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  • Writer's pictureNeal Moore

SHORT STORY: Tomorrow Never Knows

I don’t need to wake up a 5.45am every day. Not for my own benefit anyway. But if I don’t wake up and put the kettle on, no one else wakes up. My alarm clock is in my head, for the rest of the family it whistles from the hob.

I pour boiling water from our self-consciously quaint kettle into the heavy, overpriced Le Creuset pot and line up the matching and equally overpriced mugs. Whilst it brews, I pee. The dark yellow urine comes out in fits and starts helped along by some internal clenching. I wonder, not for the first time, if this is a bad sign but I quickly put it out of my head.

I pad back to the kitchen, stir the bags in the pot to loosen up the leaves and pour the tea into the mugs. As the liquid sploshes into them a little leaks out of my cock and blooms across the front of my boxer shorts. I ignore it.

I carry the mugs through to the bedroom, place one down next to my sleeping wife and take mine into my daughter’s room to begin the daily negotiation about getting up for school. It starts with me raising her blind exactly one third of the way up the window, which only lets in a sliver of orange streetlight at this hour. But I’m not done yet.

Next, I stand by her bed and recite affirmations into her ear, “Come on sweetie, time to get up now, you’re such a good girl, I know you can do it, come on, show daddy what a good girl you are.”

I’m not convincing her, probably because we both know it’s not true and that our routine morning row is inevitable, be it about getting up, brushing teeth, answering back or not answering at all.

I take a couple of sips of tea and move on.

I place my mug down next to the sink in the bathroom and gaze into the mirror. Every day my reflection looks stranger, more alien. The face I see doesn’t connect with the person inside. It’s not that it’s older or greyer or gaunter because I do feel old and grey and gaunt. It’s that it’s just not mine. I don’t look like that. My reflection appears to me the way someone else’s voice sounds to them when they hear a recording of it. Foreign.

I remove my glasses, turn on the cold tap, cup my hands until they fill with water then bring it up to my face. I do this four or five times until I feel awake enough to fit my contact lenses into my eyes without clumsily poking them out. I avoid taking another look at myself, gulp down the rest of my tea and head back to my bedroom to throw on clothes for the school run.

On the way past my daughter’s room, I raise the blind by another third to let in more streetlight. Still nothing.

I quietly pull open my wardrobe in the dark, fish out a ratty old gig t-shirt and a pair of shorts, which I pull on over my boxers. I lose my balance for a moment and knock into the vanity table sending a lipstick or mascara rolling onto the floor. I look swifty round at my wife, but she doesn’t seem to have noticed; her shape beneath the duvet remains undisturbed.

I head back to my daughter’s room to find she has not stirred either, so I open the blind fully and switch on the radio, the next step in our unsuccessful attempt at a morning routine. She doesn’t react so I head back to the kitchen to prepare her breakfast.

I’m on a no carb diet and the smell of toast tortures me but it’s all she’ll eat. I take it out of the toaster with my fingertips, butter it, place it on the only plate she’ll eat from (Hello Kitty), and pour milk into the only cup she’ll drink from (also Hello Kitty). I call her from the kitchen. No response. I resist the urge to eat one of the slices and cut myself some fruit instead.

I eat over the sink, looking out of the window onto the streets below and catch the lights turning off as the sun rises and the commuters start to form ant-lines across the pavement. I rinse my bowl and spoon, grab the Hello Kitty plate and cup and place it on the dining table en route to my daughter’s room for a second round of affirmations to accompany the inescapable sunrise.

“Come on honey pie, it’s time now, you’re going to be late, and I know you don’t want that. You can do it, you did it yesterday, I know you can do it again, come on.” A note of annoyance creeps into my voice but it doesn’t seem to bother her at all.

My phone alarm goes off. It’s 6.15am, the time we’re supposed to leave. She’s going to be late. I’m angry now. I don’t know why, it’s the same every day, but I refuse give in. I decide to recruit my wife. I march into our bedroom, but her tea remains untouched even as the light curls in around the edges of her blinds. I hope the sound of my footsteps might wake her, but they don’t, so I march out again feeling impotent.

I stomp back into my daughter’s room, switch all the lights on, turn up the radio and raise my voice, “Get up. Now. I’ve had enough. You’re going to be late. Move.” Nothingness.

I storm out and start pounding round the living room, deliberately bumping into furniture, waiting for someone, anyone to notice and react. That’s when I hear a horrifying scream from my wife. Finally, my daughter jumps up, races out of her room and into mine. I run in behind her. She is staring at my bed, rigid with shock.

My wife sits bolt upright, still screaming, with the covers pulled back to reveal…me, lying next to her, stiff, pale, dead.

I relax. She can be late today.

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