The problem with insomnia was that he was never truly awake.
Hours and days passed, and gently decelerated into an uncomfortable cimmerian haze from which there seemed no escape.
“Is there a reason you aren’t sleeping?”
“If I knew would I be calling you at four AM?”
“Have you tried sleeping pills?”
Sleeping pills were a sure-fire way to make what little sleep he may have enjoyed a living nightmare. Screams and teeth and shadows abounded, and in payment for two hours of chemical sleep, he had to fight the uniquely crafted demons of the side effects list, enclosed with the small film covered tabs.
He had ditched the pills, and his wonky headache had reconfigured into an even, natural pain. He was no longer haunted by peculiar visions he didn’t understand, but instead simply dark shadows which would sidle across his vision at unexplained intervals. It had started eight days after he stopped sleeping and he had been plagued with these visions for the last few weeks. He was used to them, and had started ignoring them. They were just another consequence, and they would surely disappear once he fell into the great sleep.
While sounding rather more final, he used “the great sleep” to refer to the moment at which the insomnia would break and he would collapse into a perfect slumber, which last time lasted nineteen hours. He had never had a bout as long as this one, but he was sure it would end in the next week or so. His mind would surely cave in and allow him some rest soon enough. There seemed nowhere else to go.
At killing time he was peerless. He slowed down any necessary task to a remarkable crawl, and engaged in a vast range of meaningless activities to while away the endless hours awake. Four AM was approaching, and since midnight he had reread a magazine from last month, watched six episodes of Friends, paired his socks, and arranged his fruit in a bowl in the style of a still life painting, that he might then have drawn if he weren’t so physically exhausted and artistically inept.
He felt stale, and was beginning to fill with a frenetic energy which would soon draw him out of the flat. He dropped his keys into his pocket, pulled open the large wooden door and slouched out into the stairwell. The air was thick, and sweat began to form under his fringe as he let himself drift gently down the stairs.
Under the bright fluorescent light of the stairwell, a dark shadow drew in across the top left corner of his vision. He turned to check there was nothing there, before accepting it as another of his murky hallucinations, and ambling out into the stuffy night.
From his flat he wandered towards the town centre, and sat for a few moments on the war memorial at the edge of the parkland. He tilted his head back onto a list of names, and stared up at the sky. The stars were dancing and warping, and he clutched the corner of the stone to steady himself against an oncoming wave of dizziness.
He tipped his head back forwards, and for a short moment the dark shadow that obscured his vision turned a translucent yellow. Through this ochre veil he saw two men silhouetted, and he managed to hear their faint voices by holding his breath. It was a frantic whisper, and intrigued by its urgency, he stood up and turned his head left that he might see.
There was a blow, and a shadow dashing away across the parkland.
His heart raced, and not knowing what to do, he walked home at a ferocious pace. Should he have gone over? What if he had seen something? Should he call the police? But surely it wasn’t his business.
He belted up the stairs and threw himself under the covers as soon as he got in. He drew his knees up to his chest and closed his eyes as tightly as he could. He reeled with confusion for some minutes, before arriving at an exhausted stillness. He then began to sink deeper and deeper into the mattress, and the tension and worry began to fall off of him. The Great Sleep had begun.
As he awoke he revelled in the cool breeze coming in from the window. He stretched gleefully like a sunbathing feline, before rolling off the bed and onto his feet. The overdue feeling of freshness was incredible. His eyes weren’t tired, he could think straight, there was no ache in his limbs.
He pootled through the kitchen, filled the pot with coffee, and placed in gently on the stove. He could finally enjoy coffee again without the paranoia that it might be the reason he was awake. He heard the post drop onto the doormat, and instead of racing over in hope of finding idle distraction, he simply sat down at the kitchen table, and enjoyed the gentle gurgling of the mocha pot.
He had had a strange dream last night. He was in the park, and he had seen one silhouette attack another. It was odd because he didn’t usually dream during The Great Sleep. He thought that maybe it hadn’t been a dream, but he was struggling to establish the reality of anything that had happened in the last few weeks. He was left spooling through shrouded images of cold grey light and gentle shadows.
He wasted his morning wandering around the house, before setting down to work at around one. All was well for an hour or so, but he then became distracted from the screen and his notes by the repeating image of one silhouette striking another, before swiftly disappearing.
Noting the rapidly slowing pace of his work, he decided to go out for coffee. The break and the fresh air, would surely do him good, and after all, after his first night’s sleep in weeks, today was a time for celebration. The city was beautiful under the rich yellow sun, and he decided to take a coffee outside his local bar, as it offered a charming terrace with equal shade and sunlight.
Having ordered, he turned over the bundle of black and white sheets in front of him: It was yesterday’s local paper. He read a handful of tedious local dramas, and examined the city’s rugby team’s progress in the playoffs, before turning over to a full page spread from the local police department.
URGENT CALL FOR INFORMATION FOLLOWING AN EVENT ON THE 22ND OF JUNE
He read on.
POLICE URGE ANY WITNESSES TO COME FORWARD WITH INFORMATION REGARDING AN INCIDENT WHICH TOOK PLACE LAST NIGHT ON THE PARKLAND
He was seized with an uneasy confusion. His dream may have taken place on the parkland. The landscape seemed right, but then this was two days ago now. And surely it was a dream. His mind was full of this sort of imagery during his bouts of insomnia. But then again, what if he was the only witness to a crime? And with the criminal still on the run, no one was safe, least of all him. But he had hardly seen the silhouetted figure. He had no information to offer, and if it was simply a dream he could end up in serious trouble. He would surely be humiliated.
He shook his head, and his coffee arrived.
“I’ll sleep on it,” he thought.
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