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SHIFT

The Pedestal #48

     He awoke early, pressure in his bladder, disoriented momentarily by the unfamiliar surroundings, squinting against the sun already flooding half the room. He slipped from the bed, taking care not to wake the woman beside him, and padded to the bathroom.
     He removed the three-inch wide paper strip that bound the toilet seat like a partially wrapped gift. He wondered about the person who applied the paper strip. He imagined a middle aged woman of kindly disposition, a proud, hard working woman who had weathered life's adversities without complaint. He saw her assiduously scrubbing the bathroom, then slipping the strip over the seat while saying to her self, "There! That will make things fresh and new for the people who come here to enjoy the beach and the ocean!"
     The bathroom smelled of bleach and sunshine and painted wood, a distillation stripped of private moments. The bedroom behind him had a different smell, faint but perceptible, of cell devouring sickness, a medicinal sweetness tinged with decay. The sickness had been known to them for six months; the smell had been with them almost a week.
     As he stood before the toilet he heard the whine of a mosquito and almost simultaneously saw the insect, a tiny blur of wings at eye level inches in front of his face. He reached up and snatched it from the air. Boyishly pleased with his success, he opened his hand slowly, to prevent the mosquito from escaping if it was still alive.
     A bright drop of blood appeared. A red stain in his palm, surprisingly large, embedded with delicate bits of crushed mosquito.
     Her blood, he realized, staring at his palm. The still warm blood of the woman sleeping warm in the bed he had just left.
     He turned and looked back at her from the bathroom door. The woman groaned softly, shifted position and draped a languid arm across her eyes.
     He felt the continent shift. He closed his eyes and felt himself sway just a bit as he stood before the toilet. This was a coast of fault lines, earthquakes.
     A terror began to rise. He fought it, controlled it.
     He was trying very hard now not to imagine any of the thousands of dangers, great and small, unforeseen and unforeseeable, that could further diminish her.

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