The Cuckoo Clock of Doom
Series number: 28
Number of pages: 118
Release date: February 1995
Tagline: Keep your eye on the birdie!
Did I Read It as a Child?: Yes
The Story On the Back
Tara the Terrible. That’s what Michael Webster calls his bratty little sister. She loves getting Michael in trouble. Making his life miserable. Things couldn’t get any worse. Then Mr. Webster brings home the antique cuckoo clock. It’s old. It’s expensive. And Mr. Webster won’t let anyone touch it. Poor Michael. He should have listened to his dad. Because someone put a spell on the clock. A strange spell. A dangerous spell. And now Michael’s life will never be the same again…
The Story On the Pages
I… I can’t even with this story. There is a little sibling in The Cuckoo Clock of Doom that is worse than any other little sibling to exist in the Goosebumps universe. The story itself? Well, fuck me, it might be good, but I wouldn’t know. I personally just can’t get past my roiling hate for the little sister-bitch Tara.
She makes the ending satisfying as fuck, but the first forty percent of the book is just a pure nightmare with her around. Let’s just get this over with, shall we?
The Cuckoo Clock of Doom opens with Michael, our twelve year old POV, complaining about Tara, his seven year old little sister who, as mentioned above, is the literal worst of the worst of the worst. I don’t know if I want to put her below Hitler, but… I’m tempted. I’m seriously tempted with this little bitch.
Also mentioned above, Tara spends a huge amount of the opening of this story establishing herself as the worst. Michael relates back to how she ruined his birthday this year. And ruined all his days in general, birthday or no, since she was born.
But Michael ends up in possession of something that just might help him deal with Tara the Terror. A cuckoo clock that his dad brings home from an antique shop. How could this possibly help? This cuckoo clock has the ability to time travel. Fiddle with the hands and off you go, hurtling through time to wherever you’ve chosen to go.
Of course Michael fiddles with the clock to a disastrous degree. He sends himself backwards in time by years, waking up as a third grader one morning, a kindergartner the next, and then a literal baby, in a crib and diapers, the day after that.
He ain’t got much time left to fix things at this point. And yes, of course he talks about how uncomfortable a diaper is. Meaning that yes, this is a twelve year old’s mind still in the baby. Which doesn’t make sense because that’s not how time travel works. I don’t care how wibbly-wobbly time is, this isn’t how it works and you can’t tell me differently!
On the sheer coincidence that his parents are apparently swimming in cash, his mom packs him up to take him to an antique store to buy a dining room table. C’mon, they’re young adults with a baby and they’re buying antiques? The rest of us are struggling to save for Ikea shit and keeping the cat from scratching it because it has to last for at least a decade!
Luckily, the antique shop baby Michael and his mom end up at is the same shop where his dad will buy the cuckoo clock twelve years later. And wouldn’t you know it, it’s there now. Michael sneaks away from his mom, who is so oblivious to the world around her that she doesn’t notice when her infant son makes a break for it, and again uses the cuckoo clock to time travel.
He ends up back in his twelve year old body but something has changed in the timeline. And it’s something for the better. Seems the cuckoo clock had a defect. There’s a little dial that displays what year it is, and it’s missing a year in the 90s. The year Tara was born.
Tara the Terror is dead, long live Michael!
I have nothing to say about Michael besides mentioning that the kid got a raw deal. Little siblings always suck and Tara sucked extra hard. I’m pretty sure the kid was a psychopath in the making. And of course Michael’s parents always sided with her, that’s just how parents are with their youngest.
I went through the whole “your little sibling is wonderful it’s you who is the problem” and it’s not fun. So I empathize with Michael, I really do. I just don’t have anything to say about him as a character. He’s not exactly deep or layered. He’s just better than the alternative of Tara.
Spooks and Scares
I don’t personally think that time travel is scary. Fucking with timelines, screwing up the future, I don’t know, doesn’t do a single thing for me. It’s too sci-fi and sci-fi is one of my least favourite genres.
Now I’m not saying that sci-fi can’t be horror because it absolutely can, look no further than Alien for that. And time travel can have horror elements, but it doesn’t feel like it can fully be horror because on the scale of sci-fi to horror, it’s heavier on the sci-fi side.
As to how Stine could have made The Cuckoo Clock of Doom scary, I’m truly at a loss. My brand of horror is routed deeply in supernatural spooks. Ask me to pitch you a horror movie with space or time travel or future technology and you’re going to get something as shitty as the Friday the 13th movie that has Jason in space.
It’s not my niche.