It was a normal day. Really, it was. We are all aware that when a novel starts with that kind of assertion, the next thing you know the world explodes, or a dinosaur turns up, obviously, or the main protagonist turns into a vampire and falls in love, but in this case I can’t reiterate it enough: it was a normal day. Normal in that Alexandre Renard was walking his regular route from Liverpool Street Station, London, into work, listening to music as he always did, having got up approximately 10 minutes too late to have breakfast, which he had done since setting his alarm clock for a specific time each day when he started his current job (9 months ago). He was about to go into the coffee shop he visited every morning, to make his regular order, (a large caffe latte with an extra shot of espresso, if you’re wondering), where he would have a routine conversation with a barrister [sic – it was a little running joke he had with himself], then get into his office, have a look at the time on his phone to see that it was 8.54am again, and sit down. A normal day. So Alexandre, commonly known as Alex – he actually preferred Alexandre as that was what his Mum used to call him, but a trait he had picked up in his 4 years of living in London was deliberate understatement, and he thought he might look pretentious if he insisted on being called Alexandre, so Alex it was – got his coffee and on taking a sip of it let out a tut: he couldn’t stand it when they filled his coffee cup to the brim; as soon as he started walking with it, coffee started bubbling and foaming from the lip of the lid, like a rabid dog, and very few people want to drink coffee from the mouth of a rabid dog. Still, seeing as this was still a coffee cup and not a rabid dog, and in relative terms was a very mundane complaint, Alex started drinking the coffee, and sat down at his desk. It was 8.54am. So far this may sound like a life of office-based drudgery that many people lead, and in many ways it was, but Alex was more of the attitude that one works to live, rather than vice versa, so as long as he was doing something that gave him a vague mental challenge, was with decent people, and moreover paid him enough money to enjoy life then he was happy with that. But he didn’t really like talking about his day-to-day responsibilities, so we won’t be doing that either.
Alex was 25; he was of above average height, but was often perceived to be even taller, given his willowy physique. He had a mop of dark brown hair, which no matter how hard he tried, he could never make do anything except just flop there. His face was dominated by his large, beaky nose; while he wasn’t unattractive, with eyes that matched his hair, and relatively plump lips, in the aesthetic power struggle between his facial features, the nose would always come out on top. He had an air of detachment about him, and frequently missed what people said. It wasn’t that he was hard of hearing, more hard of concentrating. He would regard himself as a happy person, or content at the very least, but from an outside perspective it was difficult to tell. He was often regarded as a deep person, and while he was certainly thoughtful, the depth of his inner thoughts often didn’t descend lower than imagining what certain animals would sound like if they could talk.