The Routine

The Routine

A Story by nathanwohosky

Every alcoholic knows those mornings that you wake up and forget your name. A few of my mornings inspired this.


It seemed to be a cruel joke, a sick display of a deranged mind. 

What else could explain this revolting dark place I wake to? 

My head feels like someone took a jackhammer to it while I was in deep sleep.

However, I remember that everyday I wake to a nightmare, my daily routine.

I’ll wake to a windowless room; no door either for all I know.

I’ll realize I’m naked on a bare mattress, with no blankets, and I’m freezing.

My skin will peel off the bed like pulling a caterpillar off a plant. 

 There’s a nightstand directly to my left, made out of plywood with a single drawer and a shelf under that. The nightstand is bolted down, just like everything else in this damn place. 

No alarm clock on this nightstand. 

No clock at all. 

There’s no reason for me to believe time passes or has significance. 

There’s no way to document the passing of days. 

What is time? 

It’s a countdown to your death. 

No clock on the nightstand. 

No Bible in the drawer. 

This isn’t the kind of place those Gideon people can get into. 

I know what will be on the nightstand; an unopened bottle of unlabeled Rum. 

In the drawer will be two fresh packs of unfiltered Lucky Strike cigarettes. 

Next to the coffin nails is a box of matches with a fifties style pin-up girl posing seductively on the cover. 

She barely shows me a bit of her tit. 

She’s the only friend I have. 

Forget she tells me. She’s reminded me so often that sometimes I even forget her. Once I get out of bed and take a swig of the rum, I’ll find myself in the kitchen scrambling fresh eggs that are lying on the counter. 

I’ll light a cigarette, running the head of the match right under the word “forget.” 

I smoke as I scramble my eggs. Ash falls in the skillet; it adds a little flavor. 

I’ll finish preparing my breakfast and turn to my little table. There’s always a fresh glass of orange juice there. I can never remember if it was there when I started cooking my breakfast, or if it magically appeared out of the f*****g blue. It’s there all the same, every single day.

I sit down and shovel my food into my mouth. 

I’m never hungry, but who can live without eating? 

I’ve yet to see the person. 

Then again, I can’t remember the last time I saw another person. 

Who knows? I’ve forgotten, just like my little pin-up girl has told me. 

I down the orange juice and start another cancer stick on my way to the shitter. I sit down for my morning dump. 

Actually I shouldn’t say morning. I have no f*****g clue what time it is. 

Morning, noon, and night are just other forms of measuring time. 

In this s**t-tank time has no existence.

It was like a Vegas casino, minus the gambling, flashing lights, beautiful women. It was everything a city like Vegas was not, the only thing in common was that the clocks were all hidden; except this was a punishment rather than a means to not worry. 

I walk through the same daily routine, no work to get to, no meetings to attend, no women to make love to. 

It’s as if humans occupy themselves with time consuming projects just so death comes a little faster. Maybe try to make an impression on the world so they’ll be remembered. 

Even a fool knows his life on earth is a smudge in the book of mankind. 

Yet, they still build their skyscrapers. 

They still write in hopes that someone will read their work when they die. 

They make love so their families will remember them. 

All people do is forget. Forget because they’re too f*****g busy trying to get other people to remember them. 

Look at me, who the f**k would care if I were alive or dead? 

Every waking moment is as good as another in hell. 

I’m pretty sure even Lucifer himself couldn’t surprise me at this point. 

I live hell every damn day.

After taking my s**t I’ll drop my cigarette butt in the can and give it a good flush.

 Then I’ll pull my pants back up and go to my desk where waiting for me is . . . 

Waiting for me will be . . . my mind blanks. 

Interest sparks in me for the first time in hell knows how long, and I shoot out of bed. 

The motion-censored fluorescents kick in as I run across my room. 

Sweat drips from my forehead as I reach the desk with trembling hands. 

I’m still shaking in anticipation as I stop, breathless and rattled. 

There’s nothing there.

“What the f**k?” I scream as I pound my fist into the hard oak, leaving the imprint of my knuckles imbedded in the wood. 

Routine is like hell, but when it gets screwed up a feeling of helplessness follows. 

I pound the desk again violently and try to flip it over; of course it’s bolted to the floor. 

I look underneath; I search around the desk.


“Where the f**k is it?” I scream again as I kick the desk in rage. 

I suddenly feel like a caged animal. 

Who put me in here? 

That f*****g b*****d will die!

First I’ll tie him down to a chair. 

I’ll take a pairing knife and shred his skin in front of his face, layer by layer till I get to the bone. 

Making sure he’s good and strong so that he dies right as I cut his heart out. 

I bash my own head against the desk and blood starts to drip from my forehead, mingling with my sweat. 

Just like Jesus, sweat and blood. 

The blow to my head suddenly wakes a little voice up inside that screams “follow the routine!” 

My curiosity for whatever object I’m supposed to find on my desk dissolves as quickly as it sprang into being. 

I realize my throat is dry; routine is calling my name again. 

I walk to my bed and pick the bottle off my nightstand and take my first gulp of the day. The warmth hits me first in the head and spreads down to my toes.

I don’t give a f**k if a million dollars is supposed to be on that desk.

I open the drawer and take the pack of Lucky's and the box of matches out. 

It’s always two fresh packs. 

Even if I don’t smoke all the cigarettes in one day, the old packs are gone and the new ones are always waiting for me, still in plastic. 

I take a moment to glance at the bottom of the cigarette box; no sticker indicates what state I’m in. 

“I guess you don’t pay cigarette tax in hell.” I say with a small laugh, I’m the only one who hears it and that makes me laugh more.

I am a caged lion; I am insane.

I walk back out to my kitchen. 

I shouldn’t really say kitchen, it’s more like a counter with a small one burner stove one it. 

It’s electric; not gas. 

The stove is probably the only thing in this place I could do damage to myself with. I turn it on and watch the burner turn red, I think of slamming my hand down on the heat just to see if I can still feel anything. 

I forget I can feel pain too easily; my forehead is still dripping blood. 

I move the skillet over the burner and turn to the counter where the fresh eggs are.

Freshest eggs I’ve ever seen, looks like someone just plucked them out of a chicken, hosed the s**t off and polished them then put them on my counter. 

I crack them open and let them fall into the pan where they snap and sizzle. 

I flick my ash, and as always a little gets in the eggs, I think about scooping it out, but then stop. 

“F**k it, it’s routine right?” I mutter as I use the spatula to stir my eggs. 

I flick my cigarette butt onto the floor and stomp it out. 

It leaves a burn mark.

Funny. I realize that putting my first cigarette out on the floor is daily routine and yet there are no butts and no other burn marks. 

Why start asking questions now? 

 I take my food to the table, and right as rain there is a glass of ice cold freshly poured orange juice waiting for me. 

There’s also a fork by the glass, of course there has always been a fork. 

I don’t think I ever had to use my fingers to eat my breakfast. 

It starts to hit me how much I really forget about my routine. No big deal, it’s still running fairly smooth, as smooth as hell can be.  

I lit my ritual second cigarette, again being reminded to forget by the pin-up girl and head for the crapper. 

I glance over at my desk once more, and there is still no sign on anything on or around it. 

“Whatever,” I whisper as I shut the door to the bathroom. 

Sure it’s only me in this damn place, but I still shut the door. 

It’s only further evidence that my mind is slipping a little. 

I sit and relieve my bowels as I smoke my cigarette till it burns my fingers. That’s the thing about smoking unfiltered cigarettes, you always know there’s more to smoke but you can never get to it without getting burned. 

Even I don’t understand the obsession I have with smoking it down to the nub, it’s not like I’ll ever run out of cigarettes. 

I drop what’s left of the butt in with my s**t and flush the fuckers goodbye. 

I open the bathroom door and as I go to shut it to keep the stink in I see something on the door that catches the corner of my eye. 

I turn lethargically and see a photograph taped to the outside of the door. 

This wasn’t there when I went in for my s**t was it? 

I can’t remember, and don’t like the tingling feeling that starts burning me in my stomach that’s telling me I care and am anticipating something again. 

I peel it off and stare at it, blank-faced and attempt to be uninterested. 

It’s a picture of a woman, lying naked on a tile floor. There’s a gag in her mouth, tied by a red bandana, a red bandana that matches the color of the blood that was all over the tile. 

Her arms were tied behind her back with an orange extension cord. 

You could see she had obviously been stabbed, multiple times. 

Her eyes were still open with a strand of her mangled hair draped over them slightly. 

Terror was still written on her face, etched permanently on her dead corpse.

I flip over the photo and there’s writing on the back in a crude scrawl. 

“He tortured her before raping her and stabbing her twenty times. She was gagged and restrained, she could not fight back.”  

“What sick f**k would do this?” I don’t remember ever giving a s**t about anything, or about any people, as far as I know there aren’t any others. 

Then again, who puts out my eggs every morning, and exchanges my bottle and cigarette boxes? 

Maybe it’s God? I laugh and then shrug.

“Why not God, he supposedly spoke this whole damn world into being.” I laugh again, I am crazy, there’s no way around it. 

I examine the photograph like an investigator as if the answer for the murder would scream out at me. 

I light up another cigarette, staring at the naked dead woman, and somehow feeling a slight tinge of revolution. 

I guess I still am human.

Then again what is being a true human? 

Is it the ability to feel sympathy and guilt? 

Or is it the ability to fill your life with worthless projects in an attempt to leave a legacy? 

Only a single word comes to mind as I think of all the possibilities of what it means to be human.


To be human is to be weak, to feel the fear of death, to anticipate a tragedy or misfortune. 

Is it to feel sympathy? 

I’ve worked to rid myself of all these things, so I choke back that bit of sympathy I feel for the murdered woman and remain immortal. 

I saunter over to the desk still analyzing the photograph. 

The crimson red stain seeping onto the tile floor mesmerizes me. 

Even for a murdered woman she is beautiful.

She puts the pin-up girl on my matchbox to shame. 

Her breasts still perfect, her skin fair and I’m sure it was as soft and silky. 

I find myself falling in love with the nude dead woman. 

Not in any erotic way, I’m not into necrophilia. 

I may be out of my f*****g mind, but I’m not sick. 

I love her because I care about her and wonder why she was murdered. 

“Forget it!” I toss the picture aside in sudden furry. 

“I don’t give a rat’s a*s.” I can’t let the human come through, the weakness; I’m not a weak man.

 I’m so strong that once again I push aside any emotion I feel for the beautiful woman. 

My headache has come back. 

Those little power tools are going off again. 

Where’s my rum? 

I make my way back to the nightstand and grab the open bottle and take a long strong guzzle. 

My nerves begin to calm again and my headache subsides slightly, but the whole room seems to spin. 

I need to sit down. 

I need my routine. 

I stumble to my desk, mouth to the bottle as I wobble on shaking legs. 

I drop into the chair and slam the bottle on the table and cradle my head in my hands. 

I lower my hands and move in slow motion, everything has suddenly come to a halt. 

A slow rhythmic consistent noise is suddenly brought to the focus of my attention.

It sounds like the slow passing of cars, like an accident waiting to happen.

Screeching tires; waiting to hear the sound of screams and breaking glass. 

This fucked up prison; whoever’s responsible for this will die. 

Even if it’s God putting pictures of the beautiful dead girl on my bathroom door, He’ll pay. 

If Satan’s got nothing to impress me with I’ll spit a mouthful of rum in God’s face. 

The sound that reminded me of cars gets consistently louder. 

It starts replacing the jackhammer migraines with a never ending rhythmic swoosh.

I glance up and see the ceiling fan turning in slow circles. 

I stare at it and keep my eye on a certain fan blade and follow its orbit around the room. 

The bottle calls my name again and I succumb to its tantalizing beckoning. 

I pound it back like there's no tomorrow. 

There is no tomorrow here. 

Tomorrow is just another word to measure time. 

There’s no time here. 

There’s not even a clock. 

My eyes continue following the blades and my head swims. 

I need to get out of here. 

Where’s the damn door in this place? 

I stand.

I stumble.

I fall on the floor with my bottle in my hand.

I lie on my back and watch the blades of the fan turning in slow motion.

I feel the jackhammers come back and I think of the beautiful dead woman, and then the lights fade. 

I drink.

I wake.

There’s no light on. 

I must have been passed out for a while. 

I wave an arm to trip the motion lights.

No lights come on; I am left in the darkness. 

I’m still by the desk, the bottle still tightly grasped in my right hand. 

I bring the liquid to my mouth and drink slow and heavy. 

I wipe my mouth and try to trip the motion censor one more time. 

No luck. 

I pull myself up into my desk chair and rest my head in my hands again. 

Suddenly a small lamp flicks on. 

It’s a banker’s lamp, the kind with the brass stand and the green shade. 

I sit there with only the light from the banker’s lamp and a folder in front of me with a single word written in sharpie. 


Remember what? 

I find my pack of cigarettes in my pocket. 

The girl who’s been helping me forget seems to frown at me as I strike a match and light up. 

She’s not happy I’m about to look at this book. 

I’m not happy either. 

Then again, what the hell, what else do I have to do today? 

I think the lawn may need mowed. 

I think Jamie needs to get ready for school.

“Jamie?” I ask aloud questioning myself. 

Who the hell is Jamie? 

I focus hard and try to remember who Jamie is, but to no avail, the thoughts have slipped away. 

I open the folder slowly and carefully and am greeted by a small scrap of notebook paper that has a note written in the same chicken scratch that the note on the photograph was.

The same man who killed the woman in the photograph put you here.”

Behind the note I find a stack of photographs, Polaroid’s. 

I glance at the first one and take a long drag from my cigarette. 

The orange tip glows in front of my mouth and illuminates the face of a man. 

The man is smiling, ear to ear grin he’s smiling. 

Smiling like a fool who doesn’t know his life could end at any moment. 

Smiling like a f*****g baboon, waiting for a blood clot to hit his head. 

I toss it aside.

`The next is of the same man and a woman, a beautifully familiar looking woman.

They are embracing each other and smiling. 

I discard that photograph as well.

The third is of the couple and a young boy. 

They are all smiles, sitting on a couch in a large open living room. 

The boy has a hat on, a party hat. 

He’s holding up four fingers and grinning ear to ear. 

Useless, I shuffle to the next.

In the fourth there are no smiles, there are no party hats and nothing human at all.

This picture reminds me of myself. 

It’s deathly and void. 

A stretcher is laid out with the little boy bloody and torn. 

Two cars in the background, demolished. 

I stare at the face of the little boy and determine he is lifeless. 

Help came, but help didn’t help. 

He’s dead on a stretcher. 

Dead and bloody, no smiles, nothing human at all. 

His eyes are open, open and void, open to a world around him full of life. 

A world where everyone is smiling stupidly, not knowing their fate is coming as fast as the little boys did. 

I set aside the picture with care, face down, but the imprint of the picture stays in my mind. 

I flick my ash and move on, taking a sip from my bottle, letting the jackhammers pound again. 

The next picture is of the woman, passed out in a bed with a cigarette in hand and a bottle of Rum on the nightstand. 

Chills run down my spine and I push the bottle away slowly. 

I turn the photograph upside down as well as the last one. 

On the back of this picture there are words too. 

It was her fault.” 

The last picture is of the beautiful dead woman. 

The same as the one I found on the bathroom door. 

Two sheets of notebook paper in the back of the folder, written front and back.

I read.

“You and your wife were happy. 

You and your son were happier. 


She drank a fifth of rum a day.

You got a divorce. She came to visit her son. 

You wouldn’t let her in because she was drunk. 

Jamie ran out the back door. 

You made her leave...she sped off...she hit Jamie...

You took care of things; you could always take care of things. 

You’re that kind of guy you don’t want to f**k with.

You made her remember. 

You still loved her...can you forgive yourself for that? No. 

So everyday you make yourself forget and then remember again. 

A vicious cycle, you’re not done paying yourself back for it. 

You don’t know what this is talking about, but it’s true, you wrote it. 

Right before you put yourself into this hell. 

Right before you told yourself not to leave until you paid the price. 

Not until you took on all the pain Jamie and your wife had. 

Because you’re that kind of guy, a Jesus on the cross.

You did it wrong, she didn’t deserve to die. 

She was fucked up but it was an accident. 

She fucked up with the wrong guy; you made her feel his pain. 

Now I feel her pain and my own. 

Drink a bottle of Rum a day. 

Two packs of cigarettes, and I’ll make myself forget. 

I’ll make you forget until you’re strong. 

Strong enough to put that bottle away. 

Until then, you’ll make yourself forget.

Every day you learn a little more, but you haven’t learned enough yet.”

I sit stark still and the only thing that fills my head is the rhythmic beating of the ceiling fan, like the ticking of a clock

A clock that says my payment is due. 

Reading that letter was like reading somebody else’s story. 

Somewhere inside my gut’s telling me it’s true. 

I’m that kind of man I wrote. 

If I’m the kind of man that can think of this twisted deranged means of retribution I’d hate to see what I’d do to my enemies. 

What enemies do I have? 

I must know, somewhere in this alcohol soaked brain I must have an answer. 

I know I’m not going to remember, not yet. 

I’ve remembered to forget, and I have forgotten. 

When do I remember?

“Not soon enough.” I whisper to myself as I light another cigarette, looking at my friend on the matchbox and feeling a sense of disgust. 

I inhale and watch the tip glow orange. 

What next? I wonder as I grab the bottle again and take a deep soothing gulp. 

The jackhammers start up again. 

Who gives a f**k? 

I’m not supposed to know yet. 

I take my own advice and remember to forget, soaking my worries and regrets from this bottle. 

Something triggers in my head like a giant light going off and I can’t see, my ears are ringing as if a grenade just exploded. 

My hand moves to my temple and I try to soothe it away, but a choice is being presented to me, a choice I can’t ignore. 

Like two huge signs they face me with flashing lights, lights brighter than any Las Vegas has to offer. 

“Forget” one flashes at me.

Then there’s the other, tall and ominous, outshining the stars in the sky, outshining the sun during the day, screaming at me to remember. 

I move toward the towering sign, ready to unbury suppressed memories and discover the truth, but then my own voice whispers. 


The “Forget” sign is now advertising free Rum and cigarettes. 

I move toward it now slowly, my eyes still on the brilliance of the other, but knowing I deserve this. 

I take another drag from my cigarette and chase it down with the bottle. 

I flick my ash and watch the bits of paper and tobacco float slowly away, being chased by the breeze of the ceiling fan. 

I close my eyes and let my mind shut itself down; it’s time to forget for now. 

Everything goes brilliant white, and slowly begins to fade. 

I find myself walking to my bed, still smoking my cigarette, still drinking from the bottle. I stumble like a drunk to the bed and smash into it like a car hitting a snow bank. Everything fades completely and the bottle slips from my hand. 

I lift my cigarette slowly to my mouth for one last inhale, and breathe it in deeply filling my lungs with ash. 

I exhale and as I do I whisper a word with the rolling smoke. 


My body aches like a million needles stabbed into me only seconds before I woke. 

I lie awake without opening my eyes. 

I know what I’m waking to. 

I know the routine. 

A bottle of Rum and two packs of unfiltered Lucky Strike's greet me. 

I’ll cook my breakfast of fresh eggs and drink my orange juice. 

I’ll take my s**t and then on the desk will be . . . 

My eyes open in a flash.

What the f**k is waiting for me today?

© 2013 nathanwohosky

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Added on August 28, 2013
Last Updated on August 28, 2013
Tags: routine, eggs, fiction, wohosky, cigarettes, rum, time, human, stream of consciousness, dream



San Diego, CA

I'm an aspiring writer from San Diego, my goals like many are to make my passion of writing my career. I've written several short stories and a few novels. My interests include, science fiction, the h.. more..