The ashtray brims with fag ends. Each of the cigarettes has been smoked to its absolute limit, leaving just a filter, the end scorched slightly. They sit in the brown glass of the ashtray like a cairn. Adam stares at the mound of butts. His brow is scrunched and every now and then he rotates the ashtray, taking in the contents from another side of its square tray.
He stopped smoking five days ago. Quit dead. Just stopped buying cigarettes. No patches. No whining. No rushing out to buy a pack of ten from the all night garage. He simply decided to stop. Three days in, the ashtrays started appearing. He found the first in the kitchen, hidden in the bread bin. The smell of stale cigarettes tipped him off and he followed the trail bloodhound style to the antique tin. The second was in the garage. He found it a few days after the first while clearing out some shelving.
After that he found them with an alarming regularity. One in a desk drawer, another in the boot of his car. The airing cupboard. On top of a book shelf. In the shower. Under the kitchen sink. Twice in the garden shed; once balanced on the mower, another time tucked into a flower pot. Each time he found one he tipped the contents into the bin, washed out the ashtray and stacked it at the back of a cupboard in the living room. This time the ashtray had been hiding under the sofa.
Adam picks up the ashtray and marches out into the garage. He tips the pile of fag ends into a wheelie bin, eyes flickering over the falling brown cylinders. He takes the empty ashtray to his work bench and picking up a hammer, shatters the brown glass. He leaves the fragments where they fall and returns to the house. Later tonight he will set his alarm to go off at thirty minute intervals, unsure of what would be worse, catching whoever is tormenting him like this or waking to find himself hunched over the brown glass ashtray.