Mornings Are Sometimes Like That

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Act I: Et Ecce Equus Pallidus | In Memoria, Adytum

Mornings Are Sometimes Like That

It's almost a surprise, every time the alarm goes off.


Morning is a time for reflection

I've never had a problem waking up. I sleep, then I'm awake, like someone turned on a switch in my head. Even so, there is always that brief moment in the morning when the alarm goes off and consciousness returns.

There is relief in that moment. Relief, and surprise. A lot can happen when you're asleep, and if you die asleep, would you even know it? You'd think I'd know the answer to that question by now. But there's a lot I don't know, will never know.

So, yes, there is relief that I didn't shuffle loose the mortal coil in my sleep, and a bit of surprise, if I'm entirely honest.

Then the pain hits and all of that is washed away as the aches and pains of my aging body bring my mind back to full lucidity. Time to pull myself out of bed and take on the day.

I assume that my morning routine is much like anyone else's. I mean, I can't ever really be certain, because I can't be anyone other than myself. I've seen a lot of other people's mornings, and mine doesn't seem much different. I just know more about what's coming than they do, I guess.

Even with the myriad aches and regrets that comes from being a man no longer in his prime, I do look forward to the mornings most of all. It's the only part of my day that is truly quiet. I no longer have a real "window", but I do have several live recordings of the birds singing into the dawn that I can have played over the speakers.

Sometimes, when I'm feeling nostalgic, I'll choose birdsong from the mountains. I miss Montana, and the older I get, the more acute that feeling becomes. If they ever let me retire, I think I'd like to go there. Of course, I probably won't remember why I loved it so much, but that shouldn't matter. Maybe they'll let me keep some of my-

No, that's not how it works. Pining for something like that is foolish. Not like many of us ever really get to retire anyway. Kincaide and Mitsuhide never retired, and they're still a part of the advisory board. Though, come to think of it, I haven't heard from either of them in a while.

Getting dressed is a matter of rote, now. The cloth and color changes every so often, but it's the same suit I've always worn. Maybe a size or two larger around the waist, but who even notices that anymore. No one really looks directly at me these days, they see the badge, that's all.

Let's be real, there are a lot of perks to my job, but I never expected it to be so lonely. I don't really need the salary they pay me, everything I "own" gets screened repeatedly and anything I take out of this room will eventually get incinerated and replaced. Sure, I can eat whatever I want, but it all goes through the process and I never have to pay for it.

I have a few trinkets that are actually mine and not just provided. A first edition copy of Don Quixote, a little figurine of a man on a horse that reminds me of my childhood, a couple photographs of people I barely remember anymore. I have a few journals, a fountain pen that ran out of ink a few years back, a pocket watch that I think Clef gave me. It doesn't work anymore, and I'm not even sure they'd let me keep it after anyway.

"Never forget Orion." The inscription is meaningless outside of the context of a shared memory. But Clef was always a strange one, and the docs were never entirely certain that his influence didn't extend to nullify amnestics.

Not like it mattered. I'm not likely to ever retire anyway.

I like getting up early. I shower, shave, brush my teeth, get dressed, comb my hair. Sometimes I stare for a while at my reflection, trying to remember when I got so many wrinkles at the corners of my eyes. Other times, showering puts me in the mood to run, and I'll go into one of the other rooms that have been assigned to me, and I'll jog on the treadmill for a while.

But, if I'm honest, that doesn't happen very much anymore. It's been a decade or more since Henry, and I haven't exactly had many opportunities to meet someone that both had the right security clearance.

Not like I have the time anyway, the job's seven days a week these days. Even on my "days off", there are always reports to read, transcripts to review. The time just isn't there for it. Not anymore. Maybe after.

I kept promising Henry that we'd talk after I read that report. Or we'd go visit the countryside, but I had to finish up that analysis on… whatever. He was always so patient, always supportive. These mornings, they were his mornings as much as they were mine. I gave them to him, and he cherished them even more than I did.

So, this is my morning now. I get ready. It isn't time yet for the morning briefing, so I'll take it easy over breakfast. A pot of tea, tamaryokucha today. Someone's probably going to give me bad news later. I'm going to enjoy the tea anyway, the sweet aroma carries memories of Kyūshū. Henry.

Breakfast is a single egg, hard boiled. Gohan, a small bowl of Miso Shiru, and the yakizakana looks like it's aji today. I'm definitely going to get bad news. They only ever give me my favorite breakfast when there's something they know I'll find unpleasant on the agenda. Someone's trying to soften me up.

Some mornings I like to turn the wall screen to a forest scene, or a slow flyover of the Rockies. Today, the breakfast puts me in the mood for islands and dark waters. A few taps on my mobile device, and a sun rises over the storm-tossed seas surrounding the Habomai Islands.

I eat in silence, no birds or the sound from the waves crashing on the rocks being played out on the screen. Just the barely-noticeable hiss from the air circulators, and my own slow breathing, chewing, swallowing.

It never lasts long enough anymore. My mobile beeps, reminding me that I have far too much to do today to waste time woolgathering. For a moment, I ignore it, relishing the last swallow of tea before looking down at the device with a resigned sigh.

February 12. That's why there was tamaryokucha. It had been Henry's favorite. It hadn't been just "a decade or more". It was twelve years ago.


For a moment, I allow myself to sink back into those memories. I remember the way his smile brightened his eyes. The way his hand always found mine when I needed it most. How bloodshot his eyes were at my funeral. He mourned for months. It became unbearable to get updates, so I just stopped reading them. Then someone just stopped sending them.

I shake my head, clearing the memories. I didn't have time for them. Maybe after.

With a sigh I stand, setting the tea cup back on the tray with the remnants of my breakfast. I straighten my vest, glancing in the mirror to adjust my tie. It's right. I pull my suit jacket closed and thumb the top button into place. One more deep breath, and I'm just about ready. One last look in the mirror before I open the door and step out and into my job.

No more time for memories. No more time for storms over Shikotan. No more time for Henry. I made that decision when I accepted the job. I was needed, I had to serve. Henry would have understood. If I'd been allowed to tell him.

My name is Jonathan Nakada, and I am O5-12.

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