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Routine

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Five in the morning, he wakes. At six, he flips the sign on the door, and by seven, the small shop becomes a crowded space. For him, the old ways aren’t forgotten and never will be. For them, it is a different story. He greets Mrs Maple at the till with a nod and blocks out her ramblings of the latest news headlines shown on her social media accounts. Media has only grown in the past decades, taking over all forms of the old ways, like newspapers and magazines. They said it was to create a more environmentally friendly world, yet anyone with eyes could see, it was to increase the flow of money for the Creators. He would call them capitalists, then again, that is a forbidden phrase in their new world. After Mrs Maple, comes the group of Glarers. He thinks his nickname for them is self-explanatory, not that he would ever risk calling them that to their faces. They are the next generation of Creators, or so they say. He sees them as brainless robots, with wasted potential. However, it isn’t their fault. No, the Creators were to blame mainly for creating such toxic items, then of course the people who let those addictive items take over. Unfortunately, he too was to blame. He should have done more to stop the creation of this new world. He watches as five teenagers pay, for five – identical – glass bottled drinks. It isn’t until the bell above the door rings and the Doctor arrives, that he notices it is nearly time to close up. The Doctor comes every day at five in the afternoon, making her his last customer. He limps along and flips the sign as the Doctor browses around for her usual meal deal. Back at the till she asks how his day is going, and he replies with his grunt, whilst she looks on with pity. The Doctor wishes a goodnight, and the lights flicker out after her.

Five in the morning, he wakes. At six, he flips the sign on the door, and by seven the small shop becomes a crowded space. He greets Mrs Maple at the till with a nod and blocks out her rambling of the latest news headlines. After her, comes the five Glarers, who pay for five glass bottled drinks. The Doctor comes at five in the afternoon. She asks, he grunts, she pities. Goodnight; lights out.

Mrs Maple looks very concerned when he flips the sign of the shop at seven the next day. The Glarers have reduced in numbers to three, and their glares are no longer as fierce as the days before. The shop does not become crowded, but the Doctor arrives on time at five all the same. She tells him cautiously that word has spread in town, and he should not sleep in again if he knows what is good for him. For once, she pities without asking how he is and leaves without her usual goodnight wish. He knows he committed an offence before the letter from the Creators arrives at eight pm. He pays the fine for breaking the Routine at the Techbase in town. It used to be a beautiful, five-floor library, with literature diverse in age and of a variety of genres. Now, the five floors are filled with rows and columns of computers; for the needy ones like him, who still believe in the old ways and refuse to waste money on such modern devices. Well no, that is not entirely true. He too bought a computer once…

Five in the morning, he wakes. At six, he flips the sign on the door, and by seven the small shop becomes a crowded space. He greets Mrs Maple at the till with a nod and blocks out her rambling of the latest news headlines. After her, comes the five Glarers, who pay for five glass bottled drinks. The Doctor comes at five in the afternoon. She asks, he grunts, she pities. Goodnight; lights out.

It is at seven twenty-two am, the following day, when Mrs Maple shocks the shop into silence, as she breaks the Routine. She asks when his husband was coming back from holiday, says she misses his lively presence. The five Glarers stand behind her wide-eyed, but instead of apologising profusely, Mrs Maple waits for his answer expectantly. He does not know what to say, how to reply to such a question after months of conforming to the Routine and pushing away his memories of what once was. After minutes of unscheduled silence, her gaze turns sympathetic and she quietly questions if they parted ways. He nods automatically and scans her items. A holiday, that’s a new one. He always wondered when someone would question his lover’s missing presence, but after months of silence, he believed they forgot him. Not that he was easy to forget.
He flipped the sign to ‘closed’ at four-thirty in the afternoon that very same day. He knew another letter with a fine will be issued but he cared not. Despite the sign, the Doctor walked in at five, as if nothing was amiss. He readily waited for her approach at the till.

“You did not inform me that the Creators refused to acknowledge my husband’s passing.” The Doctor looked up at him, frightened by his tone, “Was it because of his sexuality or because his demise happened by his hand?” she shook her head apologetically.

He should not have been surprised, looking back. Even in the new glammed up world, not everything can be perfect. Goodnight; lights out.