I open my eyes, rolling out of my bed, feet touching the ground. The springs of the mattress groan and screech as I take my weight off of it, the sound as close to the ringing of morning bells as I’ll ever get. I cross the living room of my apartment to the bathroom, where I splash water on my face to wake myself up. Studying my reflection, I allow myself an inward smirk- many have said I don’t look a day over twenty-three. They’re off by a couple powers of ten. I briefly consider putting in my contact lenses and gloving my left hand, but think better of it. I’d rather not have to disguise myself until I go out.

After showering, I pull on my regular clothes- a pair of dark jeans and a metallic grey button-up shirt. Fastening the second-to-last button, I give it a tug downward before smoothing out the sleeves, leaving the cuffs unbuttoned. After a moment’s thought, however, I unbutton five buttons of my shirt, letting some air pass through my chest. Wet hair hanging in my face, I hunt for the remote, circling my somewhat spacious living area for it. My income isn’t great- much too small for a regular person to finance an apartment of this size- but it’s amazing what you can buy when you don’t need to pay for food. Eventually, I find it under a couch cushion, and I point it at the television, pressing the power button. I don’t use much human technology, but the television is an exception. I lie down, stretching myself out as my moderately sized television flickers to life. I click through the channels, stopping only long enough to determine that I am not interested in what the channel has to offer.

“-partly cloudy, with-”
“-and it’s out of the park!-”
“-you’ll never need another-”
“-Senate is still-”
“-buy now and-”

I glance at the clock. 7:34. I still have a couple hours before I have to leave for work. Perfect. 7:35. Another minute. Another minute that pushes forward not just that clock, but another clock, one set to a different time. One whose relentless ticking resonates only within the confines of my own skull.

Five months, one week, three days, seven hours, and thirty-five minutes since I was reborn.

I step off the edge.
The wind rushes past me.
Hours go by.

Setting down the remote, I roll off the couch and walk into the kitchenette. Without really paying attention, I gingerly place the filter in the coffee machine, pouring in the necessary water and coffee grounds. I lean against the counter, listening to the machine's percolation.

The ground meets me in a flash.
Bone shatters.
Flesh tears.
There's no pain.
There's nothing.
Nothing at all.

The pot fills, and I pour myself a mug of the steaming black liquid. I press it to my mouth, tipping the cup. The steaming liquid flows past my lips, but I can't feel the heat. Can't taste the bitterness.

All is futile, I realize.

I swallow, feeling my nose wrinkle as the stuff turns to ash. It always happens. I don't know why I keep drinking it, why I make it every morning without fail. It's just another ritual, I guess. Another litany to keep my sanity intact.

What am I? I think to myself.
Nothing like Essum.
Nothing like Balance.
Nothing like the person I used to be.
And certainly not human.

I glance back at the television, sipping my coffee and feeling it turn to ash, leaking like a black waterfall out of the-

“-hole in his chest.” I snap back into the present to see a news anchor fixing a small sheaf of papers in her hands. “To repeat, the next victim in a string of grisly murders all across the state has been found. The man, as of yet unidentified, was found lying on his kitchen table, with a perfectly circular hole cut all the way through his chest. Viewer discretion is advised as-”

I flick off the television, feeling a small spark of contentment. The most important ritual of all. James Reynolds was the man's name, a white male in his 30s. He had three Objects, all scattered around his living room. He'd never expected to be found. Of course, none of them did. I can still faintly hear his death rattle.

I look back up at the clock.

Five months, one week, three days, seven hours, and fifty minutes since I was reborn.

I push the hair out of my face, buttoning my shirt the rest of the way up. It's been three days, and it's time to begin the Ritual again. I walk to the bathroom, staring at the mirror. Two placid, dead eyes stare back at me, their sclera black and their irises gold. I take out my contact lens solution from the medicine cabinet. In no time at all, my eyes look just as any other person's, minus the cold stare. But I've learned to fix that too.

The finishing touch is the glove. My left hand is nothing but bleached bone, bare and white. I can still move it, but I don't know how or why. It slides right into the glove, fitting snugly. I look back in the mirror, pushing my hair out of my face again.

I go back to the kitchenette and open a drawer, rummaging through until I find a glass syringe, as well as a capped needle. I screw needle into syringe, and grab a small vial of clear fluid from the kitchen counter. As I walk out the door, I grab my duffel bag of tools.

8:45. I’d better hurry.

After all, work sooner begun is work sooner done.

Continued in Ritual.

Part of the series Labors in Futility.
Last modified on 2010-01-04 19:20:44Viewed 3476 times

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