by Shinju Yuri (真珠百合)
illustrated by amei
Naoki leaned back in his chair and stretched. A glance at the clock showed that it was already almost midnight. It hardly seemed possible, but he wanted to get the results written up quickly. He should go to bed. The research conference started tomorrow at seven, and if he went to bed now he’d barely have five hours of sleep. He sighed and pushed his hair away from his face. He was getting too old and tired for all-nighters, but he had a feeling that he was on the track of something useful, but he couldn’t pin it down. It was an itchy, unsettled sort of feeling. He reached over and took a sip of his cold coffee and made a face. He should get a mug warmer or something, but he didn’t like the way coffee tasted when it had been on one of them for a long time.
He looked at the computer. The last of the simulations wouldn’t be done for two hours, so he might as well catch a nap. He pushed the chair away from the table and walked slowly through his empty apartment. It was quiet and very clean, painted white with old posters of flowers and landscapes hung here and there. He picked up the newspaper that was on his breakfast bar and put it in the recycling bin. He’d finished the crossword and the sudoku puzzle he’d started before work while he was waiting for the computer to finish rendering at suppertime. The lights dimmed as he walked out of his kitchen and back through the living and office area, picking up a sheaf of paper to flip through for his report, and into his bedroom. He toed off his slippers neatly beside the bed and lay down.
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