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Two dice skittered to a halt beneath the looming shadow of his patient fingertips, and in return, the worn ivory presented to him a scuffed four and an irreversibly battered three. Their faces had seen better days.
It was a habitual tick of his; rolling those dice. It soothed him to watch them fall, and know that the results they yielded would never surprise him. Numbers were the only constant in his life, as their existence was not one of fickle indecision. A final calculation could not exceed its input, and a formula could not change its mind. Perhaps it was in this trait that he found his reassurance, that he could trust such statistics to never betray him. Unlike Them.
Unlike this world he lived in.
They crawled the streets like ants beyond his shrouded windowsill, marching in mindless, perpetual lines, following all too faithfully in the footsteps of those who came before them. They trudged onward forever, in spite of their hypocritical complaints and compulsory protests, as if only for the sake of keeping their feet moving. It was because of those drones that this world never changed, and he despised them for this most. He had no such single-minded determination as theirs, and no such contentment.
It was for this reason that he desperately yearned to throw a wrench in the machine they so religiously maintained.
He saw the world around himself through shifting layers of grey film; torrential were the charcoal streets below him, and relentless were the shadows that walked them. Cinders tumbled like snowflakes throughout the spaces between them, byproducts of fires long-since burned out.
He saw colors too, though only in scarcity; gold swam the gaze of an ashen florist, orange oozed the lips of a forced steel smile, and lead birds sang yellow from the branches of a dreary oak, whose graphite leaves whispered ambers on the wind just outside.
A pair of snake eyes stared up at him now, their accusatory glare unwavering in the dim, pearly lamplight that illuminated their answer. Those eyes were perhaps the only ones that never looked away from him.
He stood, knees popping stiffly under the sudden pressure, paced the length of his empty flat, and sat again. His anticipation was beginning to make him restless. He drew back his thick curtains, away from the window whose gaze they shunned, and winced at the initial smite of the brilliantly white morning sun. He silently observed the hazy world beyond, watching the insects make their rounds, and a wry smile chiseled itself into his cobblestone lips.
They were not to be expectant of any deviant from their daily routines; disorder was overdue.
His eyes darted briefly to the clock that hung on the opposing wall, counting every passing second without a single stutter to mar its insistent chant, and he absently followed the path of its hands as he already had several times in that hour alone. All three hands aligned at twelve o’clock, fingers intertwined in an instant of perfect symmetry, and he rose to his feet once more.
He was never late; he had a track record to uphold.
He made his way to the front door, already having been fully dressed for business since dawn that morning, but hesitated at the door knob. This was going to take some more getting used to.
He opened the door slowly, cautiously testing the murky hallway atmosphere, and grimacing as he stepped over the threshold for the first time that month. An uncomfortable breath was drawn, before being expelled once more in a disgusted rush. He’d always hated the taste of this air.
The lock clicked into place at the turn of his key, marking a point of no return. The Tortoise emerged from his shell.
He knew of the violet that awaited him in the lobby downstairs, and the plum colored smile that he would offer at the door; a foolish purple hue that believed in half-full glasses and no doubt still dreamt of world peace. He liked to avoid this man, if at all possible.
A pair of dice rattled like bones in his left hand pocket.
The Tortoise made his way out into the post-rush hour calm, unable to elude the lavender's snare in the end, but escaped easily enough behind a curt nod and an inexperienced wave of dismissal. He was not looking for a conversation.
Meanwhile, a scarlet glance returned his own from a pewter street corner. The man offered only the barest of nods, almost mistakable for a twitch, before withdrawing a pair of gloves from a well ironed jacket pocket; a tidy custom fit for his nine remaining fingers. The Fox disapproved of unclean hands.
He turned and disappeared into the congregation of sluggish statues before him, leaving behind only a residue of rust colored muttering that was lost in the modest afternoon bustle. The Tortoise knew that reds were not to be trusted, but the two shared a common goal under these circumstances. So, however reluctantly, he determined that a temporary cooperation was necessary.
He took a step in the opposite direction, as per his own role, pausing only to gather a last glimpse at this monotone peace while it lasted. Colorless phantoms were mixed in with the surrounding sheep, their faces no more than smudges of ink against the canvas they stained, to each their own shade of invisibility. Their feature in this performance would be pivotal in the staging of his grand finale.
The Tortoise fished two tattered dice from their immaculate resting place, tossing them to the smog-ridden clouds that trudged the skyline. He turned his back, averting a further delay to watch them fall, and payed them no mind as they met the concrete at his heels. He wouldn't be needing their assurance any longer; after all, a much more interesting game of chance would soon be coming to fruition before his very eyes.
It was time to begin.