"A Tick in my Tock"

When I’m involved, people don’t seem to understand the phrase, “I’m on vacation, I’m sleeping in.” I’d arrived in Jamaica the night before, set my alarm clock, and gone to bed… only to have my travel partner waltz into my room three hours before my alarm was supposed to go off and wake me up by dumping ocean water all over my hair.

I yelped and scrambled to a sitting position, breathing heavily and glaring. “Goddamnit, Marlene!” I screeched, wiping the water away. “I wanted to sleep in!”

She shrugged and left the room, while I went into the shower and got dressed, slipping a surprise for Marlene into my pocket after a moment of thought.

I made my way down to the lobby and looked up at the big, intricate clock on the wall that read 10:27, then stepped into the small but crowded dining room, finding Marlene easily.

"I set my alarm for 1:00, bitch," I grumbled.

"No, you never set me for one!" she cackled, taking a bite of toast.

Muttering to myself, I pulled the ‘surprise’ from my pocket and dropped it on her head with a small clink.

"Ow," she whined, catching it in her hands. It was just a pocket watch I’d gotten her, but it had served its purpose—for me, at least.

"The Raven"

I was never one for superstitions. I don’t like scary movies. I don’t care about urban legends. I don’t enjoy ghost stories. I never got into Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, or Edgar Allan Poe. I’ve never seen the Exorcist, the Omen, or the Birds. To me, Jaws, Poltergeist, and Hellraiser are all Child’s Play (excuse the lame joke).

I only knew the Raven because of my American Literature class. We had to analyze it, and come up with our own interpretations. Because I didn’t care, I took it literally. It wasn’t too far-fetched that a raven would be at someone’s window, right? And, after all, ravens can learn to speak. Maybe someone just taught it the word “nevermore.” Why wouldn’t they? It’s a cool word.

Obviously, I failed that assignment. At the time, I could not find a single fuck to give. I had better things to do, like practice figure skating or playing soccer with my friends.

Well, I didn’t care until a raven started following me, squawking “nevermore” like a broken record that was never good to begin with. At first I figured it was just a coincidence. Maybe some smartass had taught it to say just that word, and the bird had just left, and heard me say the one word it knew, so it just followed me around. That wasn’t too crazy an assumption, right?

Then it started getting creepy. It literally went everywhere with me, and if it couldn’t get to me, it would wait patiently until it could. What was worse was no one else seemed to notice it. I had a giant black bird following me, and it seemed to be invisible.

I wasn’t insane, right?

I was starting to think maybe I should tell someone about this hallucination when one of my friends came up to me and said, “Hey, you know there’s a raven following you, right?”

I was so relieved I didn’t answer at first; then I slowly nodded.

"It’s been hanging around for a few weeks now. I can’t get rid of it."

"Oh, you don’t want to get rid of it. That’s… His pet. If it’s following following, that means you’ve been chosen.”

This had to be an intricate prank. Had to be. “Really? Who’s he? God?”

My friend didn’t seem amused. “No, no, not God. Worse.”

"… You’re telling me the Devil’s pet bird is following me around because I’ve been chosen?” I asked mockingly.

He gave me a disbelieving stare and walked away, leaving me alone with the bird, who seemed to be silently insulting me.

Damned chicken.

That night, though, I had a weird dream… A dream that wasn’t quite a dream. I was alone in a gray mist, until the raven flew down and perched on a convenient branch just in front of me. Slowly, a figure draped in black rose from the fog, and simply stared at me.

Then it screamed, loud and wailing, and it sounded dreadfully similar to my alarm clock—

Oh. I’d woken up. Maybe that was why. Rubbing my head, I made my way to the bathroom and yelped to see that I had a bloody nose—and that stupid raven was sitting on the bathroom counter, silently taunting me with its beady, black eyes.

I grabbed some toilet paper and held it to my nose, then absentmindedly, kindly ruffled the bird’s head feathers while I waited for the bleeding to stop. May as well enjoy the company, right?

Once the bleeding stopped, I turned to the doorway to see the cloaked figure from my dream reach out to grab me.

"You’ve been chosen."