The Other Aiden

Aiden Gleeson wakes up and looks around. The room is the same as before, no changes at all. He breathes a sigh of relief, then swings his legs over, towards the ladder. He climbs the steps down, counting them under his breath. One two, three, four, five, six. He touches the floor. Seven.

He checks under the bunk. There's nobody there. Another sigh of relief. Aiden locates his clothes. They lie folded on top of the chair beside the desk. He carefully unfolds them - carefully, carefully. Mustn't rush it, he thinks. Mustn't spoil things when it's already going so well.

He pulls on the trousers one leg at a time. Right first, left second. He steps into his shoes. Right first, left second. He pulls on his shirt carefully with both arms. It slides over his head. Before he leaves the room, he taps the wood of the ladder three times. He opens the door carefully, so it doesn't creak. He turns the light off and then on, and then off again. He closes the door.

He walks down the stairs, right foot first. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven. He jumps over the last step, landing on the floor. Twelve.

Aiden congratulates himself for remembering to skip the thirteenth step. He frowns, realises his mistake, and curses himself for thinking the word 'thirteen'. He doesn't have to think it, but he does. It's a stupid thing to do.

He walks through to the kitchen and turns the light on, then off, then on again. The breakfast carton is already on the sideboard. The milk is on the fridge to stop it going sour.

Aiden opens the cutlery drawer. The cutlery is marked with brightly coloured stickers. There's a red fork, a blue fork, a green fork and a yellow fork. The cutlery is marked so that Aiden uses the cutlery equally. If one spoon is used more than the other spoons, the other spoons  feel lonely. Which makes bad luck, and makes bad things happen. Today is the day for yellow cutlery. Aiden takes the yellow spoon. There is a yellow fork and knife for dinner. Today is a yellow day.

Aiden gets the milk out of the fridge and shuts the door. Quietly. He takes the cereal box, the milk and the yellow spoon into the dining room, where a cereal bowl waits.

Something else waits there for him, which makes Aiden very upset. He sobs because he still hasn't started the day carefully enough. He still makes bad things happen despite his best efforts.

Sitting at the table is a man wearing the same clothes as Aiden Gleeson. A man who was not there two minutes ago. A man who doesn't exist.

Sitting at the table is Aiden's invisible friend.

The End

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