Every word counts (four, five, six). It is not like the swing of the pendulum in the grandfather clock or the movement of the stars for this is a set number of heartbeats, allotted before time began, set by formula in your genetic clock. It is finite and therefore it is fate, pre-ordained and exact. Today it is two hundred. Today you are ‘it’. Eyes screwed shut and counting (seventy, seventy one) whilst the others run and hide in dark places. Their little bodies wriggle down into dusty corners, between shelves and in the deepest recesses of the smallest cupboards. Your ears are alert to their every scrape and step. And with four to go the grim reaper will raise his scythe, ready to strike on the final beat. You rush through the numbers, each one counted out in full (one hundred and forty four, one hundred and forty nine), with no realisation that the end is close. Your senses strain for clues but fail to sense the raising. The dust settles, the wriggling is stilled, the giggle suppressed, the breath held. The die is cast. Almost there. You gabble on (one hundred and ninety six). Coming, ready or not.