Its voice is the tempo of a slow waltz in his mind. He taps the back beat with the heel of his worn down shoe.
Tick… Tap Tap… Tock… Tap Tap…
Just like when he was a young man again, and he would dance with a beautiful lass who happened to meet his gaze. Only now, he is older. The house is empty aside from the grandfather clock. All close family is long dead. The only thing he has is the tempo, and when he loses what little hearing he has left, he will have lost everything. This includes his mind.
“In 1972,” he mumbles to himself with a voice akin to the rattle of broken machinery. “I remember how everything seemed so nice. How it all was so… new.”
He hears something scuttle faintly in the adjacent room. Probably a rat, he thinks to himself. Eating away at whatever food remains in the kitchen. There probably isn’t anything more than a few crackers, and there’s a slim possibility of a box of cereal. None of that sounds appealing like it did when he was young. When you’re old and dry, the only thing you crave is the dripping energy of youth. He realized what song the clock was singing to him, and the memories drifted out of sight.
“As I was a-walking down Winchester Street…”
It is the first time he has even hinted at smiling for weeks. Maybe months. The cracked skin of his mouth pains something awful, but it’s not enough to hold back his feelings.
He had locked the door some time ago. He figured he would have solitude anyway, but there was no point risking anything. He sat back down in his chair, and the remaining blurry haze of his sight left him then. He had tried to pull merriment from it all, but he found himself declining quicker than ever. He was surprised he hadn’t killed himself already. He knew where the gun was; it lay a few yards in the darkness in front of him on a small table. At this point, he convinced himself it would be too much. He would throw out his back, and fall. If he was lucky, his weak skull would bash in on the floor and it would be over with. He knew his luck though. If he acted upon his wish, his back would go out. But, instead of cracking his head open, he would be stuck there until thirst suffocated him. And the rats would nibble at him all the while.
After three days, he felt a dull pain in his gums. The next day, they felt loose, and soon after, fell out. Now his gums are as dry and cracked as his skin. He imagines the taste of copper. His tongue resembles a moldy prune.
How strange, he thinks, how tempting that gun is. Yet, somehow death seems more unpleasant. Maybe death will take him in the night. Maybe that’s why it’s called “the angel of death.” Maybe. He faintly hears the sound again. That rat in the kitchen. Come to think of it, he didn’t think a rat sounded so heavy. With his hearing, that rat would have to be wearing boots to be audible, and maybe it was. And maybe it walked on two legs.
The angel of death…
He feels it walking into his house, rather than hears it.
Tick… Tap Tap… Tock… Tap Tap…