And so, our story begins.
Not with any sort of fanfare, but with a man in bed asleep. Like most of us when we doze, his limbs stretch all over the place, enjoying the space a double bed affords. He snorts as he dreams, various hallucinations that will be lost in his own unconscious mind.
Before he can enjoy his slumber for a little longer, the man (henceforth known as the Hero of our tale), is woken up. The instigator of this welcome into the world of the waking is his old digital alarm clock, bursting his sleeping bubble like a rogue pin. It beeps incessantly, until Hero gets up, and shuts it off.
This is where his routine begins. Despite the temptation to rebel, to have another 10 or 20 minutes more sleep, he must resist. Yes, he had earned such sleeping privileges, but unfortunately the world doesn’t quite work like that.
Because, to Hero’s horror, he is already late. The 10 minutes he yearned for, have already passed, and now he is entering a world of rushing around. It seems he is always late, always having to rush around and try to out-run the steady hands of time. Unfortunately, whenever Hero thinks he’s ahead, he sees a whole new deadline in front of him.
With no time for anything, he is doomed to have a cereal bar instead of a nice, filling breakfast. Not that there is anything wrong with a cereal bar; the combination of rolled oats and raisins is a nice snack. But not a morning meal.
Also no time for a shower. A quick splash of water on his face and a brush of toothpaste over his teeth is all Hero can afford. He hopes the minty zing will wake him up a bit.
After all that, a quick blast of deodorant and panicked dressing means Hero is ready to go. He is out the door to get his train, which thankfully departs quite close to his flat. He had put in much thought to make sure he didn’t have a long way to trek to his commute, and in times like these, he was thankful for this decision. However, time was still of the essence, and while he rushed along, he makes sure to straighten himself out. Being late is one thing, being a mess is something else.
Living on a hill was a blessing though, as the incline added speed to his jog. While the seconds ticked away, Hero’s feet pounded the ground and brought him closer to his destination. As he made his way to the main road, he could almost feel a sense of joy over seeing the cars gridlocked there. Yes, his journey was dictated by time, but at least he wasn’t in a queue.
A quick bob and weave past the cars, and Hero was finally there. At the station. His seasonal travel pass in hand to quickly get him through the gate, while the guard watched on for any chancers trying to catch a free ride.
Alas, he had no time to take stock, as his arrival coincided with the train. It pulled up to the platform opposite the station, and Hero pushed himself the final few feet to get to it. He still had time against him, as the platform was located the other side of a subway under the track. With one final run, Hero dashed past the many billboards for various theatre and book publications, and arrived on the platform.
The beeps of the doors closure mocked him as he did, and Hero watched as they slowly, but surely, began to close. His throat was burning with the air he’d been breathing, but he refused to be denied.
Not at this point.
With one final dive, Hero made it through the door. Just in time too, hearing the metal click behind him as he gasped for precious air. He had made it, but at one small cost.
As the train pulled away, Hero saw his cereal bar lying on the platform. He watched as a station attendant bent down, picked it up, and placed it in the bin.
There would be no rolled oats for him this morning, only hunger.
Still, luck was beginning to take his side, as not only had he made it on the train, but there was a free seat as well. Right next to the window, giving Hero a lovely view of his journey. He sighed with pleasure, took the chair, and sat back. Those around him were the usual morbid batch of commuters, who tutted and stared as he threw himself on board. Right now though, Hero didn’t care. He just wanted to enjoy the ride.
Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be quite as easy as that. Not just yet, anyway.
For as Hero sat there, eyes closed in relief, he opened them to see someone approaching. One of the bonuses of his seat was that it was a two-fer; window and aisle in one easy deal. That was all about to change though, as a quite obese man walked down the aisle and made his way to that seat. The two men exchanged a brief glance, the custom among passengers, and Hero shifted as best he could to accommodate the full-sized fellow.
It wasn’t enough. As the large man sat down, the space Hero had gave was lost to his buttocks. And then some. Hero felt himself squeezed against the window he had so craved, and lost the sense of relaxation he had only fleetingly enjoyed.
Instead, his enjoyment of the view was forced rather than leisurely, and he watched as the rolling hills stretched out before him.
A view that would be soon replaced by the Capitol’s steel towers.