Edwin Moss didn’t know why he entered the house. He walked in thinking he heard something. A living room is to his left, staircase to his right, and the hall with a repulsive yellow wallpaper stretching in front of him.
A cuckoo clock, sounds like it is in the living room. Edwin goes there to see. He finds a big, blue, cushy couch seated in front of an old iron fireplace that has pendulums engraved on the sides and a clock mounted above it. A fire is lit. Edwin walks up to the fireplace to look at the fancy clock. Tick-tock. Edwin blinks and the numbers on the clock turn into roman numerals. He waves his hand in front of the clock, no other change occurs. Edwin steps back and falls onto the couch. He wonders if the couch was always that close or did it move?
The cushions begin bumping up, something is pushing from beneath. Some thing is crawling, searching for a way up, a way out. Edwin is confined to the couch by his uncertainty. It keeps pushing, feeling its way closer. The thing starts muttering. The muttering becomes a high pitched laughter like a hyena’s cackle, not human, not real, not actually laughing. The hyena holler turns into a squeal like a dozen hungry pigs squealing, starved for lunch. The squirming underneath the cushions increases, rapid, the couch is trembling. The thing is creeping up between the cushions, reaching. Edwin snaps out of his daze, jumps up and falls over the back of the couch. He scrambles out of the living room. Back in the hall Edwin catches his breath.
Now the sound is coming from upstairs. Edwin climbs the stairs automatically. Half way up Edwin’s head clears. He heads back down the stairs wanting to exit this eerie house. The steps seem infinite so Edwin quickens his pace only to reach the second floor. He is flabbergasted. Edwin scratches his head, sure he was going downward. Edwin gets ready to try again.
Edwin hesitates. Knocking is heard. He looks around to see a wall with five blue doors. Knock, knock. Edwin smirks, sounds like the beginning of a bad joke. The knocking persists. The discombobulated Edwin heads left, one door over from the center door. His throat itches as he opens the door. Edwin enters a dimly lit playroom. Nobody is in the room who could have been responsible for the knocking. There is a crib at the back wall with a cuckoo bird crib mobile and stuffed animals are strewn about at the feet of the crib. A toy box is set in the center of the room and a shelf full of dolls to the right. Edwin doesn’t see a cuckoo clock anywhere.
“Will you hug me?” Edwin searches the room to see who spoke.
“I love you.” One of the dolls on the shelf had talked. Edwin inspects the dolls wanting to figure out which one spoke. All the doll’s teeth chatter at once. Edwin flinches and steps back. Then the dolls speak simultaneously.
“You’re pretty. Hello, will play with me? You’re being called. I love cupcakes. What are you looking at? Can’t find the clock.” Edwin stumbles atop of the toy chest. The dolls quiet down to the teeth chattering. Edwin hears scratching inside the toy chest. His body jerks up but he keeps himself seated on the lid. The scratching gets louder, and the lid is bumped hard enough that Edwin is airborne briefly and landing back down. He holds the sides of the toy chest to better anchor himself, hoping this scratcher can’t get out. The crib mobile turns on, the birds spinning and singing coo-coo. The scratching persists, the scratcher is bawling like a baby but in an unnaturally deep tone. The crib collapses revealing a man sitting there. The man is wearing a brown sweater and khakis identical to Edwin. This man turns his head to Edwin. Edwin is shaking, the man looks exactly like himself, from the short spiked up blond hair to his blue eyes. Except the eyes on the man are made of glass and are vacant. His skin is smooth as plastic. When this plastic man speaks, his mouth moves up and down but out of sync with what he says.
“It wants out.” His voice is low, harsh, and detached.
“Don’t let it.” Edwin can feel the goosebumps rising.
“It took something from me.” The plastic man spats out his tongue which squirms and writhes on the floor. His jaw widens and unhinges.
“Do you hear it?” He asks mouth agape. The dolls on the shelf laugh in unison.
“Come play with us,” the dolls say. Then they start chanting.
“Ring, ring. Heed the call. Ring, ring. Heed the call.” The scratching and bawling get worse along with the escape effort; the scratcher practically slamming its hulk against the toy chest lid nearly toppling over Edwin. A death rattle emits from the plastic man’s gaping mouth. Edwin leaps up and flees the room. He hears the toy chest lid slam open as the door shuts behind him. Panting, Edwin hears a screech followed by wailing coming from the end door on the left. Edwin backs up towards the center door. Howling erupts from behind the center door startling Edwin so bad he about goes over the railing. Sobbing bursts out from behind door number four on the right. Edwin inches along the railing hand by hand towards the stairs. Whistling comes from the end door on the right side. A familiar tune Edwin somewhat recognizes. He enters the room.
A dark room with a brown grand piano illuminated by a single spot light. Four stuffed animal heads align on a wall, a platypus, an enlarged salamander, a moose, and a hippotamus. A blond woman in a green summer dress is sitting at the piano pressing keys erratically. Edwin takes a couple a steps forward unbelieving he has found someone else in this strange house. She turns her head, stares at Edwin with her bloodshot eyes and more shadows under those. She has a strained voice that is detached from reality. She parts her chapped lips.
“Can’t find…can’t find…can’t…”. Her words wither away. She continues looking, unseeing.
“Where is it? Where is the bird? The bird? Where’s the cuckoo?” Her empty blue eyes always searching for what she’ll never find. Her fingers continue to absently play the piano. Edwin is dismayed by her words. Hands shoot out from underneath the piano gripping the piano leg. A scraggly head of a man pokes out. His eyes are bulging, eyelids not visible, big nose, and thinned lips. There are scratches covering his arms, neck, and right under his eyes. His shirt and jeans are crinkled, disheveled, and outdated. He sings.
“Nobody knows the clock I’ve seen. Nobody knows your calling.” He stops, his left eye twitches up.
“How can you stand how crowded it is?” he asks. Edwin’s hand tingles in response. The stuffed animal heads shake, rattling as human hands and feet pop out of the mouths grasping forward as people work their way through. The man under the piano stretches out his mouth and a music box tune plays from it. His head twists uncomfortably trying to rotate completely around. More hands come from beneath the piano, many more people crawling out. Edwin doesn’t want to see the others. An endless amount of people creeping out from the piano and the animal heads. Edwin backs out of the room. He shuts the door on the crawlers. Edwin staggers down the stairs. After getting back to the first floor he leans on the front door. Edwin wonders where the cuckoo clock could be. His hand unconsciously reaches for the door knob but his eyes dart around looking for the clock.
Edwin looks to the door at the end of the hall, he can feel the cuckoo clock is behind there. Edwin journeys down the hall with the sickly yellow wallpaper. He hears skittering on his left. He keeps his eyes forward. The skittering becomes louder and bellowing joins in. Edwin looks over to the right wall. In the ugly yellow wallpaper cuckoo birds are flying and colliding into each other in twisted mangled heaps. Humans are scurrying about on all fours. The people are stenciled outlines. One moaner stops and stares at Edwin. Edwin looks back, fixated. The stencil shivers and rushes forward to Edwin. It keeps getting closer, moaning, getting louder, bigger, closer to coming out of the horrid yellow wallpaper, closer to Edwin. It is getting close enough to reach out, s****h Edwin, and drag him into the sickly yellow wallpaper to wander forever like the rest of them. Edwin blinks, keeps his eyes shut and turns away. He can still hear the moaning but it is not as loud, not as close. He slowly opens his eyes and keeps his focus on the door. As Edwin moves down the seemingly endless hall he passes a closet. Whimpering drifts from the closet. Edwin doesn’t want to but he stops and turns to the closet. The door knob twists and the door slowly creaks open. It stops slightly ajar. A human hand grasps the edge of the door, the fingers showing. The fingers drum twice. Then the skin peels off like chipped paint, the thumbs dissolve entirely and when the finger nails peel away talons are seen. Two fingers snap backward and wrap back around the other side of the door. The whimpering becomes distorted, inhuman, and the closet door continues to open further. Edwin, uneasy, turns and sprints away unable to witness what is in that closet. He runs right into the door at the end of hall. He looks back down the hall, no crying closet, no figures moving in the walls. Then the whole hall bends and deforms turning into some warped painting. Edwin closes his eyes, the sight unsettling his stomach. He turns his head, ear to the door. Edwin can hear ticking behind it. Ticking like a clock. Tick-tock, tick-tock.
Edwin breathes in deeply, opens his eyes and the door. A bare room colored in blue, brown, grey and green, no discernible pattern just a mishmash of shapes, stripes and spots. There are four rotted corpses on their knees, all heads up looking at the cuckoo clock. The bodies are wheezing, not breathing, the air is passing through their bodies. Not even the dead are silent in this mad house. Edwin walks in front of the cuckoo clock and gazes upon it. An original wood carved cuckoo clock. The figures carved in and on the clock seem to breathe and twitch. The clock appears to be as big as a TV but at a slight angle would shrink down to the size of a pencil sharpener. The numbers on the clock face are constantly changing through every numerical form, never setting. The clock hands spin in opposite directions of each other. The clock is tilted but never at the same angle. Edwin can’t notice any movement just the change. Edwin’s knees buckle and then he is in the same position as the bodies, he never takes his eyes off the clock.
Another has found the cuckoo clock and that is all it wants, is to be found. Time for more to find it and more after that and even more. The cuckoo clock calls out again with the cuckoo bird popping out at an unscheduled hour.