Push start and begin the cycle.

The moon shone high in the night, radiating icy white light over the plains surrounding the campus of the Barrow Academy. Aside from a handful of students with impending finals, the lonely lands that stretched for miles held only dormant life. Gail never had the fortune of being invited into this dormancy.

A gust of wind pushed past the curtains into the room, allowing the lengths of white cotton to waltz aimlessly, framing the near midnight sky without: the whole and brilliant moon guarded by loyal stars. The image was otherworldly.

For a moment too long, Gail stood mesmerized by the image of a perfect night. It was the kind of beauty that deepened the pain of loneliness. The breeze blessed her once more with its cool caress and Gail leaned out of the window to receive it. 

The weariness of another restless night dissolved with the sight of the night that stood before her, holding mysteries that were veiled thinly. 

On another night, with good company, perhaps she would chase the stars to the horizon. When finals end, and she has the time and energy to give proper attention to the beauty that surrounds her, she would surely run to meet it like an unbridled stallion. 

Such were the lies she amused herself with to gain courage to face another day. 

An alarm sounded. Her laundry would be ready by now. Perhaps with at least clean sheets to sleep on, her mind can rest for what precious few hours remained of the night. 

The hallway lights were always left turned on in the dormitories, even in the dead of night. It was something that Gail could never get used to. When she moved in as a First Year, it seemed to be a waste of resources. Now, with no time but midnight to do her laundry, she knew better than to question the small conveniences provided for her, regardless of their apparent lack of necessity. 

The nearly full length windows in the laundry room —yet another seemingly useless feature— presented the image of the midnight sky once more. There was a red dot blinking though the sky and the moon stood fragmented as a double image against the panes of the window. With fluorescent lights that could have disoriented the average person’s circadian rhythm, bright green walls that peaked between washer-dryer units and confetti tiled floors, the laundry room stood as its own otherworldly image. 

Standing there, with a laundry bag, ready to fold towels, sheets and underwear all the same at two in the morning, Gail wondered at what point the sparks of impulsivity that sustained the momentum of her life could be diagnosed as insanity. 

Gail settled the laundry bag on the ground and reached for the dryer handle, ignoring the green letters that flashed on the tiny screen by the buttons. Clean, warm fabric might be enough to justify this madness. One can imagine her shock when her fingers tangled in just the opposite. 

Push start and begin the cycle. 

Gail blinked. She read the green flashing letters once more, not for want of confirmation, rather as a challenge to reality, daring it to push her over the edge.

Push start and begin the cycle. 

It’s—O.K. Just stay calm. 

Gail’s toe slammed metal, denting the machine slightly. Aside from shooting pain up her foot, the act did nothing. It was an ugly dent too. Looking up, Gail caught the CCTV camera glaring at her with condescending judgment. 

Swallowing her pride, Gail did what she should’ve done an hour ago and pushed start to begin the cycle.

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