For Whom the Noise Ticks

A Writing Prompt
By Jeff Salter

When I was whining to my daughter that I couldn’t think of a topic for our 4F1H “free space” week, she replied, “why not use your story about the mysterious ticking?”

Great idea, I thought.  So here it is.  Presented (basically) as it actually happened … and then I’ve added a bit to the end to get your brain cells working.

Possum Trot Scares (#13-463) — In the house alone (because my wife was out of town), I was in the bathroom getting ready to go to the ‘Y’. Suddenly heard a loud ticking noise. [ tick tick tick ] Hmm. Not something you want to hear when you can’t immediately rush out the door. [ tick tick tick ]

I strained to determine the source of the loud ticking. We don’t own anything that ticks loudly. [ tick tick tick ]  That’s partly because loud ticking drives me batty.  [ tick tick tick ]  So I finished what I was doing and carefully tip-toed around the bathroom until I narrowed it down — something in the small space between the lavatory and the tub. [ tick tick tick ]  Hmm. Lots of clutter over there. I ponder whether to call the bomb technicians. [ tick tick tick ]

Throwing caution to the wind, I decide to defuse it on my own. I grab my old keyboard (which stopped working because of the cran-apple juice that spilled on it) and I figure to bludgeon whatever is ticking. It works in the movies. [ tick tick tick ]
I pull back some of the clutter and grandkids’ bath toys. [ tick tick tick ]

It’s an old-fashioned wind-up alarm clock!  It belonged to my Mom and I brought here in February when it stopped working so I could order her another one just like it.  [ tick tick tick ]  That clock has not ticked in the 5 months it’s been here. What made it start ticking now?
[ tick tick tick ]

– – – – –

Okay, folks.  One of my FB respondents called this the “Case of the Tell-Tale Tick” while another intoned, “Ask not for whom the clock ticks.”

Someone suggested it was a tiny robotic zombie and another friend asked “why did it start ticking when you were the only one around to hear it?”  Good question.

As a writing prompt, tell me what YOU would write next?
Would you take it on a comedic turn?  Or make it spooky?


About Jeff Salter

Currently writing romantic comedy, screwball comedy, and romantic suspense. Fourteen completed novels and four completed novellas. Working with three royalty publishers: Clean Reads, Dingbat Publishing, & TouchPoint Press/Romance. "Cowboy Out of Time" -- Apr. 2019 /// "Double Down Trouble" -- June 2018 /// "Not Easy Being Android" -- Feb. 2018 /// "Size Matters" -- Oct. 2016 /// "The Duchess of Earl" -- Jul. 2016 /// "Stuck on Cloud Eight" -- Nov. 2015 /// "Pleased to Meet Me" (novella) -- Oct. 2015 /// "One Simple Favor" (novella) -- May 2015 /// "The Ghostess & MISTER Muir" -- Oct. 2014 /// "Scratching the Seven-Month Itch" -- Sept. 2014 /// "Hid Wounded Reb" -- Aug. 2014 /// "Don't Bet On It" (novella) -- April 2014 /// "Curing the Uncommon Man-Cold -- Dec. 2013 /// "Echo Taps" (novella) -- June 2013 /// "Called To Arms Again" -- (a tribute to the greatest generation) -- May 2013 /// "Rescued By That New Guy in Town" -- Oct. 2012 /// "The Overnighter's Secrets" -- May 2012 /// Co-authored two non-fiction books about librarianship (with a royalty publisher), a chapter in another book, and an article in a specialty encyclopedia. Plus several library-related articles and reviews. Also published some 120 poems, about 150 bylined newspaper articles, and some 100 bylined photos. Worked about 30 years in librarianship. Formerly newspaper editor and photo-journalist. Decorated veteran of U.S. Air Force (including a remote ‘tour’ of duty in the Arctic … at Thule AB in N.W. Greenland). Married; father of two; grandfather of six.
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27 Responses to For Whom the Noise Ticks

  1. Iris B says:

    Freaky, Jeff. I might cancel my visit to Possom trot next time I’ll be in the US – I’m scared of spooky places!!!
    My first thought (apart that you have a ghost in the house) was that it’s “someone” telling you “tick tick tick” it’s time to get the new clock FINALLY ordered!!!! After all it’s been 5 months. PS Who gave your mum the clock? Could it’ve been that person telling you from … you know … “the other side” ?


  2. Scott W says:

    As I picked up the clock it stopped ticking. I examined it and shook it and I could not figure out why it had started to work or why it quit again. I sat it on the back of the commode as I finished getting ready to go to the Y. I went into the bedroom to get my keys and wallet. I decided to “take care of business” before I went to exercise so I went back into the bathroom. As I was sitting on the commode I heard a faint tick tick tick. Of course the clock is behind me where I can not reach it. Then it gets louder Tick Tick Tick and louder TICK TICK TICK…..


  3. Scott W says:

    Question Jeff: I am kind of curious as to why you have non working keyboards and clocks in your bathroom?


    • jeff7salter says:

      Ha. Well, the non-working keyboard is still in my study .. where I left is several months ago. It was the non-working clock that was still in the bathroom. And I have no recollection how it got there. When I was ordering its replacement, I’m sure I had it in my study … but that’s two rooms away.
      Sometimes I’ll carry something from Room A to Room B with the intention of DEALING WITH it in Room C. But if I blink, it can be inadvertently left in Room B. That may account for it.


  4. ritamonette says:

    You pick it up and shake it and a roach comes out. He dusts off his legs and says, “fixed!”


  5. Gee, and I thought I had suggested this as a writing prompt,Jeff .(No men ever listen to me!) And although I came up with a number of scenarios yesterday, today my mind works like this:
    The ticking became louder as you approached the sound..but you felt a presence, a “heat” if you will, before you reached where the TICK,TICK,TICK actually eminated .As you rounded the corner,
    you found that it was Bojangles, tucked around the back of the lav…
    he is your ‘watch dog’.


  6. pjharjo says:

    hmmm An answer to your prompt is something’ll have to let my subconscious work on. Great happenstance, Jeff! Of course, with the paranormal tendencies of my thought system, you know it will be something spooky I come up with. heh,heh,heh


  7. pjharjo says:

    ah, here comes the beginning of the end of the story – Jeff looked around and through all the cupboards in the small bathroom, but could find no reason for the tick, tick, tick. The almost unbearable urge to jump and run from his house gripped him. He couldn’t leave the house at this very moment, so he left the room regardless of his dress. There was no one else in the house with him, or so he thought, so he figured his mode of dress did not matter.

    The tick, tick, tick continued to torment him as from room to room he ran. He could not get away from the sound. The graveyard next door greeted him as he fled his home…


  8. LOL!!! The Tell-Tall Time Ticker!


  9. Carol Todd says:

    Ok. I didn’t look at the other posts prior to writing these. I have two possible “endings.” Here you go…

    I held the clock in my hand and studied it. Why, I wondered, would it start ticking now? I was suddenly reminded of the old song, ‘”My Grandfather’s Clock.” The lyrics echoed in my thoughts…”My grandfathers clock was too large for the shelf, so it stood many years on the floor…tick, tock, his life seconds numbering, tick, tock, tick, tock. But it stopped short, never to go again, when the old man died.”

    My breath came faster as I studied the hands slowly moving, Were they ticking my life away? My mom doesn’t need this clock, I thought. With a mighty toss, I hurled it into the tub of bath water. Bubbles floated to the surface as it lay on the tub bottom, inexorably ticking away. Then, suddenly, it stopped.

    Ok. Can you figure out what happens next? I know.


    I clutched the clock and held it in front of my face. “Why, now? You’re ticking and no one can hear you but me! Why? Why? ” I put it on the bathroom shelf and went to get a snack. Strangely, the tick followed me through the house. It grew ever louder. Louder. Louder. My ears vibrated with each thunderous tick. “Am I mad? No. It’s just a stupid clock. It’s just a stupid clock. That’s all.”

    I couldn’t eat. The ticking grew and grew. Sleeping wasn’t possible. Why couldn’t the dogs hear it? I certainly could. Desperate, I took the clock outside. Tick tock. Tick tock. I’d get rid of this one and get mom an electric clock. Tick tock. Tick tock. I seized the shovel near the garage door and walked to the hill behind the house. Shoveling desperately, the ticking growing ever louder, I created a deep hole and in one movement, thrust the clock deep into the hole and dragged dirt over it. I buried it at least a foot deep. Now I wouldn’t hear it any more.

    As I walked back to the house, I heard the mournful howl of an animal. A coyote? More joined in – probably a pack of them. Their music was better than the ticking of that clock. But then, I heard it. A steady, growing TICK TOCK. I ran from the sound, but it followed me. I plunged into the woods, and the sound of the ticking blended with the howls of the pack. Suddenly, they were upon me…

    (Limited time – best I can do. Would love to play with this one some more! Getting on cruise ship in about an hour.)

    Thanks, Jeff. That was fun!


    • jeff7salter says:

      Both are terrific continuations, Carol. I wish you’d be land-locked long enough to finish them. Very cool writing! Perhaps science was not your only academic calling.


      • Carol Todd says:

        Thank you, Jeff! That’s quite a compliment. I’ll give it more thought, and see what I can come up with. I’ve got a small data plan plus ship access, so I can post occasionally. However, my husband looks at me with vexation when I spend much time online – so we’ll see. 😎


    • jeff7salter says:

      In the first one, about the tub of water — in the very next segment, I figured a body would appear in the tub!


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