Excerpt Chapter 1
8:08 a.m. That’s what my clock says as I burst out of my covers. I must have fallen out of bed again. I know this because I’m staring at it from the other side of my room. There was luck to this particular tumble, however: I’m only sixteen minutes behind! I wheeze as I lift myself up, kicking the sheets from my ankles like a half-swaddled baby. The same old tapping returns, persistent and loud, and I walk over to my ground-floor window, lifting it dramatically in an effort to shoo the seagull pecking at the pane. The blunt-billed bird squawks as it flaps away. I slam the window closed, keeping the cold morning air off my skin for a few more minutes.
My shower was lukewarm and my breakfast fictional. This is the best I can hope for on Tribute day at my place of work: Montage Tower. The building may be taller than most, but the work is still lowly. I lock my bedroom door out of an irrational precaution; my roommate is still upstairs. It’s his third day off this week, and it’s silent, but I know he’s awake because his door is slightly ajar. If anything were to disappear from my room, he would be blamed for it regardless, as either a successful thief or a failing watchdog. I collect my earbuds, phone, and wallet combo and silently make for the exit. As my door card reaches the scanner, a magazine bricks the window, launched from the top of the stairs where Sam now stands.
“Almost hit you, Dan!” he shouts down to me in his usual
“What is it this time? I’m already late.” I almost don’t reply.
“Page twelve—the blue chaise longue!” He points at the once airborne catalog, which now sits crumpled in my hands.
“I’m not dragging a chaise longue home for you!”
“It’s not for me, it’s for Shanty,” he says, partitioning himself
from the blame.
I spin the catalog around and read the cover. “Scratchwork
“It’s only small—twenty-five by sixteen.” He holds his hands out
like a puppeteer.
“Can’t your hamster just sleep in your bed with you?”
“No. He has an erratic sleeping pattern.”
A silence lingers.
“Fffffine,” I reluctantly sputter, throwing the catalog onto the
floor in a sulk.
Sam giggles and retreats back into his lair of aspen shavings and
lavender. I finally scan my door card, which sounds a cheery beep of
Do you remember the colors of your life? How it used to feel before you became responsible and independent? Everyone does, I guess. Three shades usually cocoon themselves around the memories: the Blue Stage, the Purple Stage, and the Gray Stage. I am at Gray and dreading what comes after. The Blue Stage is the oldest. It consists of the memories of when you were a child. An only child. Not specifically you, but me. I forget how to separate myself from the situation sometimes, Sorry. Anyway, my childhood could only be described as glowing.
Mom and Dad were always here for me, breakfast table mornings and dinner table evenings. They both worked interesting jobs, each excelling in a separate creative field. My mother was a software programmer; a good one too. The start-up she worked at grew from a hole in 5 the wall to an admired business. Similarly, my father was successful in his career as an architect, not of towering superstructures but of small, respectable buildings in which families could live happy lives.
Those homes are gone now. I was around thirteen years old when I realized I’d never heard my parents fight. In fact, I hadn’t seen any anger from them at all. Not toward each other.
Not about work, or money—something which we were never without. Eventually, as my teenhood set in, I attributed their constant state of bliss to a secret drug habit, hoping to one day join the gang. But I was wrong. I found this out soon after Purple reared its ugly head. My life as a teenager was a lot slower than when I was a kid, and that aforementioned blissful family atmosphere quickly started to crack. Dad’s work hours increased. Taxes were the same, but he wasn’t, not with the stress he carried to keep the family “secure.” The same could be said for Mom. The company she originally worked for was poached and absorbed into a much larger company named Hourglass Industries—the place that now owns the building I work in. I think I repressed the name of the original, probably for the best.