To 2015 - 2016
the Witching Hour

By Molly Friedel

  1. Untitled
    Untitled
    By Shelby Tromer, 11
Corduroy was awake when the wind howled at anyone who would listen in longing desperation for what was, what is, and what could be. He was awake when ink blossomed across the sky, marring the flaming hues of the dying sun and smudging them into the depths of night. He was awake when the moon stared solemnly down into the shadows of those existing, surveying the world in melancholic judgement and mournful tranquility.

He was awake because 4AM was the Witching Hour and those who were never alive tasted breath once more.

And should he be asleep, he would die.

The alarm clock rang in psychotic repetition at 3:30 AM, a never ending gong of sharp high pitched noise. It screeched throughout the apartment, threatening to rain down hell unless paid attention to.

Corduroy turned it off without looking at it. He was already awake.
He ran a hand through his hair as the apartment returned to silence, resting his elbows on his knees as he sat criss-cross applesauce on top of his bed. It was still neatly made, the quilt still folded at the foot. The room was mainly empty, save the bedside table with the lamp and alarm clock, both silent and still.

Fenn was late.

Corduroy’s gaze slid to the clock, watching the digital numbers blink rhythmically.

On.

Off.

On.

3:34 AM.

Off.

He sighed, placing his left hand open on top of his right palm, and resting his hands on the junctions of his shins. Tilting his head forward slightly, he let his eyes slide to a half closed position. He relaxed his shoulders, allowing his breathing to slow exponentially and his mind to clear.

On.

Off.

Green.

Black.

“Meditating again, ya freakazoid?”

Corduroy didn’t move aside from opening his eyes fully again, glancing at the clock.

3:49 AM.

He scowled, closing his eyes. “You’re late, Fenn.”

A loud thud indicated Fenn dropping his stuff. “Doesn’t matter,” he said cheerfully, his voice moving as he walked across the floor. Corduroy bounced as Fenn flopped down on the bed, his meditation position unravelling despite desperate attempts to keep it together. “It ain’t 4AM yet, we’re fine,” Fenn cooed in Corduroy’s ear.

Corduroy sighed, giving up and unfurling himself to stretch his legs out in front of him and crossing his arms across his chest. “It’s almost 4AM, though,” he said flatly in reply. “You were supposed to be here at 3:30.”

Fenn shrugged one shoulder, then leaned forward and kissed Corduroy’s forehead. “Never you mind,” he whispered. “You’ll live, kid. I promise. Every night in the past eight years I’ve been here on time, haven’t I? Cut me a lil slack.”

Corduroy rolled his eyes, scowl intensifying. Pointedly not addressing the majority of Fenn’s conjecture, he corrected, “I’m not a kid. I’m 22.”

Fenn chuckled, punching him lightly in the shoulder. “We could be twins.”

Shadows danced across the room as Fenn stood up again and walked back across the room to where he’d unceremoniously dumped his briefcase on the floor. The window, now open, let in a wide beam of moonlight, further distorting the shadows and casting an uncanny pale glow over everything. It reminded Corduroy a bit of a silent film – events unfolding in black and white and static murmuring soft nothings in the background.

Corduroy peered over at Fenn. “You’ve upgraded,” he said, noticing the briefcase. “What happened to the toolbox?”

 Fenn paused from rifling through its contents, giving Corduroy a crooked smile. “Gotta be classy, Cor,” he purred, shifting his gaze back to the briefcase. “Toolbox ain’t got class. Plus,” he added, picking through different objects inside again. “Cops ain’t gonna give a second glance to a guy with a briefcase. But a guy with a toolbox? Climbin’ into people’s windows right before the Witching Hour, no less? C’mon, kid, you’re smart.”
           
Corduroy didn’t deign him an answer, and instead looked at the clock again.
 
3:52.

“Still has the same functions as the toolbox, though,” Fenn continued, taking Corduroy’s silence as a cue to go on. “Still got the screwdriver, saw, wrench, oil, organs, jackhammer-”

Corduroy frowned.

“-drill, nails, gasoline, blood pints, lighters, knives, needles, blowtorch, heh-”
           
Corduroy promptly tuned him out.
           
3:53.

Corduroy had once asked Fenn what would happen should he remain asleep during the Witching Hour. Fenn had shrugged it off, and told him nicely that his insides would sizzle and fry and his outsides would rust like a motorcycle left too long in the rain. He told him that he would never experience pain so great as he would then, that his body would rip itself limb from limb, that his blood would spill over the floor in an artistic masterpiece that could never be otherwise inspired. He told him that the magic of the Witching Hour would render him useless and immobile, never to see another sunset, never to run through the field on the east side of the old hotel, never to laugh, never to hug, never to kiss.
           
Half of Corduroy doubted this was true. He attributed it to Fenn’s hidden separation anxiety, his hidden fear that his work over the past eight years would slide through his grasping fingers down the drain, his hidden desperation to keep Corduroy here, alive, existing.    
           
He acted like he didn’t care. Corduroy knew otherwise. He remembered Fenn before the Make Corduroy Human project had begun.
           
He tried to be different now.
           
He wasn’t.
           
The other half of Corduroy was terrified that every word that came out of Fenn’s mouth was Gospel Truth and to be taken as the Word Of God.
           
“You ready, Cor?” Fenn’s voice dragged him back to reality. Corduroy blinked.
           
3:57.
           
Fenn was standing next to the bed, electrical cords draped over his shoulder and a screwdriver, pliers, and gloves bundled in one hand with a bulging bag in the other. He smiled. Wind slipped in through the open window, tousling his light brown hair gently.
           
“Yeah, yeah, of course,” Corduroy mumbled, pulling off his shirt and tossing it behind him carelessly. He hastily scrambled around to sit on the edge of his bed, legs draped over the edge at the knees, hands gripping the edge of the mattress. The clock blinked warningly at him. 3:59. “C’mon Fenn, turn me off, hurry,” he urged. “Let’s go.”
           
Fenn dropped the contents of his hands onto the bedside table gently. “Sure. Sweet dreams, kid.”
          
Corduroy closed his eyes.
           
Fenn leaned over him, rubbing the area between his shoulder blades until he found an indented outline of a small square. Pressing on it, the skin rose up stiffly like a trapdoor, revealing a switch clearly labelled On and Off.
           
Fenn flicked it Off.
           
Corduroy stopped breathing.
           
4:00.
           
Fenn smiled. “Told you, Cor,” he murmured. He folded his arms, standing back up, and examining Corduroy. Lines started appearing all over his body, outlines of rectangular panels. His skin turned shinier, harder, more metallic, more robotic.
           
Fenn remembered when the Witching Hour had functioned on Corduroy like it did on any other object with the slightest potential for life, allowing him to taste what living was like in the short breadth of an hour every night. Granting his robot body human capabilities, a voice, a personality.
           
Granting Fenn a friend.
           
Fenn hefted the bag and knelt down in front of Corduroy, shifting a hand to run up his chest and lightly press on one of the panels there. It swung open like a small door, revealing a frantically beating heart entangled in blood vessels and arteries, lovingly squished beneath two still lungs and drowning underneath colorful electrical wires that strung themselves backwards and forwards in a maze-like jumble. Fenn smiled.
           
The Witching Hour wasn’t happy that Fenn had taken Corduroy for his own, that he had reversed the magic to allow Corduroy to make use of the Witching Hour’s gifts throughout all hours of the day except 4AM, rather than the other way around. Quite honestly, he wasn’t sure what would happen if Corduroy was to be turned On and asleep when the clock struck 4:00, but he assumed that the Witching Hour would throw a fit in revenge at being stolen from. A fit taken out on Corduroy, no less.
           
But Corduroy was Fenn’s now. He’d made so much progress, giving Corduroy a real humanistic appearance, giving him blood and organs. The Witching Hour had other toys to play with. Corduroy was Fenn’s.
           
He pressed open another panel on Corduroy’s chest, surveying the organs amidst the electrical wires and gaping holes. Opening the bag, he peered down into it at the small liver huddled inside.
           
“You’re gettin’ a new liver today, kid,” he muttered, sliding on the gloves before reaching in and pulling the liver out. “I know this whole process is takin’ a while. But one day, you’ll be human. A real true human, not with any of this robot stuff. It’s necessary now, I mean, gotta keep you going somehow. But one day….you’ll see. You’ll see.”
           
Fenn smiled, humming softly as he started to mess with Corduroy’s insides.
           
The clock blinked as he did so.
           
On.
           
Off.
           
On.
           
Off.
           
Green.
           
Black.
           
And the Witching Hour ticked on.
  
 
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