Tuesday - 6:14am to the City

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Shannen had woken early, feeling worse than she had the night before, despite over eight hours in bed. She had resisted the pull of alcohol, alone, waiting for Ariana to call back, until shortly before nine o'clock. It was around then that the events of the day had started to catch up with her. She had been sitting on the balcony since the last light had seeped out of the day, reading a light-hearted paperback novel by flickering candle light and listening to classical music on the stereo. After a while she had been unable to concentrate on the page, felt compelled to force her eyes back to the top of the page again and again, because the words simply weren't making sense any more. Finally, she had given up trying to follow the story of the words in front her and closed the book. She stared at the cover for a little while, a picture of a house painted in airy watercolours with a tree and a horse-drawn carriage in the foreground, a strangely happy looking Clydesdale horse with a blade of grass dangling from the corner of a whiskered mouth. Overwhelmed by the cuteness of the picture, Shannen closed her eyes and let her head fall back on the arm of the couch, lying prone along the length of it, legs dangling from the knees over the opposite end. She had attempted to call Ariana several times throughout the night, had left messages the first few times and then had given up, disconnecting the call when Ariana's bright recorded "Hi...!" came over the line again and again. Eventually, she had picked her weary body up, and put herself to bed.

Shannen had not slept well however, her dreams filled with demons and cadavers, lost friends and failed relationships. She had woken throughout the night a number of times, had on one occasion gotten up to go to the toilet and had ended up wandering the small apartment, checking doors were locked, windows closed, blinds drawn. Reminding herself that no one was about in the house apart from herself, trying to convince her brain to just stop thinking, allow her to rest. Eventually she had gone back to bed, despite not feeling any more reassured than earlier, but with the knowledge that she had at least checked the house.

When the alarm clock shrieked at five am, Shannen had been awake for some twenty minutes already, had been steadily watching the second hand on her old-fashioned, op-shop bought clock tick down the minutes that she was not going to get any more sleep in. Fully awake, but far from refreshed, Shannen got out of bed and showered with the water turned as hot as her body could stand. When she wrapped the towel around herself, she noticed how red her skin had gone from the hot stream of water, and noted that it didn't seem to matter how hot the water was, she still felt the stench of death lingering on her skin. She hadn't touched the body, had seen nothing more of the body than a pink painted and slightly chipped toenail, but somehow she could still smell the scent of the corpse surrounding her.

Shannen found a clean uniform shirt and slipped it over her head, then found yesterday's pants lying in a crumpled heap on the floor. She picked them up, shook them out, inspected them half-heartedly, and climbed into them. She quickly pulled her dark hair back with a black elastic, the end of the pony tail skimming the back of her neck. She leaned forward, examining her face in the mirror. She was naturally slender, her cheek bones fairly prominent underneath the olive skin. She had brown eyes set beneath long dark lashes, and, as of this morning, she had dark crescent-moon shadows beneath them. When she looked closely, she could see the beginnings of crows' feet extending from the outside corners of her eyes, a slight vertical crease beginning at the top of her nose. Shannen considered putting on some make up to hide the worst of the stress showing on her face but a yawn caught her suddenly, stretching her mouth wide. She decided to just quickly smear some mascara on – any more than that would be just too much effort this morning. She performed the ritual quickly, then blinked and turned away from the mirror.

Shannen went to the kitchen and slowly made herself a cup of tea, which would serve as breakfast until she got into work. As she waited for the kettle to boil, she began thinking of Ariana again, wondering why she hadn't called back last night. She finished making the tea and sipped it slowly as she grabbed the phone, hit redial, and nestled it into her neck. It rang a while, then "Hi, this is Ariana's phone..."


Elouise was startled awake by the jarring sound of the morning radio breakfast announcers suddenly braying synthetic-sounding laughter from the clock radio beside her bed. It was five am, and still caught up in her dreams as though they were lace curtains for her to peep through, she tried to make sense of the morning. Her body cried out to be allowed to go back to sleep, but then the thought of meeting Zach in an hour or so pried her eyes open. Until she remembered what had happened yesterday. With the sudden recollection of the angst she had been struggling with into the early hours of this morning, she closed her eyes. Zach's face, the comfort she knew he would offer, faded in her mind's eye, and Elouise allowed the call of further sleep to pull her back under, where she didn't have to make a decision between her husband and her lover - between surety and security and lust and laughter.


Walter lay in the narrow bed, eyes closed and dull pain coursing through his body. His mind was foggy, the memories of the past night hazy, and he wasn't entirely sure how he had ended up here, or even where here was. There had been nurses come in and out through the night, taking blood pressure, changing the bag hanging from the intra-venous drip, asking him to swallow more pain killers. He wasn't certain where the pain was located anymore. It had started in his hip, but the drugs, the fall on his doorstep and the general fogginess which now overtook him made it seem to be emanating from everywhere, and nowhere. He half opened his eyes and, without moving his head, took in the room around him. Hanging above the pitifully small hospital bed was the ever-present IV bag, hanging from a flimsy pole poking out of a groaning, whooshing pump. He followed the tubing down with his eyes to where it disappeared into his right wrist. He flexed his wrist experimentally but felt no pain, at least none associated with the drip as far as he could tell. Looking back up above him, he could see the oversized standard-issue bed head, upside down in his point of view, and completely rigged up with strange valves and spigots, incomprehensible acronyms on the labels below them. To his left, he could see a table, the sort that was designed to be rolled over the bed, it had an unopened newspaper and a nearly empty bottle of water on it, and was littered with the little plastic cups that they brought his tablets around in. Further to the left, there was a window. The view to outside was dingy and it was difficult to see, but he could discern the barren tops of high rise buildings in the middle distance, although everything beyond this was just haze under a grey sky. His gaze slipped from the view and suddenly alighted on a figure sitting in a chair beside the window, apparently staring out the window, watching the rain as it dropped from the sky.

Walter gave a start when he realised that someone was in the room with him. The chair had been turned halfway towards the window and the person sitting in it had turned to the rest of the way to look out, so their back was towards him. It was unlikely that they had realised he was awake, Walter realised. Walter examined the figure closer, a weedy body, thin shoulders clad in light blue serge, hair concealed underneath what appeared to be a policeman's cap. The figure was wearing dark blue pants to complement the lighter shirt, and Walter realised that the person was a police officer, although he could not determine of what gender. Why a policeman would be in his hospital room, he had no idea, but then he didn't understand why they had come to his door last night either. He guessed that there was something they needed to talk to him about, but why would that necessitate putting a policeman in his room, waiting for him to wake up?

How had he gotten here anyway? He knew he had been here for some time, since late the afternoon before, he assumed. The last thing he could remember was opening his door to the police officers the night before. He cast his memory back, tried to work out if one of those was the one here in his hospital room now, but couldn't make a positive identification either way. The policemen at the door must have called an ambulance, brought him here. Which would indicate that this was the large public hospital about twenty kilometres from his home. And now there was one of the boys in blue in the room, waiting.

The thought of having to face this police officer if it was discovered that he was awake made him nervous and upset. It occurred to him that if he continued to sleep, the event would at least be put off, if not cancelled. He shifted onto his side, so that the figure in the room was behind him and out of his range of vision, and closed his eyes again. He waited for the drugs to wash their foggy cloud over him and send him back to blissful, unknowing sleep. Eventually, they did, and Walter slept.


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