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Counting Elephants

"Image from a Field Trip", 2017 by F.E. Clark

Counting Elephants

by F.E. Clark

She’d asked for an hourglass. It was supposed to help her breathe through the tornadoes that raged inside her head. The plain-clothes Dr had become so enthused when the girl recounted a meditation she’d remembered reading about, that the girl thought the Dr was going to orgasm right there and then in her beige office with the sad sunflower painting on the wall. But all that happened was the request was sanctioned.

They kept up their vigil of watching her, but were encouraged.

Twenty-seven days later it arrived. They’d had to send away for it mail-order. It had a traditional hourglass shape alright—like a woman with ample bosom and hips, and a tiny waist. Only this was trapped inside a clear plastic rectangular prism. ‘3 MIN’ was stamped in black on the top of its casing.

She’d hoped for something larger, something more authentic. Most importantly she’d hoped for the precious glass.

What a joke. How could they call it an ‘hour’ glass when it only took two minutes and fifty-seven seconds for the sand to filter through? She’d checked it by counting elephants—one elephant, two elephants, three elephants. Like she would between a flash of lightening and roar of thunder, to calculate how close a thunderstorm was.

Misrepresentation, wasn’t that against some kind of law? Not that she really cared. It was just something else that didn’t deliver. The bright orange grains inside, were they supposed to be sand? How the hell had they gotten them it in there? She held it up to the light, fancying she saw a spark of glitter amongst the orange. The prism shot rainbows over the other residents.

The plastic already had a scratch down one of its sides. The evening after it arrived she’d begun to carve her name up the opposite side. She managed the first four letters before she got bored - ran out of space - got interrupted.

It fit in the palm of her hand, it almost felt good to hold if she made a tight fist, the corners cutting into her skin. She kept it in her pocket, carried it with her for days. She even set herself up in the rec-room and pretended to use it for what she’d said it was for.

Instead she was counting again—using the big old clock on the wall, watching the red hand that counted the seconds. The fake-sand was so fine she had to squint to see if it were actually moving. How were those grains of sand measured—by weight? Two minutes, fifty-three seconds? She tried again and got the same result.

She’d had other plans for it all along. Late one night, never one to be un-resourceful, swallowed her stash of stolen meds, washing it and the prism down with watered down diluting orange. She imagined eating rainbows and the sands running out as she choked.

They listed it as ‘misadventure’. On the report a ‘toy-perspex-timer’ was detailed, it had the word STEL scraped on one side. After the autopsy the pathologist, curious to see the sand flowing, flipped the three minute hourglass. It took two minutes and forty-three seconds to run out. The pathologist considered updating the report, but didn’t get around to it due to the arrival of the next case.


F. E. Clark lives in Scotland. She writes and paints. A Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee, her words can be found/are upcoming in: Molotov Cocktail Literary Magazine, Poems for All, Occulum, Moonchild Magazine, Ink In Thirds, Folded Word, Ellipsis Zine, Luna Luna Magazine, The Wild Hunt, Speculative66, and 404 Ink. And in anthologies: Flashdogs Solstice, Calendark, and DeadCades, and Nothing Is As It Was from Retreat West.

Website: | Twitter: @feclarkart

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