The Last Clock: Premonition
My eyes felt like they were crusted shut. I didn’t want to wake up, I didn’t want to get up, but one look at the clock sprung me out of bed as I shouted, “Oh, shit,” realizing that I overslept, and I only have thirty minutes to get to class. I poured a bowl of cereal, opened the fridge to grab some milk, but the carton was empty. “Assholes,” I grunted, figuring that one of my flat-mates was responsible. What irritated me most about it was that if I even confronted them about it, both would deny it. Freakin' asshats; no one here even tries owning up to their mistakes. I was about to dump the cereal in the trash when I noticed that it was a heaping mess that couldn’t even fit even a single flake without falling on the floor. I really don’t have time for this right now and I’m getting more pissed by every new problem. I decided to leave the bowl on the table, and grab some bread instead, but of course, even that had to go wrong. As I opened the loaf, all that was left fell on the floor, but at this point I didn’t care, so I picked up three slices, put them in my mouth, left the rest, grabbed my bookbag, and darted for the door. I managed waste a whole five minutes trying to find a breakfast instead of eating one.
I noticed the rain as soon as I exited the front door. It wasn’t a light drizzle either. No, far from it. It sounded as if hundreds of people were dropping buckets upon buckets upon buckets from the roof, onto what now was a pool that flooded the bottom floor. I was about to go back into my apartment, to grab my umbrella, but memory decided to remind me that I left it in my car, which happened to still be parked on campus, because I decided to get wasted at the pub there and hitch a ride from Mianna – or was it that she offered me a ride because I was too drunk? About all I could do was sigh as I ran towards the bus stop across the street. I was expecting it to just pass me right before I reached it. It didn’t. It just arrived, and I would have made it on time, had there not been more moving traffic than usual. I shouted, I screamed, I flailed my arms in hopes that the driver would see me, but he didn’t. The others that waited boarded, then he drove off. Today was already shaping up to be a day that had no remedy, and I was at the point where I wanted nothing to do with it.
I really was about ready to just give up and go inside. Nothing good was going to happen today, at least, that’s how it felt. My phone buzzed in my pocket, I went under a covered parking lot to shield myself from the rain as I read the message. My classmate Alyss asked me if I was ready for the midterm test today. I wasn’t sure if it was the floor bread, or if my stomach just churned from this message that basically told me that I had no choice but to go about the day, but I felt sick. Despite excelling at Classic Literature, if I missed this test, that’d mean I’d probably fail as it was worth 35% of my grade, which meant I would have to stay in this hellhole of a town another semester at best. That’s basically the story of all my classes this semester. Being my final year and all, I haven’t really cared to put in a lot of attention to my classes. I just wanted to get by enough to pass and finish.
No real choice but to run through the flooded roads, all while getting soaked from above. The time was now 9:50 AM, and class started in ten minutes. I sprinted as fast as I could, jumping over puddles that were more like lakes. Camino Colegio was coming up, and of course, the light turned red when I got there. I didn’t have time to wait, so I made sure there weren’t any cars coming, and ran across. The first step on the road splashed so high that some of the water even got on my face. I knew that it wasn’t the rain, because it went up my nose – god damn it. Whatever, I ran towards the next intersection.
Only one more main cross street before I wouldn’t have to worry about traffic anymore, the only problem was Snyder was a pretty large street, and it wasn’t something that was easily crossed like the street before due to most of it being flooded. It was either go balls deep in the water or cross south, then east, then back north, which was the better choice.
Lucky for me, I made it on campus; unlucky is that my class is basically on the opposite side of where I came from. Still running, I made my way towards Ives Hall. As I ran I checked my phone. Somehow, after all that, I managed to be only seven minutes late.
“Hello, Elden,” I heard a voice say from down the hallway. I turned and saw that it was Dr. Luciano, my Classic Lit professor. It caught me by surprise that he himself was late today too. “This storm is something else, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, it’s been a real winner in my book,” I said, as water was dripping from my hair and clothes. It probably looked as if I went swimming, with my clothes on, and my bag still on my back. Maybe crossing Snyder wouldn’t have made a difference.
“Looks like you were caught up in it, and badly at that. Let me put this stuff down in class, and I’ll be right back with a towel.”
“No, I’m fine, thanks.”
“Nonsense, you don’t want to get sick at the end of the school year. What would happen if you were to miss your finals?” I imagine him laughing internally.
Dr. Luciano was a genuinely nice person, which made me hate him even more. No one in the world should be this nice, and if they are, it’s usually because they want something in exchange. That’s how I saw it at least. It always felt to me that there was something kind people were hiding. Regardless, I mustered a “thank you,” at his proposal, and took a seat in class.
If solitary confinement manifested a form larger than a padded room, it would be Ives Hall. Classrooms were windowless, stairways were void of all living presence, even the flooring felt like it was trying to suck the souls of all that walked it. Each step towards the classroom was a rubber creak that echoed through the hall, until I reached the classroom. I wasn’t expecting Alyss to look up at me, nor was I expecting her to give me such a mortified look. She continued the look of concern as I took my seat behind her, yet, knowing the person that she is, a joke was about to present itself. “What the hell happened to you? Did you try making rain angels?” And there it was. Since I met her at the start of the semester, she’s always been the kind of person that would joke about the worst possible situations. I always believed that the term “too soon” should never apply to anything, and it seemed as she felt the same. It’s why I found her interesting and decided to work with her as a partner for class projects, but, being the butt of the joke never did amuse me. I guess I'm a hypocrite in that regard. Whatever. “I hope your pocket is lined with rice,” she joked again. “Wanna make sure your phone stays dry.”
“Thanks,” I said in the snidest way possible.
“Relax, Elden. I’m only trying to lighten the mood. You just always seem so uptight.”
She’s not the first to say that, nor will she be the last. Everyone has been telling me I act like I have a god-complex, that the activities of others are lesser, and it’s true. I don’t like college, I didn’t like being home, I don’t like this town, basically, everything sucks, with the exception of Starcraft II. I wish I could dedicate as much time into it as so many pro Korean players do, maybe then I could actually find a steady level of enjoyment. I really only care about winning a major SCII tournament, so I couldn’t help feeling that everything else lacked importance.
It was then that I felt something touch my shoulders. I fidgeted in surprise, but it was just Dr. Luciano putting a dry towel on me. “Don’t catch a cold now,” he said. Giggles and laughter filled the classroom, making me want to just raise my middle finger, but they weren’t worth my time or my energy.
Dr. Luciano stated that once we were finished with the midterm, we were free to leave early. The test was a series of questions that circled around the books we read, or rather, what we should have read, followed by a short essay. I didn’t read any of the books, but I knew of them, and felt that I had enough knowledge to pass. I was done before everyone else, gave Dr. Luciano his towel back, with my paper, and left. I didn’t want to hear from Alyss today, or anyone else in that classroom for that matter.
I left, a bit drier than before, but only minorly. To add more insult to my already crappy morning, the sun had come out during the forty minutes I spent in the classroom, without a single cloud in the sky. Yet, instead of feeling the warmth of the sun to dry me off, a cold breeze blew, making the clothes that much more intolerable. Even the Earth is giving me the finger now. I was thinking about buying a sweater from the store, but the idea of spending fifty dollars on a sweater always seemed ludicrous, especially when that takes away from Lobo’s happy hour of three dollars fifty cent beers. I’m so lucky I don’t live on a dry campus[P1] . I start making my way to Lobo’s when someone rustles my hair with their fingers.
“What the hell?” I shouted.
“Relax, it’s just me,” said my friend Mianna. Friend was difficult to say, but I guess she is the closest thing to having a friend at this campus. We chat and have a beer after classes, shoot pool, sometimes rock climb together, but aside from that – and us being from Long Beach – we have almost nothing in common. She’s more of the popular girl type, since she’s in a sorority, does charity events, and loves going out with a large crowd. I’m not sure why she decides to take days to hang out with me. Maybe she feels pity for me?
“Listen, I haven’t had the best of days today,” I said.
“How so, it’s not even twelve and you’re having a terrible day? Did you fall in a pool or something while being chased by a dog?”
“I’m not trying to be. So, what happened?”
“My roommates are dicks, I forgot I left my car here last night, and basically every possible thing that could go wrong in the rain did go wrong.”
“I have something that’ll cheer you up,” she said. “I found this super cool new app, and you seriously should have downloaded it, like, yesterday.”
“Well, I didn’t know about it yesterday, and it’s not yesterday, so how could I have known to do something yesterday when it wasn’t even existent in my head? What’s so cool about it anyway?” I asked her cynically. I really wasn’t one to keep up with the latest trends, be it fashion, phones, music, just about basically everything that was considered pop-culture. Besides all that, the biggest offenders to me were mobile games and apps, which made such a request even more bothersome. I swear that something comes out every year that catches the attention of millions, but a few months later it just fades away, like it never existed. Some apps try to apply new filters to their updates, but it’s basically the same wasted time as it was when first introduced to the public. “I mean, honestly, you know that I don’t download apps. What makes you think I’ll download this?”
“Trust me on this,” she said, showing off her dimples with a mischievous smile. “Everyone and their mom is downloading it. You procrastinate with just about everything else, so what’s one little app to kill the time?”
It was difficult to turn down a request from one of the most attractive women on campus, at least for anyone else. Despite her being able to make a plain tan peacoat with a turquoise top look amazing, she’s just another person to me, or maybe she is a friend, and it’s now difficult to see her as everyone else does? I guess that was why being called a procrastinator from her hurt more than if anyone else were to say it to me. I originally wanted to try something new, which was why I left home and came to this school so many hundreds of miles away, but the time I’ve spent here made it feel like that original idea was a mistake. “No,” I said, bitterly.
“It literally shows you how you die.”
Mianna knew that I hated how people freely used ‘literally,’ especially when most of the time they meant figuratively. “Don’t use that word. Just. Don’t.”
“I’m dead serious, Elden. It’s like those[P2] old death clocks, but something a bit more. . . interesting.”
An app that shows you how you die. I swear these programmers come up with the dumbest gimmicks in the world. The idea of a death clock has been online since the AOL days, and it’s basically the same garbage wrapped in a different bow. A person has to fill out some lifestyle questions, and the clock estimates how long they have to live. I’d much rather my time be spent playing Starcraft II. At least that way I have a chance to make a huge living from playing a game.
“Elden, loosen up and download it.” Mianna said as she paced further ahead of me. “I’ll know if you did, and we won’t be talking if you didn’t. It's called 'The Last Clock.' I’ll meet you at Lobo’s after I get out of class, so keep that in mind.”
“Hold up!” I said, trying to catch up to her, but she went full sprint towards International Hall, and I had no intention of running. I unlocked my phone and thought, It’s just a stupid app. What’s the worst that can happen. This day sucked enough as it was, maybe I did need something to distract me, but a death clock? Maybe it was curiosity, maybe it was me attempting to finally stop being anti-social, or maybe it was the fear of not talking to the only person that actually seemed to matter me. Whatever it was, I went against my better judgment and downloaded it.
I was fully expecting to have to type in loads of information, but none of that happened. As soon as I opened the app, I felt strange. From a black screen to shaky video footage of parking lot C, I saw what looked like my car, sitting in the same spot that I had left it the night before. The filming looked as if it was being taken from the 3rd floor of the Student Center. What the hell? The camera focused even more, and I was now certain that it was my electric-green Mazda 3; even the license plate matched. This time I was sure that it wasn’t the bread that churned my stomach. I increasingly grew more paranoid, feeling the heat rising in my body, despite being cold from the wind and wet clothes. The camera zoomed in closer, showing me in the same blue shirt and black jeans I was currently wearing, running to my car. My breathing became shorter as I continued to watch. When the me in the video reached my car, the perspective took a different angle, this time from in front of the car. He – me – fidgeted with his keys, dropped them, then picked them up, unlocking the car, then getting in. When that me was about to put on his seatbelt, he stopped for a moment to pull out his phone and looked at it. In that moment, a hooded person walked just in view of the camera, pulled out a gun and shot him – me. As his – my – blood and brains sprayed against the glass, the video went to black. Two seconds later the black screen showed: November 15th, 2018; today.
My palms began to sweat profusely, which caused me to drop my phone on the floor, knocking the back case and battery out on impact. In a hurry I put the phone back together and waited for it to boot up. Once my phone finally booted up, I tried to load the app again, but an error message appeared saying that the app crashed. I tried multiple times, but every time my phone said the same thing. I could hear the beating of my heart ringing in my ears. I even uninstalled the app and reinstalled it only to see the same message. This unshakable feeling that I was being watched now haunted me. I looked behind me, around me, down towards parking lot C, which now filled me with a huge sense of dread. There’s no way this could be real, I tried to convince myself as much as possible, but just how real the video actually was bothered me more than any panic attack I’ve had before. Everything of that person was real, and everything of him was me, including the scar over my left eye that my uncle gave me when he was drunk. As much as I wanted to think about something else – anything, the video was in control of my attention. I felt every second as my mind descended further and further from rationality.
The chatter of people walking around campus suddenly felt as if their voices grew louder. I couldn’t make out a single word, it just felt like a roar of noises. “Shut up,” I muttered, looking around in a craze. I was trying to think. What should I do? What can I do? How long have I been standing here? If I walk towards my car, will I be shot? Should I just run away? My eyes shifted from left to right, up to down, behind, and in front. I couldn’t keep a steady mind, but one thing I did catch eye of was the Student Center. Not even a second guess, I ran towards the building, up the three flights of stairs, because fuck waiting for the elevator. I went to the furthest wing where the video would have been taken from, opened the door, but saw nothing, no one. I wanted to look out the window, down to my car, but the feeling that someone was watching me from behind made me even more paranoid. I decided to move towards the window anyway, looking behind me every other second as I inched closer. Slowly I walked, and quickly I turned, hoping to catch someone – anyone – that might have been stalking me. I looked out the window, saw that this was in fact the area that the video was taken from. As I stepped back, I noticed a reflection of someone behind me. It looked like a woman, as pale as a ghost and hair as the darkest of nights. It looked like a stream of tears ran down her eyes, but the color was dark, red, almost black. I felt paralyzed, unable to turn around, then my phone rang. I screamed, which forced me to turn around, yet I saw no one behind me. I looked down at my phone, it was a notification that my next class was about to begin in ten minutes. I had been here for a whole hour and didn’t realize it. What the hell is going on?
My mind was still in a haze, but I couldn’t stay here, or more like, I didn’t want to stay here, so I walked in a hasty manner out of the Student Center and towards Stevenson Hall. As I sat through class, not a word of the lecture entered my head. All I thought about was the video of me getting shot and the reflection in that room. I tried to boot up the app multiple times during the lecture, but every time I did, it crashed. Somehow, I was afraid that the woman’s face would show up in the reflection of my phone. It felt as if she was behind me. It wasn’t until the professor called my name that I snapped out of my trance.
“Yeah, I totally agree with what everyone else has said,” I said, hoping that it would be a sufficient enough answer.
“Thank you for this informative answer, Elden,” the professor said, while everyone else laughed in response. At this point, I didn’t care about their laughter. Nothing else mattered anymore.
He finally turned the discussion to someone else, leaving me to go back to the video or the lack thereof. I needed an answer for what I saw, and the only person I could think of was Mianna. I wanted to leave, but it didn’t feel safe anywhere else. I just needed to wait until class was over, then I could talk to her and find out what the hell was going on. When the minute finally came that the professor let us leave, I tried to open the app one last time, only to have it crash the same way it did every time before.
I walked faster than normal, looking everywhere, unable to shake that watched feeling. I made my way into Lobo’s, ordered a beer and saw Mianna sitting in the corner by the pool table, staring at her phone. Approaching her, I said in an annoyed and frightened voice, “You need to tell me what the hell is up with this app.”
She laughed, “So you saw it? Kinda funny, right?”
She didn’t catch on to how bothered I was by it. She just flicked her fingers through her blonde hair like she normally does when she finds something entertaining. “No, it wasn’t. I saw someone blow out my freakin’ brains in the parking lot. How is that funny?”
“Because it’s random. Look how I die.” She turned her phone and showed me a 3D animated version of herself get stampeded by a herd of elephants. After the stampede settled, her animated body was lying on its back holding a rose with the date November 15th, 2018 on it. “See, it’s silly. I just wanted you to download it because you seemed like you needed a laugh. You’ve been so uptight lately.”
“Mianna, that wasn’t what I saw,” I said while opening my phone. “I saw a live video of me getting shot in my car later today. A real video, not some animated clip. I’d show you, but the damn thing keeps crashing.”
She grabbed my phone and tried to open it. “It says your hardware is too old to open up the software. Maybe it’s time you finally buy a newer phone.” She handed it back to me, showing a completely different error than I had been seeing. I tried closed the app only to open it and see the same error when she handed me my phone back. “How much did you even drink last night?”
“I don’t know, maybe like eight or ten… don’t change the-”
“Hey!” Mianna called at some random surfer looking guy at the bar. “Do you have ‘The Last Clock?’”
“Yeah, I downloaded a week ago,” he said.
“Can you show my friend here your death?”
“Yeah, it’s actually kinda funny.” He pulled out his phone and showed a 3D animated version of himself on horseback. As he was riding a bird flew into his face, making him fall onto his head, breaking his neck. November 15th, 2018 appeared below. “A different death every day,” he said in the most stereotypical coastal accent. “The first day I was surfing and a shark ate me. It’s pretty crazy what it’ll come up with.”
“See?” she said with a know-it-all look on her face. “It’s not real. Do you want me to ask someone else, because I-”
“No,” I abruptly cut her off. My head hurt and I didn’t want to argue, and I had no intention to sit through another poorly animated video. I deleted the app one final time, hoping to ease my mind. The video bothered me but the videos Mianna showed me made me start to question myself; wondering if the video was just another fixation of my imagination, or if the girl in the reflection was real. Was I crazy? Was it all just a hallucination? As much as I didn’t like those possibilities, they did seem more probable than some kind of paranormal situation. Even if those were imaginary, there were things that were real, such as the questions that continued to rise in my head. One stood out louder than the rest: why had I actually agreed to download it? I could have spent my attention focusing on bettering my skills at Starcraft II. I took another drink from my beer while both of us sat in silence in the noisy pub. It wasn’t real, I told myself as I opened videos of the most recent Global Starcraft II League, and just watched highlights and replays.
I had been watching plays for a half an hour when I heard Mianna say, "Two pool cues please." I looked over and she had handed her student ID to the worker and was walking toward me with a rack of billiard balls and cue sticks. "I hope you're ready to lose," she said, grinning that same mischievous smile that she always does.
Maybe a game would do me some good. I looked at my hands as I held the phone and noticed that they were still rather shaky from today, but seemed to have calmed from the beer, and diverting my attention. Yeah, I needed a break, a game would actually be nice. Wanting to move away from the developed fear, I somehow joined her same charisma and said, "loser gets next round."
She set then, had me break, to which I sunk two solids. My next shot wasn't as impressive, since I nearly scratched the eight and failed to sink in any more of my color. Mianna took her turn, and I ate my previous words quicker than I could have remembered them. Shot after shot she sank in everything, until all that was left for her side was the eight, to which she called her shot and sank that too.
"Beginner's luck," she said, smiling that same smile.
I scuffed as I went to the counter to buy a round for us both and demand to double the pot for the next game. She agrees, and this time it lead to my victory, as after her break, I basically did what she did the previous game.
We took a pause from the game to enjoy our beers. She started to talk about how she recently started getting into Starcraft II, though she said that she was absolutely terrible at it, but despite such, she actually enjoyed playing it. It felt strange to me that we were able to talk about something else, something that I was interested in, and that she recently took part in. The subject then went to projects that we were working on with the rock-climbing wall, and how we should take a vacation one of these weekends to go climbing at Bishop. I hated camping, but the idea of actually climbing outdoors did grab my attention. The more time I spent with Mianna the more I enjoyed her company. As simple as it was to just play pool, hear about her picking up interests that I was into, and bonding over things we both enjoy, it allowed me to feel comfortable – content even. She really was a great person. Maybe it’s the beer, or maybe she really is someone that is a friend.
I couldn’t remember how many games we played, let alone how many beers we drank. My vision was beginning to blur, and my pool game was completely off. Not only did I lose track of time, but I lost track of sound, as I basically heard nothing until she spoke when she readied her next shot.
“What did you write for your term paper?” she said, with an intense focus on the cue.
“What term paper?” I asked, confused and extremely tipsy.
“You know, our term paper that’s due tomorrow for Ethnic Literature.”
Just as I was getting comfortable and almost forgot about everything else she somehow managed to get me in an elevated panic. I spent most of my semester playing Starcraft II that I completely forgot about the eleven-page paper that counted for practically the entire class. “Shit, are you serious? That’s tomorrow?” I opened the web-browser on my phone and checked the class syllabus. She was right, the term paper was due tomorrow. “Let me see your paper,” I said, placing the cue on the table and moving my way toward her bag.
“What? No! Get off!” she said, pulling her bag away. “I don’t want to get in trouble for you copying my paper.”
“We have different TA’s. We won’t get in trouble.” All I could think about was how I would have to stay another semester if I didn’t pass this class. I managed to basically put myself in the same position I was in before, with one paper determining if I remained in this hell-town for another year. “I haven’t even started it. I don’t know what I’m going to write about. Please, help me out here.”
She let out a sigh. She wasn’t looking at me with the look of a friend anymore. Instead, she darted a shameful glare for my lack of attention. Another few seconds passed, and this time she probably felt pity for me because she pulled out a sheet of paper and started writing. “I’ll give you my thesis and references. Take what you will from there, but I’m not giving you my paper.”
“Fine. Sure. Whatever. I just need something, thank you.”
She slid the paper towards me and I snatched it from the table, gave her a hug, grabbed my bag, left half of my beer and ran out of Lobo’s in a hurry and made way for my car. I still couldn’t believe I completely forgot about the paper. I was so desperate that I was willing to pay someone to write it for me, but I didn’t know any English majors that were willing to take such a task, especially from a lazy English major. I fished in my pocket for my keys once I got to my car but dropped them once I got them out. I picked them up and unlocked the door and sat down. As I was about to put on my seatbelt when I felt my phone vibrate. I pulled it out of my pocket and saw ‘The Last Clock’ had downloaded again and opened. It didn’t crash or play a video. The only thing that was on my phone was the word: “Goodbye.”