I pretty much live like any other typical American. I’m just a normal guy with a fairly ordinary morning routine: I jump in the shower, get dressed, pour a cup of coffee, and—oh yeah, I’m also a slave to a comically-oversized countdown clock in my kitchen that notifies me of my imminent demise should my breakfast not be finished during my allotted time. 

I think many people feel held back in life by their limitations. Maybe they lost their parents at a young age, are estranged from the love of their life, or passed on a lucrative business opportunity. Maybe you wish you worked harder during college, got a different degree, or took time to learn some new skills that would help you transition to a job you’d really love. Or, if you're like me, you have a restricted time in which to make and finish breakfast or else face certain doom.

Like lots of other people, I spend my sleepless nights wondering what happens after we die. Is there an afterlife or do we get reincarnated? Is there a heaven and hell managed by one or more immortal gods tasked with judging the lifetime of choices we’ve made? Or will we be stuck drifting in an empty void rehashing the mistakes that prevented us from finishing our breakfast before our giant countdown clock hit zero?

Another fine breakfast, in relative terms, for someone who would lose crucial seconds if he even bothered to wipe back the sweat incurred from having doomsday clock as his morning meal taskmaster.

I bet it’s not hard to believe that, on other sleepless nights, I think a lot about making a more complex breakfast than my humdrum egg on toast, but its really the only way I can manage. You might think it easier to pour a bowl of cereal and splash a little milk on top. But while cereal preparation is indeed faster, I’ve found it actually takes nearly three times longer to consume, and whatever amount of still crunchy Cheerios I manage to cram down my throat never leaves me feeling full. Even with my timing practically dialed down to a science, it doesn’t stop a man from dreaming about how much more pleasurable my breakfast would be if I could only add a couple strips of bacon. The thought of the smell alone brings tears to my eyes. I’ve daydreamed about the rush I’d get out of waiting for the precise moment to flip a griddle cake to get it a flawlessly uniform golden brown, or pouring enough syrup to fill every single cavity in a plate of waffles and topping it with a mountain of freshly whipped cream. I regularly fantasize about meeting friends for a leisurely late-morning meal, sipping mimosas between multiple courses of both sweet and savoury breakfast bliss. But of course, there’s no amount epicurean euphoria that can counter the dread that I’ll be mid-bite into my second link of smoky maple sausage when the clock hits zero and be transported into a desolate void of nothingness for the rest of eternity.

Statistics say that over 60% of Americans don’t get enough sleep. We wake up with not enough rest, end up hitting the snooze button much more than we should, and are incapable of functioning until we’ve had our caffeine fix. Although I myself haven’t been guilty of that since the clock appeared, I have been increasingly guilty lately of letting myself get far too close to letting the time run out, thus ending my mortal existence. That brings me to the morning in question. Nothing had seemed different. The moment the toast launched out of the toaster, I had my fried egg ready on a hovering spatula. I cracked two turns of pepper and tossed a pinch of sea salt on top. Another fine breakfast, in relative terms, for someone who would lose crucial seconds if he even bothered to wipe back the sweat incurred from having doomsday clock as his morning meal taskmaster.

I was just a few bites away from clearing my plate, and my timing couldn’t have been more perfect. There was just a little over a minute left on the clock when I heard my phone explode into a flurry of buzzes and dings from some distance away. It seems something must have distracted me when I woke up, because I had somehow left my phone on my nightstand.

Against my better judgement, I ran to my bedroom, yanked my phone out of it’s charger and looked at the notifications. One of my Instagram posts had seemingly gone viral, with tens of likes coming in by the second. Elated, I basked in the joy of being rewarded for a standout piece of content. For a moment, the jubilation of reaching social media stardom had overcome the part of my brain that is usually constantly beleaguered by having a five-foot-wide doomsday clock controlling my very existence.

I was brought back down to earth by the telltale warning siren indicating only mere seconds remained. During those few moments of distracted happiness, it had felt like time had stood still, but then it had suddenly accelerated. I launched myself towards the kitchen, leaping through the doorway just in time to witness the clock change from 0:01 to 0:00.