Do you know the greatest misery you can inflict on a man? Have you ever heard of torture so grim it could inspire a horror film? Probably not, I don’t think anyone could even begin to understand the pain I’m in. But what am I talking about? Well, nightmares so visceral and bone shuddering, that for me going to sleep is like accepting a death sentence. At this point, sleeping dust is as scarce and precious to me as a spark of fire in frozen tundra. All I can do to stop myself from completely losing my mind is to reminisce about the good old days, before I woke up every night in a cold sweat and spasm of screams and thrashing. The days when peaceful slumber used to so effortlessly rescue me from the well of eternal loneliness and offered me the sanctuary of true tranquillity, a paradise of calm, warmth that wrapped me up ever so tightly. But now it seems like sleep is a distant and unattainable illusion in the desert. Sleep eludes me like a slippery eel in dark waters, and without it I’m just a weary loner plodding aimlessly in heavy fog.
I wasn’t always like this – bitter, twisted and sleep deprived. Believe it or not, there was a time when my eyes sparkled and my smile shone. I remember when I was a young man, ferociously ambitious and intent on changing the world. I thought I could have really made something of myself. Did something with my life. Been somebody. Stupid me, I should have realised a lot sooner that the stars were always further away when you were looking at them from the bottom of the gutter, rather than the top of a skyscraper. But I guess ignorance is bliss, at least when I was clueless about what life was really like, I was happy. Now happiness with every dark night that passes grows ever distant from my grasp, replaced now by fear…fear of my own nightmares, each infected with grotesque imagery, like a horror film played agonisingly on loop.
The clock strikes midnight. The chime haunts every corner of my room, before pulling my ears towards it and whispering mockingly into them. I know it’s futile. I know trying to sleep will be completely foolish and a big waste of time… didn’t Einstein say that the definition of insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result? Well, either way I’m dammed if I do and dammed if I don’t. Without sleep I’m insane and trying to sleep is insane.
The instant my eye shut, effectively sealing my fate for the night, a heartbeat later glass shattering screams fill my ears like water in the corridors of the sinking Titanic… they are screams of pain and fear… so vague and foreign to my memories, yet so familiar to my body. They intoxicate my being like poison, grabbing hold of me, constricting my bones and organs like a serpent. Then, I wake up. My eyes snap open to unchain me from the unworldly abyss, but still I can feel the shadows of my nightmares crawl out of my sleep to pray unsympathetically on my waking subconscious, providing me with a glimpse to what to expect during my next venture into a state of limbo.
As I turn my body to the right side of the bed, I pause a moment to stare at the mirror expecting to see my wretched, unbearably horrific face staring back at me. But wait, the mirror bears no monster, I can’t see myself. Was there something wrong with the mirror? Is it broken? But I see no cracks; its surface bears no blemishes… Instead it remains untainted and flawless as always. Every morning I take extra care to wipe away all sins of the dust and imperfections accumulated over unforgiving time. I guess in the back of my mind I thought by keeping it perfect, somehow it would improve how I looked in it. So if damage is out of the question, why can’t I see myself?
I stand up. Instantly pins and needles erupt in my feet as my bones shudder in an attempt to begrudgingly bare my weight. Is this what it feels like to be a small child learning to walk for the very first time? At any moment I feel like I’m going to go down like a led balloon. WHY WON’T MY LEGS WORK? I can feel the frustration in me building up like steam in a hot kettle.
Fearing my knees will snap in two like twigs under the stomp of a bear, I lunge for the basin and hoist myself up with it. As I lean closer in the mirror… still no reflections dare greet me. Yet in the crystal clear reflection I can see my bed, my wardrobe and my lamp on the bedside table humming a weak yellow, but no me? What sorcery is this? Is my mind playing cruel tricks on me, an April fool’s trick gone too far? My mind has never failed me before. I’m far from being old and senile – true my skin is withered and pale, but these are just the rotten fruits of depression that have decided to ripe through my appearance, rather than the actual results of aging.
I guess I must be wrong for assuming my mind was still in good condition, the only thing I dare say I could rely on? A friend perhaps… I guess just like others before it, this friend too has deserted me… or am I still dreaming? It doesn’t feel like a dream. I turn the tap and with some hesitation at first; it eventually gives out its treasure, cool life affirming liquid. I run my hands through the water and splash it on my face. I look up, still no reflection. I tilt my head down again to plunge my face under the surface of the water. Above my head the taps suddenly seem to chuckle and cackle at my expense, before releasing hot red liquid instead of water from its bowels… like Jesus turning water into wine. However, this is no wine, the aroma betrays its true identity, It’s blood. Soon the warmth of the bright red blood gives way to a cold, stagnate and stale mess growing darker and thicker with every passing hiss of the clock. The blood continues to spew from the tap, finally engulfing the basin and eventually spilling over the sides. I pull, tug and twist at the tap but still it refuses to stop drowning me with its entrails.
What happens next I swear to god is the honest truth, as hard as it is to believe. Perhaps it’s by the work of witchcraft or ghouls, but as the blood hits the floor it instantly begins to move across it, not with blind luck or by the power of gravity, but with purpose as if a dark sinister force with the mastery of a puppeteer was controlling it. As it continues on it journey across the cold and hard wooden floorboards, it weaves and twirls around every gap and crack. But I dare not follow it, for it moves too far towards the other side of the room… Throughout this ordeal, something in my subconscious stopped me from ever allowing my gaze to wonder in that direction. I guess deep down I knew that there was something there. Something I didn’t want to think about or see.
Hauntingly sensing my acknowledgement of the unthinkable that dare lurk in the shadows, my lamp oozes out even more murky light, suffocating the room in a mild yellow glow. I can now see everything that is in the room. It is now apparent what monstrosities had been lying dormant in the dark all this time, two cold limp figures sprawled lifelessly on the hardwood floor, soaked in that very same cold, stagnant and stale dark red blood that came out of the tap. Ever so slowly I walk towards the bodies, I know they’re dead, but deep down my body dares not betray such naivety, for I know demonic forces are afoot.
As I move towards the lumps my feet are suddenly submerged in the blood oozing from their bodies like a fountain. The odour is quickly becoming unbearable, almost striking my nostrils with the force of an Olympic boxer. The closer I get, the more I want to turn and cower under my covers like a small child during Halloween. But I must find out the identity of these poor individuals, curiosity grows too strong and maybe, just maybe by finding out the truth my curse will be lifted.
I bend down and peer into their faces. The mystery over the location of my reflection has now been solved; it belongs to the miserable face of one of the dead bodies. A man…The man is me. Whilst the other face was a majestic sleeping beauty, however unlike the fairy tales, no kiss no matter how sweet will ever wake her up.
Suddenly a slow breeze ruffles the curtains and then methodically sweeps around the room, as it does it gathers in strength, eventually becoming a hurricane powerful enough to rip flesh from bone. Finally, the ferocious wind causes both bodies to flip over, revealing a nine-inch butchers knife plunged into both their backs… I feel something trickle down my spine. I put my palm to my back to find out what it is…blood. It dawns on me… the lack of reflection, the horrible nightmares… all the blood.
I am merely a ghost of my former self. As for all the nightmares, they were actually memories of the events that had condemned me to death. What happened to me? Why haven’t I passed to the other side? Yes, I was murdered, but by who? Is that what I should find out… the identity of my killer and this fallen angel?
The wind ceases. The room plunges into darkness and moonlight begins to pour from beneath the curtains, the grey hue collects around a blank part of the wall. Before my eyes a door materialises where the light pools. To be honest, caught up in events more bizarre than the twilight zone all night, at this point I’m no longer surprised. All I know is, as the door slowly creeks open, I must step through it and eventually unravel the mystery of my demise and hopefully find the answer that will rescue me from this hell on earth, an eternity of sleepless nights.