Wednesday, March 30, 2016

I Melt (Excerpt)

by various authors
Genre: Paranormal/Urban Fantasy

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I Melt
By Chen Cabaluna

Rick is predictable, organized & doesn't like to take risks because of his condition. His clothes are color coordinated. His books are arranged by height. He only eats & drinks cold stuff. He's very cautious to avoid human touch because he might melt. But then he met Alice, his new too perky lab assistant who helped him to overcome many inhibition and open up more to the world. There's only one problem--he thinks Alice will melt him.

I drink cold coffee in the morning.
And when I say cold, I mean literally like my coffee has ice cubes and the water used is from the fridge. I like coffee. And I’m pretty sure that I like it cold given the fact that I’ve been drinking coffee since my high school days (ten years ago perhaps?) . Though someday, I wouldn’t mind having it hot. If ever that “someday” would come. 
And I don’t just stop from cold coffee. I only eat cold food too. I always buy cooked food and place it on the fridge to have its temperature lowered before eating it. It has always been the drill since time immemorial. You see, when my parents are still here, they did the same thing and I just copied them—because I don’t like taking the risk. I am afraid of the unknown. Of what could happen to me if ever I experimented, if ever I go against the norms of my kind…of our kind.
And that’s the funny part. I am afraid of the unknown & experimenting, but that’s exactly my job—the thing that I deal with everyday. I am a chemist and I work for a famous ice cream company as a Quality Assurance Analyst. I make sure that the company’s products are safe for consuming and meet the highest standards. I perform a series of test and lab works everyday—in guess what—in a fully air conditioned room. My lab assistant of four years, William, often complained to me that he’s going to get a frost bite due to my air conditioning setting, but he can’t do anything about it because I’m his senior, and I exercise my utmost authority over him( just for the air con settings though)
Like my laboratory, my home’s temperature is pretty much the same since I have a centralized air con installed in my house. Every room, every nook and cranny is undeniably cold. As I’ve said, I can’t take the risk.
Like my car is also blasted with the cold temperature whenever I ride it to work. You see, it is very risky for our kind to live in a tropical country like the Philippines but we have no choice. We’re running out of options on where to hide, and being here is perhaps one of the best choices my grandparents did because for three generations, we managed to flourish, unlike our counterparts in European countries and other cold countries. I believe that they already perished. And the sons and daughters that they might have wouldn’t happen anymore. So lucky and unlucky me--I’m still alive, and like what I’ve said before, for my kind, the unknown and the risky choice is not even an option.
I like things that are predictable and already tested, mainly at first because of my condition. But that mentality soon affected basically most of my lifestyle – up to the extremes (I guess). If I give you a tour in my room, you’d see that my books are stacked according to size. My polo shirts, suits, ties, pants, socks and practically every clothes that I own are color coordinated. The book (that I’m currently reading) on my bedside table is placed in such a way that it is one inch away from the edge. And I make sure of it. I use a ruler (and make it a bookmark of that book afterwards).
And that’s not the only thing that I measure. I measure almost anything that would interest me or catch my attention. There’s this one time, out of curiosity, I measured all of my ten fingers. I recorded the measurement in my notebook just because. I also measured my cat’s tail during one time while it’s drinking milk. I guess I acquired this habit from measuring things in the office and comparing them to the standards.  
In my kitchen, you’d see that I folded plastic wrappers and grocery bags neatly into small squares and I stacked them accordingly inside the drawer. My canned goods are displayed from tallest to shortest. I make sure that the walis tambo’s hair is properly trimmed. The tiles in the bathroom are squeaky, you-don’t-want-to-step-into clean.
I also had three locks for my door and two locks for my house gate. I don’t know if it is part of my quirky personality or if I’m just taking an utmost precaution.
I rarely make friends because of my condition. I can only count three—William, my lab assistant, Celia, my trusted house cleaner and my cat, Snow. And people around me tend to judge me because of this. They say I live a boring, monotonous life. They say my life is on repeat and maybe I would like to try some excitement in my life once in a while. If only they knew that again, I can’t take any risk.
And maybe I’m already contented with this kind of lifestyle. Maybe up until I leave this world or up until they find me—whatever comes first. And even though I don’t feel like it, maybe, I’m a legacy. Who knows that after my parents were found missing, I’ll be able to still thrive…continue the battle for survival (I know, I sound cheesy).
I thought because of my uncanny ability to keep a low profile, to keep a repetitive (boring) lifestyle, to stay away from normal people as much as possible and have the privilege to live in a tropical country, my life would progress in the most normal state it could. Never did I guess that everything would turn upside down this particular day that I went to work.
William, my trusted lab assistant was gone.
I came to work that particular day just to find out that he already submitted a resignation letter. He didn’t even tell me. For a few minutes, I was staring blankly at the office’s plain white wall, assessing myself, assessing my feelings if I feel sad or betrayed. I took a deep breath and I realized that I cannot put a finger to what I’m feeling right this very moment. I guess knowing my true feelings would be forever one of my weaknesses. I always can’t gauge what exactly what I’m feeling when drawbacks like this one comes into my life. I remember the day that my parents were nowhere to be found—I just sat on the corner of my room, stared at the ceiling and felt numb. I wanted to cry, but it didn’t happen. Up until now, I haven’t cried yet for my parents and I don’t know if it is a good or bad thing considering that there’s no proof that they’re already dead.
I quickly got my phone out from my pocket and fired a text message to William. Y didn’t u tell me? Wt’s d matter? Am I 2 bossy? I’ve waited for a couple of minutes for him to reply but he didn’t. And I know that he’s quick to respond to my text messages so I knew that something’s not quite right. Is it because I’m no longer his boss that’s why he didn’t bother anymore to answer my text asap? My heart sank deeper into my ribcage and I just hope that this is a legit feeling of loneliness, and if ever it is not, then I don’t know anymore what it is called.
I tried calling his number but I got nothing—only the operator telling me that the number I called is out of coverage area which doesn’t happen before. I put down my phone on the table and gave a big sigh. I guess I just have to move on completely that William already resigned and I’m all by myself starting today. Maybe I’m just paranoid of him not answering my text and call and maybe, he might fire up a reply later. Who knows? But for now, I’m up to some serious work.
Before I went to my laboratory, I’ve went to the dressing room like always where we, lab personnel wear our PPE or personal protective equipment. It is the SOP of our company to wear a lab gown, gloves, hair net, mask and goggles before entering the lab and the production area. As I’ve opened the door of the dressing room, I was taken aback— a female specie is standing besides my PPE cabinet.
“Hi Sir Rick!” The female specie squeaked. Her pitch is too high for my taste or maybe, I am not accustomed to hear a female talk in such a confined space?
“Uh..hi?” I managed to mumble unintelligently. “Who the hell are you?” Those words slipped into my mouth not because I wanted to attack her but because I was astounded. I am not a fan of the female populace—never as long as I can remember. Even during my grade school, high school and college. I’ve went to a COED school for all of my life which allowed exposure of the females but never did I’ve become close to anyone. Even a single one.
I remembered my closest encounter with one. Perhaps it can be called an encounter. It is during my 2nd year college. We had volleyball for P.E. and I’ve participated in a match between two sections. This particular female hit me with a ball, straight into my unsuspecting face, and the next thing I knew is I’ve kissed the floor.
When I opened my eyes, it is true that I’ve seen a multitude of stars. I thought that cartoons were just exaggerating when they make their characters’ head swim in stars when they hit their head. But the very same thing is happening to me that moment.
“Are you alright?” A high pitched voice echoed in my head. When I’ve gained enough consciousness to have a care with my surroundings, I’ve seen the female’s face dangerously nearing my face and I’ve felt hot—and that’s not a good thing.
I managed to get up quickly on the floor—away from the female while mumbling incoherently that yeah, I’m okay, no need to be that close (if you wanted to prolong my life, at least)
And that same life threatening condition is happening in my office


Chenley Cabaluna is a registered nurse by profession. She is a fellow of the first batch of the eros atalia writing workshop. She already had several of her short stories published in books and online. You can read her other works at her Wattpad account with the username @Chenaciousley.

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