Albert had never really believed that he could simply stop caring. No matter what, he'd thought that he possessed an unquenchable well of resolve, deep enough for him to keep dipping into, no matter the circumstance. He wondered to himself, whether this was a blip in time, soon forgotten, or if it was the first step towards a darkening of his days. A headlong rush towards oblivion. It seemed strange to him that the first step could possibly be something this simple, and had to look again to see whether his fingers truly had pressed that button. Cloudy eyes confirmed his recollections - he was gambling 100 credits at a time now.

He chuckled softly, and kept on playing, not truly caring at the result. Such a stupid, stupid little thing. Six years he'd been coming to this place. Six years, he'd been gambling no more than twenty cents a time. He knew his pension couldn't really afford any more. The machines hadn't seemed important at all in the past - he couldn't have talked to Elisabeth from over the din of a noisy gaming room. He couldn't have seen her eyes when she smiled.

He'd never, ever wanted to miss out on that sparkle.

From a lane or two over, a ball full of lights, stuck to the ceiling, erupts into life, and abba begins to blare from hidden speakers. "money money money..." Albert doesn't really hear.

He picks up his jacket and hat, and turns to leave. Half a dozen steps later, turns at the sound of someone calling out to him. "Excuse me, you've left money in the machine." He turns back towards the exit, and keeps on walking.

I'm not here

She hates that look in his eyes. That glint, which tells her she should be quiet
Just nod. Just say yes.

She used to think it was a spark.
Now, it just looks like a flame.

Were they really laughing together, only ten minutes ago?

She met a boy a little while ago. Never really fond out his name, never really knew anything about him. But he'd smiled at her, and said she was beautiful.

Too pretty to be crying.

She took a hold of that minute, held it close, and started to stretch it. Into an hour, day, week. Stretched it until it was almost at a breaking point, and it would extend no more.

There's nothing left to stretch, and she's so scared of feeling it shatter, loosing it completely.

this isn't happening

There is a photo on the wall. The edges are curled, the colour starting to fade. A young boy, such blonde hair, eyes a more vivid blue than look back at me in reflections these days.

So much younger than today.

Posing in a shopping mall with my brother and sister, dressed in photo clothes.

I need to stand up, and touch it. I need to make sure this is real.

And my fingers brush the paper, slightly rough to the touch. Dust is seperated in my fingers wake. I know that boy is me. I know he grew up.
I just wish I could tell how much survived, because I don't remember the day that picture was taken. Or much of anything that boy lived through.

that there...that's not me