by Evan Nasse
Go. Go on and jump towards the darkness. What are you waiting for? You want to do it, and you aren’t fooling anyone by saying you don’t want to join us. Me. We. I.
That terrible, echoing, dulcet voice. That was how it always started. A soft whisper into the ear, a slight tickle that made the hair at the tip of an ear tingle. Every single time the lulling timbre echoed behind eyeballs and made a chill run through each inch of skin, like the tell-tale signs of water beginning to boil—slow rhythmic bubbles at first, then a loud, roiling assault an instant later. In each instance those eldritch whispers brought about an awakening they were followed by cold sweats and sleep escaping for the rest of the night—a smug dawn greeting a weary head, too tired to deal with the rest of the days’ mundane woes.
It would never stop. Seven years, four months and eighteen days of sleeplessness. Never a night containing more than three hours and fifty-six minutes of closed, resting eyelids. It was not difficult to keep track of how long this symptom had affected sleep, as the second week marked the beginning of worry, then fear, then depression, then dread, then ruesome existence. Most beings who have experienced sleep cannot fathom the amount of dread the long, deep hours of the night can grant a person deprived of such a simple staple of life. One will begin to wonder if they are the only person awake in the world—the universe.
Eventually. Yes, eventually. Eventually it will be true. It will be just you that remains awake. That is what always follows, after the first panic of realizing that another night—another eighteen hours and four minutes of being awake—are to follow before three hours and fifty-six minutes of restless, haunting sleep. What is the use in sleep, when all it brings with it is night terrors of unfathomable, unthinkable horrors? Yet each attempt in fighting sleep becomes as pointless as the sleep itself; The Sand Man is always pouncing upon eyelids too weary to fight back.
Containing the mind through those tiring hours in-between sleep is a difficult task to say the least, even drug addicts are more subtle and convincing others that everything is fine with them, but their needs and desires are more tangible and attainable. All the advice in the world becomes dust in the wind when the impossible is the main goal. Never will the rest of the world understand that difficulty with sleeping those sixty extra seconds beyond that two hundred and thirty-sixth minute, as it is a luxury no other human has had such a difficulty attaining.
Then. Then one night. One night it happens. Three hours. Three hours, fifty-five minutes. The fifty-sixth, and then, unceremoniously, that magically difficult fifty-seventh has appeared, a prodigal son—so to speak.
I thought you would jump. I thought you would jump in and join the darkness.
The voice. That horrible, rattling, taunting voice once again returns and speaks as though it is disappointed. Disappointed and upset and fiercely powerful.
You feel as though this time granted to you is sacred—untouchable. I am here to let you know that it is NOT! Us. Me. We. I am no shepherd of rest and good tidings, but believe us. We. Me. I will have you.
A great clawed hand, a gaping maw, lined with teeth meant for both rending flesh and grinding bone, a great red eye peering both outward and inward, pulsing. The deep, rattling voice laughs as the great, menacing eyeball peers ever closer, pulsating. The dream collapses upon itself, shattering, falling.
Three hours, fifty eight minutes, and a great bruise in the shape of a grand, clawed hand, the bedsheets tattered, a harsh smell of sulphur stinging the eyes and nostrils. Awake once more, moonlight cascading over the bed and carpeted floor, appeared merciful against the darkness remaining throughout the silent, empty house.
Panic gives rise—sharp and swift as an assassin’s dagger—once memory begins reflecting the traced images of the claws, the teeth, that eye. Sleep, it would seem, may be the enemy, instead of the salvation the extra minute of escape was wished to be.
The following night, the bed would not be slept in, nor would any such activity be desired. Friends, colleagues, doctors—none of them—would believe a single iota of the tale. Or could not believe; as if recognizing the fears presented to them would become contagious, a soft madness that permeates the skin, infecting the brain and body with a dreadful, restless, maddening insomnia. No, tonight both rest and sleep were to be avoided at all—any—cost.
The tassels of the window curtain draw attention to themselves when alone in the fight against sleep; each braid of fabric traced to the knot holding it in place were woven by an artisan’s hand, caressed into its appealing shape before being shipped and sold from God knows where, before winding up being the center of attention possessed by a deranged pair of bloodshot eyes fighting sleep, residing over a chin propped up by a tightly clenched fist. The eyes droop ever so softly, slowly, lids seemingly tugged downward through an invisible agent.
Light throughout the house, unusual for the late hour, begin dimming of their own accord. Barely audible, a soft hum floats up from beneath the floorboards. As the last trickle of brightness gently fades out of the living room—at the third hour and fifty-ninth minute—time appears to stand still. The grandfather clock is no longer keeping its metronome tick, tick, tock and the tassels on the curtain no longer bristle at the soft, cool breeze coming from the partially opened window.
This is my silence. My essence, my presence, my patience—my prey. You no longer need to jump. I have already cornered you. Now you shall join us. We. Me. I.
Gods, the terror. That horrible eye, surround by a chorus of bright, blood-shot, lidless, human, eyes. All of them silently screaming, then rising to audible, horrible, shouts of madness. The awful teeth slowly appear beneath the Great Red Eye, like a sinister Cheshire Cat the claws slowly appear.
Yes, you are not the first, nor shall you be the last to join us. We. Me. I.
The sinister laugh. Rest. The fourth hour. Sleep. The final dream. Oblivion.