sableheart’s scribbles

3 December, 2008

Who am I?

Filed under: Uncategorized — sableheart @ 6:51 pm

A short story I wrote as an example for my class using the theme of identity.

The sick twisting of his stomach jolted him awake. The first thought that crossed his mind was a mundane Where am I? before the euphoria of success took over. He took stock of his surroundings – a small room with a spacious bed facing a plain mirror. The windows had a view of the city from high above. Bold, masculine colours blended together despite the Spartan decor. The strong scent of coffee was wafting from the open door, and it beckoned.

He threw off the covers and took stock of his body in the mirror. It was larger than he remembered, and more muscular. Again came the sense of success and wonder. He admired it a bit longer, pleased with the outcome.

The simple task of preparing oneself for the day was a voyage of discovery. He found that his usual habits only asserted themselves if he actively thought about what to do next, and the unfamiliar-familiar instruments made him nervous. So nervous, in fact, he managed to cut himself twice. He almost panicked over choosing clothes, but when he relaxed, his fingers went unerringly to a dress shirt and slacks.

Breakfast was a strange affair. He ate without registering much, but part of his mind marvelled at the simple taste of eggs and bacon. The coffee from the coffee-maker was serviceable, but part of his mind revolted at the bland taste. Despite this, he ate and drank heartily, and only faltered when he realised he didn’t have a clue as to where he was supposed to go when he left the apartment.

He deliberately relaxed and let the answers come to his mind. An involuntary shudder ran through his body. But he knew where he must go, even if it was only a vague itch in his mind.

Driving an unfamiliar-familiar car was a tense affair. He could drive effortlessly if he didn’t have to think, but the instinctive terror of complacency prevented him from being able to function normally. The route was straightforward, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that it wasn’t quite right.

The building he arrived at was an imposing structure that resembled a dark tower. Its intimidating height dominated the other buildings around it. When he entered the building, his apprehension got the better of him and he almost bolted to the bathroom.

He stared into the mirror, looking at a face that wasn’t the one he was born with, but still identified as his. The mounting sense of horror was shattered by a jovial voice and a hard but companionable slap on the back.

“Got a touch of the butterflies, have you Anderson?” The speaker was a large man dressed in a nondescript business suit. His bulk was reassuring, not intimidating. Not waiting for an answer, he ploughed on, “Only natural you’d get the willies on the first day of the new project.” He winked and left the bathroom whistling cheerfully.

The man turned to look at his unfamiliar-familiar face one last time, then determined to play this through to the end, walked out to face another’s world.

That first day was harder than he thought it would be. Unfamiliar-familiar concepts challenged his usual way of thinking. The routines were an exercise in calm concentration as he sought to use machines that could kill him in a moment’s complacency. Fellow workers acknowledged him, although his strained face did cause a few to take a second look. The thrill of danger ran through him, the unfamiliar-familiar feeling causing his stomach to revolt. It was comfort and disgust rolled into one.
At the end of the day he was exhausted with keeping up the facade and the balance between his former self and his new self. The jovial man from the bathroom earlier approached him and said, “You look beat, Anderson. What say you to a few rounds at the pub?”

“A way to celebrate the first day, eh?”

“That’s right, brother. We’ll head to the joint that you liked so much last time,” the man laughed and nudged him.

The pub was a smoky, dingy place, complete with waitresses that wore too short skirts and dangerous high heels. The atmosphere was perfect for drowning your sorrows, not so perfect for reassuring yourself that the next day would be easier. Nevertheless, the jovial man was good company, providing much insight into how his new self lived. The companionship was good, and he was loathe to leave. However the jovial man insisted on leaving him at what he described as his usual time. He jerked his head over to one of the waitresses as he was preparing to go.

“She remembers you, I’d say you got another chance with that one,” he grinned. “There’s company if you need it.”

The man known as Anderson grunted. She wasn’t his usual elegant type, but evidently was the new self’s. Her long blonde hair was artfully tousled, and her makeup was seductive. She sent him another smouldering look as she leaned over, giving him a glimpse of what lay underneath her white shirt when she picked up his glass. He took her to the apartment that night, as she seemed to expect, and woke up the next day breathing in her cheap perfume.

That day was easier, and the day after that was easier still. He learnt more than he ever wanted to know about his new profession and began to incorporate it consciously into his thoughts, bringing new ideas to his workmates. His new creativity was commented on, but only vaguely and in slight awe.

Every day he felt his old self being subsumed into this new self.

A few months later, he was tired of it. The last day had been a day of tedious nothingness. There was nothing more to do, nothing more to learn. He had assimilated the new knowledge, and was eager to find more ways to use his considerable talents in the field. But his current lifestyle restricted him in his movements, his direction.

He wondered if his restlessness was due to the fact that he knew it was time to move onto the next one.

He thought he was content with his life before. But content hadn’t been enough. He had wanted a family, to settle down, but these thoughts surfaced less and less. They were part of his old self, and his new self was content with the existence. Or had been. He no longer knew. The excitement and danger was intense, and his loneliness and bachelor’s existence was part of it. His promise to himself that this would be the last one was a mockery, a distant reminder of his old values and morals. But he wanted more of the intense highs that came from living the other’s life, except the highs no longer came with the tasks he was set within the building resembling a dark tower.

One day he was jolted awake by a sharp twisting in his gut. He knew what it meant. It was time to move on.


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