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I feel his hand on my shoulder. It is cold, bony, and scrapes against my skin. It doesn’t sting too badly. Pain doesn’t cause discomfort for me - it’s like a Popsicle - strong at first, but after awhile, it melts away. He tells me something, the man behind me. I don’t hear him at first, and that makes him angry. He grips my shoulder tighter.
Now there is pain, pain like grabbing a wire hanger that is left beside a fire, yet I ignore it. He knows I am here, I know I am here, but for some reason, I feel if I don’t acknowledge it. If I ignore what is happening, we will both remain suspended. The two of us will stay lost in this never-ending scene, and I will never die.
The knife enters me anyway.
I feel it; I’m not quite numb yet. I can feel it twist inside me, switching my lung with my heart. Then the world goes black.
I die every time.
I shut my eyes. It doesn’t matter if I sleep for five minutes or 10 hours.
“It’s like sucking your thumb; you’ll grow out of it,” my mother tells me over the phone the next day.
She’s told me that for 18 years. Now I’m ten days away from turning 20 and she still says the same thing. But nightmares are nothing like sucking your thumb. I don’t suck my thumb anymore.
It’s 2 a.m. My mouth is dry, and I cannot see because of the tears that blur my eyes. But that doesn’t bother me. Four days is not long to go without sleep. I’ve gone longer. People don’t understand, because they don’t feel their dreams. In mine, I am conscious of everything.
A man is standing in front of me, a doctor. He was called when I stopped responding to the pleas of my pencil-neck roommate. Apparently, he is discomforted by my 96-hour days.
“Having trouble falling asleep, Wesley?” the doctor asks.
“No,” I say.
Falling asleep is easy; too easy. Giving in is something that tempts me every minute. But I can’t do that, because I know that one day, I’m not going to be able to wake up.
He hands me a pill anyway, and tells me to take it. I know this doctor. His name is Ben or Bill or something. He’s come for years. I argue at first, but I know that I don’t have a choice. I swallow the pill dry. Before I know it, I’m back in again.
This time I’m underwater. I’m going to drown, I think. The thought relaxes me. The dreams where I drown aren’t all that bad, considering what experiences I could compare them with. But then the dream changes. I am still in water, but it tastes like soup. I look up to see a giant sitting above me.
It’s then I realize that I am going to be eaten alive.
I used to look away when I was about to die. I used to run, beg. Now I lie limply and watch. The giant lifts me up with his fork and bites down, taking off my right leg.
I don’t look away ... I’m past that. But I still scream.
I am in the car with my roommate now. We’re getting groceries, and since we’re in my car, I’m driving. I can tell he’s nervous, so I try to calm him.
“Darren ...,” I say.
“Dylan,” he corrects quickly.
I could have sworn his name was Darren. Part of me thinks he’s changed it just to f*** with me. I continue talking anyway.
“I’m not tired ...”
Darren, or Dylan, or whoever he is makes a sound.
“... and I know how to drive.”
Just then, a car honks at me loudly, as if he too wants to prove me incompetent. Apparently, this is too much for my night-light roommate.
“Pull over. Now,” he says.
“Fine,” I say roughly, and pull over. Right into the face of an oncoming truck.
Please, someone wake me up. Please. Please. Anyone, please.
I am balancing on the top of a pillar that is just large enough for one foot. Below me, there are hundreds of creatures with whips, chains, and spikes - they’re ready for me to fall. This death will be worth remembering.
Usually I don’t, but I can’t help but start crying this time. This dream has gone on too long. I’ve died five times. Usually, it only happens once or twice. For a moment, I wonder if I have died ... for real ... in the real world. The thought scares me. I always thought it would end at death. Then, around me, I hear familiar voices. They belong to my mother and the doctor.
“Would you like me to let him go?” The doctor asks sympathetically. “There is very little hope that he will come out of it.”
There is a pause and I hear my mom crying, and I allow myself to hope. I am in a coma ... I know it ... it must have happened because of the crash ... and if she chooses to pull the plug on me, I can escape this time. I’ve never been able to escape before.
Against my first instincts, I find myself wanting to die more than anything. If it happens now, in this way, I will never have to die again.
Please, I beg, and then I silence my thoughts so I can better hear her speak.
“No,” she says finally, “not just yet.” I hear the shuffling of tissue. “I want him to rest ... he could use it.” Then, her voice is gone, and all I can hear is the sound of the mob below me.
I lose my balance and fall.