He opened his eyes and stared at the ceiling for the fourteen thousand, five hundred, and thirty-fourth time in that life. It looked much the same as it had for the last seven hundred or so times: a swirling grey field with the flattened and splayed spider-like shape of the overhead fan fixed in its center. He had woken before dawn every day since he moved into that apartment and started sleeping on the floor under that fan. The fan had never turned on once.

He laid there and listened to the darkness of the apartment. The refrigerator hummed, and he took a moment to appreciate its mechanical drone. It was the only time of day that it was quiet enough for him to notice. Sometimes there would be noise from the street below and it usually woke him, but not that morning.

He tried to recall the dream he had been having, but it had fled, and all that he could catch was a fleeting glimpse of its ethereal skirts as it disappeared behind the closing door of his rising consciousness. He smacked his lips in resignation and rolled his hips, encouraging his blood to move through his old back and legs. The thick duvet felt heavy, so he threw it aside and let the cold of the room wash over his naked body. He rarely wore nightclothes, as they made him uncomfortable and triggered his claustrophobia.

Satisfied that he wanted to be awake, he turned himself over and stood. He left the bedroom and padded onto the cold tile of the bathroom. That ritual was always the same: empty his bladder and splash some water on his face. He never bothered to look in the mirror, and not because he was avoiding his countenance. He learned years ago that vanity was an unnecessary stressor and one that he could ignore. The less energy that he spent on his looks, the more he had for important things.

He moved from the bathroom to the kitchen and ran the tap there until the water was icy cold. He filled an electric kettle, then a water jug from which he took deep draughts. He stood in the dark niche over the sink, above which a tall window overlooked the street. There was a white dusting of frost on the road in front of the apartment, and nothing moved. The rising sound of the kettle as it reached its boil was comforting, and he meditated there for a moment on his fear of silence.

The kettle’s tiny computer brain kicked in and it turned itself off. The loud click broke him out of his thoughts, and he set about preparing the day’s first cup of coffee. He reflected on his rituals and considered making them the topic of that morning’s writing, then laughed out loud at the metaphysical properties that would take.

The coffee-making was a simple but relaxing process of hand-pressing the grinds until they squeezed a few ounces of rich, dark sludge into the bottom of a heavy cobalt glass mug. To this he added a cup of cold milk and put the drink into the microwave for a minute to warm the mixture. The yellow glow that emerged from opening the oven was always the first ray of light that he received in the morning. He moved to his workstation while the coffee was warming and activated his computer. A trio of monitors sprang to life, returning to the place in his work where he had left them the night before.

He sat down and began to write.

2015.01.15 – 2023.08.16

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