Routine

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
Is your routine killing you? The idea of getting up and doing the same thing over and over again? Do you think it would be a good idea to change it?

Submitted: July 03, 2013

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Submitted: July 03, 2013

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I

The bed is old, really old. A spring has broken in the bed and now pokes out through the thin material scratching me when I move. Have I brought another, the short answer is no, there is a longer one but really that’s just a lie I tell myself to keep myself from spending money on a new bed. I lay on that bed now, a pillow underneath me protecting me from the menacing spring that wishes to mar my flesh. A book is in my hands filled with short stories; I enjoy reading them because after an hour and managing to get through four or more it feels like I have done something with my time. Then the alarm goes off, the loud buzzing that I hear so often the sound of it puts me in a bad mood. The alarm means that I am off to work in an hour so I best get ready. I would have to admit I am lucky with my job, being a casual waitress basically means they can put me on whenever they please but for the past two years my schedule has been the same week after week. Five days working, most of those days Lunch and Dinner shifts, Wednesday and Thursday off. Unlike most of the girls I work with I end the week usually with a solid 25 hours, more if I want to put in the extra time and that has also become my choice. I place the bookmark in my book and turn the buzzing off on my phone, the silence is an instant relief to my system, I can already feel myself calming down. Perhaps I should change the sound of my alarm? I’ve had this thought before but there are only so many sounds in my phone so it wouldn’t do me any good to be sick of all of them. The time flashing on my phone is five o’clock; it’s a Friday, only one short shift, I still don’t want to go. However with a heavy sigh I get out of bed, grab my black work pants, a top whichever one is at hand at the time and head for the bathroom to have a shower. I stay in the shower longer then I should, I always do. I’m avoiding getting out and going to work but I know I have to move sooner or later. When I do finally get back to my room after drying off, brushing my hair and dressing myself I see I’ve managed to waste twenty-five minutes, not surprising that’s how long it normally takes me. I slip my shoes on my feet, grab my bag which has my uniform in it, pick up my phone, plug my earphones in my ear and hit play not caring what will play. Half the time I don’t even listen to the music I just like having it there, makes the walk seen quicker. I only live fifteen minutes away from work and that’s if I walk slowly which I do, I normally cut five minutes off on the walk home. I don’t hear anything from the world around me with my headphones in, not a car, not a dog nothing. There is only my music and my own thoughts. I’ll get to work long before I have to be there, I always do and until the time rolls over and I have to begin I’ll read. I sigh once more knowing that I will be doing the exact same thing tomorrow and the day after that.

 

Work itself is also very routine. Set up the kitchen just like every other day, nothing changes places, nothing out of line. I use the same lines when I welcome customers to the restaurant, asking them how there day was and laughing along with a joke I neither understand nor find funny. However I must be a very good actress because they seem to find me sincere, sometimes calling me back over to the table because they have remember another funny joke. I ask the exact same thing as I take each customer’s order, the entire conversation appears scripted, I almost expect someone to call cut. I walk out of the kitchen just as Michael walks into the restaurant. Michael is a regular eats at the restaurant every second day. He is a thirty something year old computer repair man and from what I can gather no girlfriend, no friends; he always comes in alone carrying a book that I never see him read. However I do like his taste in books for the past couple of weeks the books he has been bringing in I myself have not long put down. I smile at him and he waves his hello to me, I already know what he is going to have, medium steak with chilli sauce mash potato and salad, he has the same thing every time he comes in.

“Hello Michael, some table?” I ask picking up a menu his not going to need and point towards number 48 his regular table. The chef don’t like when singles sit there because it has a direct line of sight into the kitchen and without anyone to talk to they can just stare at them while they work. But he always sits there and is already heading towards the table before I finish speaking.

“Glass of red?” I ask already knowing the answer, it will be a yes, he’ll order a glass take nothing more than a sip and leave the rest.

“Yes please,” He replies as I thought he would, sitting his book on the table. I smile a little at the cover I am currently reading that myself. Collection of Stephen King’s short stories called Just after sunset. The book won’t move from that spot on the table until he picks it up to leave, however there is a bookmark in it much further along than mine is.

“Stephen King fan huh?” I ask the answer clear but I’m trying to make conversation.

“Oh yes I love a little horror now and then,” He laughs but it quickly dies down and he looks away from me. He has never made eye contact with me for longer than a second. It became clear from the first couple of visits here that he was shy around people, explains why he dines alone. Trying to be nice I spoke to him the first night, ignoring his social awkwardness and laughing at his jokes that he himself didn’t even find funny. Ever since then he made a point of speaking to me each night. So I did my part I played along, I pretended interest in his life and his stories and then apologise as I had to get back to work.

 

II

I’m lying in bed asleep this time when the alarm goes off. True it was eleven o’clock and I should have been up but I spent half the night reading and didn’t get to bed until well after midnight. But it was not being woken up that put me instantly in my bad mood; it was the sound of the alarm buzzing. I got up quickly to turn the damn thing off and once more the instant relief came over me, it’s a little intoxicating. I go about my routine once more showering longer then I should, taking over twenty minutes to get ready for work and walking to work with my headphones in drowning out the world around me. Arriving early as I do every day I sit out the back reading waiting for the day to start only so it can be over. After a very short lunch shift I go back home, headphones in my ears once more listening to loud music but not really hearing it. When five o’clock rolls around I will once more get up and get ready for work going about my routine once more. As I do every day. I spend the same amount of time in the shower; I walk down the same road, crossing the street at the same place as if I’m on autopilot. This is life; this is the reality, the independence I craved so much while I was at school. I can so clearly recall a time when I believed that life would be better once school was over. There would freedom, my life would truly begin, but really nothing much changed, I dropped one routine only to have to pick up another. Life would never be as carefree as the movies make us believe it will be. What they don’t show you in the movies after the people drop everything to run off and follow their dreams is the fallout, when they have no money and no home and their dreams were not everything they thought they would be. Life is nothing more than a set of routines.

 

Being aware that this was all there was, that dropping this routine would only make me pick up another doesn’t make me like it anymore. I have dreams I do, everyone does some are great, some are more reasonable but all of them are just another routine. I spend half my days not noticing what is happening around me. Even my days off are the same thing, I get up, I get dressed, I go to lunch with the same friends, I read, watch a movie go to sleep. It isn’t for another week when I change it, when I grab on to something that is wild and out of my comfort zone. It’s another dinner shift, I’ve spent my time in the shower and getting ready, I listened to loud music and ignored it all at the same time. Michael has come in again for dinner as he always does. He brings in the same book I myself an almost finished. I have moved on from Stephen King at the moment and am almost finished the complete collection of the Brothers Grimm stories. Twisted and wonderful they are. I ask him if he would like to sit at his same table and if he would like me to put his order in for him. He does, I comment on his book and he pats it and tells me how interesting it is. I nod as I already know but I don’t tell him that I am reading it either I don’t want to have to be standing at his table all night. I laugh at his jokes and then find a way to detract myself away from the conversation. The nights moves on and people begin to leave, I with the help of some of the other staff members clean up and close down the restaurant. I’m about to leave when I’m stopped by one of my fellow staff members, her name is Lee.

“Hey Ana, what are you doing tonight?” My name is Anastasia but everyone just calls me Ana, everyone expect for Michael. I shrug in a way of answer. I do in fact know what I’m doing. I’m going to go home, read until late and go to bed.

“Some of the girls and I were thinking of going out tonight did you want to come?” She asks me with a smile, I would I know I would. It had been awhile since I’ve been out and since High school my old friends and I have grown apart as our routines changed. However I know I shouldn’t I have work in the morning and I shouldn’t be hung-over.

“I should probably go home I got to work tomorrow,” Lee however waves this away with her hand as if she can make the comment disappear.

“Not until lunch time you’ll be fine,” She says trying to convince me. I think about it again and she is right I have all morning to feel sorry for myself and then I can drag myself into lunch later. I watch as she bounces on the balls of her feet she is excited to go out and I’m sure she would have a good time if I was there or not so I decide to go. To hell with my routine I was getting sick of it anyway perhaps it was time to shake things up a little. All it takes is a smile and she knows she has me. That night I don’t go home; we get in Lee’s car and head to her house. I borrow a dress and a pair of boots and we hit the town.

 

The buzzing is back, the sound worse than before; I can feel it vibrating in my head trying to shake my tired and drunken brain awake, I wish I could make it stop just by thinking about it. But I know the buzzing will go on for ten minutes, why ten minutes because that is how I set it. With a groan I open my eyes and look at my phone across the room, another one of my great ideas so that I would be forced to get up and turn it off. However I don’t get up, I slide myself out of bed, the top half anyhow, pushing myself along the ground with my arms, my feet however are still in bed underneath the blankets. My head is pounding and I don’t entirely remember getting home last night but what I do remember was that it was a lot of fun. A smile comes to my face as I remember the night before out and about with a group of girls who just wanted to drink and have a good time. Once I have shut off the annoying noise that is my alarm telling me I am once more only any hour from going to work I drag myself back into bed holding my phone. The couple of hours of sleep had not done me any good at all. I had thought I would have been home early but the sun was up before I had been in bed. I scroll through my list of contacts coming to the one name I know I can ring and she will pick up my shift for me even if I am just hung over. I press call on the name Marie and then close my eyes, keeping the phone to my ear as I listen to it ring. It does this a couple of times and I start to worry that she won’t pick up, that she is busy and can’t do it, that I will have to crawl to work myself. But just before the answering machine picks up she answers the phone. At first I think I have gone back to sleep and this is nothing more than a dream so I don’t answer, I don’t want it to be turned into a nightmare. But after Maria saying my name a couple of times I knew it wasn’t, thank god for caller I.D.

“I need to ask you something?” I said, my voice sounding rough from the all the yelling the night before. Maria was already laughing on the other end of the phone, she knew what I wanted to ask her and she was happy to do it.

“You don’t remember do you?” Maria asked me, I sat for a moment trying to think back to what I might have done. A sick worry comes over me and I feel like I’m going to bring up the party from the night before. What if I had done something bad? The night before was nothing but a mix of flashing lights and blurs of what I believes was a good time but I could be very mistaken. Maria was still laughing on the other end of the phone.

“You called me last night drunk and asked if I would work for you, and then went on for about twenty minutes about how good your pizza was,” I laughed as she told me, sounds like me. Relief washed over me quickly and with it I was ready to go back to bed. I thanked Maria for coving my shift and apologised for the late night phone call then hung up and went back to sleep.

 

III

I may have gotten out of my lunch shift but I wasn’t getting out of my dinner shift. I spent most of the day in bed watching movies and hoping that this feeling would go away. By the time five o’clock rolled around and the alarm once more sounded I was feeling pretty good, that however didn’t mean I wanted to go to work. But I got up and slipped myself back into my routine but this time with a smile on my face and a small laugh that would escape my lips whenever something would come back to me from the night before. It was nice taken this break from the routine that I called my life, to let loose and just be some girl having fun. I thought to myself that I would make a point of doing to more often. As I left the house I slipped my headphones in and turned my music on but my steps were quicker, I wanted to get to work to talk about the things I remembered from last night and the things I didn’t.

 

Instead of reading before my slip I sat around laughing with a couple of the girls from the night before about the drunken things we got up to. Tears rolled down my eyes that I had to keep wiping away and I hoped it didn’t look like I had been crying before work because let’s face it no one looks good crying, the movies have that all wrong. Work was normal for the most part, I took orders, took food out, made drinks the normal and then Michael came in. When I left the kitchen to re-enter the restaurant I was surprised to see Michael waiting at the counter to be seated. He usually came ever second night but he had only been here the night before. I put a smile on my lips and went over to welcome him.

“Hello Michael, usual….” I trailed off as he walked past me no saying a word. He sat down at his normal table but this time had no book in front of him. It was strange he always had a book even if he didn’t read it. I ignored the icy greeting and tried once more.

“Two nights in a row that’s a little different isn’t it?” I laughed a little but all he did was stare at me, his eyes seemed hallow, like you could fall into them and keep falling never finding the bottom, never finding your way out.

“Can I get your usual today?” I asked in my always pleasant tone that I reserved for guest. He gave me on curd nod but didn’t speak a word. Clearly something was bothering him and I didn’t feel like being the shoulder he cried on, so I smiled and left the table to place his order. All the while I could feel his eyes, his dark eyes watch me as I moved around the restaurant. It made me rather nervous, that feeling of being watch but it was not just that, it was also that feeling of hate, deep and loathing. I ended up dropping an entire try of drinks that would of course come out of my pay. Michael didn’t try to hide the fact that he was glaring at me; even while he ate he would watch me, his hands and mouth working almost robotically but his eyes never left mine. And then just like always he walked up, paid his bill and left.  I should have been happy when he was gone and I was a little but that feeling of hate so pure was off-putting that I couldn’t shake the feeling of it all night. Because I had skipped my lunch shift on nothing more than a hangover the bosses made me close up that night which I didn’t have a problem with, what I had a problem with was leaving. I had to walk home and it was very dark out there, the streets I walked along were quiet at least I thought, I couldn’t remember seeing may cars drive pass me on my way to and from work. I didn’t feel like walking home by myself this late at night but all to soon the restaurant was clean and closed and I had no choice but to get my belongings and head off for home.

 

As I left though the staff door at the back of the restaurant I pulled my phone and headphones out of my bag ready to put them in and walk home but I stopped. I can’t hear anything if I put my headphones in. That had always been the point. Drowning the world out with music seemed to somehow make the walk quicker. But it meant giving up my hearing and tonight I didn’t want to be handicapped by my music. So I put both phone and headphones back in my back and began my walk. I got up past one block and everything seemed normal, nothing was jumping out at me from the shadows, there was now scraping footsteps following me or heavy breathing against the back of my neck. I laughed to myself a little starting to feel very stupid that I had left a customer and his bad day get to me so much. As I was making my way past the second block I decided that I could listen to music nothing was going to happen to me, what are the chances that something was going to happen to me? I slipped my hand into my bag reaching around all my belongings to get to my phone.

“No music tonight, another thing you have changed,” I stopped at the sound of the voice. It sounded harsh and judgement. I turned to find Michael standing behind me, one foot on the pavement one foot inside the fence. I realized he must live up this road, in this very house it would explain why he came so often to the restaurant.

“I was just getting it,” I said pulling my phone from my bag and waving it around, I got no smile, he just stood and stared. With a nod I turned and was ready to set off as quick as I could away from him but I stopped. How did he know I listened to music on the way home, how did he know this was a change from my usual behaviour? These questions and more came at me all at once and I turned to ask them but before a word could leave my mouth something hard came down on the side of my head. A blinding hot pain shot through me and I fell to the ground happy at the idea that the darkness was coming and I would no longer feel it anymore.

 

 

IV

The pounding in my head was what had woken me and for a moment I thought that I had gone out again and drank far too much. But this was different, this was not the woozy kind of pain I had felt the night before, this was hard and hot and throbbing. I opened my eyes but had to quickly shut them, there was a light, bright above me that stung my eyes and made the pain in my head worse. I took my time, slowly fluttering my eyes open and closing them again to let my eyes and my head adjust to the light. Finally I was able to keep my eyes open without my head throbbing worse or my eyes stinging. It was then that I realized just how bad the situation was. My hands were cuffed my behind my back, the mental was cold and heavy around my wrist and when I tried to pull on them the cuffs cut into my skin and the small link chain that connected them jingled. There was a gag in my mouth, I tried pushing it out with my tongue but that didn’t help, I then tried biting down hard on the sides of the gag trying to break through but that did little good as well. I became frantic with each moment that passed and began shaking my head wildly as if I could throw the gag off with enough movement. The shaking hadn’t helped at all; instant it made things worse, increasing the pain in my head until I blacked out. I wasn’t sure how long I was out for; the room I was in was very small and the only light I saw was from the one above me. I pushed myself to my knees and found for the first time that was as far as I could go. There was a collar around my neck and connected to that was a chain that was bolted to the floor below me. Panic set in once more and I tried screaming from between the gag, I tried to pull my hands free of the cuffs causing the mental to bite into my skin making my hands wet with blood. I sat down and freed my legs out from underneath me so I could kick against the door, someone had to hear me and someone did. It only took about a minute but the door was flung open quickly.

“I can see you’re awake,” Michael said from above me. For a moment I was delighted to see him no matter what his mood would be he couldn’t just leave me here. He must have seen the hope light up my eyes because a sly smile came to his lips and he shook his head. That was when it came back to me, the night before at least that was what I thought it was. I was walking home, he stopped me, made a point about my music and then something hit me, he had hit me with someone and then I ended up hear. He waited for me to come understand all this, stood there patiently watching as my mind rolled over what had happened.

“I’m going to take the gag off now and you’re not going to make a sound okay?” I nodded my head, tears were rolling down my cheeks, I was aware of when I started crying or why, it could have been the fear, the knowledge that someone I had known for so long would do this or the pain from my head, perhaps it was all of it but the tears were there, flowing quickly with no intention of stopping. Very gently he untied the gag from the back of my head and pulled it free from my mouth.

“HELP! SOMEONE HELP!” I screamed the moment I was able to, but I didn’t keep it up for long. The back of his hand slammed into the side of my head, the side he had hit me on before and once more I blacked out from the pain.

 

When I woke the door to my little cell was open and the gag had not been put back on but I was still cuffed and bolted in place.

“You won’t do that again will you?” He asked but he already knew the answer. To avoid the pain I would keep quiet. Bu he couldn’t stop me from thinking, he couldn’t stop me from trying to get free. I sat myself up, a movement once done without a thought now made difficult by the pain in my head. But I managed it. We sat in silent for a while, I wasn’t sure how much time passed by, there wasn’t even a clock ticking away the seconds. Wasn’t there meant to be a clock somewhere? The movies made me believe there should have been. Like this was someone now real all because I couldn’t hear the loud tick of a clock.

“Why are you doing this?” I ask, my voice small because I’m not even sure I want him to hear it, I’m not even sure if I want to know the answer if he does. For a moment I don’t think he had heard it, he doesn’t respond to my question, he doesn’t even look up from staring at something straight ahead of him, something I can’t see from my little room.

“Why? You know why,” He finally speaks. I don’t but I don’t think it’s a good idea to tell him that. He gets up off the little wooden chair he was sitting on and begins to pace out the front of my little room repeating the word why over and over again to himself. Then he picks up the chair he had been sitting on and slams it down onto the floor with such force that it breaks apart. I want to jump back away from him, I want to hide in the darkness so he can’t see me but the chain around my neck prevents me from moving far and the light above me erases all the shadows, there is nowhere to hide from his fury. But then like flicking off a light his entire demeanour changes. He walks towards me swiftly and I can’t move from him. I can feel my heart hammer away in my chest like it wants to escape with or with the rest of me. He then falls to his knees in front of me and stares at me, his eyes fill with tears and one escapes down his cheek. Tears are falling from my own eyes as well; I can feel them against my skin. He reaches up with his hand cupping my cheek softly; I can barely feel his skin against my own. His thumb wipes the tears away but it’s not long before there are more to replace it.

“You were so perfect. You were gentle and nice and you liked reading and music and painting,” He spoke to me, his voice soft as if he might frighten me. It occurred to me that there was no way he could know all those things about me; I don’t share my personal life with the customers at work.

“You’ve been following me,” It wasn’t a question I knew it but he still nodded his head. His hands ran over my hair, the tips of his fingers traces lightly down my cheek.

“She had beautiful long dark hair like yours and bright shining blue eyes as well. She was sweet and kind and loved old movies and slow music and strange art,” There was a small laugh in his voice as he spoke about her, I wasn’t sure who this her was but I knew it wasn’t me. There was affection in his tone as he spoke about her but something else, loss, sadness, if I hadn’t been chained up I would have felt bad for him. “She was everything to me, all she had to do was go the same way she always went home from work. If she didn’t change her routine she would still be here with me. But no she had to go to a friend’s house. She changed her route and those animals killed her, they killed her!” He was yelling now, his hands gripping my arms so tightly I knew it would leave bruises but I didn’t care about that, bruises healed. He got up then, releasing me and began pacing once more.

“You looked so much like her, I had to follow you, make sure you were safe. You always stuck to a routine I knew it, I knew everything, I was able to keep you safe. But then you change it, you didn’t walk home the other night. I went out looking for you, I spent all night looking for you but I couldn’t find you. When morning came I raced back home hoping to see you walking to work but you never showed. Do you know how worried I was? Do you?” He yelled down at me.

“I’m sorry,” It was all I could think of to say. I was crying harder now, sobs racking my chest making it hard to breath.

“You’re sorry, oh you’re sorry, well that doesn’t help anyone does it! I thought you were different, I thought you were safe but your just as back as the rest of them!”

“Rest of them?” I didn’t know why it mattered but the question was out of my mouth before I could stop it. In response he reached into his pocket and pulled out a key, this he used to release the bolt on the ground. He grabbed hold of the chain and pulled me to my feet roughly and dragged my through his house. He pushed my into a room that was dark, the windows had been covered over so no sunlight shone through. He then turned the light on and I could see by what he meant by ‘them’. It was easy to see that this was his bedroom but that wasn’t was I was concerned about, what I was concerned about was the photos that covered the walls, thousands of pictures of girls with long dark hair and bright blue eyes shattered the walls and the roof. I stood turning around and around looking at the pictures that looked like me, some of them were me. I understood this is how he went to sleep looking at the pictures of these girls and myself, we who reminded him so much of her. I opened my mouth to scream forgetting about the pain that had been caused the last time I did but no sound came out. Before I was able to scream he came up behind me, his hand covered my mouth stopping me from making a sound.

“You’re just as bad as the rest of them; I can’t protect you if you don’t stay to your routine,” I saw a flash of light and then felt a sharp pain in my chest before once more the darkness took hold of me.

 

Now I’m with them, the others that reminded him so much of her. I wonder if my family will ever know what became of me. Will they know I’m buried not far out of town, down by the side of a river? Will they know I lie next to six different girls all with long dark hair and bright blue eyes? Will they know that the man who came into work every second night and ordered the same meal and the same drink had taken me? I don’t think so. It’s too crazy to believe that a routine that I thought was killing me was all that was keeping me alive. 


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