The Life That Passes

By Charlotte Lenox

Draft 1

The city of Juneau, Alaska, was empty. Sure, there were fully furnished houses, there was food in Super Bear, Foodland, and Rainbow Foods. It never spoiled, either, and never grew or diminished in quantity. Movies still played at the Glacier Cinema, even though the cinema played the same movies over and over. There were no cars on the bi-lane highway—those were all parked in the driveways and garages of the empty houses. Everything in the city was in perfect working order. There was always water, electricity, waste management, and so on. The city of Juneau just seemed in eternal stasis, desolate of all life except for one lone inhabitant.

Jonathan lived in the Valley area of the city, in the heart of suburbia on Albatross Street. His life was unremarkable. He woke up, ate cereal sitting on a stool at the kitchen counter, showered, dressed, and left for work. He organized paperwork in one of the State buildings for 6 hours Monday through Friday, then came home. Sometimes he'd stop at Super Bear, take the best parking space in the empty lot, and take the items he wanted. He never paid for them. There was no one to pay him, and no one for him to pay. At home, he'd put the food away, kick off his shoes, and would usually read a book in the lamplight nestled in his favorite armchair. When the clock struck 10, he'd undress and go to bed. He'd gotten curtains to block the glare of the streetlights.

The emptiness bothered Jonathon every day, but it was such a subtle feeling that he never paid attention to it. Despite having free reign of the entire city, free reign to do whatever he wished, and go wherever he wanted to, Jonathan didn't deviate from his daily routines. He went to work, vaguely feeling that he didn't have to. He wasn't needed at his State building to organize papers. There was no one to organize for. But that didn't stop him. In the complete silence of his office, the halls, and the elevator, he continued with the same work that he did every day as if it actually meant something. When he arrived, he'd turn on the breakers for his floor, sit at his desk, and would work studiously. At the end of his shift, he'd turn off the breaker like someone that had worked late into the night and was the last to leave. His work was utterly thankless.

For years Jonathan didn't change in his daily life. His life passed the same on one day as on the next. The only sound to meet his ears when he stepped outside every morning, spring or winter, was the gentle whispering of the wind on leaves or the wind through the mountains. On Riverside Drive, heading toward Super Bear for a gallon of milk, he'd hear the soothing roar of the Mendenhall River if he rolled down his window. For years, these were some of his only sounds. Never did he see another soul. Never did he see a squirrel or hear birds singing. And through it all, Jonathan wasn't much the wiser.

Every time he thought about change, he rejected it. He'd convinced himself a long time ago that he'd take life day by day. He'd also convinced himself that it was easier to follow the set pattern presented to him every day. To actually change required effort. And for him, it was always just one day more. In the mornings, he was too occupied with hurrying up and getting to work on time. When he got home, he was always too tired and brain weary to care about doing something different. There were times where the thought of going to the beach entered his mind. Actually, in recent years, the thought had been insistent. But always, at the end of the day, he had no energy to follow through. It was easier to stay at home reading a book or watching a movie he'd brought back on his way home from work. Once or twice he'd gone to the cinema. But it was always the same movie—The Fellowship of the Ring. Somewhere deep in his being, Jonathan wondered why it was the same movie everyday. It seemed like the movies should change, and that someone should be changing them. But by now, Jonathan can't even remember if there had been others in Juneau from the beginning. He just couldn't remember past yesterday.

The years continue to pass, and Jonathan still thinks about the beach. He thinks about the waves, and how there are always waves, but each one is different. How the beach instills monotony in its repetitive action, but also embodies variety and difference with an ever changing picture.

But Jonathan never went to the beach.