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An Unfortunate Event · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
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Omnes Vulnerant
Jeff motioned me to the armchair. He rounded his desk and flopped down into the other armchair, opposite me. He opened a black cigare case, picked up a Havana. He lit it, took a couple of drags, then looked at me.

"Have you noticed anything?" he asked, exhaling a whiff of smoke.

I let my eyes sweep his office. Jeff had always been fond of antiques. Old medicine books and outdated equipment, some of which looked like torture instruments, filled his shelves and cabinets. Nothing, however, seemed out of place.

I shook my head.

"Try harder!" he said.

I took another glance round the room. It came to me like an epiphany. "Your old Swiss clock!"


"What happened to it? I remember you treated it like the apple of your eye!"

"Had no choice but let it go," he replied. "If only to prove I wasn't getting mad."

"Mad? You?"

"Uh-huh," he answered.

He set his cigar down on an ashtray, walked to one of the shelves with his back to me. He plucked a book I couldn't see, then came back. He sat, concealing the book into his lap.

"What do you think connects Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Napoleon, George Washington, Lenin, Niels Bohr and Otto van Bismarck?" he asked.

That list of assorted, random historical figures baffled me. "I'm not sure what you're getting at," I replied.

"Quite a puzzle, eh?" he said. "Now—" He laid the book on the table, and before I could see the title, opened it at a page that had been dog-eared. "Read that. The underlined passage." He slid the book across the desk to me.

I picked it up and read. I burst into laughter. "What kind of codswallop is this?" I asked. "Do you believe such nonsense, you, a doctor?"

He looked at me with a serious face. "See for yourself who wrote it", he replied.

I closed the book and read the cover. "The Uncanny and Disturbing Mysteries of History. Edward Grosvenor." The name rang a bell, but I couldn't place it.

"Grosvenor is one of the most competent historians," Jeff said. "Everything he writes down is documented and indisputable. I know the guy, I'd trust him with my life."

"Come on!" I protested. "Pretending that all those people heard a ghost clock ticking the day before their life took a turn for the best is simply preposterous. Dude's off his rocker."

"And why not?" he asked.

"And what would that be? God's clock?" I guffawed.

He stood up again and paced to and fro, his hands clasped behind his back. "God's clock, yes. Or destiny. Or fate. Whatever you call it. But not something they fancied. A real omen, that witnesses heard, too."

I couldn't believe he had turned superstitious. "Okay, okay…" I said. "Admittedly. But what the heck does that have to do with your clock?"

He stopped and glared at me. "I wanted to be certain," he answered.

"Certain of what?" I was confused.

He looked at his watch. "It's almost seven. Hush now, and listen."

I strained my ears. Jeff's office was located in a calm outskirt. What little noise came from outside double glazing muffled completely. The room was still.

Was it, really?

I must have turned pale, because Jeff's face brightened up. There were ticks. Faint, slow, but unmistakable. They grew louder and louder, until they filled the room, as if a giant pendulum swung above our heads. Then they receded, lost strength, faded into silence.

"You're kidding me, right?" I asked.

"No, buddy. This is no spooky or tasteless joke. You've heard the ticking. You can trawl the room, or the whole house, for any clock or electronic device. There's none," he answered, sitting back.


"I've been hearing that ticking every Friday at seven for months," he said. "Oh, I know, I know. Newton, Einstein, Bohr. The same ticking and voila! They uncover magnificent equations. Bismarck, Washington, Lenin, Napoleon, they all rule over empires. Me? Me? Nothing."


"Every day I expect a windfall. Will it be wealth? Fame? Power? Something else? I'm still waiting. In vain. Nothing ever happens to me. Nada. Zilch. God wants me to know I'm just a poor bugger. Sorry, Jeff, just suck it up and live on. And now, if you'd excuse me—"

He opened a drawer. Before I could even move a muscle, he put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger.
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#1 · 1
· · >>Monokeras
WOAH what a twist. I'm so blown away, no pun intended. The buildup is perfectly inconspicuous, the ending deliciously absurd, those last words ultra tasteful. Well done!
#2 · 1
· · >>Monokeras
I'm having problems with:

The tone, I guess. The first description of the room and some of the word choice: "epiphany", "codswallop, "Quite a puzzle"--had me thinking this was Edwardian England or something similar. But then we get "I know the guy" and "Dude's off his rocker", phrases that definitely don't belong in that setting, and I'm slapped over sideways. Are these guys sporting mutton chops or mullets? It really lessened the impact of the whole thing, having the picture I was forming in my head get smashed to pieces halfway through, so I'd recommend making the tone consistent throughout.

#3 ·
· · >>Monokeras
I like the setup for this, but the ending didn't really bring it home. The idea with suicide stories is to get the reader really on board with the character's decision to resort to it. Not necessarily support that decision, but at least understand it. So he doesn't measure up to some of history's biggest names? Why is that such a big deal. He hasn't said that he felt like a failure otherwise, and he seems to have been perfectly satisfied with his life before he heard the ticking. I don't understand what made that change so much for him. Plus there are many big names in history who were pretty obscure in their time and didn't gain recognition until later. That's never occurred to him? I feel like he's missing out on some detail, too. Did those famous people only hear the ticking on the day before they did something great? I think he'd be more worried if it stopped. The fact that it's still going might mean it's still presaging greatness. And, finally, I can't fathom why he's called the narrator in to hear this explanation and witness his death. I don't know what their relationship is like or anything about the narrator, so I'm not going to be able to figure out why he chose that.
#4 · 1
· · >>Monokeras >>Monokeras
#5 ·
>>Miller Minus
#6 ·
>>Miller Minus
>>Baal Bunny

Congrats to the winners! Well done guys!

Thanks to anyone for commenting!

To Baal Bunny: trying to find a consistent voice is something I occasionally still stumble on. Matter of fact, the problem is that I fall prey to a lingering temptation, namely to use in my stories idioms or words I’m not yet 100% familiar with in order to have them sink into my brains. But that often breaks the tone, because those idioms/words are rarely relevant with what my usual style is—somewhat archaic. In this case, however, I must also own up to not knowing exactly when to locate the story in time. I thought about middle 20th century England, then a more modern setup, and finally this vacillation led to the incoherencies you mentioned. Very well spotted indeed!

To Pasco: fair enough. I think this story is cramped within the 750 word frame. While there is hardly more to say, it still lacks a sort of introduction, or explanation, that would set its background and enlighten the readers of its whereabouts. What I tried to convey is that the guy is pretty satisfied with his life until he hears that ticking. While he may dismiss the ticking as hallucinatory the first and second time, especially since, as a doctor, he certainly is a rationalist, the fact that the phenomenon repeats each week at a precise time, and that other people hear it too, finally convinces him it is real. Then he seeks the meaning of it, and finds the book of that famous historian, leading him to believe that something unusual will happen to him. But nothing happens, and he concludes he’s a failure, or that God somehow mocks him. Hence is final decision.

But, once again, I agree the story is somehow rushed because I tried to pack as much as I could, and it feels cooped. Still I’m flattered you found the setup good.

See you at the next session; meanwhile, I wish you a very nice Christmas and all the best for the upcoming season's days.