§ A Beginning (2007)

Johan tried to breathe normally. The tightness in his chest, the shallow breathing, had settled upon him unnoticed again. He shook his head in disgust. It wasn't like he had any reason to be anxious. Sitting in his comfortable living room, surrounded by silence, one could hardly imagine a more serene setting.

He got up from the couch, poring over the list of things he needed to do today as he walked out to the front porch.

Clean the shower, have a shower, sort the recycling, buy some eggs...

Johan's thoughts strayed from his list as he noticed the gravel in the corners of the entryway. How long had it been since he'd last swept and mopped the floor out here? He resolved to tackle that before the shower; there was time.

A muffled shriek snapped his head up to the glass in the front door. Out on the sidewalk, a young girl half-heartedly ran from two young boys, a smile on her face as she again shouldered a bulging knapsack that had come loose in a struggle. One of the boys still had his arms outstretched in mock aggression, the grin on his face matched by his cocky strut.

It wasn't until the children were beyond his hedges that Jonah noticed his breathing had slowed again. He rolled his shoulders back, breathing deeply as he tried to rid himself of the ire that young boy's confidence had stirred in him.

"Where does such certainty come from?" he asked himself.

Jonah often spoke his thoughts aloud. He'd started doing it as a child, and had discovered that even the most mundane thoughts took on a conspiratorial edge when given voice. That illicit thrill was still there. More importantly, Johan had come to rely on that voice in his ears as a counterpoint in his reasoning; angels and demons on his shoulders, helping him see his problems from all angles.

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