It’s probably the ticking that gets to you at first, soft and rhythmic, steady beating of a mechanical heart, tick tock tick. You hear it in your sleep, sometimes, weaving tendrils through your dreams like a cancer. You hear it when you’re awake, always, and you smash in their faces, hundreds of them, and still you can hear it. You wonder if you’re still dreaming, you wonder what the difference is.

When you smash the white faces you can see the cogs and springs pour out, falling to the floor. You hate them most of all, after the ticking (infernal ticking). Some of them are still stuck together, and you crush them under your black boots. They don’t even know that they’ve stopped working, they never knew what they were doing in the first place, never knew they were the heart that made the beats. It’s that ignorance that infuriates you, and you stomp on them again.

You pick up a spring from the floor and hold it up to the light. So small, so very small. It couldn’t have known, could it? How could it have seen what you see?

The ticking is in your head and it’s heavy in your chest and tight in your throat. No matter what you do it keeps going, steady and rhythmic. If you counted them, what number would you be at? How many more would be left? You smash in all the faces, and you smash them in again, but it’s futile, there’s too many of them, hundreds, thousands, you’ll never get them all, you’ll never stop the ticking.

You cradle the spring in the palm of your hand. It never knew, couldn’t have known. You have to stop everything to stop the ticking, you have to watch the cogs spill out the broken face, you have to destroy kill maim desecrate massacre kill destroy kill kill kill draw.

The spring goes in your deck of cards and Hearts asks you what you’re doing. You tell him it’s none of his fucking business, and you draw the Ace out and smash it into the clock-face, loud and erratic, crick crack crunch, but the ticking doesn’t stop, and you remember that agents don’t need to sleep.

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