faulty alarm clock

For the DP Writing Challenge.

It was precisely 6:30 AM, Sunday morning. The one day this week I was supposed to be able to sleep in. Instead I laid there on a lumpy sleeping bag on top of carpeted floor, as the noise drilled into my head. It blared, loud and obnoxious, pounding in my skull and rendering sleep and rational thought impossible. As I tossed uncomfortably, my jaw clenched, I wanted to kill everyone in the world. Most specifically, I wanted to kill John, one of my closest friends. This was all his fault.

Of all of the horrible things created by humankind, the alarm clock is one of the worst. How can I say this, in a world with water-boarding, nuclear weapons, and spray-cheese? Torture methods and weapons of mass destruction are terrible, but they are done to you. They aren’t voluntary, and presumably can be all benefit if you are on the right side of the equation. Spray-cheese may be an affront to 99.99%* of all available gods, but at least it brings the user something passably resembling pleasure.

Alarm clocks, by contrast, are specifically designed to disrupt our purest and most natural state of bliss and happiness. They are the equivalent of a device designed to get you to stop playing video games after a certain amount of time by administering an electrical shock to your uterus. And honestly, it’s easier to imagine a person who has a fetish for the uterus thing. The alarm clock’s sole function is to beat our circadian rhythms violently into shape so they can be stuffed into the misshapen peg that is the modern work schedule.

Most of my childhood was mercifully alarm clock free. My mom always woke my brother and I up to go to school or church or other such functions. It was still an annoying process, but that’s only because I didn’t know how good I had it. The occasions where my father had to wake us up instead of my mother were more like using and old school clanging metal bell alarm clock and keeping it in my pants, but fortunately those were very rare. I sometimes set my alarm clock to wake up on days off of school to watch TV shows that were on before my usual 11:00 waking time. But in that case the alarm was empowering. It woke me up to do something fun I otherwise could not do. Plus, if I wanted to ignore it that was my call. I never fully understood the spiked collar that is the adult relationship with alarm clocks until college. Save for one night at my friend John’s house.

Two of my best friends in high school were named John and Matt. We all went to the same private school and lived miles apart. John lived so far away that the drive to school every morning took over an hour and a half. When we wanted to hang out outside of school, Matt and I made our way out to Long Beach Island and slept at John’s house. The island was awesome, and he had a sexy house with a floating glass staircase and highly slide-able hardwood floors.

On this particular occasion, we hung in John’s basement playing Daggerfall on the IBM Compatible, annihilating each other at Twisted Metal 2 on the Playstation, and watching Kevin Smith movies – the absolute pinnacle of cinema. One John’s little brother and his parents went to sleep, he and Matt and I gathered around the computer and surfed adult oriented websites. You know, financial planning, 401 Ks, issues concerning the upcoming local port commissioner elections. Nah, I’m kidding. I’m talking about porn. Late 90s porn, which was both inferior to and less horrible than modern porn. John and I loved both the titillation and the rebelliousness. I think Matt mostly did it to fit in with us, and because otherwise he would have been bored.

Eventually, round about 4 AM, we finally went into John’s room and went to sleep. John took the bed, and Matt and I slept on either side of the bed on sleeping bags. A comfortable enough arrangement. It took me the better part of an hour to go to sleep. I knew I would pay the late night Monday, because I did not sleep well during the week back then. My only consolation as unconsciousness took me was that I could sleep in the next morning.

Four seconds later, I jolted awake as the auditory manifestation of obnoxiousness assaulted my ears. I wrapped my head with my pillow and tried not to hate everything in the universe. A fucking alarm clock? It was Sunday morning, for Christ’s sake. Was John going to church? Why hadn’t he told us? And why did his friends have to suffer? I squeezed the pillow tightly and waited for John to wake up and turn off the stupid thing.
Two agonizing minutes later I realized it was not going to happen.

The bedside dresser that held the alarm was, of course, on the other side of the bed from me. So I stood up and felt my way along the edge of the bed. The sun had just started to rise outside, but the window provided insufficient light to actually see anything.. The only sensations in my word were the feel of the bed, the freezing cold of my bare feet, and the screeching noise stabbing into my brain. I made it to the other side of the bed, and walked over Matt’s sleeping body towards the alarm. I stepped on his wrist, but he didn’t wake up. No real surprise. If he slept through this noise, I could probably set his balls on fire with no reaction. At least then I could see what I was doing.

I got the table and fumbled around for the alarm. I couldn’t find it. It wasn’t on the table at all! In my half asleep state I considered the possibility that I was either dreaming or insane. Or maybe a tiny demon perched just inside my ear. A minute of blind and panicked searching revealed that the alarm was inside the top drawer of the dresser. I pounded the top of it with my hand, stumbled back towards my sleeping bag, and went back to sleep.

Four seconds later, my eardrums exploded. The fucking snooze button. I had hit the fucking snooze button. I stood up. Still no one else woke up, even at this hell-spawned device’s second attempt. I lurched back over. I slipped on a piece of John’s blanked and landed on my knee. Pain lanced through me, but I barely cared. I stoop up and head towards the dresser, stepping on Matt again, and yanked open the drawer. It was a little bit lighter in the room, now. I could see the alarm a little bit. It had what looked like 200 buttons. I had no idea what they were all for. I hit one that I hoped was the off switch. Then I gathered all of the clothes in the drawer, and some of the ones from the drawer below, and smothered the clock as thoroughly as I could in fabric. Then I stomped back towards my sleeping bag and went to sleep.

Four seconds later, someone rammed a Phillips head screwdriver into my skull. The snooze again? The pile of clothing was massively underwhelming soundproofing. I leapt to my feet – only then remembering the pain in my knee – and marched over to the dresser. I opened the battery compartment on the bottom of the clock, pulled out the two AAs, and threw them behind the dresser. I looked over at John. He was still asleep, with his mouth hanging open and his whole countenance an expression of effortless peace. I won’t say that I seriously considered grabbing one of his pillows and holding it over his face until he stopped breathing. Of course I won’t say that. That’s not the sort of thing you should ever write down. I trudged back over to my sleeping bag, lay down, and, finally, went to sleep.

I yelled at him about it the next day for almost 20 minutes. Mostly he just laughed. His mom told me that he had a hard time waking up to alarms. It wondered why he bothered. A year later, as we all prepared for college, John’s mom got him an alarm shaped like a truck. It was very loud, with a violent vibration, and a honking noise, and then two or three other noises that were just as bad. I can only assume it was designed for parents who were afraid their children might drop out of business school and become truckers, and this was to instil in them a deep hatred of all truck related things. We all laughed that this alarm would probably work, for once. Secretly I thought, “good. Now you get to suffer.”

The three of us were such good friends, back then. Matt and I are still very good friends, although he is Matthew now. I haven’t spoken to John in almost 15 years. Sure, he went to college in the south and the two of us went to the same school in Massachusetts. Sure, he lives thousands of miles away and I can get to Matthew’s place in half an hour. There are solid, incidental reasons why we drifted apart. I know this.

But then there are the moments of lucidity. You know the ones. They usually happen as you are watching a sunset, 24 consecutive waking hours after you watched the last sunset. Or when you have had so many margaritas that you are now calling your wife Margarita, and your margaritas Susan, even though your wife’s name isn’t and never has been Susan. Those moments where revelations slam into you like meteorites, and they don’t mean anything to anyone else, and they don’t make the normal kind of sense even to you when you think about them later. During those moments, I think that maybe I never forgave John for the alarm clock.

And if I did? The dude totally had it coming.




*Nyarlathotep approves of spray-cheese for fairly obvious reasons. So, a bit more surprisingly, does Crom.

This is a true story. The names have not been changed, because I am a jackass.


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