Issue #82

Spring 2022

Tick-Tock Man Syndrome and An Autopsy of Creation

by Perry Ruhland

Tick-Tock Man Syndrome

My partner was actually the first to come down with a case of Tick-Tock Man Syndrome. She was out at the bakery, buying pastries for our breakfast, when she felt a terrible pinching behind her eyes. In an instant, the bakery vanished. It was as if, she later told me, her sight was a television, and something—someone—had changed the channel. In place of the bakery, my partner saw the back corner of a gloomy room, where the meeting of two damp walls was illumined by overcast light seeping in through a curtained window. In that corner was a bed, and on that bed was a tall figure you now know well, a stranger in a thick, black cloak. The figure sat there completely unmoving, hooded head dipped, face lost to shadow. Then my partner, like all the others, heard a voice, stiff and robotic, calling out from all around her. This time it said, "It is 5:15 P.M." And the next thing she knew, it was.

***

An Autopsy of Creation

The lonesome physician found God on the walk home from work. It was late in the morning; he had spent the entirety of the previous afternoon and evening at a disastrous house call, and consequently had not slept in many hours. Overcome by the lure of his distant cot, the physician decided it would be best to skip the winding road back to town and instead took a shortcut through rainbow fields of flowers. Ankle-deep in swaying color, the physician saw Him.

He was a terrible old man: skeletal, colossal, and sickly gray. He lay dead in a halo of withered lilacs, His nakedness sprawled like a five-pointed star across floral detritus, silver beard matted in dirt and sprinkled with writhing black crumbs—carpenter ants. The eyes, open and agonized, were cataract globes, and from His gaping maw a dizzying death-stench wafted freely. To the physician, the scene seemed so geometrically composed and perfectly impossible that it did not appear to be the catastrophic event it clearly was, but rather something ridiculous, nothing more than the byproduct of frayed nerves and stolen sleep. He rubbed his eyes, laughed, and looked again. Then the physician was pale, then sickly gray, and he felt, for a moment, the weight of the doctor's bag in his hand and the presence of all the instruments bundled inside. He let them fall and hurried home.

The journey was painful, and the physician spent the duration muttering to himself: "I must do something, I have to do something," but he ultimately did not. When he lay to rest that terminal afternoon, he dreamed what may very well have been the final dream of his kind. In it, there was a scalpel, and beneath that, flesh. The rest was fantasy.

Author Bio

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Perry Ruhland is a writer and filmmaker based in Chicago, Illinois. His writing has previously been published in Vastarien Magazine,The Book of Queer Saints, and a chapbook by Death Wound Publishing.