09: A Routine Escape

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Kyle fumbled into his apartment. He stopped next to the table and looked at the cardboard box that was still waiting to be unpacked. Standing still, he became aware that the room was moving. It spun slowly, like a carousel stuck in the moment right before it stops, and the floor tilted off balance, ever so slightly shifting gravity towards the wall.

He placed his fingers on the table to keep his balance and closed his eyes to feel the spin. Alcohol always made him more sensitive to the rotation of the planet, and he reveled in the feeling of time moving forward. Earth did not care for things like destiny and perfection. It only cared for progress and refused to wait for even a single second. There was no such thing as the right time, only now.

Kyle moved his feet and ambled closer to the sounds seeping into the apartment. He flung the curtains open and squinted his eyes at the city below. Life screamed back, demanding attention for adhering to progress. He slid open the glass door and stepped out onto the balcony, an action he usually reserved exclusively for the night, when life no longer had the energy to shout. He considered it very old-fashioned—ancient even—to stick to a circadian schedule, especially when the majority of that schedule revolved around the sun.

Despite his hatred for the sun, however, Kyle took immense pleasure from having a daytime buzz. His senses warped in a way that changed his perspective on the world around him. The sunlight, which was often unbearable on his pale skin, heated the outside of his body, aligning itself with the warm glow resonating within him. The city had a distinctive feel to it, and the temperature and smell intensified with his buzz, making him feel more at home.

He leaned against the slender railing that served as the only barricade from falling down the seventeen floors separating him and the pavement. For as long as he could remember, whenever he looked straight down, there had always been a tiny voice in the back of his mind repeating one word: Jump. It was frightening enough to act as a deterrent in itself, even without his slight acrophobia, and he constantly found himself applying only the most minuscule amount of his body weight. Today was different, though. He hefted his weight onto his elbows and poked his head over the railing.

The people below exhibited their individual routines. Kyle watched them the way a scientist would study lab rats in a maze. Their actions amused him. Life becomes a comical routine to the drunk observer musing over the meaning of eternity. The same questions inevitably abound in his mind. What's the point? Will any of this matter after death? Does any of this matter even now? Kyle knew the questions themselves were meaningless and had no proper answer, but they continued to gnaw at the fringes of his brain.

He pushed off the banister and retreated inside. He slid the glass door until the noise from outside became a soft muffle and closed the curtains. He did not want to be a part of that world. The word 'routine' might as well be synonymous with death. Living life like automatons, letting choices be predetermined and consistent every day, submitting to a never-ending loop until either retirement or death came first. It was not something that Kyle could ever accept for his own life, and he held a special kind of disdain for those who were capable of escaping routine but instead chose to habitually complain about it.

As he turned his body, his eyes caught on the caricature drawing of him and Elizabeth. Her cartoonish smile seemed to be directed at him, telling him not to worry. For the first time, Kyle felt what his caricature must always be feeling, concern about what the future will bring. Perhaps, he thought, having a routine can be useful, if only as a means of distraction. It would be a temporary solution, he knew, but what is life but a series of brief moments with transitory decisions?

He withdrew into the kitchen for the best temporary routine his mind knew. He took an empty glass from the cupboard and dropped in one of his beloved whiskey stones he grabbed out of the freezer. He crouched down behind the bar area and pulled out his favorite bottle of scotch. The aroma escaped as soon as the final twist pulled out the cork, quickly rising into his nostrils and inviting him to take a drink. He poured himself a double, counting aloud from one to four two times as the liquid poured into the glass. Holding his breath, he took a sip and relished the powerful stinging sensation as he rolled it around on his tongue. He could taste the sweet nuttiness of the barley being overpowered by the strong kick of the oak cask it soaked up for twelve years.

Placing the bottle back under the bar, he walked into his studio and sat down in front of the keyboard. He put down the drink and powered on the holographic display. It notified him that he had a new message. He looked down at his wristband, curious as to why he didn't feel it vibrate earlier. The alcohol must have dulled his nerves, attenuating the connection between his synapses and the wristbands sensors. He pushed his hand in the air as if giving an invisible person a high-five. The notification on the display switched to a fullscreen video of Dr. Marcom's face.

"Hello there," the prerecorded video of him said. Kyle could tell from the framed diplomas behind him that the doctor was in his office. The voice continued, "We have some important updates for you regarding your wife's energy signature. When you have a moment, please come into the office so we can discuss it further. You can make an appointment with my secretary, but, if you'd prefer, I am also available for an hour starting at one o'clock. Feel free to come on in. I hope to see you soon."

The face froze for a second and then disappeared as the window diminished into the background. Kyle tapped his wristband to check the time. It showed half past noon. It would take him at least half an hour to get to the doctor's office.

He looked at his drink. So much for establishing a routine, he thought. He took another sip, leaving the remainder in the glass to finish up later, and walked out of the apartment.

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