Late Riser

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Ugh.

Eyes crack in tiny slits. Dark room. Alarm. One hand snakes out from beneath cold linen sheets. Taps a button. Silence returns. Cold air hangs over the bedlike black cotton. Presses down heavy.

Ugh. Her legs curl under her, hand clamped between her thighs. She pulls the covers tighter, curled around her shoulders. Across the back of her neck. She feels herself shutting down.

A little while longer.

The mattress tugs. Envelops. Sucks her in, like a smothering friend. She curls into a ball. Trapped between pillow top and the black cotton air, she pulls the linens close. They slither coldly against her naked skin and wrap around her ankles.

The tinny alarm pierces her eardrum again.

God, is it louder now?

Her body turns and one hand rises, landing flat on the snooze. The room is gray now. The edges of the curtain shine with uncertain light.

Uhngh, she cries silently and pulls the linens hard against her chest. Night air seeps in.

I don't want to do this, she thinks as she squeezes her eyes shut and prays for sleep to come once more, laying prone. The light at the edge of the curtains teases her. Taunts her. She shifts, but the linens wrap themselves around her legs and torso, and she doesn't get far. She pulls the linens up to her face, over her head.

The light behind the curtains won't leave her alone. It grows in intensity. Pokes her. Prods her. Calls her by name. White streaks of sunlight lay flat across the wall and she peeks with one eye out at the white fire outline of the window. She reaches out. Inches back the curtain. Morning light floods the room, full of promise and potential and prosperity. A universe awaits outside her windowsill, but the sun is blinding and she can only make out the largest of shapes.

Nope. Not ready for that, she flinches as she lets the curtains fall back again. The room resumes its heavy gray silence. Her hands ball in front of her face.

A few moments more. Not now. Not yet.

She rolls away from the window. The linens constrict more tightly around her exposed skin. She plunges, headlong, back into oblivion.

The alarm screams its ruthless tone again. It grates against her insides and fills her head like a spiked pinball ricocheting inside her skull. This time, a hand comes whirling, streaking through the dead filled air. It crashes down.

Off, damn you. It's not time yet. I'm not ready.

She stubbornly points her back at the lighted window, the linens stretched so tightly across her that the cold air seeps straight through.

Why is it so cold in here?

She pulls the bedclothes up over her face, over her head. The pillowtop grates at her thighs. Tiny pieces of lint dig into her side. Even the linen itself, once so smooth and so warm, feels like sandpaper that scrapes across her legs and belly.

You have stuff to do, her mind gently reminds her.

I know. I don't care, she replies. I'm tired.

You still have stuff to do.

Behind her, the window beckons. She can't see it. Refuses to see it. She squeezes her eyes shut. Spots and flecks dance in her smothered pupils as she refutes the call of the sun.

Ugh. Can't it wait a little while longer?

She rolls onto her back. One arm drapes off the side of the bed, as she glares at the gray flipping numbers of the old clock. She got this when she was a child and it stayed with her since - her daily tormentor.

Tick tock, comes the back of her head.

Not time. Not yet.

She lays, linens twisted and coiled around her legs, one arm hanging lazily off the edge of the mattress. She stares with tired eyes at the window, outlined in white morning light. The air is cool across her skin and the black cotton is now gray wool, stiff and suffocating. Beneath her, the mattress scratches at her.

You should go outside. You know what's out there.

Thoughts of sky and sun and cars and children dance through her head. Everything so clear and bursting with colour. Violent green grass and the pink flowering cherry blossom beneath the window. The tiny rock garden with its golden sumac and its red rose bush. A tall gingko with bright orange fruit hanging precariously from the branches. People. Places. Things. The world. Life.

Ugh. Do I have to?

Yes, comes the soft reply.

I can stay here.

Not forever.

Leave me alone. Let me sleep. Please.

She tries more extreme measures. Head under the pillow. Her breathing stifles. Carbon dioxide builds in the small space in front of her face. Her own breath, hot and stuffy, singes her eyes, wets her lips. It smells of garlic and ash and doesn't taste much better. She pulls her knees to her chest, but the linens tighten on her thighs, keeping her from full contraction. She lays, unmoving, and pulls the pillow down tighter across her face. Sweat beads up on her nose as her exhales raise the temperature. It grows hard to breathe. The room is a hazy gray now, almost white, and still, the light creeps in under the pillow.

No, she tells herself. Tells the clock.

You don't have a choice, the clock tells her back.

Muscles relax and her grip on the pillow loosens. Fresh air creeps in through an opening at the pillow's crease. It brushes against her face, its icy tendrils licking at her nostrils.

Please is the lame reply, the word hanging impotently at the front of her mind.

No choice. Sorry.

Again, she turns to face the window and stares at the clock. The time surprises her.

Already? How did it get so late?

There is no reply. Only silence, still and pale, frozen in the bedroom's haze.

Two fingers gently pull back the edge of the curtain and a sliver of the room soaks in white heat. It bathes her face and she squints, but doesn't turn away.

Ugh. Just...

No.

A tiny...

No.

One moment longer...

Not a chance.

She lets the drape fall closed and sits up. Slowly, she untangles herself from the linens, unwrapping the suffocating coils from her waist and legs. The air of the room is frigid against her skin and she pulls the sheets up over her naked chest. Her heart sinks as she swings her ankles over the edge and leans on the balls of her hands. For a moment, her stomach churns as vertigo kicks in, and she steadies herself against the falling edge of the mattress.

With a sigh, her feet find the floor, soft and plush, and she grips the centre of the drapes and flings them wide. White light floods over her. As her eyes adjust, the world convalesces into pure shapes, sharp and green and red and gold, full of movement and warmth and light.

At last, she smiles, a soft and tender thing, the edges of her lips raised in the barest of lifts, and she exhales, her breath wafting against the windowpane.

At last.

She casts one last mournful look at the bed with its rumpled sheets and tousled mattress, no longer inviting, merely cold and stiff and sad. She shakes her head and smiles. Fare thee well, temptress, she says as she turns from its cold embrace. Fare thee well. She heads to the door, out to greet the day, however much of it yet remains.

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