Sleep Enough to Dream
Finally made myself take some time to write. Writer’s Digest Prompt from July 29th.
Sleep eludes me. I don’t want much of it, only to rest. I can’t afford sleep enough to dream. I have not slept in three days. And yet, tired as I am, sleep holds back and keeps her sweet embrace from me. The room is dark enough–too dark, really. No light floods through the open window. The darkness is deepened by the clouds–heavy, thick, and menacing. The clouds hide the stars and quiet the moon. Suffocating, I thrash and kick the bedsheets and covers to the floor. The lie there in a crumpled heap. And myself, I lie awake sweating, my eyes wide and bloodshot. The heat is oppressive; even inside the hotel room, the air is thick with warmth and humidity.
I would be awake and sweating even if the air conditioner worked: the air in the room is as heavy and claustrophobic with my fear as it is with the heat. That dream. I imagine Sleep as a being, and I think perhaps she stays away from me as a kindness. That damnable dream. Always the same dream, only I know it’s not a dream. It’s coming for me; it always has been.
I was a child of only seven years the first time. I remember my lungs heaving; I remember I couldn’t see the moon. I remember the dream. I remember the Beast. I remember it’s hands, massive and drooping, the claws tapping on my window sill. The Beast smiled when I screamed. Those massive fangs. I always scream; it always smiles.
I had the dream every night for a month. My parents took me to a psychologist. When the dream stopped for a while, I pushed it to the back of my mind, and life went on. Then in high school, the Beast returned. The dream returned. The dream haunted my nights for a longer time, and then went away again. And so it went: each time, the Beast would violate my dreams longer. The times of respite shorter and shorter.
The last time I knew peace, I had only a week of unfettered sleep.
When the dream returned four days ago, I knew somehow, intuitively, that this would be the last time. No more days of respite. The beast would haunt me every night until I could resist no more. And then it would have me. And so I ran. I ran so far. I have done all I can to stay awake. Three days. I want only to rest. Three days of driving with no sleep have taken their toll.
Have I run far enough? Can I rest now? Have I outrun the Beast, outrun the dream?
Sleep comes to me, her face soft and sad. How strange and sorrowful, that the thing I need the most should be so tragic. I drift asleep…
I awake to the tapping. I do not know how long I’ve slept, be it seconds or minutes. It doesn’t matter. I hear the tapping on the window sill.
The Beast is come.
Inevitably, I turn on my side to face the window. I can see the Beast’s hideous form, a silhouette against the blackness. Somehow it is darker than the night. Like always. This is the dream, the same damnable dream again. Only I know it’s not. I dream no longer. I roll onto my back again, and I blink. In that instant, a hole has broken in the clouds. Light from the moon bursts into the hotel room, to warn me. And looming mere inches above me: the Beast. No longer a shadow. Now fully defined in the moonlight, I can see the texture of it’s skin: dry and cracked and putrid. There is a stench of foulness. The Beast raises it’s clawed hands. Those massive, drooping hands. One of the hands slams down onto my chest; I feel the claws dig into my flesh. The other hand moves towards my neck.
I scream; the Beast smiles.