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It was about half an hour until dawn and the trucks still hadn't come in. Tonight was the greatest night of Ted's long life and here it was about to become the largest pile of shit he's ever had the bad fortune to stick his ass into. But that was life, he supposed, if you don't take the risks you don't get the returns -- and about a thousand other cliches and not-quite-reassuring enough phrases. Ted had gone through pretty much all of them huddling in the battered leather driver's seat of the old Mercedes, warding off the cold with a now tepid cup of black coffee.

Ted hadn't moved from his seat for an hour, ever since he had gotten back from the convenience store with the coffee to find that his car's heater had decided to go on strike. Ever since then he'd taken care to nurse the warmth from the coffee cup, keeping his hands from freezing altogether -- he needed his hands to work their best for what was to come. And now the coffee was perilously close to giving up the fight against frostbite and joining the other side. Ted thought about drinking the coffee but at this point he would be able to taste the 7-11 trademarked burnt coffee taste, cultivated by a process of slow-aging over inconstant heating plates for up to days at a time. Finally, however, he favored alterness over comfort, and downed the brown syrup in a single swallow.

After a few successfully supressed attempts of his body to expel the foreign invader, Ted opened his door and threw the cup out into the night, closing the door quickly so as to let as little of the chill outside as possible into the cab. After that, all he could do was wait, watching the sky fade from black to blue, each shade encompassing a world in itself.

The next day Ted would look back on those moments before dawn, that period where his life was hanging in that balance and could have gone a million different directions. He would look at it from above, and he would look at it from below, and from every other angle he could -- because he hoped to find in that moment some hint of what had happened, what he had been waiting for, and whether or not it had come, for in the bleak world in which he found himself, that was the only clue of any life before.

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