I had finally come to a decision. No, not a decision, but perhaps the decision. In retrospect, I had really made the decision a very long time ago, it was just at this point that I had come to realize it, no, to accept it.
Now, all I had to do was follow through. This was not a decision to be carried out lightly, it was not frivolous in the least. The mantle clock over the fireplace mocked me with its cadence, sneering at me for my cowardice, chiding me for the time I was wasting away with my inaction. I knew I had to do it, I knew I would do it, but I wasn’t terribly enthusiastic about the idea.
So I sat, and I recounted to myself how I had arrived here, how I had gotten to this point of desperation. It wasn’t that there was a central event, a pivotal moment at which everything had changed, no dramatic twist of fate. If you looked at each individual reason for my decision, they would all seem rather mundane.
I suppose it was simply cumulative, like billions of drops of water carving a hollow in a rock. If you tap a nail a million times with your finger, it will eventually drive through the board. Such as the ponderous ticking of the infernal clock, laughing at me, still sitting here questioning my resolve. The wind howled outside, blowing across the landscape like it had for a million years.
Considering that, I decided that it wouldn’t hurt to ponder my decision for a few minutes longer. I sat in my chair and stared into the fire, its flickering hypnotising me for a moment before reality brought me back, smacking me on the back of the head like a sprung branch. It was inevitable. But yet I still questioned it.
I wondered if I could put it off forever, tell myself that I would do it later, but never actually go through with it. No, no, the causes for my angst would continue to mount, until I would be forced into it, and not even have the appearance of choice, no illusion of free will. It had to be done. It had to be done soon.
Tick-tock, tick-tock. The howling of the wind outside intensified, as if impatient, creating a vacuum in the chimney, raising the flames into a frenzy. Tick-tock, tick-tock. The window started to rattle, shaken by the forces of nature, frustrated, angry with me. Angry with me for my hesitation, angry with me for my incompetence, my inability to carry out such a seemingly simple task.
Enough! I bolted upright from my chair in an instant, as if posessed, initiative filling my veins like a poison, seizing control of me for its own foul purpose. Sweat beaded on my brow as I stood ready, ready to spring into action, to carry out my plan. But as quickly as it had arisen, the fever subsided, and I sank back into my chair, momentarily exhausted. My gaze drifted back into the fire.
My thoughts danced around with the flames. Was this a decision of emotion? Borne of primal instinct, of the very basest of desires? Or was it rational, logical, with a foundation made of concrete facts? With the human mind, can one ever call any reaction “simple cause and effect”? Or is that just an excuse for our behaviour, a rationale for our own selfishness?
So many questions. My train of thought could have rolled through the wilderness all night, and on into the morning sunrise, but the wilderness was having none of it. It derailed my train, sending my mind hurtling back into the present, back into the unknown frontier I had created when I made my decision. I mentally glanced around the landscape.
It was becoming more familiar as time went on, more comfortable. The decision was growing on me, and I was getting used to it, no longer shocking but not quite a given. Still quite unsettling. I let out a sigh, and glanced up at the clock. It was getting on, time continuing its perpetual march, the mechanism of the clock making its continuous announcement that my supply of this quantity was not inexhaustible.
Perhaps, like a choice to end an addiction, I could leave it until the morning, and then the next day, the next week, the next month. I nodded my head in agreement with myself, perhaps I could. The world was not having it. The wind, subdued for the last few minutes roared back with a ferocity like never before, the vacuum nearly sucking the life out of my fire and casting me into darkness.
But the wind abated before my fire was completely extinguished, and it returned to life once more, as did the flames inside me. There would be consequences if I didn’t carry through, reprecussions that could be far more horrible than the task my decision required me to undertake. I slowly rose to my feet again.
I trembled, imperceptibly at first but then more and more pronounced until I was quite visibly shaking. My head pounded with the sound of my heart, beating in time with the dastardly mantle clock, tick-tock, tick-tock. Sweat poured from my forehead as if a faucet had opened right at the point of my skull, and I let out a scream of anguish few tortured souls have had the misfortune of creating.
The basset hound on the floor, on the rug in front of the fireplace slowly raised its head and glanced up at me, with a look as if questioning my sanity. I realized that I had drawn its attention and quickly attempted to compose myself, flashing a smile. The dog looked at me incredulously, if it really was capable of such a thing, and lowered its head back to the floor, returning to its slumber.
I had made a fool of myself, in front of a dog. How embarassing. I did not sit back down, refusing to retreat from the progress I had made at this point, no matter how inviting the chair was to me, no matter how exhausted I felt from the previous moments ordeal. Onward was the only acceptable direction now. I sturdied myself, and started to slowly walk towards the door.
Lost now, lost in the sea of my mind, each second, each moment remaking the decision over and over again. It seemed to take years to reach my destination, the desk by the door, the sheer force of will pushing against my doubts and fears, propelling me along as if being pushed in the back by a stick. The pros and cons, the pluses and minuses all replaying as if stuck in a loop from which there would perhaps never be an escape.
There was, and I was there. I looked down at the desk drawer, this my final moment to consider the choice of which there was none. The hound raised its ear slightly, in anticipation, perhaps in excitement or perhaps in dread as I raised my hand to the drawer and went to grasp it, to open it and reveal the implement of destiny within. The noise of the clock rose to a thunder, and lightning flashed outside as I took a deep, final breath.
I pulled open the drawer. The dog raised its head off the floor with a start, its eyes burning a hole in me as it waited for the crucial final moment, that moment that would commit me to my task forever, that moment from which there was no return. It would happen now, it would be done, there was no return. I reached into the drawer and pulled out the instrument of my fate.
The hound jumped to its feet now, and ran towards me, its part in the act set in motion. It knew that I had comitted, it knew that it was done. This was how it was going to be. I bent down to it, took the device and attached it to the dogs collar.
Resigned, I opened the door and went through it, out into the night, to take the dog for a walk.