of the 7th of November, a day that held no real importance or significance, at least not that anyone could find. There were no new product launches, no movies out. Nothing that would indicate any attempt of advertisement. People came up with their own theories, the most prominent of which asserted that it was simply some kind of ad. That when the time reached zero there would be some announcement. Something ridiculous and worthless that needed this kind of stunt to get itself recognised.

As the date drew nearer a sense of worry and anticipation fell over the town, after all it was so central and so large that it was impossible to miss. Right smack in the middle of the green in the centre of the town, surrounded by a few small trees and framed by two fountains. People would scurry past it on their way to work, heads down and carefully avoiding any kind of interest, while others would sometimes just stop and watch the numbers as they descended at their steady pace. Rumours started that it was some kind of warning, some kind of terrorist plot perhaps, that signalled a bomb, after all, a giant timer in the centre of town, who would suspect it as a bomb? No one would believe a terrorist group would be that audacious, so obviously it would be the perfect cover. These rumours were mostly dismissed, but some made mental notes to avoid the town that day, just in case.

A local newspaper ran a piece about it, not providing much information and just rehashing the same theories and rumours. That story was picked up by a larger paper and soon it was all over the news. It went for a small interest piece to a national event as people from all around the country watched and speculated as to what it could be. Internet forums sprung up, dedicated to the discussion of theories and ideas, the timer seemed to have captured the imagination of the country. At first the towns people welcomed the sudden influx of visitors on their normally sleepy town, but this soon gave way to annoyance and complaints as queues became longer and everything became busier. Quickly the two, small hotels were at maximum capacity and people began to camp on the outskirts of town, a few even trying to camp in the green itself, which was quickly stopped by the local police.

People still didn’t know what exactly the timer was for, but one thing was agreed upon, no matter what happened once it reached zero, this was an event that would live in local, and possibly national, memory for decades to come. Some speculated that no matter the event, advertisement, warning, it would never live up to the hype, and there was much agreement among locals that there would be much disappointment on the day.

Police had their hands full fielding questions for locals and the new comers, assuring everyone that there was no bomb, or any apparent danger for when the timer reached zero. There was no evidence that it was an explosive device.

And still the time silently counted down.

On the day before the timer was to reach zero, the town was flooded with news vans, hoping to add an interesting piece to the morning news. That morning a larger crowd gathered in front of it, waiting with an air of excitement for the counter to finally reach zero.
A silence descended as the numbers flicked down from ten, and finally it reached zero. The unnatural quiet held for only another second as a loud alarm started to blare, a light rose from the top of the timer and began to flash red. the crowd, startled by the sudden noise began to push back, no longer wanting to be as close as possible to the strange timer. The alarm continued for thirty seconds, red light bathing the crowd. They looked at one another, confused at what exactly that was supposed to signify. Red meant danger, as did alarms, but there was nothing obviously dangerous about the timer. They looked at one another and around the square, a few starting to wonder if they were part of some elaborate prank and that after all this build up, all this anticipation, there was, in fact, nothing. There was a faint click, so low that only a few closest to the timer actually heard it, then the front face of the timer fell forward, a few people scrambling out of the way, revealing the insides of it. It looked complicated, far too complicated for a simple timer, with wires and tubes snaking through. People began to move slightly closer again, interested in what was inside. A high pitched whine filled the square, almost cartoonish in sound, as though someone had sped up a voice until it was no longer clear what, if any, words were being said. Slowly the sound began to wind down, the voice, though still high pitched, started to become somewhat audible. People began to back away as phrases like “danger” and “warning” were heard. Around the world people watched as their television screens turned on of their own accord, the face of a young woman filling it, she looked frantic, scared, and kept glancing to the left of the screen.

“We are so sorry. We couldn’t determine exactly where it would fall. It is dangerous, I repeat dangerous, we have had to send it from our reality to yours, it happened too quickly, we could not contain it. The timer will give you a chance to evacuate the area, if you within twenty miles of it evacuate. We are not certain of when you will receive this message or the device, we cannot be that exact. We have contained it for as long as we could, to give you some time. We are sorry. May god forgive us.”

The screens went to static then the message started again.

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About Alan James Keogh

I am a 24 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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