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Authors: H.J. Rethuan

Open Your Eyes

BOOK: Open Your Eyes
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Open Your Eyes

by

H.J. Rethuan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Open Your Eyes”

Copyright © 2014 Herman Rethuan

 

All
rights are reserved to the author. No part of this work may be used or
reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the
case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.

 

This
is a work of fiction. Names, character, places and incidents are either the
product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any
resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events
or locales is entirely coincidental.

 

Cover
design by Herman Rethuan.


 

 

 

 

 

 

Dedication

 

Again, to my folks.

 

 

 

One

 

The
lighting was poor, affecting the quality of digital video stream. It appeared
to have been shot underground, perhaps in a cave or a bunker somewhere. Away
from the satellites, away from the drones that were hunting him.

“Open
your eyes!” the man commanded to his followers in slightly accented English.
“Open your eyes and see the truth...”

He
started all his broadcasts like that.

The
man stared right at the camera filming him as he passionately delivered his
rhetoric, his plans for the deaths of thousands of unbelievers because their
governments would not leave his homeland alone. He called himself The Scimitar,
named after a type of sword. A theatrical name for sure, but one that also
reflected his desire to be a warrior, a symbol of conflict, a weapon to wage
war.

He
thought it was most appropriate.

There
was a familiarity to his words. For years now he had promised a region free of
Western influence to his growing legion of followers, a place where people
lived by God’s rules and only God’s rules - and he was serious. He would not be
like the others, who co-opted his Lord’s name for their own gain. He was going
to deliver a utopia, paradise for all who followed him, who believed in him. And
there were many.

And
yet, even some of the hardliners, those who shared his same vision, were
intimidated by him. To achieve his means he was beyond brutal, taking no
quarter when it came to his enemies, and hours of video on the internet proved
that to be true. But still, there was something disarming about him. He was charismatic,
handsome. He ended each broadcast with a sly smile, as if was one to be
trusted. A smiling assassin.

To
some, he is a hero. To others, he is evil incarnate.

Or,
to put it lightly, a terrible kind of person.

 

Seth
had always thought he was a terrible person. Not for the things he’s done. He
just was.

That
was his mindset as a long time sufferer of depression. Useless, not good enough
for anything, for anyone. Maybe he was good enough, but he’s been prone to self
sabotage. That’s why he’s a night janitor at The Universe, Port City’s fourth most
popular newspaper (second most popular online).

He
did start out working during the day, like a normal person. He found it hard,
working with all those people around. Those he thought were better than him,
more successful. He was overqualified for cleaning the restrooms, the kitchen,
the balcony where they would smoke even though they’re not allowed to. Still,
it was not like he was one to tell them, that he was smart, as smart and as
skilled as them at their jobs. They looked down lowly at him. He could only get
a janitor’s job after all.

He
quickly asked to move to night shift.

Seth
approached the desk of the young woman, the only person still working in the
newsroom. It was relatively late, but Hannah tended to stay around after
everyone else had gone home. For a young journalist, she was more ambitious
than most.

She
had her headphones on, watching intently the video of The Scimitar spouting his
messages of hate on her laptop. She seemed engrossed in it, leaning forward in
her chair as if in a hypnotic trance. Maybe that’s how he has so many
followers.

Seth
reaches for the half-filled trash can by her chair. He accidentally bangs it
against the desk, startling her. She turns, her surprise turning to relief at
seeing a familiar face.

“Sorry,
didn’t mean to scare you.” Seth tells her as he empties the trash into his
plastic garbage bag before replacing the can at her feet.

She
slips her headphones off, and pauses the video. “No, that’s okay. I was just
watching this...” Hannah tells him, pointing to her computer. “Frankly I think I’m
more scared of him.”

Seth
nods.

“Yeah,
he’s a pretty scary guy.” Seth ties the bag and moves on to the next desk. “See
ya.”

“You
too.”

That
was often it, the only exchange Seth ever gets with a co-worker these days. Not
that he didn’t want to talk to her, in fact he liked her a lot. It was just
that gap he put in his head separating them, like he was some second class
citizen. Still, work was always a little more tolerable if he got to see her
during his shift.

And
so, it was like that. He’d empty out her trash, they share some words, and he’d
move on. By the time he returned to vacuum the place she’d be gone. Sometimes
they would chat about the weather, about how busy she was, but they didn’t know
each other.

He
knew about her problem with her stalker though. Things he’s picked up here and
there, things from him she’s thrown away. She tried to hide it from everyone but
he knew. It concerned him. Still, he said nothing for fear of her finding out
that Seth did like her.

He
cared about her.

But
he wouldn’t dare bring it up with her.

 

It
is late. Seth pulls into the driveway, the headlights illuminating the pale
roll-up garage door in front of him. He leaves his car parked outside. It’s
reasonably safe. He knows the neighbourhood.

He’s
lived in this house for most of his entire life. A typical suburban home, big
enough for a husband and wife, their two kids. They had bought the place just before
the moratorium on suburban development, before the booming population of the city
forced city planners to turn the metropolis of Port City into an infinitely
growing sea of high rise apartment blocks. His parents live elsewhere now, but
still it is home for Seth and his little sister Emma.

She’s
still up, working in the office she made out of the old spare bedroom. She’s
usually up this late, usually working on something for her freelance graphic
design business. Tonight is no different.

“Hey.”
Seth says to her, standing at the door. She briefly pulls away from her current
work, putting together a website for a client that sells PVC pipes.

“Hey.”
she replies. “How was work?”

“Pretty
quiet. I’m going to bed.”

“Okay.
See you in the morning.”

She
immediately returns to work, retouching an image of an elbow joint in Adobe
Photoshop. Seth just leaves her be.

Emma’s
always looked up to her big brother, despite what he thinks of himself. They
both consider themselves geeks, she with comic books, he into action movies.
She pursued her dream of being an artist; he tried to with his own. It did not
end as successfully for him.

Still,
Emma’s always been there for Seth whenever he got the courage to reach out with
his problems. She was his support system, and that’s why she’s still here,
living with him.

She’s
seeing someone though; Pete, a photographer. He’s heard all the Spider-man
jokes before. He’s also asked her to move in with him, many times. She probably
will, one day.

But
not yet.

Changing
out of his work clothes, Seth forgoes the shower, connects his phone to the
charger, and gets into bed.

A
quiet night absent of mistakes to dwell on, he falls asleep relatively quickly.

Two

 

Like
a beast coming out of hibernation, the Port City rumbles to life each morning
like a living being, its skeleton made of steel and concrete, its arteries and
veins its network of roads and rail lines carrying the lifeblood of the city:
its citizens.

The
residence of almost three million people, situated on an increasingly crowded
island at the end of a peninsular, it is a melting pot of a community that even
in its infancy served as a nexus for trade and transportation, one that called
out to the people of the world with the promises of riches, the promise of a
new start, the promise a new life.  Rich and poor, it called out to all in
order to make itself grow, to make itself thrive, accepting anyone who heeded
its call with open arms and turning away no one who stumbled to its door.

The
good, the bad, the wealthy, the poverty. They made up Port City. They made it
their home.

It
is Seth’s home.

Sure,
it has its ups and downs. Overcrowding is an issue. Traffic’s often bad. Crime’s
always been a problem, especially now with the recent prolonged economic woes. More
and more homeless turn up on the streets each day. But the people are usually
decent to each other, and all said it’s been a good place to live, to grow up
in. Seth couldn’t dream of moving anywhere else; maybe he’s just used to living
here, what he generally believes to be a nice place, a safe place.

For
now at least.

 

In
his bed Seth stirs, finding his duvet wrapped tightly around him. He opens his
eyes, they are blurry from sleep. He closes them again. Microsleep.

He
wakes again minutes later. Instinctively, he reaches out to the bedside table, Pulls
the cable out of his phone without looking, presses the button on the side to
turn on the screen.

Ten
o’clock.

Routine.
Wake up, check internet on phone. Get out of bed. Take a piss. More internet.

More
awake, he stumbles around the house. It is quiet; Emma’s  out, probably gone to
meet a client. Back to room. Turn on computer, put on some porn. Jerk off. Take
a shower.

Routine.
It was good for him.

Seth
pops the foil, releasing the single dose of desvenlafaxine from its blister
pack. He places the pill in his mouth, and washes it down with some water from
a sports bottle. It was the last pill, from the last repeat.

Got
to get a new scrip filled.

 

Seth
hadn’t met this new doctor before. Still, he had heard good things about her.
It didn’t really matter though, he just needed a new scrip; it shouldn’t take too
long.

“So
what can I do for you today Seth?” Dr Asha asked him. She seemed friendly
enough.

“Well,”
he starts, “Dr Lee is my usual doctor, but obviously I couldn’t get an
appointment because he’s on leave...”

“Yes,
he is.”

“So
um, I just came in to get a new prescription. For desvenlafaxine.”

Desvenlafaxine.
It was an anti-depressant, anti-anxiety medication. Seth jokingly called them
his “happy pills”. It wasn’t quite that effective of course, but it did make
him stable enough.

He’d
been given them after the breakdown. They worked. Took them for six months,
then somehow thought he was cured. Six months of hell later, and he was back on
them.

Hasn’t
stopped since.

“Okay.”
Dr Asha tells him. “I’ll need to ask you some questions first, are you okay
with that?”

He
nods. “Sure.”

Seth
was expecting this, all these questions. Understandable of course, she didn’t
know him, she had to get an idea of what was happening before he could get his
hands on those meds. Still, it was still uncomfortable giving a stranger a
quick summary about why the past few years of your life has been so lamentable.

The
lost twenties, with little direction. Constant rejection. The feeling of
powerlessness, uselessness. The denial that there was a problem. The public
breakdown in front of all those people in class. The resignation that there was
something wrong with him.

The
quiet acceptance.

“So
how are you feeling now?” Dr Asha asks him at the end of it all.

“I
think... overall I’m feeling okay.” he replies. “Yeah.”

“That’s
great.” The doctor hands Seth the prescription, enough for another six months. “Nice
to meet you Seth.”

“You
too, Dr Asha.”

 

The
front door closes shut, locking itself with a click. Seth tosses the paper bag
his pills came into the trash as he slips the box into a jacket pocket.

“Hey.”
says a voice. Emma, home and splayed out on the couch, watching some TV show.

“Hey.
What’s this?” Seth points to the screen. He thinks he recognises an actor.

“I
don’t know. Some movie. Whatshisname is in it!”

“You
busy?”

“Obviously
not.” she replies to him. “Why?”

“Just
wondering.”

He
sits down in the chair across from her. Puts his feet up on the table. She
doesn’t mind.

“Pete’s
flying out to Iran tomorrow.” Emma tells him.

“Iran?
You worried about him?”

“No,
he should be fine. It’s only for a few days, to cover the Asian Cup qualifier.”

“Hey,
so he finally got his press credentials, huh?”

“He
got them a few months ago.” Emma informs him. “Did I ever tell you that?”

“I
don’t think so.” Seth replies. “So are things still going great? With you and
Spider-man?”

“Yup.
Pete and I are doing just fine thank you very much.”

“Cool.”

“And
we have lots of sex. Lots.” She smirks.

“I
had to ask...” Seth laments, a little put off by it.

“So
how ‘bout you?” Lily asks him. “Things going okay with you?”

“Yeah,
saw the doc this morning. Same old story, picked up my meds today. I’m okay.”

“Good.”
she replies. “That’s good to hear.”

She
smiles.

Seth
gets up from his chair, tickling his sister briefly and making her shriek before
he finally leaves her alone with the TV. He places the box of desvenlafaxine pills
in the bathroom cabinet. Closes the door. Pouts in the mirror. Goes back to his
own room.

For
Seth, life consists of routine. Some days are good, others not so much. Some
days he’s content with his place in the world, while other days leave him
unfulfilled, useless, even numb. He has his struggles, but so do others. Life
just goes on.

It
always does.

BOOK: Open Your Eyes
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