Rabbithole (Momento Mori)
Author's note: This was actually inspired by an unsettling dream I had myself, in which a man close to our... Show full author's note »
Rabbithole (Momento Mori)The only name for it was Hell. What else could someone call this hellish metallic vastness, inhabited by the blood-thirsty hellions who crept and sliced at the air with demonically sharp jaws? The heat has been stolen, inhaled like opium by the moon who hung unstably at the horizon, threatening with her cold stare, a smile and lilting taunts at the back of her eyes. She fell so slowly that you wouldn’t notice by looking at her, only by the increasing length of the shadows sliding in and out of
The sun rose, far too quickly. She didn’t fly into the sky, but sailed serenely, swallowing the moon and her darkness. Suddenly bright, the word Hell took new meaning as the rays shot up from the metal, causing his flesh to broil in seconds. He strained but he could not move. Bound tight as always to the ground by some invisible force, he could only pray silently, because he was sure that they could already hear his skin crack and flake and burn.
When I woke up that morning, I was sweating, cold because the window was open again. Françoise always threw the bottom pane up when she woke, took a deep breath of the sunrise, and went to the shower. I could hear her, humming a bright tune through the sprinkling water. I sat up, heart racing again. These dreams were frightening. Not because of the grotesque creatures or the cold, but the lucidity of it all. I could swear they were real until I woke up. And not like in other dreams where quick pondering reveals that it was a dream. I was there. I could swear it. When I looked at the clock, I realized I had only slept four hours.
Wherever I was in these dreams, it wasn’t Toulouse. The sunrise wasn’t hot or deathly, but cool. The only sounds were quiet, the blackbirds, and the sounds of a quiet city. I slunk out of bed and gently shut the window. Then I walked over to the armoire, opened it, and pulled out a button-up. There was little in our bedroom: the grey-blue walls and light brown carpet stretched around, broken by the cherry armoire (donated by my parents), the green-covered bed, and the metal fold-out table, a stand in nightstand.
When I had finished with my black slacks and socks, Françoise was turning off the water. I knocked at the door with one knuckle.
‘Yes,’ she called.
‘I’m going to work. I’ll see you when I get home?’ There was silence for a second, but I could tell she was drying her hair.
I took the glass elevator up to the office. In there, I tapped my foot nervously. Even though the bottom was fortified by a metal grille, it still made me nervous. After three people had gotten on, I decided that I needed some air, and got off at the fifteenth floor, stepping past a heavier man. He grunted his apologies and smiled as he sidestepped me into the small crowd of people. The doors closed nonchalantly, and they slid up, out of view. The courtyard in front of me sat on a Plexiglas floor, much thicker and sturdier than the elevator. You could see the buzzing colony of people below, coming and going, sitting, talking.
At the coffee counter across the floating courtyard, Étienne was ordering a caramel macchiato. He nodded wordlessly, turned, and pointed to a table where we could sit. I got the same drink, and followed him to a grey booth. Étienne was licking the soft foam from the top of his drink as I sat.
‘Good morning, sunshine,’ he beamed. His smile was a little too forced.
‘You too,’ I responded, unsure.
‘That was called sarcasm. You look a mess,’ he said dryly. His wide grin died into a colourless grimace of dissatisfaction. He sipped his coffee. ‘Come on, tell me what it is.’ I took my time in slowly slurping my coffee, holding it in my mouth until it burned, and then swallowing it ounce by ounce. He raised an eyebrow.
‘I’ve still been having those dreams. I can’t even sleep, and when I do, it’s like I haven’t slept at all.’ He nodded sympathetically, and set down the paper cup. When he leaned forward, he rested handsomely on his elbows, pensive and dark.
‘Sorry, that’s terrible. Have you seen your doctor yet?’ he asked after a short pause.
‘Yes. He said that I should take some pills, but they just make it worse. The whole bottle is still in my med cabinet.’ I had only taken them once, and the results were longer, more vivid dreams, and I overslept that morning.
After another moment of thought, Étienne spoke. ‘I tried hypnotising myself to sleep once. It worked like a charm. Plus, you should be able to tell yourself what to dream about. If I read the website right, anyway.’ He smirked mischievously.
‘Really?’ I asked. He nodded, and then imbibed in more coffee, a look of ecstasy on his face.
‘And,’ he added, ‘it’s not hard at all. I’ll email you the link. Just click, and get into bed.’
We finished our coffee silently, and then walked back to the glass elevator. By now, most people had reported for work, so we rode alone to the twenty-ninth floor.
Back at home, I pulled up the link on my computer. It was already three in the morning, and I had tried to fall asleep on my own without success. The thoughts of nightmares wouldn’t allow it.
The man in the video taught a few fundamentals of self-hypnosis. He was in his late forties, balding, but calm. ‘Autosuggestion,’ he crooned, ‘is simply the practise of three principles: willpower, agreement, and the use of underlying ideas. Your will power is the most important step: if you don’t think that you can make yourself fall asleep, then you can’t. This goes hand and hand with agreement. If you can’t agree with what you want to do in both your mind and body, you can’t make a change. If you want to sleep, but you keep thinking, “I can’t sleep,” you will find yourself more and more awake because it encourages both the mind and the body to accept this as a fact. But if you say, “I am going to sleep,” your body will respond appropriately. By using these, you prepare your body to go to sleep...
It was night. For the first time, he wasn’t bound to some structure. A metallic jungle surrounded him, tucked in a narrow valley, made in vain to look natural. Craggy sharp edges jutted out, and around him the world tumbled down and out of sight in great crevasses. Around him on the ground were heavy metal stones, so natural, yet also artificial and strange in this environment. The walls of the demonic canyon were an inseparable tangle of steep piping and electrical cables that hummed in the dark. He looked around, heart striking his ribs like a sledgehammer. He nearly fell back, dizzy, but caught himself with his foot. The resounding sound this caused was a long low tone, as though under the rigid impenetrable crust was a hollow cavern. The suite of sounds following made his teeth buzz and tremor inside of his mouth. First came the dead silence. Then a few small clicks like a wall clock or a metronome in the distance. Then, the whirring.
He was gone so fast that he didn’t know if he was being chased or not. But with each step came another empty verberation, and he knew that they would find him. The ground gave vibrato to each note, and the clicking behind him was closer. They were going to kill him. They would kill him quickly, but the pain. That was what he didn’t want.
Without thinking, he tripped over a rock and fell face first into metal. The bronze stone was heavy, but he had hit it just hard enough to send it tumbling forward a few feet before it fell down into the bottomless crack in the flat landscape to his right. His foot burned, and rather than walk, he dragged himself towards the shadowy wall. His arms pulled, but he could hear the click, like metal on metal. Close, so close. He was going to die.
When he finally reached the wall, he did his best to tuck himself behind a wide pipe just a few body lengths. As he did so the Creature appeared only ten feet away. It looked remotely human, but only had a triangular socket for a nose, where some horned structure grew out and into its chest. Its forehead grew up into an upside down pyramid that looked to have the texture of a brain, with a separate face coming out, and barbs dangled down from it like macabre earrings. The human face only had a dull, docile expression and emotionless milky eyes to match. Its hands were just three long slender claws with no palm, and the whole of the Creature was grey aside from the eyes in the brain, which burned fluorescent red.
The Creature turned once, and then looked in his direction. He felt his stomach inside of his throat, and the image swayed and became distorted as a thin whimper escaped him. He closed his eyes and looked away, grabbing another rock near himself out of fear. He had seen the creatures before, but he had yet to experience the gruesome death that he thought them capable of, imagining the pain. All he could do was wait, wait for it to kill him. Wait for the feeling of those barbs tearing into his face, claws groping for his eyes.
When it didn’t come, he looked again. The grotesque figure was contorted backwards. gracefully searching the crevasse below. He didn’t know what he was doing. He had already come out from behind the pipe when he realised that he was moving, and the shock made him cover him mouth to keep from vomiting. Despite this, he continued scuttling on his knees towards the thing, holding his rock carefully. When he was six feet away, he was trembling, trying not to whimper. He breathed slowly so it wouldn’t hear. Then he let go of his mouth and raised his rock. As he did so, tears cascaded silently from his eyes. And then he did it. He whimpered and threw. The monstrosity jumped upright and flew out suddenly at him, screaming mechanically from behind those cloudy eyes, mouth agape yet smiling.
As it collided with the metallic mass, it fell backward, still crying out in anger. It tumbled back into the crack, not finding purchase on the metal with its slender, sharp fingers. Spitting and groaning. Then, it was gone. He felt his heart slow, and he wiped the fluids coming down his face on his arm. He breathed and chocked, and caught his breath.
I woke up, still at the computer. My shaking had pulled the mouse from its jack, and a section of the keyboard was impressed into my forehead. Worst, I felt like the sleep that I did have was empty, like I might as well have not slept at all. At least that would have saved my having to see that morbid thing. I still felt ill, like vomiting would relieve me, but I couldn’t. I was too weak, too empty. Fran was already gone, but a note on the computer screen asked me to call her on her mobile. I got up, and showered quickly. It was already seven: I was late again. In the shower, I washed quickly, but instead of getting out, I sat. My heart quivered feebly in my chest. It was so real. I killed it. My shoulders convulsed slightly, and I sat with my knees tucked under my chin, breathing deeply in the steam.
As I walked up to the tall building, the shadow protected me from the sun. Remember, you had a doctor’s appointment this morning, I reminded myself. Hélène will understand. She knows what’s been happening.
Hélène was my boss, and a week ago she had asked me why I was so sluggish and unproductive. We went in her office, and shut the door. When I told her that I was having nightmares, at first she laughed. When I explained their nature, her attitude changed. Hélène was into ‘spiritual exploration’ and she was sure that they had some symbolism, something dark about my future, or destiny, or something. She said she’d get back to me on that, but in the mean time I was to ‘at least try to process some damn loans.’
As I approached the building, a woman with a brochure approached me, beaming.
‘Excuse me, could I interest you in donating to the Global Hunger Relief Fund?’ she asked charismatically, ‘It only cost forty-seven euro, a small price to pay for the life of a child...’ she stopped midsentence, because she had heard the sound too. Glass shattered somewhere up above. We both looked up, panicked. Was it that elevator? What happened, who was on it?
But I soon saw that it wasn’t the elevator. Instead, twenty or so large shards of glass hit the pavement about twenty feet away, shattering on impact, and a steady tone from up above grew louder. Then, a large mass fell onto a table, bending it and ending the sound suddenly before it bounced and rolled into the broken glass.
The man left a trail of blood where he rolled. His face was pressed in, and his nose and mouth bled slowly, and his eyes were pale and colourless. I found my lungs evicting a violent scream to replace his.
The police said that he had jumped from the nineteenth floor. He got up, closed his laptop. Then he ran at the window. The man’s name was Hervé, the heavy man who changed me places on the elevator yesterday. I explained all of this quietly to Fran over the phone as I rode the train home. This was what they were willing to reveal to me about it after a quick questioning. Even though I had come late, I was allowed to leave after the shocking experience.
‘Do you want me to come home? I know it’s been rough for you lately, and you’re probably a little shaken up,’ she said in sincere alarm.
‘No,’ I reassured her, ‘I think I’ll be fine.’ There was a roaring silence. ‘I saw him just yesterday. He seemed fine.’ There was a long pause and dead air flowed out of my phone.
‘Well, love,’ she sighed into the receiver, ‘try to get at least a little sleep.’ I told her I would, but I debated it with myself for a moment. Another encounter with one of those... things... wasn’t worth a nap now.
When I got home, I wasn’t really tired, despite more than a week of insomnia and unyielding sleep. There was sudden rain outside, and warning sirens wailed, echoing off of the dark clouds secreted silently by the sky. I walked in, threw my clothes off in untidy piles, and went to the kitchen table. The walls and cabinets were the same light periwinkle as in the bedroom. I flicked the switch on an electric kettle, went to a cabinet in the corner, and found a box of black tea with cinnamon. I set it forcefully on the small wooden kitchen table and took the chair closest to the kettle. It would be ready in a few minutes.
Gawd, I thought. I hunched over and put my head in my hands, my palms pushing stars into my eyes. The things I keep seeing. My life can’t be real, this shouldn’t happen. Those things I’m seeing, and that man. When hit the ground. That scream... haunting. It was so violent, it stopped so suddenly. I shivered. Then I thought of that thing in my dream. That deformed, grey face. Those milky eyes. The look of joy it had when it had found me. But I killed it. And it wasn’t real anyway. Just a dream.
The kettle gave a high wail, and I shot backwards. I heard a snap, and...
...he was there again. It was night again, always night. There were no stars above, nor clouds, nor any indication of a moon. Just a black expanse over him, swallowing all light, his only vice and desire.
He cursed in a whisper to himself and dropped slowly to his knees. Why? Why here again in this God-forsaken metallurgic wilderness. It didn’t just make him tremble and quiver, but he sweated. It didn’t just set his teeth on edge: just knowing where he was made him grind them, he could hear them fragment inside his ears, feel the blood and pain as flecks of enamel became trapped in his mouth, under his tongue.
He was in a silvery veldt this time, and around him were only sparse bronzy trees and tall grass. He had been dropped benevolently in a small clearing, and when he got up his legs feigned as though drunken. The malignant aurora was fast approaching and he did not dare stay in one place for long: far enough in the distance was that ticking that he somehow knew meant death, pain, and suffering.
He staggered into the waist-high grass, but jumped out immediately. Each blade was a long thin razor that when pushed against would slice flesh clean. His pants, an old ragged pair of jeans, had taken a majority of the initial damage. But two parallel kerfs leaked blood lazily. He cursed again, because of the pain and the growing light. He wiped at his forehead, and was shocked to see that he wasn’t secreting sweat, but instead something a deep scarlet. He was sweating blood.
As he looked out now, he could see the outline of a new Creature far off in the navy distance, pacing back and forth. It seemed unconcerned with him, unable to see the man waist-deep in daggers.
But he knew that with willpower he could push through. He was barefoot, and the first few blades caught him between his toes: each poniard was sharp, but not rigid. They left a deep wound the width of a paper-cut before bending down. He moved step by step, not daring to look at the blood beading on his legs or pooling on the metal. Instead, he stared determinedly ahead for the tree. It took ten minutes to reach halfway, and though he prided himself on his progress, he was still weeping silently.
None of his lacerations were very serious, and most were even bearable even though by the time he reached the tree he had lost enough blood to leave a trail. The roots of the tree were artificially ridged, and near the ground they were patinated and green.
Then, the light fell over the horizon. His first instinct was to look towards the thing in the distance. It had stopped its back and forth movement and was gazing immobile in his direction. Even from a distance he could make out the empty eyes.
He groped at the tree suddenly, trying to find some foothold to pull himself up. As he did so, the Creature bounded quickly in his direction. As he found purchase, he pulled himself up onto the lowest branch, which now glared and radiated heat. He avoided the leaves, because they were like tiny arrowheads that embedded themselves in his skin.
The Creature stopped, no at the tree, but a few feet away. This one was different from his last dream: The head was egg-shaped and grew down into the body of a silver upright beetle. The bridge of the nose grew into the mouth that had no lips, and instead was sideways and showed misshapen teeth. While the head had thick, leathery, grey skin, body was a tight knit of cables arranged in an almost skeletal pattern. It looked down, opened the mouth, and let out a long serpentine tongue. It draped down slowly, clanging on the metallic ground, and then scraped along the earth. The Creature, which had only two insect legs, followed the thing as it wore long scratches in the ground. The man looked to see that was it was doing was lapping the stream of blood that was left behind as he climbed to the tree. It seemed to be tracking the man by it, more than taking any enjoyment from the stuff. It was difficult to tell, because its expression was entirely undefined.
The man noticed, however, that it tried mostly to avoid touching the grass with the tongue, which appeared wet and fleshy in comparison to the bronze arbour and grey flora. He leaned forward in the tree, but tumbled headfirst out of the branch with a sound of metallic tearing.
When he landed, he looked up at the thing, which started, and then grinned at him maniacally. The severed branch landed next to him, and he saw that the thing was hollow and contorted by his weight. The Creature was still ominously immobile, and the whirring seemed deafening. It was looking at him with those lacteous eyes, piercing yet blank. He had started to sweat again, and the crimson rolled down his cheeks, catching in the wrinkles.
The Creature opened its mouth, and out came that tongue. It lashed out against his cheek, leathery and slimy, slurping the red dripping cruor from his face. And then the eyes turned from pearly to dark ebony.
The main cried out as the tongue continued to caress his face and groped for the branch. He hit the ground without setting fingers on the hollow tube a few times before he caught it. Meanwhile, the Creature was moving quickly towards him, its shadow elongating in the early dawn. Its tongue still whipped and tongued his face. The smell was acrid, like wet copper and decaying flesh. He was choking back his vomit as it swiped under his nose and across his mouth.
Then, with shaking arms he slashed the branch mindlessly at the Creature’s face, and it recoiled, wailing electronically in varying pitches. Those black eyes flashed bright white and the whole of its body shook out of control. When the man swung again, he caught the thing inside the cheek, sending small, dagger-like leaves flying erratically. To his surprise, the side of the face peeled apart, curling and emitting a blackish pus. Without thinking he thrust the end of the branch into the still screaming mouth. At this point, the noise stopped, and the thing toppled backwards, groaning in moribund agony. Its eyes rolled back into a black similar to the goopy purulence that was coming from its wounds, and it oozed onto the floor.
The man was still on his back, but he struggled up, quivering as he looked at the dying thing. He pricked himself on a leaf, but in comparison to his other wounds it meant nothing. The whirring died suddenly, and he felt very alone. He looked out around him: nothing but the wavy grey prairie for miles.
When I woke up, I was on the floor. Outside the window, the world had dimmed to a sombre blue and grey. Rain still poured down heavily, but the sirens had stopped. On the hot metal plate, the kettle whistled gingerly as most of the water had evaporated. The chair had broken, one leg having rolled a few feet away. I had a splinter in one leg, but otherwise, I probably had no injury.
What was most on my mind was that thing, that creature. How grotesque it had been, that black fluid leaking out, its scream. How it wailed from the pain. I had caused that pain.
But the damn thing deserved it. It wasn’t human, it was something malformed, something that shouldn’t live anyway. That mouth, sideways and mocking. The way those eyes looked at me. It was going to kill me. How it slurped up my blood.
I heaved a great sigh and got up out of the chair. I stood up slowly, balancing on the table. I sauntered into the kitchen, my knees and ankles popping and creaking. When I pulled the kettle from the hot plate, I glanced at the bright green clock on the stove. Nine forty-seven. Fran should have been home hours ago. The last time we had spoken it was only two. Was it two? Maybe one-thirty?
I galloped quickly into my bedroom, and saw my phone on the bedside table. It was flashing white every few seconds, so I had missed a call. I opened it. ‘One New Voice Message’ it alerted. I hit a button and listened.
‘Hey, babe. It’s raining pretty hard down here in Auch. I think I’ll stay with Mum and Jeanne tonight. They’ve closed down N124, said it’s flooding over. If you get this message soon, give me a call. I love you.’
The click that followed was ominous, but I was reassured by the message. I sat down, and reflected. How unreal these last few weeks had been.
When I called back there was no answer.
I didn’t sleep at all that night, but I still got up early and showered. The morning seemed empty without Fran, and I realized this was the third morning in a row I hadn’t seen her. It was an aching feeling that gnawed somewhere at my insides.
The morning was still hazy and the smell of fallen rain was disturbingly close to what I had smelled in my dream. I held my breath as I walked to the métro, with my shirt over my face. It took a half an hour for it to reach the office, and when it did I hoped to meet Étienne in the coffee shop. After an anxiety-filled ride up, I stopped at the floating courtyard, but I didn’t find him there, so I got shakily back into the elevator. When I came to the twenty-ninth floor, I glanced through the glass window into the office. He was already in his gray cubicle. I greeted Étienne with fatigue from the door. He didn’t look back.
‘Hey,’ he responded tonelessly. I raised an eyebrow and my fingers danced at my sides
‘What’s up, what’s the matter?’ I asked cautiously, and he responded vaguely that nothing was. Again, he did this without turning around. Music played in the background, a knowing sign that Jolie, the only other worker here was deep in her headphones around the bend. I almost envied her distance from the situation. There seemed to be a black presence hovering somewhere near the ceiling, invisible but heavy.
‘Well,’ I said, ‘if you want to talk about it, I-’
‘No!’ he barked, ‘I don’t want to talk about it.’
With that he grabbed a letter opener, holding it dangeriously backwards like a slasher. Then he walked furiously towards the window, and stared out at the grey fog.
‘It doesn’t fix. It’s your fault.’ His voice was still toneless and void. He held up the sharp blade to his throat. I ran to him just in time to receive some of the blood splatter that spat onto the clear windows, onto the grey clouds.
I ran. That was all I wanted to do, all I could do. Jolie was screaming, bewildered after not having heard a thing. I was gone already. I was at the elevator, panting, crying, groaning. The world seemed to turn slowly upside down. Gravity was off centre, was pulling me into walls. I smashed every button, just wanting to escape from this bloody cold prison. He’s dead, he died. He said it was my fault. Questions danced sombrely, but nothing intelligible came to the surface.
Before I knew it, I was on the train home. Mine was mostly empty, as most were travelling to work, not home. Only an older man sat at the back and a young, dark woman at the front. I allowed myself to cry quietly, hiding my face in my hands. Why?
Why? He asked himself again and again. The air around him was cold. When he looked up, he wasn’t the train, but instead he was in a thin cold room, with pipes, metals, and juts of steam coming from hundreds of feet above towards him, and he sat on just one pipe that was cold and hard. The darkness drew shadows and made the air eerie. This was when the convulsions started again. He shook, and cried out. His scream reverberated around this machine-like crypt, and he allowed himself to hack vomit onto the ground in front of him. He didn’t care that some spilled down his front, he didn’t care about the smell. He barely care about himself anymore.
When he finally stood, his legs still trembled. He took slow steps forward, sidestepping the puddle of sick he had left. The chamber was so dark that it could have been a mile long or thirty feet long, and he would not have known until he reached the end. He staggered gently forward, and he heard no whirring or Creatures in the distance.
He continued for about a hundred feet before he saw the end. In the metal wall was a face.
The face was a woman’s, only metallic and slightly contorted, but not ugly, not macabre like the other creatures. From the top of the head, she had pipes that went off into the. These ones weren’t metal, but plasticky and malleable. Her eyes were closed and did not open, but her eyelashes were long and curled.
‘There you are. I’ve waited for some time to meet you.’ Her voice was cool and low. The man was silent, unbelieving. ‘I’ve been hearing about you. My subjects wanted to bring you hear, but they were, clearly, unsuccessful. So, I tried my best to bring you here myself.’ Her accent was metallic, and her sentences were a little awkward, but she seemed to radiate peace.
When he still did not respond, she opened her eyes slowly, serenely. Unlike the other creatures, she had large pupils and a reddish iris. He recoiled a little. ‘I won’t hurt you,’ she said, ‘I only want your help.
‘This place is called Autre,’ she said with a foreign trill, ‘and this place is directly linked to the Other World, we call it Tienne. This is the world you live on-’
‘Stop,’ the man said suddenly. ‘This isn’t real... you’re my imagination...’ The man was angry, furious. This creature was the reason for his nightmares.
‘I’m very real. In fact, our world controls yours, and your world affects ours. That’s why I need your help: when there’s a change in your world, there’s a change in ours, and vice versa, and this is why we need your help...’
‘Well, you find yourself someone else,’ he spat at her. He could feel a fire somewhere in his bowels, and he wanted to breathe that fire into her face. ‘I’ve been sick, I’ve been tired, and people are dying.’
‘That is only the evidence of how serious we are,’ she breathed calmly. Her tone induced more anger.
‘It was you?’
‘It was you.’ There was silence. Far in the distance was a rushing sound, probably something flowing through a pipe. Despite this, he turned and checked behind himself. ‘There’s no one else here.’ There was a hint of severity in her tone, the first nuance outside of her calm. But her face was still cool.
‘I want out. I want to be out of here. Now.’
‘I don’t think you understand.’
‘What! What do you need? I’ll do it! Just leave me alone!’ At this point, he started to cry again, and soon he on his knees, his head tucked into darkness. Her voice came again from above him, smoothly.
‘What we’re asking will not be easy. Ténèbre is a dark personage. He is a killer. In a way, he kills our people, and when you’re here he kills yours. While you’re asleep in your world, he enters. He’s been killing in your world, just like you’ve been killing in ours. The only way to defeat him is for you to die. We need you to kill yourself, so that our people can live. When you die, he will die.’
His crying stopped suddenly. He looked up, red in the face. ‘No!’ he screeched. ‘That... that’s not fair!’ He was angry now, at his feet, running towards her. He clawed at her face. He found it surprisingly fleshy. She did not scream, but closed her eyes pacifistically. ‘We never tried to hurt you,’ she crooned. And then she was silent. He pulled at the wires and tubing in her face, fuming. What right had she? To ask him to die. It was her, she had made his life hell already. He felt rabid, yet free of the anger, the frustration, and the insomnia that ate his insides.
I woke up, yelling at the top of my lungs, my arms flailing out of my control. The man from the back of the bus was trying to restrain me. I had him by the face, my nails in his facial skin. I peeled them out of his dermis, and we both stopped screaming. Awkwardly, I apologized, my head throbbing nastily.
The sky was still gray, and the clouds sagged with weight, unusual for this time of year. I burst into my house, expecting something, expecting a significance. Instead, I walked into silence. This silence was too calm, too tranquil. I threw off my overjacket and went into the bedroom. There was no one. I was alone. It was raining again, but not as hard. I threw off my clothes quickly, leaving a trail to the bathroom. When I got there, I threw the bathtub curtain open, stepped inside, and turned on the faucets. I let the water fall.
At first it was scalding, but it slowly became warm and steamy. I didn’t sit, I didn’t dare, because I didn’t want to sleep. Never again. I rather leaned against the wall, and let the steam and water cloak my skin. It was hot, and warm. I stood there, without thinking, barely allowing myself to breathe. When I let the water hit, it burned a little, but it kept me awake.
I still hadn’t slept in days. It could have been weeks now, for all I knew. Fatigue was hanging from my eyelids, caressing me gently. But I refused to go to sleep. When I began to nod in the shower, I turned off the hot water against every modicum of wisdom. When the icy water touched me, it burned me, and life was diminished to a zigzag of instinct. I hopped out of the tub, suddenly energized. Between gulping breaths, I put on a robe.
I went and sat on the bed. There was nothing to do. No television in the house, my books still in storage from moving. It was inevitable. I would sleep. No matter how much coffee, tea, or pacing the floors, I would sleep. I looked at the silvery bedside table and saw my face. Under my eyes, circles had grown comically dark and my eyes screamed red in the cornea. My hair was untidy, and there was a bruise forming on the right side of my face where I had hit it the night before. I rubbed my eyes, hoping to also rid myself of this frightening visage. I blinked and it was still there.
I needed to sleep. I couldn’t avoid it.
I got in the blankets, still in just a robe, and pulled the green comforter up to my chin. There was immediate gratification from my body as liquid happiness swam through my veins. I held my breath, waiting for the cold, metallic wasteland to materialize.
When I woke up there was nothing cold, nothing steaming or radiating heat. The air was still calm. I felt refreshed, new. It had to be mid afternoon, warm, without clouds. The air was warm in my pocket of the bed. No dreams. I basked in this moment of victory, slipping my arms out to stretch.
Françoise was in the bed next to me. Some of her soft, dark hair was draped over my pillow. I thought it was strange that neither of us had awoken before now, but it was probably the weekend. I had lost track of the days. I grabbed her arm over the comforter.
‘Babe,’ I said, slowly and warmly. She pulled back stiffly. I whispered to her, but she didn’t even stir, she was so soundly asleep. I kissed her cheek.
It was cold.
My heart skipped a few beats before slingshotting itself into my mouth. I pulled back the green cover and revealed her. She was in pastel pyjamas, laid calmly on her side. Her wrists bled a river of life out of her body and onto the bedspread. I checked her pulse, and found nothing but myself, screaming to no one.