On the cloudy morning of January 1st, 2007, Nadine Mercer woke up with a start on the other side of an unfamiliar bed. She was used to waking up in strange beds though. She looked around in a fever, her breathing quick and shallow from the ominous dream that passed in the night. She'd dreamt she was a bird on fire, flapping it's wings above a great black city. Behind her a war was being waged. Billions of other burning birds; ravens, crows, owls and sparrows, were fiercely snapping and clawing at each other. All of them were on fire, but due to their locked talons the flames appeared as one giant red ball. She watched as one by one the birds plunged out of the fray, the muscles in their wings consumed by the flames or by another berserk avian. She followed them down with her eyes to the dark plastic world below, lit only by smoldering avian corpses. She could see the tiny brick people leaning out of their toy skyscrapers. They all looked upwards, craning the articulated ball joints in their necks to watch the birds crash to the ground.
It was when her own wings had given out and she felt the steep air rushing past her that she'd been pulled from the dream. It hadn't been this terrific fantasy that had caused her such alarm on waking though. In fact, she'd only felt an inexplicable sense of wonder as she fell towards the Earth. Would she bounce off the old stone and playhouses; bones shattered by the impact, or would she just break straight through to the center of everything? Nadine instantly forgot this dilemma on waking. As it was, there were more important things for Nadine to be thinking about.
A few feet to Nadine's left, Nathan; the owner of the apartment and bed Nadine had slept in, was resting on his side. He was awake but unaware that Nadine had stopped sleeping. His crooked but clean teeth bobbed up and down slowly behind his lips and his breathing came and went with the quiet, unconscious rasp of indecision. He'd first awoken nearly an hour before Nadine, he'd still been curled into a ball with his knees to his chest. He woke up slowly as he did most mornings, staring vacantly at the room around him with a mind still too foggy to understand worry or guilt. He was aware that there was a body next to him, but it was hardly something exciting. He'd been sleeping with his hands under his head and when he pulled them out from under his pillow he noticed two things about them. The first was that the index and middle fingers on his left hand were crossed, the second was that the fourth finger on the same hand had a pale ring-line showing.
He wasn't alarmed by the absence of his wedding ring, he took it off most nights. In fact, the sheer lack of surprise at the bare finger made Nathan wonder if he should make a change. However, Nathan left that issue for a mind more clear, he was more off guarded by the fact that his fingers remained crossed through the night. Staring at the crude v they formed at their tips, he felt there was some childish significance to the gesture. They reminded him of an easier time when crossed fingers meant luck rather than dishonesty. Hesitantly, he uncrossed them and began to get out of bed. He was naked but still too tired to exhibit self-consciousness. The bedroom got too hot in the winter to wear clothing anyways. Oblivious to the fact that it was Nadine in his bed, Nathan yawned loudly and stretched himself towards the ceiling. His back popped and cracked as he twisted and the sun shone boldly through the east-facing window behind him. The Victoria skyline was silhouetted against the sun still low in the sky. Had Nadine been awake she would have been treated to the sight of the boney ridges of Nathan's back illuminated in the early morning light. The light hung off the protrusions lazily, they made his body look more like a rock-face than a human being. The moment was brief though, he sloughed the sun off his body like a snake-skin as he stepped off the bed and out of the sun's voyeuristic gaze.
He stepped into the small, poorly-lit bathroom adjacent to the bedroom and took his place in front of the dirty sink. Due to the low-light it was hard to tell just how filthy the sink was. Had anyone peered into it in other conditions they'd see several balls of toothpaste and small tangles of blonde hair. Such was the price of a shared sink though. He caught the reflection of his profile in the full-mirror which leant against the wall beside the sink. He looked like a ghoul in the light of the bathroom. His short golden hair appeared silver in his reflection. Wether it was as a result of the poor light or simply unnoticed aging, the effect was the same. He felt devalued and strangely guilty. The guilt was a confusing feeling as he didn't yet remember the cause. Shaking off the feeling, he did a hard blink and took a quick inventory of himself. His eyes rested briefly on his small muscles and nearly visible ribs. His body's emaciation was superficially masked by the sparse, dark body hair that covered his body and grew in a dark line along his lower stomach and underarms. The hair made his skin look healthy to other people but Nathan saw through the shoddy disguise and into the spotty skin beneath.
"What you looking so anemic about, Nate?" He mumbled quietly to himself, rubbing his eyes with the balls of his palms and letting out a deep sigh. Turning from the mirror to the shower on the opposite wall he remembered that it was January 1st. Somehow he felt as though he was obligated to make a resolution right there. He turned and once again began to stare into his reflection. "I will change." He said with firm resignation to the darker self in the mirror. With this he stepped into the shower; a glass box with three bubbled glass walls and one regular opposite the door. Before he turned on the water, he rested his hand on the shower door, and after a moment's hesitation he lifted it off. He'd decided to shower with the door open, to let the steam pour out and fog up everything. It was anodyne decisions like this that allowed Nathan to remain deluded into thinking he could change.
Nadine was actually very briefly awakened by the hiss of the water hitting the shower floor, but she wouldn't remember doing so when she got up for good. Her eyelids fluttered for a few seconds then parted to reveal her dark blue eyes which were just as quickly hidden as she squinted out the sun’s direct rays. Some people said they were purple, but Nadine ignored the novelty of such an oddity and insisted they were blue. She claimed it was just the auburn hair that made them seem otherwise. At the time, it was short and hung close to her face. If she let it, it would hang over her eyes and completely shield her from the world. She could feel the half-pain of pins and needles building up in her left arm so she slung it off the floor and onto the bed. She'd always had the habit of letting her limbs hang off the bed in the night and as a result she often woke up with a numb arm or leg. As she lifted her hand she found herself staring dreamily at a rough v formed by her index and middle fingers. It seemed that somehow they'd crossed themselves in her sleep. Smiling at the strangeness of life, she tucked her body and began to dream of birds on fire.