Let me tell you a tale about sleep.
A flash fiction, called:
There are, in this world, sounds that have become universally hated. They fluctuate at just the right pitch, drilling through your skull, and making your ears bleed; nails across the chalkboard, a baby crying, and the scream of a cat. They set you right on the edge, so close that your feet dangle over the pit. Everyone has a noise like this, entirely unique to each person. The voice of a boss is a popular choice, as is the whine of their child. It could drive a person mad; up the wall, and down the rabbit hole.
My noise was not special, a common thing. I heard it every day. Every. God. Damn. Day. I can’t sleep because I know it’s coming. The insomnia… forever present; unrelenting. I average about thirteen hours a week. My doctor prescribed sleeping pills, but then I miss work. They threaten to fire me, all the time. So I just fall into bed, and bit my lips in fear ’til they bleed.
Like I said, my noise is not special. It’s common to the point of cliché. You probably heard one today. That screeching ding, pounding bells, and machinery winding inside, in my work, in the house next to mine through the window. I destroyed mine years ago, but the sounds of alarm will haunt me ’til I keel.
So, you must understand my panic, when I woke up to it in the middle of the night.
I fell out of bed clutching my chest. The blanket remained perfectly still as I hit the ground. My funny bone smacks against the floor, and the electric tickle makes me scream and laugh at the same time. I breathe heavily as I look around the room. A glance to my bedside table and it contains the offender. A golden clock, shaking. It gets louder as I walk towards it. A man’s voice would have gone hoarse with this. A man’s voice would dry up to powder, but the clock still screams. My hands go down on it, hitting the sleep button. It does nothing, my hand simply smacking it again and again, until my heart skips and I have to clutch at it. I’m on my knees, the skin on my hands going pale, then flushing red.
The alarm stops. Blissful silence takes back the room, and I stand up. The glass of water nearby, is sucked down, and my heart calms. The clock is gone, replaced by a handprint: a bloody handprint. It’s wrong, incredibly wrong. Something, something is off about that handprint.
“Wake up” shouts a voice, coming from all sides. I can’t find where it’s coming from. Sleepiness over takes me, and I fall back into my bed, the black tar of blissful sleep pulling me back in for another round.
An alarm buzzes again; different this time, somehow. My head jerks up from my counter. The cold sticks to my face. My bed is gone; I’m now in the kitchen. I run to the window, and it is dark outside. The cityscape meets me, lights searing my retinas. I look down at the street. It’s, against all odds, almost completely empty. A single black car sits on the street two floors below me, alone on a road that should be busy.
The alarm shrieks louder, and I’m forced from my speculations. My head hurts from the noise, and my turn is sluggish. Two closed doors to the left of me, my kitchen across. Then I spy it. The source of the noise; a rectangular screen mounted to my wall. “Intruder” it proclaims in red letters, and it sounds another cry. A few steps forward and it clicks off on its own, the words not changing, just the color. A nice pleasant green.
It’s quiet again ’til the door creaks open. Slowly, it moves seemingly on its own, until the eyes poke around the corner. They are covered in large goggles, tinged green and pressed too close to the owner’s face. The veins are pushing blood against an unbreakable barrier, growing bigger with each second, and taking on a purple hue. The eyes scan for a few more minutes, before resting on me. They take on a look of annoyance, and the door swings open, revealing a man in a black suit, holding a dagger in gloved hand.
He looks at me for a few moments, shaking his head back and forth, but his eyes never leaving my face.
His hand goes on top of my head, hard. He stops shaking his head for a moment before speaking. “Wake up” he screams, then slams his hand down on my head again.
I fall asleep instantly.
The alarm is more like a siren this time. Less unpleasant really. Shriller, certainly, but it is not an alarm, and that’s a point in anything’s favor.
I’m on the street this time. The wind whipping around me, and making my arms feel numb. I clutch at my sides, and look around again. It had worked excellently the last two times, and I was not in any mood to come up with a better solution. My investigation was short, as the alarm was obvious. The black car was gone, and instead a large white truck sat in its place, the top of it shining a halo of light on the walls of the buildings. Men stream by me, never noticing my presence. A few more come in cars; they too, have those sirens, and those lights. They don’t look at me either as they walk inside.
A long continuous cry rings out from somewhere followed by a wet gagging. A single man walks up to me. He’s dressed in the same white, in addition to a blue piece over his mouth. A glow radiates off from him, and I back up. He smells wrong, the air is sick and chemical. A tang of copper. His hands are stained with blood, coating a blue glove. My stomach boils and churns, stretching, stretching out of me, and pulled towards him.
He takes off his mask, and gives a little annoyed huff of air. It looks wrong. His mouth contorting like that; not at all stiff, nothing preventing the tongue from moving. Grotesque…
“You’re Charles?” he asks. I can’t talk to that man. My mouth is stiff, and my tongue swollen; clogging my throat. He waits a moment, pointing a scalpel at me, aiming it slightly downwards, dragging it along a line in the air. He gives me a look, full of pity. “Wake up”, he says.
I feel cold, and sick, and rotting. So, I lay down on the floor and go to sleep.
“Wake up” his hands goes down on the chest. The casket shakes. The other patrons can’t look. A woman wearing a ring holds the trinket close to her chest. She can’t watch either. It’s still shiny, that ring. Shiny and new.
“Wake up!” A man tries to stop the boy, but is met by eyes that did not belong in a child’s head. One so full of hurt. He steps back; he can’t face it either.
“Wake up! Wake up! Wake Up! WAKE UP!” a fresh bout of tears start, a dry throat becoming parched.
“Wake up, Daddy! Stop pretending… IT’S NOT FUNNY! Wake up Daddy! WAKE UP! Please just wake up…”
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