It was 10:30 by the time Raezana left the house.  It didn’t take her long to drive the 10 blocks to the gym.  Traffic was so much lighter during non-rush hour times.  She told herself to skip work more often.  Then she would be able to drive around town without losing her mind due to being stuck in traffic.

Raezana parked her car in the parking lot and walked into the gym.  She said hello to the receptionist as she swiped her membership card.

The receptionist looked at her with surprise and asked her, “Did you get fired?”

“Not yet!  Maybe tomorrow,” Raezana responded with sarcastic enthusiasm.  She had not considered the possibility that she’d get in trouble for not showing up to work.  If Se’Quasha bombed while trying to do the presentation by herself, it would set them back.  But Raezana didn’t care.  She did all of the work in her department, and that fact would be all the more obvious in her absence.  Maybe the boss would give her a raise when he realized how much dead weight she was forced to work with on a daily basis.

Raezana looked into the aerobics room.  A floor-length mirror covered the front wall of the classroom.  Mike stood at the front of the room, cycling through music tracks on his iPod.  He plugged the iPod into the stereo, intensely focused on the task at hand.  His toned shoulders and biceps begged for attention under his t-shirt while his forearms flexed and relaxed as he moved.  Wow.

Raezana wondered why he taught a class as wimpy as Cardio Kickboxing.  She imagined that he’d be better suited to fight in the center of a boxing ring, sweating it out as he beat an unworthy opponent into oblivion.  Instead, he was an aerobics instructor.  Maybe he fought on the side…

“Excuse me.”

Raezana’s thoughts were interrupted as a woman pushed past her into the room.  Raezana had been so preoccupied with her admiration of Mike that she had stopped in the doorway.  She broke her gaze and looked around as she quickly moved into the studio.  She recognized a couple of women in the room from her evening class, but most of them were unfamiliar to her.

Surprisingly, about half of the women in the room were gorgeous, a far cry from the housewives that she had expected.  Was this class Cardio Kickboxing or Gym Modeling?  Raezana suddenly felt underdressed.  She should have worn her push-up sports bra today.  She felt invisible.  Mike would never notice her.  She was doomed to die alone.  Raezana started to feel ill.  It was what she had always feared.  Her nightmare was manifesting on this, her perfect Monday.

Mike turned away from the stereo.  He smiled as he noticed Raezana standing in the middle of the room, looking bewildered with a gym bag in her hand.  “We’re going to start in 2 minutes,” he announced to the class.  Raezana realized that he was looking at her and quickly threw her gym bag to the side of the room.  The bag stopped about 5 feet away from the wall.

Raezana ran over to the bag and kicked it to the wall.  She should have left the bag in the locker room.  In her excitement, she had forgotten to stop by the locker room to lock up her stuff.  She would just have to keep an eye on it during class.  She looked at the women in the room again.  They *seemed* trustworthy.  She was going to have to keep an eye on them anyway.

Loud hip hop music began blasting from the speakers.  Mike positioned himself in the front center of the room and faced the mirror.  His gym pants were loose and tight at the same time.  “We’re going to start with a warm up,” he bellowed and began doing jumping jacks.

The class followed Mike’s lead.  They jumped, kicked and ran in place as they danced and beat up imaginary opponents.  By the end of class, Raezana was dripping with sweat.  She hated being sweaty.  She tended to sweat easily whenever she exerted herself.  She’d noticed that she sweat more intensely in Mike’s class than in any other class she took at the gym.

Raezana walked over to her gym bag and pulled out her water bottle.  She felt a little light-headed, but no more so than usual.  As she drank water, she overheard a girl giggling as she engaged Mike in conversation.  Raezana rolled her eyes.  That girl was trying too hard.  She hadn’t even broken a sweat during class.  Mike wouldn’t be impressed by her lack of commitment.

Raezana stood by the wall, drinking water and waiting for the girl to lose interest in Mike and leave.  Minutes later, she had emptied her bottle but their conversation was still going strong.  Raezana sighed and picked up her gym bag.  The room was empty except for the three of them.  She could not justify sticking around any longer without being awkward.

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Raezana opened her eyes and turned the shower off.  She sighed as she stepped out of the shower, grabbing a blue towel from the towel rack.  She wrapped the towel around her body and looked at herself in the mirror.  The bathroom light was dim, but she could clearly see the bags under her eyes.  Raezana wasn’t sure how she managed to wake up with bags under her eyes every morning, despite being only 28 years old.  Maybe it was the sleepless nights or perhaps it was the drinking.

She turned on the faucet and held her pink toothbrush under the stream of water.  She rinsed off her toothbrush every morning before she brushed her teeth.  A couple of years ago, she had read an article online about how germs float around bathrooms.  Every time you flush a toilet, E. coli and other bacteria spray out of the toilet and land on every surface in the vicinity.  If you happened to be looking into the toilet bowl as you flushed, you would be giving yourself an E. coli facemask.

The article stated that you should always put the lid down to cover the toilet bowl before you flush it, to help limit the spread of germs.  Otherwise, you would be brushing your teeth with toilet water.  Raezana always lowered the lid before she flushed, but she was suspicious that it didn’t actually protect her tooth brush from contamination.  She couldn’t risk it, so she always rinsed her toothbrush before she used it.

Raezana picked up the tube of toothpaste from the sink counter and squeezed a pea-sized drop of toothpaste onto her toothbrush.  She methodically moved the toothbrush up and down and side to side over her top row of teeth.  She paused to observe her work, then she brushed the bottom row of teeth.  She stroked the brush over her tongue, and then she massaged her gums.

She held her toothbrush under the stream of water again.  She checked it to make sure that there wasn’t any toothpaste left on it before she returned it to the toothbrush holder.  She bent over, filled her mouth with water, and swished it around for a few seconds.  She spit out the water and flashed her teeth at herself in the mirror.

“I wonder how much time I just wasted by brushing my teeth?” she asked herself.  It was impressive how long it took her to get washed up and dressed in the morning.  She could never waste enough time getting to work.  When Raezana was in high school, her mother always woke her up 30 minutes early, just to account for the amount of time that she spent in the bathroom.

Raezana’s motivation for wasting time was different back then.  Although she didn’t waste time on purpose, she usually ended up staring at herself blankly in the mirror as she tried to remember whether she’d finished her homework that was due that day, or studied for a test, or asked her parents for lunch money.  She always seemed to be worrying herself about something in the morning.

Raezana wondered whether it was normal for a human brain to take an hour to “warm up” in the morning before it became useful.  If Raezana got out of bed at 7 AM, she would not be able to hold a coherent conversation until 8 AM.  For a short time Raezana experimented by waking up at 8 AM instead of 7 AM, but she found that she wasn’t functional until 9 AM.  It was a disappointment, since she was continually looking for excuses to get more sleep in the morning.

Suddenly, she realized that she had stopped washing up when she started thinking about high school.  She shook her head.  It was the story of her life.  She picked up her washcloth and washed her face.

As she stepped out of the bathroom, her cell phone rang.  She walked into the room and answered the phone.  It was Se’Quasha.

“Where are you?!?” came the question from her exasperated coworker.

“I’m not coming in.”

“What?!?”

Raezana hung up the phone and smiled.  Her day just got a lot better.  It had been weeks since she’d last called out of work, and she could use a day off.  Plus, Se’Quasha was going to be pissed, which made it even better.

Raezana heard some birds chirping and looked out the window in front of her.  It was a bright sunny day, typical of a Friday.  The weather always seemed to be perfect on Monday mornings.  The universe tended to give Raezana every reason possible to dread the beginning of the workweek.  However, it so happened that she had just extended her weekend by another day.  For once, the sunny weather lifted her spirits rather than crushed them.

Raezana happily bounced up the stairs to her bedroom.  She hummed as she pulled out the dresser drawer.  She put on a tank top over a yellow sports bra and a pair of shorts.  Back downstairs, she made herself a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast.  Raezana hated oatmeal.  She had hated oatmeal ever since she was a little girl, but she forced herself to eat it almost every morning for the health benefits.  Plus, she needed the extra fuel to get through her workouts at the gym.

She usually went to the gym after work, but it was hard to motivate herself to go some days.  After sitting at a desk for 8 hours, she typically did not want to do anything except for drink wine.  She often skipped going to the gym entirely on Mondays.  Her Monday would-be gym sessions tended to be replaced by self-loathing and regret.  Regardless, she dragged herself to the gym more often than not, because she always felt better about her life after an intense workout.

The hot kickboxing instructor taught a class at the gym at 11:00 AM every weekday.  She was excited that she could actually attend his morning class today.  He taught classes in the evenings as well, but they tended to be overcrowded.  It was hard for her to find an opportunity to talk to him during the evening rush hours.  Whenever she did manage to get his attention, their conversations were inevitably interrupted by a sweaty gym patron seeking his advice on nutrition or squatting technique.

Raezana put her empty bowl in the dishwasher and filled up her water bottle.  She checked herself in the mirror again before she left the house.  Her hair was haphazardly pulled back into a ponytail, but there was only so much she could do to control her outrageous hair.  It tended to be especially angry on Monday mornings, most likely as a reflection of her overall mood.

She didn’t worry about it too much today, since she was going to the gym.  There was no reason to fuss over her appearance.  Women always seemed out of place if they looked beautiful while running on the treadmill.  Raezana always wondered why they put on make up to work out.  They looked silly dabbing the sweat from their foreheads in an effort to prevent their mascara from running.

Raezana pulled some red lipstick out of her purse and applied it to her lips.  There probably wouldn’t be any “cute” girls in class today, since they’d be at work.  It would not be difficult for her to compete with the overweight housewives that were just thankful to escape from their children for an hour.  She would definitely stand out, especially today.

Raezana had been a lot sharper a few years ago.  When she graduated from college, she could do complex calculations like addition and subtraction in her head, without a calculator.  Now she had difficulty spelling “subtraction.”  Don’t get her wrong – she didn’t particularly enjoy math, she just happened to be good at it.  She was so good at math, that she “tested out” of calculus in college.  Rather, she took calculus in high school while her peers were taking geometry.  Then she took a test that enabled her to bypass the math requirement in college.

Eh, but does it really matter what the details were?  The important thing to note is that she *used* to be good at math.  Raezana felt like every year she spent in the real world, the dumber she became.  After graduation, she was yanked out of her isolated pool of ubergeeks and academic nerds and thrown into a cesspool of mental waste.  Lost dreams, lost souls, and the regrets of yesterday were her coworkers.  Childhood memories were her flimsy link to sanity.  Or so she told herself.

She didn’t have a particularly good childhood, but it wasn’t bad.  It was okay.  It was a lot better for her before her brother came around.  Brother was a robot that her parents had built together in the 70’s.  Her mother was a scientist and her father was an engineer.  Before Raezana came around, her mother desperately wanted a child.  However, her father didn’t want to pay the medical bills that would be associated with maintaining a healthy pregnancy in a secret lab.

So, they decided to build a child instead.  Raezana was fuzzy on the details, but shortly after Brother was created her mother lost her security clearance and thus her job.  She started hanging out at home with Brother, watching TV and playing videogames.  Raezana’s mother had told Raezana that she’d thought it was the life she wanted before she had it.

She soon became bored.  Brother did not make good conversation because mother had not had the foresight to develop its brain past the stage of four.  She soon became crazy over the constant debates they’d have over whether ripe bananas are better than “nanas”.  She soon realized that she desperately wanted a daughter.

Raezana’s father didn’t feel like building a girl robot for her mother.  And considering that her mother had lost her scientist job and most likely wasn’t going to get it back, he figured, ‘what’s the worst that could happen?’  And he knocked her up.  Two years later, Raezana was born.

Brother took Raezana’s birth hard.  He had grown accustomed to being the only child in the house.  He could not stand to share his toys.

One day, Brother disappeared in the night.  The next morning, Raezana’s mother called him to come downstairs for breakfast.  She called him again.  And again.  He didn’t come downstairs.  Then Raezana’s father mused that Brother must have ran away.  They chuckled together and ate their pancakes.  They didn’t care that he was gone.  In fact they were relieved, since they had Raezana to keep them busy.

Brother resented the fact that no one searched for him.  He had spent the morning hiding in a tree in the front yard, waiting for mother to stumble out of the house in tears, terrified.  Afternoon came, and his parents finally emerged.  Dad was carrying Raezana in his arms and the three of them laughed as they left the house in slow motion.  His mother’s hair slowly blew in the wind as she smiled.  They were taking Raezana to the park.  Without him.

Raezana vaguely remembered seeing Brother standing behind the tree in the front yard.  She had tugged on her father’s shirt to get his attention, but he seemed unusually occupied with a butterfly flapping through the yard.  “Look at the butterfly!  Butterfly!” he exclaimed.  Raezana hated butterflies, but she humored him.

As they drove away in the car, Raezana had a feeling that she would never see Brother again.  And it saddened her.  For a moment.  She was going to the park, which was pretty awesome.

Raezana’s backup alarm began ringing from the bedroom.  She was standing in the shower.  How long had she been in here?  She looked at her hands; they were pruney.  She had apparently gotten out of bed at some point.  She was most likely late for work.  Raezana really didn’t feel like going to her boring office job, so she continued standing in the shower.

The more I think about it, the more it seems like work.  No plot, no characters, and most importantly, no inciting incident?  What type of novel could come from these parameters?  I must be crazy.  What was I thinking yesterday?  This is not going to be fun at all.  As if I don’t have enough to worry about, with a full-time day job, pets and an un-trained husband.

She paused her tirade of paranoia.  It was November 1, the first day of NaNoWriMo, and she was already knee-deep in a full-blown panic attack.  What was she so worked up about?  This could not be the first time she had attempted a major project with absolutely no plan.  Or was it?  In any case, there was a first time for everything.  She didn’t get any sleep the first night.  She stayed up all night with a bottle of wine and SpongeBob Squarepants.

She woke up on the ground in front of a huge pineapple.  Her surroundings seemed vaguely familiar, but she was sure she had never been there before.  What was she breathing?  It was thicker than air.  Suddenly, she gasped as she realized that she was breathing water.  Breathing water, how was this possible?  She wasn’t breathing, she was drowning!  She must have fallen out of a boat!  She frantically flailed her arms as she held her breath.  There was nothing for her to grab on to.  Nothing to pull herself out of the ocean, out of the sea.  Apparently, she was destined to die here, under water, in front of a large pineapple…

There was something vaguely familiar about her surroundings.  Wait a minute, she was still alive.  For some reason, she hadn’t drowned yet.  She put her hand on her chest… yes, she was still breathing water.  How was this possible?  It didn’t make sense.  ‘Oh well,’ she decided.  She didn’t have time to figure it out – she had to get on with the story.

She walked up to the front door of the pineapple.  Nothing happened.  She glanced over her shoulder to see if anyone was watching her.  There was no one there.  She turned back to the door.  It was shorter than her, with a round top.  Even if someone did answer the door, she wouldn’t be able to fit through it.  She’d have to crawl.  She wasn’t entirely sure she’d want to enter this pineapple anyway.  Why does this pineapple have a door?  Why was she knocking on it?  The whole situation did not make sense.

She waited.  She leaned toward the house and cautiously pressed her ear against the door.  She knocked again.  And listened.  There was silence.  Nobody was home.  She stepped away from the door and chuckled to herself.  What type of… person?  Did she expect to answer the door anyway?  Maybe it was a good thing that nobody was home.

She sat up in her bed.  Raezana was in her bedroom, alone, again.  ‘That’s the third SpongeBob dream I’ve had this week,’ she thought, squinting in confusion.  How screwed up is my life that I’m dreaming about visiting a sponge that lives in a pineapple under the sea and he’s not even at home to great me?

She didn’t answer the question.  The flat screen TV that dominated her bedroom was on.  The DVD menu of SpongeBob Squarepants Season 3 was playing on an obnoxious loop cycle.  Again.  Raezana picked up the DVD player remote and turned the TV off.  ‘Did you ever have the feeling you were being watched?’ she asked herself.  She laughed, even though it was not funny.

An hour later, Raezana was awoken by a rooster crowing incessantly.  Cock-a-doodle-do!  Cock-a-doodle-do!  Cock-a-doodle-do!  The rooster didn’t pause, it didn’t take any breaks, it just kept crowing.  Because it was an alarm clock, not a rooster.  An extremely obnoxious one, at that.

Raezana pulled the ringing alarm clock off of her bedside table.  It fell to the floor, still ringing.  A few moments later, she yanked the alarm clock out of the wall and threw it out of the open window.  She heard it continue to crow until it was abruptly silenced by the pavement.  Then she realized that she did not know what time it was.

‘Crap, I forgot to check the time before I threw it out of the window!’ she scolded herself.  She couldn’t afford to go through alarm clocks at this rate.  This was the 4th alarm clock she had lost this month.  Yes, they were only $5 apiece, but the money was adding up.  She’d spent about $175 on cheap alarm clocks this year.  She felt as though $170 of that money had been thrown out of the window.  Wasted.

Raezana decided to get out of bed despite not knowing what time it was.  She figured that anything she did would be more exciting than continuing an internal dialogue based on alarm clocks.  Lord have mercy, what a boring novel this was going to be!  Raezana hoped that the author would not throw the manuscript out of the window in frustration.  Then she wondered who and what she was talking about.  She was discussing herself in third person again.  Maybe she needed to stop drinking cheap wine.

She wasn’t poor, but she didn’t have enough disposable income to fund her drinking preferences.  If it were up to her, she would have a couple glasses of champagne or merlot every evening as she wrote and performed.  But she could only afford a box of cheap sangria twice a week.  She made do with what she had, but she worried that it was killing brain cells.  Raezana had never tried drugs, but she thought it would be nice to try them one day.  At least then, she’d have a story to go along with her lost brain cells.

She decided to write a novel in 30 days.  She had never wanted to write a novel before, but once she decided to, it was all she could think about.  The idea first came to her when she heard of a challenge called “NaNoWriMo.” Write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. Seems simple enough.

So she began.  With no plot, no characters, only a word goal.  Being the nerd that she is, she quickly determined that in order to write 50,000 words in 30 days, she would need to write at least 1,667 words per day. After some thought, she decided to adjust the goal to 2,000 words per *sober* day. Because, you know, who are we kidding here?  We’ll probably lose a couple of days to wine.

But perhaps those wine-induced days have something to offer.  They will definitely make the novel more interesting.  She thought back to the mornings when she’d wake up to the late night scribbles in the notebook lying next to her bed.  “I’m still more sober than some of you have been in years” came to mind. Yes, she would definitely include the wine-induced scribbles in the final product.

Curious, she checked her word count.  201. Yes, we’re off to a good start.  She decided that, given the circumstances, the genre of the novel would definitely be humor/satire. For obvious reasons.  And also, the title of her novel would be “Atrocity.”  She quickly announced the title of her novel on Twitter and on her NaNoWriMo profile. Because clearly, that would prevent anyone else from stealing it.

As an afterthought, she acknowledged that the novel would apparently be written in third person.  Maybe she’d come up with a name for the narrator, maybe not.  Who knows?  Anything can happen when you have 50,000 words, a time limit, and no storyline.