The metronomic clack-clack-clacking of It’s monstrous nails impatiently counted off the seconds.

It stood, huge and black, it’s calcified head elongated and deformed with age. It’s fingers clack-clack-clacking out time as it passed.

With a groan of bones being ground against bone, It’s head dropped to one side.

It listened.

The black Munch “Scream” holes it had for eyes had long since ceased to take in light. But what did it need to see for?

***

He stood, mug of tea in one hand, plate of food in the other, and the phone nestled between his ear and his shoulder.

He scanned his flat. There was washing up in the sink; clothes to be washed in an overflowing basket.

“Nah, not so busy. What do you need?”

He listened. “Uh huh. Ok. But just two minutes, right? Because there is some stuff I was hoping to get done.”

He listened some more. “Cool. Let me log in and I’ll see you there.”

He waited for the other side to disconnect and let is phone fall onto the sofa, before setting his food down and firing up his machine.

***

It shook and forced air from its body in excited hisses. It’s finger nails clack-clack-clacked constantly as it rubbed its swollen, calloused fingers together.

The Clacking stopped. It’s hands poised, held still over a time stream.

Waiting now.

Waiting…

***

“Ok – just two minutes.”

***

– before stabbing into it – bursting the seams, slicing ragged wounds in the ordered flow. Time bled out as It’s nails slashed and hacked onwards, ever onwards, ripping hours from the line. Deftly It scooped them up, wiping them on Its cape.

And all the while, it whined and hissed and shook, flecks of spittle forming at the rictus frozon on its face.

Once It had finished, the figure turned in on itself, becoming a plane, twisted, becoming a point, and winked out.

Where it once stood, a timeline flapped, Time hemorrhaging from the multiple lacerations that had been inflicted on it.

***

“Shit – is that the time? What the fuck have I been doing all night?”

***

Home sang with the sound of sand blowing. It scrapped the remains of It’s attack from its cape and flicked the stolen hours into those that already littered the landscape. It pondered syphoning off the free flowing time from the last attack but shook It’s head, the grinding bone again.

It preferred the idea of it bleeding away.

Just audible above the constant hiss, and the regular clack-clack-clacking of its nails was a keening. The Figure stepped into the building it was coming from.

Inside, strapped to a rack, was a man. He was stretched to breaking point. There were signs of tearing and fraying at his edges – multiple slashes were visible on his face and body. There was a point he had been rounded, more jovial but that was long ago.

Long ago experientially. Time meant nothing for The Figure. Meant nothing where they were.

Not that that comforted Free Time.

He drew a ragged breath. “What ever you’re planning. It won’t work. People will miss me.”

The Figure regarded It’s captive.

Pondered.

Then limped towards the him, dragging It’s mass as it did.

“Keep away. Don’t come near me!”

It pushed Its face close. Deep within the empty eye sockets, a light grew. It extended a finger on each hand, scraping over wounds at Free Time’s temples that hadn’t even begun to heal.

“Please. Not again.” He sobbed.

The Figure shook and hissed, spraying his captive with spit.

Then slammed the nails in.

***

Free Time’s screams were drowned out as he watched the scene presented in his captor’s eye sockets.

Major Goals was looking over a map pinned to a table. On the other side was Private Dreams.

Goals was speaking. “We’ve got the first wave set up. They’re ready to roll out. We’ll hit them where they least expect it. But it’s not a frontal attack. Oh no. It’s an insertion. We’ll just paste some shock troops in.”

Dreams just nodded. The captive could see this was going over his head.

“Dreams, I need you to find me someone. He’s in here somewhere. Name’s Zarkophski. He was always great at this kind of thing. And the weirder the shit going down, the better he likes it. This is right up his alley.”

***

The Figure yanked its nails out. Free Time was visibly more haggard. Time had been sliced from him, and now tripped from It’s fingers.

The Thief of Time raised itself to its full height, the fossilized structure protesting against the excess of movement, threw it’s head back and let loose a moan. It shook violently, the nails clack-clack-clacking as this limbs jerked, spastically.

Everything was going as planned.

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