Still working on Smoke, Part 2. Not ready yet. So a new, short one tonight.
He woke up, on top of the covers in his bed, his chest being pounded from the inside by his heart. It took him several moments to realize that; he felt a discontinuity. On the one hand, he was obviously motionless and still, having just seconds ago been asleep. On the other hand, his back and legs ached, and his heart rate was dangerously near his aerobic maximum, his lungs burning and he, gasping for air, as if he’d just run a race. He couldn’t put the two facts together. One or the other was incorrect, a mistake. And yet there they were.
He felt the constant artificial wind from the fan, placed at just the correct angle to blow across his body but not directly in his face. His eyes took in the light, yellowed by the curtain but still nearly full daylight. He rolled over, away from the fan, and squinted at the digitally-reproduced time on the bedside table: 8:49 PM. While he watched the numbers morphed into 8:50 PM, then 8:51 PM. He was fascinated by the rate of change. It seemed tied to his heart rate and breathing somehow.
Maybe the fan tricked me into thinking I’m moving really fast, he thought. Yeah, that’s probably it. My subconscious mind, active while my conscious mind slept, took in the daylight through my eyelids, and combined with the air rushing past, decided that I was falling.
He was always doing this, rationalizing away what was normally inexplicable to him. He couldn’t help it. No one could deal with facts that completely contradict the ebb and flow of life and remain sane. Of course, making up stories about why a live salmon was flopping on a sidewalk, miles from a river, or telling oneself that a fan could produce such a huge oxygen deficit that would rival what was produced during an hour-long workout… that stretches the definition of sane, doesn’t it?
More than anything he was bored. Bored of his life, bored of the people in it, bored of the day to day grind of work and rest and eating and shitting and all of it. He welcomed fear and panic; at least that was something out of the ordinary.
Which side of the bed do I get out of? he asked himself. He always tried to enter and leave the bed by a different route every day. He had pushed his bed into the exact middle of the bedroom in order to have all four sides available for his entrance and exit. In the few moments it took him to decide, the clock cycled through another eleven minutes. He scrambled out the foot of the bed. He hadn’t gone out that way in a long time.
The blank walls of his room screamed at him. A small pile of clothing, clean, made an island in the boring brown carpet between his bed and the closet. A small pile of clothing, dirty, made a peninsula against the corner of his bed, extending out into the boring bedroom towards the door. He stepped over these, pulled a pair of shorts and a t-shirt from the top shelf of the closet and put them on.
Gordon was bored. Dangerously bored. His breathing slowly decelerated towards average, his heart beats spaced themselves out, incrementally, until he was no longer aware of them. He’d returned to balance.
He hated this feeling. He was especially annoyed this time, since he had a half-baked idea for why he woke up feeling like that, one he found difficult to swallow. He was mad at himself for letting himself down like that.
Why did I wake up? What was I doing going to sleep that early, anyway? What am I going to do now that I’m awake?
He found his phone and slipped it into his pocket. He searched the mountain of debris on the coffee table in the living room (LIVING room? Ha. He hardly lived in there at all) and mined out his key, which joined his phone in a pocket. He slipped into a pair of sandals.
Outside. Had to get outside.
In the brief time he’d been awake, the summer sun had set and darkness had oozed over the world. In spite of himself he shivered when he stumbled out into the cold night air. It felt wintry, chilly, on the exposed skin of his arms and legs, his face, after the subtle heat of his bedroom.