The stars were shining brightly on the moonless night. There was a warm breeze sifting through the green grass. He hesitated for a moment, he could wait for another night, in a week or two maybe. He shook his head causing the thought to fall to the ground beside his feet where he promptly stamped it out. He had promised it would be tonight and so, come heaven or hell, it would be tonight. He quietly retreated back into his house. The change was quick: the pants and underwear came off together in one quick push; the shirt was dragged across his chest then over his head.
He walked over to the closet. He put on new underwear and the black shorts with the bold white stripe on either side that came with them. He selected the tight yellow and black jersey, gently pulling it over his head and back down his chest until finally it fit snugly into place. The tightness felt good on his body, like a reassuring hug that tonight was the night. He slipped on a pair of black and white socks; they too hugged him, but only up to his ankle where they stopped leaving his legs exposed until the black shorts started. He left the room being sure to grab the small black box from his desk before going.
He sat down on the floor of the large open living room and retrieved his old gray shoes from against the wall and put them on while he stretched his legs one at a time. He noted how the shoes were still falling apart. He had done nothing to stop them, but half expect they would heal themselves. They didn’t. Not directly anyway. The right shoe still had the same tangent of fake leather pulling away his its loosened stitching that started on the first day he wore them. At least the damage wasn’t progressing. The wear points in the mesh however were a different story. They were slowly enlarging themselves as his toes rubbed against them.
He pulled the strings pushing his flesh and bone together. He winced in pain for a moment before releasing some of the pressure. His foot thanked him as it expanded into the newly available space. With the string still tight in his fingers he crossed the two ends, right over-under left, then looped them back left over-under right pulling two loops to complete the knot. He didn’t want to go, didn’t want to do this but he had promised. He ran his hands down his leg feeling the hair sift through his fingers and tickle his palm. He held his foot for an absent minded moment before letting go.
He looked at the black box in his hand. It was quiet and lifeless in his hand. He slid the small pink switch on the top until all the color disappeared. Then, in an instant, the whole front on the thin black box lit up as if it was trying to share its excitement for being alive with the world. He grumbled at it for a moment, it was always too happy for such things. The actions he was about to take would lead to the starvation of thousands of innocent lives, but the little black box only smiled as it cheerfully played music.
He slipped the small mood altering buds into his ears and let the hypnotic sound of the black box soak into his head. For this he both loved and hated the box. He still didn’t want to go. Not for all the pain that he would cause, all the suffering that would take place at his hands, not for any part of the whole experience. But, he promised and so he would. His checked his waist, there was no key. He walked back to the bedroom and retrieved his keys. He pushed his nail into the slit in the key ring separating it enough to push it over the other key ring. He spun the circle until it clicked, signaling it was free. He pushed the key between his skin and his elastic waist band. The key would be safe there.
The tune in his ears changed from the calm steady beat to one of pulsing action. His heart started pumping in time with it, he had to go. He had put this moment off long enough and the time had come. He left the bedroom then out of the house being sure to lock the door behind him, he wanted no surprises when he got back. The pulsing in his ears was growing stronger and stronger until he finally yielded. His legs started moving in time with the beat.
Left then right, left then right.
The black box was doing its job, the job it always did well. That was what he loved about it. The tune changed again, this time to one of steady progression. He felt like he could conquer the world even if at a slow but steady pace. The hills had started and the tune was the perfect encouragement to continue his climb.
Left then right, left then right.
The air was colder atop the hill than he thought it would be. There was a wind blowing too. The cool air was filling his lungs and he gasped for breath. His body wasn’t used to this level of abuse. The few token attempts to prepare for this moment had long been forgotten. Blood raced through his veins trying desperately to warm his skin before the cold air whipped away all the heat. The contrast between the hot and cold lit his body on fire and his naked skin was burning. The black box did its job and the tune changed again to a happier one that drowned out the masses of cells crying in agony and pain.
The race for his health at the expense of his own comfort had begun under the brightly shining stars on that moonless night.