The machine had been the doctor's only companion for so many years that for him it had become more than a machine; for as well as helping him with his work, it performed functions that could scarcely be expected of a machine, and it filled the great emotional void in his life.
Three men came for the machine. The doctor stood in the middle of the floor, seeming to shrink, his white eyes pleading and his hands wringing. Once, when he had been a high school teacher, it had occurred to him that this might happen, and while riding through the woods on his bicycle, he had planned what he should do. He put his plan into action: he said to them, "You can't take my machine. It's good only to me; it only works for me. Take pity. Please."
Seeing the three men unmoved, he continued, "I'm afraid you'll HAVE to take pity; you'll HAVE to be compassionate." With a last look at his machine, the doctor stepped with resolve towards thre three men and unbuttoned his shirt: he plunged stiffened fingers into his chest, through the skin, pushing aside ribs, looked at at the men with hot white circular eyes, grabbing at his heart, yanking it out by the roots, holding it out in front them; he dropped his heart on the floor, where it lay thrashing, still connected to most of his vascular system, and then Dr. Van Cleef Arpels fell into a bloodless, insignificant heap beside it.
Sickened by the doctor's display, the three hurriedly left the cavern. One of them, whose name was Proklyatiev, became violently ill and stumbled, gagging and retching, off the side of a cliff. The other two went back to where they were staying, a dark gaudy Victorian house in a secluded part of Staten Island. Once inside, they closed the windows, locked the doors, drew the blinds, and began to discuss the events of the day. They were soon joined by Proklyatiev, who they had thought was dead. Without a word, Proklyatiev sat down with them, and as they resumed their conversation, his eyes began to wander about the room. When his glace fell upon the old clock on the mantelpiece, he jumped from his seat and with an unearthly sustained shrieking, he flew straight through the air towards the clock and disappeared into its face.
Puzzled by Proklyatiev's behavior, the two decided to call in Dr. Martin Buber, the noted psychiatrist. When Dr. Buber, who turned out to be an old man with a great beard, arrived, they explained Proklyatiev's strange conduct to him. He accepted it all with occasional nods and grunts, and when they were finished, he asked to see the patient. As the two were about to reply, Proklyatiev walked in and took a seat near the doctor, who asked him some pertinent questions. Proklyatiev's attention, however, had been drawn by the window. He wandered over to it and opened it up, and then returned to the doctor. The other two were quietly placing a precautionary shroud over the clock on the mantelpiece. As Dr. Buber resumed his interview, Proklyatiev's attention once again wandered to the window. Several blocks away, a young woman with a lavender sweater was walking up the sidewalk. As soon as Proklyatiev spied her, he jumped to his feet and began shrieking again; he flew through the window straight at her and disappeared, still shrieking, into her breast.
Unnerved by what had happened, the girl came to the house far an explanation. As soon as Dr. Buber saw that she was wearing on her breast, pinned to her sweater, a small golden pendant containing a tiny watch, he assured her that nothing would come of it and sent her on her way. She was picked up by a man in a double-breasted suit who drove her away in a precision-made automobile.
"I think", said Dr. Buber to the other two, "that I can explain to you your friend's behavior. You see, he has what I call a Clock-Consciousness, which becomes manifest in his active search for the Clock-Reality..." He was about to continue when Proklyatiev entered. The two were curious to see what Dr. Buber would do, and pondered what he'd said, wondering exactly what the Clock-Reality was. Dr. Buber had Proklyatiev sit directly opposite him. "Look into my eyes, Proklyatiev," he said. Proklyatiev did as he was told, and the doctor began to to roll his eyes strangely until they actually seemed to be spinning. As they whirled, they began to resemble two clock faces. Proklyatiev immediately saw the resemblance. He took up his shriek again, leaped into the air, and was sucked into Dr. Buber's eyes.
"You needn't worry about your friend any more," he said to the two; "You see, Proklyatiev has found the Clock-Reality." Dr. Martin Buber picked up his bag and the two paid him and bade him farewell.
—601 W 115th Street, 1966