The nearer Jacob gets to his home, the longer the streets seem. Every day after work, he powerwalks the pavements, hugging the building lines, all the while envisioning the interior of his one bedroom flat. Over the ridge at Mimosa Avenue he catches sight of the indistinct facings and closed blinds of his apartment. Safe. Secure. Shut away.
Jacob doesn’t even look around him as he dives into the darkness of the common close. He feels the lock click into place behind him and strides up the stone stairs one step at a time. One more door, two more locks, and he is in the cool hallway of his flat, the bustle and traffic and chaos left behind. Jacob sighs and lets his shoulders sag as he leans against the inside of his front door.
Placing his work clothes down on the coffee table, Jacob enters the kitchen. First things first. He pulls two antibacterial wipes from a dispenser on the wall. Slowly, methodically, he cleans each finger, fingernail, knuckle, palm, and wrist. The wipes are disposed of in a pedal pin. Next, he squeezes foam soap into his hands. Palm to palm, interlaced fingers, interlocked fingers, rotation rubbing, and circular motions, Jacob does them all. Slowly, methodically.
Next, the carbon monoxide and smoke alarms are given their daily tests. Harsh klaxons assault his ears, reverberating around the flat before leaving a satisfied silence in their place. Obsessive? Perhaps, but heaven only knew what might happen overnight. A short circuit? A stray firework through a window? Maybe the flat below leaving a chip pan under the grill.
Fire ladders are all present and correct at their respective windows, each of which fitted with a window restrictor allowing opening up to a maximum of two inches. What about the aforementioned fire risk? Not a problem. Jacob has glass breaker hammers situated next to each. In the case of a blaze, Jacob should, should, be on the pavement outside in a maximum of one minute forty seconds.
Jacob relaxes slightly. Re-entering the kitchen, he puts a spoonful of coffee into a mug and fills it using the cold tap. Cold? Yes, cold. Jacob doesn’t own a kettle. Why would he? Water + electricity = any number of potential hazards. Cold coffee is fine, thank you. Just takes some getting used to, that’s all.
Walking back in to the living room, Jacob is careful not to spill and risk a slip hazard. He puts the mug on a coaster and walks around to the back of the television where plugs have been pulled from the wall this morning before being cable-tied. The only things plugged into this house and appliances that are in use. That’s sort of a rule.
The television blinks into life and Jacob settles down on the sofa. He thumbs through the channels until he finds what he is looking for – opposition research. Motorcycle stunt riders tumble across the screen in front of him, pulling wheelies, stoppies, burnouts, hyperspins, switchbacks, and cliff hangers. He moves aside the bike helmet on the coffee table and places it on the floor alongside a set of leathers. Jacob needs to concentrate; he’ll be competing against these guys in a week’s time.
It’s cold. Jacob shivers. He could put on the central heating, but what with the aforementioned concerns regarding carbon monoxide and worries about what artificial heat could be doing to his metabolism, was it really worth it? Jacob unfolds a blanket and places it over his knees.
There’s no point in taking unnecessary risks, is there?
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