The only light in the room came from the green numbers displayed on the digital clock by the bedside table. The numbers 3:47 were barely enough to cast a pallid blanket over the nose and forehead of the man sleeping on the bed. The only sound came from his breathing, which accompanied by the slow rising and falling of his chest under the blanket, also provided the only movement in the room. The girl lying next to him was silent and still; her thick black strands of hair spread across the pillow, stretching out towards him. Heavy curtains not only blocked out the orange glow of the city outside, but kept the room undisturbed from the sharp gliding sounds of taxis and the occasional drunken black car against the wet asphalt. The numbers on the digital clock clicked to 3:48. The man slowly sat up, as if he had responded to the ever so slight change in the room. He had been staring at the ceiling, and no longer finding it of any interest, now found himself searching the dark square outlines of the furniture scattered around. Soundlessly, he got up and moved towards the window where he pulled the curtains back to let in the glow of the streetlamp. He should have gone back to the ceiling, but instead turned the handle and stepped out of the cold air-conditioned room, on to the balcony. It wasn’t very high up, but he could see a fair amount of the city. The monstrous skyscrapers loomed over him in the pathetic menace of their palely lit and empty offices, and the great condominium buildings in the distance faded sadly in the background – their inhabitants had long since switched off the lights. He felt his naked body drenched in the humid air, and was suddenly aware of the thousands of windows, the bright and blind eyes taking in the sight of him. But the street was empty below, and the man seemed to exist only in the blind spot of life, and of all that was still awake at this time of night. He lit a cigarette, meaning to savor the quiet and watch the way the purple sky swelled up with each passing minute. He only took a few drags though, before deciding it was too hot, and going back inside.
She reached the sea.
It was not what Sukarti had expected. The poster at the bus stop made it look like paradise – azure blue water lapping onto sparkling white sand, framed by swaying palm trees – an image so real she could step right into it. The reality facing her was less seductive. The sand was rough and gathered under her feet in damp clumps. The water was a sickly, anaemic shade of green, and while it was indeed lapping onto shore, each wave bore a load of grimy debris – crushed plastic bottles, hollowed-out coconuts, a broken sun-bleached frisbee.