Bogleech.com's 2013 Horror Write-off:
" The Fly Wheel "
Submitted by Occultek
Jim didn't know much of anything about the device that sat in his basement. He didn't know who created it. He didn't know what purpose it served. The device's apparent construction consisted of few parts. A wire cage sat on top of a solid box. In the center of the cage laid a flywheel, with an axle running through it, from the top of the cage, into the box. And from one side of the box emerged a crank. The entire construction was made of either burnished brass or bronze, he could never tell which, with the exception of the crank, whose handle was a dark, varnished wood.
The flywheel spun, silently, as it had for years. Again, Jim knew very little about the device, but it was still important to him. He was instructed, at a young age, that he must always keep the wheel turning. It was a simple enough task, requiring only a short time of cranking, but it was his task nonetheless. When he was young, his parents would do it for him, but, as he grew older, the responsibility was gradually shifted over to him.
Years later, Jim's parents had both passed. It was solely his job to keep the wheel turning. He attended to it like he would every other chore. Every night, he would spend ten minutes turning the crank. It offered little resistance, and the wheel never showed any signs of slowing down, but he decided he would rather be safe than sorry.
The device itself couldn't be moved without difficulty. It sat on a table, and could be slid across with ease, but if Jim tried to pick it up, he had to be absolutely sure not to tilt it at all. The slightest wobble caused the flywheel to emit a violent screeching noise. As he owned the house, this wasn't much of a problem, but it did mean he didn't travel much.
Later still, Jim still cranked the wheel every night. The grip of the handle, at this point, was almost comforting to him. As with most people, Jim had gone through ups and downs in his life, but the device was always there. The crank was always waiting to be turned. When he was right next to it, the flywheel gave out the softest hum, like it was whispering to him. It reminded him of his parents, their words no more than ancient echoes.
Jim found that while he hadn't always taken perfectly good care of himself, he was always in relatively good health. In particular, he had great endurance, and he would go down to his old high school to jog around the track.
Now reaching the middle of his life, Jim found that the device, which had previously acted as a comfort, was becoming an annoyance to him. Whenever he opened the basement door, there it was again, that incessant humming. It filled the room, and though it certainly wasn't loud, it was irritating. The dull metal frame became an eyesore to him. But nevertheless, he turned the wheel.
Years prior, while jogging at that same track, Jim met a woman, Anne. She was around his age, divorced, and was the mother of one of the students at the high school. They became friends shortly after that, and after Anne's son had gone away to college, Jim found himself spending much more time with her, so much so that they had silently come to the agreement that they were now dating. On the anniversary of their first 'real' date, Jim proposed.
Once Anne moved in with Jim, he explained the device to her. He was worried about her reaction, but she was much more understanding than he would've ever expected, to the point that she offered to take turns turning the wheel. After her first turn, she came up from the basement, winded.
Jim's hair was more gray than not. He was certainly showing signs of aging, but it changed very little. He and Anne found themselves spending most of their time on the second floor of the house. They didn't know when it started, but the flywheel's ever-present hum had begun to bleed from the basement into the first floor. Anne found herself unable to continue turning the crank for more than a minute at a time, and would always make jokes about how she just wasn't as strong as Jim was. Jim would always laugh, but, he finally noticed the extra work needed as well.
While fixing himself a snack, Jim noticed that his house was silent. For most people, this would be acceptable, but Jim had avoided the first floor for the past ten years because of that constant, grating hum. He rushed to the basement as quickly as he could. Upon opening the door, he was greeted with the noise once more, but it was softer, reminding him of a far-gone time. He grabbed the crank and with great difficulty began turning it. A few minutes later, the flywheel spun as quickly as it had ever, and its constant hum filled the room once more.
It was at that point that Jim and Anne found themselves returning to the basement twice as often. Once in the morning, and once at night. Jim could see the frustration in Anne's eyes and resolved to better show how much he appreciated her.
Jim was alone, again. Anne had succumbed to illness. He, of course, attended the funeral, but had to leave before Anne's coffin was lowered into her grave. He found himself leaving many things early, but always regretted coming home. With Anne gone, the house felt cold, large, and unwelcoming. The flywheel demanded his attention. Several times a day, he hobbled into the basement. The hum of the flywheel was always soft with each visit, a brief reprieve from the drone that seemed to permeate every inch of building. The silence of the house was a good reminder for when his task was once again at hand. Turning the crank itself was becoming a Herculean feat, and Jim found himself hesitating before each turn, tempted each time to just let the wheel stop, to be reunited with silence, a long-lost friend. But he had no other choice. The device was there for him. Very little else was. After all this time, he still had no idea if it was brass or bronze. The two metals both seemed to corrode the same way as well.
Jim and Anne had never had children together, and Jim was starting to regret this. He could no longer spend much time out of the basement. The wheel slowed down far too quickly. A blaring hum became his only companion. Sleep was short, and waking was always accompanied by panic. Jim tried to contact Anne's son from her previous marriage, but couldn't find him.
Eventually, Jim came to the realization that there would be a point after which he could no longer perform the task he had been given a lifetime ago. Though it started as nothing more than an order from his parents, turning the flywheel had become part of Jim's identity. Preferring for his task to end on his own terms, rather than while he was out, or asleep, he cranked up the wheel one last time, wheezing and sweating profusely, and then left for his kitchen.
When he came back, mug in hand, the wheel had already begun to slow. He sat down beside the table, drinking his tea, and watched. It didn't take long. The loud hum grew soft, and the soft hum became silent. The wheel continued, slowly, making a few more revolutions before letting out a loud, rumbling, grinding noise. And then it was still. And then Jim was still.