In His Image:

By: Hugo L.R. Reed

Chapter One: Chase Martin

The early morning was very quiet as the sunlight began to creep onto the parking lot of the Willow Way Apartments. A few people were out and about this early, walking pets or preparing to head in for an early shift at their jobs. Even a few retirees were enjoying the sight of the sunrise over the nearby line of trees with a cup of coffee or tea in their hands.

Like several of the other tenants, Chase Martin was asleep inside his own apartment: number 7. As the wind-up clock on his nightstand (an old-fashioned model that had been his inheritance from his great grandmother) reached 6:15 am, it rang quickly several times, pulling Chase from his deep sleep.

More out of habit than a conscious decision, he reached out, slapping the top of the alarm to stop the noise. While the ringing noise slowly left his ears, he swung his legs over the edge of his bed, yawning and stretching while his automatic coffee timer activated and began brewing. While the coffee maker did its work, Chase walked over to his dresser and began pulling out the drawers so that he could get dressed.

It had been a habit of his since college to shower at night before going to work, so in case he overslept he could quickly leave without having to worry about how he'd smell the rest of the day. It had been at least a few years since he'd been in that actual situation, but the habit died hard. Besides, he like the idea that only his clean body would touch his bedsheets, considering he didn't wash them quite as often as he was probably supposed to.

He pulled on a loose pair of chinos and a Star Wars t-shirt before he reached for his favorite green hoodie and head to the kitchen, where the coffee maker was finishing his daily brew. He usually drank two large cups in the morning and a third while he began his work.

Chase worked as a concept artist, meaning he listened to the ideas and description someone provided and created a piece of art for future artists to reference in their use for the final product. He was a freelance artist, but was frequently hired on by several video game and comic book companies to help bring the creator's vision to life.

He had finally come into his fifth year as a "professional" artist and while the work could be killer from time-to-time, the pay was good and he got to do something he loved for a job. Besides, it was cool be one of the artists who helped create such visually appealing games or comics. Even if his creation ultimately didn't feature in the product, it was still really cool to know that everything that did wind up getting used stemmed from something he'd drawn.

Chase reached for a coffee mug which read: If this is full, don't talk to me, and poured the freshly-brewed coffee into the mug as the thick, chocolate scented liquid fill his nostrils. He took a long sniff of the substance, reveling in the smell before he placed the cup on his table and went back to the fridge so that he could grab some bacon and eggs.

While he prepared his breakfast he had his phone start streaming the news, and he kept his attention divided between the reports of incidents as well as the traffic report, and his breakfast. When the food was finished, he scooped the meal onto one of three plates that he owned and moved it to his dinner table. Then he sat, clasped his hands and prayed softly.

"Thank you father for this meal Lord, may you be with me today. May my work today elevate you and not myself, and watch over me. Amen."

Fifteen minutes later, he sat down in front of his computer and sketch pad, moving carefully along the scanned imagine on the display so that his program could recognize the lines he was drawing. Of course, he always drew the sketches on real paper first, but the computer was often choosey about what constituted a solid color or line, so while it took a bit longer it was best to essentially draw the image twice when he was making something from scratch.

His first drawing was a multicolored forrest for a fantasy game that was being supposed to revitalize hack-and-slash games. Chase focused on the drawing he'd begun copying into the computer last night, and resumed tracing the lines, often changing tip sizes to help create a sense of immense size within the forrest. It was typical in fantasy games for forests to be home to any number of creatures and caves, so it should look like it could hold any number of such things.

An hour later he began to choose his base colors for the leaves of the trees, and knew he was going to have to break away from the traditional greens and orange that appeared in real life. The client had been specific on purples and blues being prominent among the colors, so it was a little off the beaten path. Still, that came him an idea to go with a slightly aquatic-style set of colors for the tree line.

Soon one hour had become two, then three, and five, and eight. As he stood to use the bathroom and refill his water glass again, he glanced at the clock and noticed it was already three in the afternoon and he had yet to eat lunch. He glanced down at his work and was pleased to see that he was making good progress, so he decided to stretch his legs a bit and go get a ham and cheese on rye from a sandwich place down the street.

As he exited his apartment, the left half of his face was hit by the bright light of the afternoon sun, causing him to squint and consider retreating back into his house in a vain effort to locate his sunglasses, even though they'd been missing for over a month now. Resigning himself to a walk that would half blind him along the way, his feet began to automatically carry him to the sandwich shop on the corner.

As he hit the sidewalk and began moving alongside the traffic, he put his earbuds in and scrolled through his phone's music app, eventually settling on a playlist to enjoy while he made the trek. It wasn't exactly a long walk, just a couple blocks away, but the music made things more entertaining and had the added benefit of ensuring that no strangers would try and start up a conversation with him.

It wasn't that he couldn't talk to people, but he was always a bit socially anxious when it came to casual conversation. Somehow he didn't really know how to chat with someone who wasn't a close friend for very long. He could get through the perfunctory greetings, but beyond that he'd sooner not talk to the person at all. Headphones gave him a prime excuse to just avoid talking to people.

The weather was actually fairly pleasant, just warm enough to be comfortable without being too hot. It was slightly cloudy, but not overcast, and there was a nice soft breeze that blew across his face as he moved down the sidewalk, absent-mindedly stepping in time to the song playing in his ears.

As he crossed the first intersection, he saw a lady and her golden retriever coming the opposite way. She was wearing a pink fleece jacket and headband along with a set of black yoga pants. He dog bounced along happily as she jogged on, holding one of the popular self-retracting leashes. Trying not to seem like a creep, Chase eyed the woman curiously.

She was rather pretty, with long blonde hair that was pulled back into a ponytail. Her form was fairly fit and try as he might, Chase couldn't help but let his imagination take off slightly, imagining a long in-depth conversation between the pair of them. An idealistic and completely implausible scenario involving their shared love of dogs leading to a date and then a relationship with this woman, all because he'd struck up a friendly conversation on his way to lunch.

She jogged up to him, and the golden retriever gave a half-hearted tug against the leash to inspect him. In his imagination, Chase merely reached down to pat the dog and talk to its attractive owner. However, as she came level with him and smiled, he mere nodded nervously and then walked straight passed the pairing, examining the sidewalk while he could feel his face heat up slightly.

He knew he wouldn't say anything to the woman long before he had reached her. It had been that way since high school. Whatever confidence or practice it was that men had in seducing women, he simply didn't have it. He'd been on a few dates, mostly single meet-ups and the like. He still prayed that one day, God would lead a him to a woman who had been prepared just for him.

However, at twenty-nine that had been his prayer for almost a decade now, and it hadn't happened for him. Of course, Chase did his best to be patient. After all, God worked things out in his own time. That just didn't help that feeling that his prayer was becoming more and more of a pipe dream.

He didn't doubt God's ability, but the more time passed, the more he was convinced that he was simply meant to live alone. Of course, he knew the words of Genesis.

It is not good for man to be alone. I will make helper suitable for him.

Still, that statement had been meant for the species of man as a whole, not necessarily for the individual. Besides, hadn't Paul encouraged men, who were able, to remain single? Granted, that statement had been prefaced by Paul saying that it was a personal belief of his, and not actually an instruction from the LORD. Nevertheless, if he was meant to have a wife, a partner, wouldn't he be guided to her by now?

He sighed, releasing a breath he didn't realized he'd been holding and continued on his path, laying his yearning heart to the side as he'd done for so many years now.

As Chase entered the sandwich shop and joined the cue, he couldn't help but glance around the shop and imagine it as if it were a picture; a snapshot of life. In his head, he thought of it as the concept art God submitted before creating mankind. Although, God didn't have a boss who rejected his work.

Without really trying, Chase could hear some of the criticism that he would face if he were to submit the drawing of this scene.

Why is the crowd so varied? The crowd is far too diverse.

They were a strange breed, sure enough. There were a few who looked like him: men and woman dressed comfortably who embodied mundanity and the average. There were also a fair few of the industry workers, dressed in jeans and dusty t-shirts, or button-ups covered in oil and dirt. Beyond them there were even cubical workers, sporting ties or polos and kakis. Chase even saw three high-class workers wearing full suits and expensive shoes.

Humanity was messy and mixed, as nothing else could be, and he loved it. There was a beauty to broken uniformity and it almost always inspired him to create. He was already lamenting not having brought his sketchpad with him. Still he looked around the store as the line sluggish moved forward.

Chase saw the stain on the floor near the kitchen door, and scratches in the countertop and the cleaning equipment in the open door of a metal cabinet. All the while listening to his music and saying nothing to everybody. This was his life and nothing would change about that, because nothing interesting ever happened to him. Ever.