Friday, October 19, 2012

Sleepless


I've always had trouble sleeping. I guess it must have started when I was very young. My parents thought that there was something wrong with me. Babies are supposed to sleep, not stay up all night staring into the endless night. But sleep eluded me. I saw doctors, important doctors, and all they told my parents was that some people require less sleep than others. Sometimes sleep isn't the most important thing. Oh, he'll be brilliant at doing homework during his long and sleepless nights. Har har har. All the laughing. But of course they didn't understand. None of them had the same problem. They slept their sleep every night, maybe missing a rare night's sleep, but mostly hitting that six to nine hour corridor of sleep that most people find as the sweet spot.

But as I found myself getting older, I also found that sleep was something I could never enjoy. A five hour night of sleep was excellent. Seven was almost unheard of. Most of the time I would hover around three hours of sleep a night. This would go on for weeks on end. My eyes would look hollow and empty. My energy would feel like it should be sapped. But no matter how little I would sleep, I would always have some unnatural energy keeping me up, keeping me going despite myself.

The biggest problems were the times I found myself not sleeping at all. First a single day, then two... then suddenly five days without sleep... then seven... a fortnight. It would end eventually, just as soon as I found myself drifting on the edge of sanity, often thinking thoughts no human being should ever have the privilege of thinking. I guess it started in my junior year of high school. Not the lack of sleep, that started long before then... but rather the strange occurrences that would happen from time-to-time. It's not that I'm crazy. I mean, hell, I suppose I could be crazy. That's always a possibility, always a fear I keep locked away in the furthest reaches of my addled mind. But I don't feel crazy. I only ever feel tired. I write this at 4:34 AM. Still no sleep. Soon it will all begin again.

As I said before, my junior year it started, almost a decade ago now. Close enough that I have no idea how I've gone this long without losing my sanity. I was up, like usual, this time simultaneously concentrating on taking notes for a class that I had and reading a book. As I read the book, I could feel a chill running down my spine. It was April, not so cold anymore. Still Spring but becoming warmer with each passing day. The book was a horror novel, because there's nothing better than reading a horror novel at night, but I never found myself scared by horror. It's almost impossible for me to find anything scary. But my paranoia grew as I read, slowly subverting my thoughts, leading me to believe that somebody was watching me in the dark. I turned on my lights and stopped reading. I calmed down, drank some hot chocolate, and was perfectly fine. Maybe the lack of sleep was getting to me. Maybe I should finally try to get some sleep.

But it was a Thursday night, and back then trash pickup was on Friday mornings. I had forgotten to take out the trash. And suddenly, at 1:00 AM I remembered. I walked out into the cool night, my jacket on as I walked the fifty feet to my garbage can. As I went around my mother's car to put the trash out, I saw a man near the end of my dead end street. He was leaning against the edge of a rock wall that designated the end of the street. He wore a hat, some kind of cap, it seemed, and a fancy looking jacket. He was a ways off, but I believed it was a suit jacket, although obviously things like that can be warped from a distance. He never looked at me, instead focusing his attention to the other side of the rock wall, where the ground dropped off into a railroad track and then a river. He seemed much more focused on looking at those things than at me. While I found it odd that anybody but me would be out that late, I forgot fairly quickly about the man. It was strange, but no stranger than me being out that late. I don't remember much about him beyond the hat and the suit jacket. He was turned away from me and nothing else was easy to see. The only other thing I remembered was a cold feeling as I turned my back to him to go inside my house. My throat had tightened up, and I felt a panic that I could not explain. I turned back around quickly, but nothing had changed. I was scaring myself, I thought. And that was enough to calm me down... or so I hoped.

A few hours went by, and it was close to 4:00 AM. I was still awake and alert and I wondered if this would be another sleepless night. I had hoped not, but since I was to wake up at 5 for school, I would not have much more time to sleep. I remembered, all too suddenly, that I had to take some recycling out to the recycle bin as well. It had completely skipped my mind, and then I raced to get it done so that maybe I could get an hour of sleep that night. I never actually got the recycling done though. As I went out into the damp and cool early morning, I saw a figure at the end of the street. He no longer had his back to me, and instead was facing towards the beginning of the street. He shouldn't have still been there. Had he been there all night? This was incredibly strange, something I had never expected. My throat tightened up and I felt a twinge of fear strike my entire body. I hadn't seen him clearly before. His back had been to me, but now as I looked I could see unnatural proportions. His legs and arms seemed warped, a little too long for the suit jacket he wore. The hat too seemed to fit strangely, as if his head were too big for it. I don't remember much else. I wish I had, but when I looked below the brim of the hat I saw something that made me dash back inside and lock the door behind me. I felt like a little child all over again, one that thinks that hiding under the covers would hide him from the monsters. I don't remember his face exactly, only his eyes staring straight at me, his deep breaths, and a mouth that looked more red and splotchy than any mouth ever should.

Even as I write this all down years later, I almost think I can feel those eyes still on my, staring in the dark, wondering who would miss me. I had thought it would be a one time occurrence. Maybe I was hallucinating. Maybe it was nothing more than some kind of waking dream. But it had felt so real. Even then, I told no one about my experience.

About a year later, I would drive late at night. I still do this too, especially when I need to simply get out of the house for a little while. So, sometimes, late at night, I would take drives down unfamiliar roads, trying desperately to find some kind of adventure, something interesting to occupy my time. It was late one night after a spring rain. I hadn't slept again. I have no idea if it had been for days, hours, weeks... no clue. All I knew was that I was tired and yet wholly awake. I was driving without any music, my window open, a cool breeze flowing through my hair. These drives would give me time to think, and I would use it wisely. I would think about the future, my future, about creative ventures, and mostly about what kind of world was out there. It had been sprinkling all night, with the light rain slightly coating my left arm and a little of the inside of the car. It had finally let up. No more rain, no more moisture, but another mystery awaited me.

It was then that I saw them. Stretched across the sides of the road like branches after a heavy wind were orange creatures, about three feet long or so apiece. I call them orange, but that wasn't their true color. It was the color that they shined at my eyes in the night. No streetlamps lit them up. There were no lights in sight at all, and with the overcast conditions not even the stars were out. Instead the creatures seemed to glow from some source within themselves, something I have never seen outside of fireflies and some deep ocean critters. My immediate first thought was that they were some kind of snake, or a very long nightcrawler worm, but neither made any sense. They were too long to be a worm, but also looked nothing like a snake at all. They were too fat, too many, and too unmoving.

I realized I hadn't seen any other cars in quite the while. A second later I wondered where I was. Without a GPS and only a map to guide me, and at the same time wanting to get lost late at night, I had no idea where I was. I drove the car slowly, careful not to hit any of the creatures even as the road narrowed, going from two lanes to a single lane, and from pavement to dirt. This was quite common in some of the roads around me, but it was disconcerting nonetheless. The creatures, with their unnatural glow, seemed to hover around the sides of the road at random intervals, sometimes rolling and other times completely immobile. As the dampness seemed to clear and the stars showed themselves, I noticed that the creatures no longer were in the road at all, and the only traces of their presence were a light orange glow on the sides of the road or in the underbrush. Soon after all traces of the creatures disappeared for good.

It took me a while of baffled confusion, but I eventually found where I was and drove back home. My head was hurting by this point, and with that I had no other recourse but to fall asleep. I did. The next day at school I asked some people who lived in more rural areas about the creatures, but they didn't seem to understand what I was asking them. They looked at me with confusion in their eyes, and I wondered if they would ever understand at all. I never found out what those creatures were. I went out the next few nights, each with weather like the first, but I never saw the creatures again. I sometimes wonder if I was hallucinating or if the creatures were every bit as real as what I remember.

Finally I had reached college, but even as I had I lost a long-term girlfriend. It hit me hard and caused me many sleepless nights. I have no idea how long I went without sleep. A friend of mine mentioned ten days, but I'll never be sure. Time moves strangely when you don't sleep. On the ninth or maybe it was the tenth day I saw another unexplainable thing. I thought it was a hallucination at first, but hallucinations don't follow you and they are not consistent things that walk with you for months. All of these stories, each and every one has no explanation. I assume it is because of my lack of sleep, but I have no real idea, and this last little vignette, to me, is the most terrifying and the most real.''

On that ninth or tenth day I saw a girl in white, she wore a long coat, one of those white-fleece coats with the large buttons that women sometimes wear. Her hair was dirty blond, fairy stringy, and shoulder length. She never turned to face me and I never saw her face, beautiful, ugly, or otherwise. The scariest part of this spectre was the amount of time he followed me. I would wake up from a restless sleep only to find someone sitting at the edge of my bed, nearly always in the same position. I swear I could feel the weight shift on the bed. She followed me around for a year, not always there, but always threatening her presence. In that year I barely slept, always watching out for the girl in white. I always wanted to see her face, call it curiosity, but no matter how many times I tried I would always fail. Her face was not for me to see. Can a hallucination dictate itself? I wonder that a lot. I don't think she was a hallucination. I don't think any of them were. I think that sometimes a lack of sleep can reveal the hidden things in the world. It's more than just a random white jacketed girl, or a man with elongated limbs and a face of evil. It's more than long orange creatures in the road on a moist night.

And it's all about what happens when you see them, when you know how real they are despite everything you've ever been told. They are real, watching and following, whispering in the darkness of the unlocked minds. Sleep is a savior. You cannot see what you are not being made to see. Instead I stay awake and watch the world go by, time go by, and the awful feelings of unexplainable things go by. There's nothing I can do. I cannot force myself to sleep, so I suffer from these visions.

The girl in white stopped coming around about a year after I first saw her. One day she wasn't there. And then she wasn't there again and again. Even in the heights of sleeplessness, I never saw her again. It was like she had gone away forever. I missed her slightly, almost as if she were an old friend I wouldn't ever see again. But I never had a problem with her, even awakening to find her sitting on my bed didn't frighten me, but what happened next did. My time sense shifts here, leaving me without solid dates or times. All I know was that not long after she disappeared, the faces started appearing outside of my bedroom window. At first they were there for split seconds, only enough time for the quickest of glimpses, but soon after they would appear without warning and watch me from outside of my second story room. The eyes were often green, but sometimes they were white instead and the faces were green. Their watching me was troublesome. They reminded me all too much of memories I wanted to forget. But all I could do was hang onto any part of my sanity left. I kept pushing myself to sleep, kept trying to make certain the visions or whatever they were would stop.

I was convinced I was hallucinating everything, every last bit and piece of information. I assumed I was crazy. It's easy to go insane without sleep. You lose track of time and self so easily in that endless void of being awake and you never quite get over it. It's like an endless dream. The world itself becomes an endless dream. The exhaustion hits you so hard and you have no recourse. You cannot fight your own body... or your own mind. And soon enough I wondered just how far down the rabbit hole I had descended.

Then everything stopped. For two years or so I didn't see a thing. No faces, no figures, no humanoid things watching me, and no strange creatures. I was alone with myself at last. I still couldn't find comfort, still went long tracts of time without sleep, but my sanity seemed to take hold. It seemed to be in charge. I found myself again enjoying the genre of horror, enjoying what the world and life had to offer, no longer in my shell, finally free!

Recently though, everything changed. At first I thought they were just blips in my mind, excess noise to my eyes. I thought the things I saw out of the corner of my eyes were nothing but dust, stringy bits of hair, maybe a moment of me seeing a person cross my vision or a bird... or anything... really anything at all. But no, of course not, the world is not that kind. I started seeing her again. She was the first, the harbinger. Maybe she is a protector, maybe a demon in my mind. But I started seeing her all over again. Sometimes she would follow me, driving in a car next to my own, other times she would be just out of sight, but I could FEEL her eyes on me, watching and waiting and knowing. Her face still never visible, her dirty blond hair a little darker, her jacket slightly torn. My imagination isn't this good. My unconscious mind or subconscious or whatever you want to call it, it could never make this sliding scale of time up. I was becoming paranoid all over again. I would sleep and see her face in my dreams. She called to me with a broken face and a broken voice. My name called over and over again. A barrier was broken. Somehow I had gotten past it. Maybe it was my lack of sleep. No one else I know has ever come close to the lack of sleep I have. Or maybe my brain is addled and broken and just at the right wavelength to receive garbled messages from lost people.

I wish I had seen her face. I wish I had looked at her even once. She was gone again. This time dead, forever dead, and I know it now. I went into the woods the other day, woods that I had known since a child. A small abandoned reservoir sits in them, but that was not my focus. My focus was the well or whatever it was. It kept seeping out water, looked a hundred years old, and I had never seen it before in my life. There's no way I would have missed this well-thing in a place I'd been to hundreds of times, and looking like it did, the age of it... well, I knew I was either losing my mind or seeing things I had never seen before. The well or cistern or whatever the hell it was, still had a working pump despite its age, and there seemed to be no discernible bottom to it, despite the shallowness of the reservoir itself. The well wasn't the only problem though. The bigger problem was the white jacket I found on the ground near it, and the figure who stood across the reservoir, watching me all the while as I whittled my time away.
Even though this was all just weeks ago, I've found myself afraid to go outside anymore. All of my windows are blocked off as well, but that doesn't stop the sounds that plague me through my sleepless nights. I used to wonder if my lack of sleep was a gift or a curse. Sometimes I would think about it like it was the lamest superpower in all the world, but nowadays, as I lie watching the ceiling for hours, I know that this life, my life, is a cursed one. The things I've heard and seen with my senses are things I could never forget. I want to forget, but I can't. I know he's out there, and I know the strange creatures are out there, and maybe an entire world is out there bleeding into what I can sense. It's inexplicable. Was this all my lack of sleep, or was it the "man" on the dead end of my street? Somehow I almost feel as if I gained his attention that night long ago, and he's been hounding me ever since... maybe his world has as well. Maybe she was protecting me, watching me, or... or something but she isn't anymore. Nothing is. I'm alone and scared. Nothing I can do will rid me of the visions, will rid me of the world I now see before me, one of moisture, death, and black sorrow. All I know is that everything is changing, little by little. The roads I used to drive have shifted. They seem nearly unfamiliar to me now. The trees I've always known seem different, and the places I have always frequented have things in them I have simply never noticed. Am I insane? Or has the world somehow changed without my knowledge to something different and terrifying? I don't even know. All I know is he waits, and I sit waiting too. I can feel his eyes on me, watching me from wherever he now stands. I can still see his face, broken and disfigured, and smooth, and gone. His eyes on me on this autumn night... and I know I cannot hold on much longer. Warn the sleepless. They should find rest before the rest find them.
I want sleep to take me finally... so I won't see anything anymore.

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