The darkness came and yet once more I lay awake. My heart beating a gentle, relaxed rhythm, my breathing slow and calm, my mind blank, my vision filled with nothing but the ceiling, tinged orange by the phosphorus glow of the street lamps outside. Awake I was, and awake I lay.
Time passes. Day after day this has become my routine, barely managing to keep my eyes open whilst working, and unable to keep them closed when settled in my bed. A bed which has suddenly become uncomfortable, too hot or too cold. Too hard or sagging too much. I wonder sometimes if my body is undergoing some mutation that I am unaware of, or maybe it's simply age creeping up on me?
Five days now, with only an hour at most each night, usually the hour before the shrill beeping of my alarm drags me from under the suddenly perfect duvet, off the suddenly comfortable mattress and back in to the world of the living. Those refreshed from a full nights sleep view me as if I were abhorrant, stubble adorning my face, eyes puffy and swollen as I slur a good morning, or a profanity, depending entirely upon my patience.
Tonight my patience is lasting. I lay here, staring at the patterns made upon the ceiling by the tree outside, claws, hands, heads... The face of a love once lost, and another, of a love once missed. My mind stirs, chasing impossible thoughts with no hope of answers. Finally I sigh, 4 hours into this attempt I swing my legs out of the bed and find my robe. Yes, tonight would be a night like any other.
Pacing now, in the living room, trying to walk off the restlessness in my body. Fighting the urge to dress properly, to drink coffee and become a workaholic once more. I catch sight of my reflection, some form of ogre staring at me from the window, a smile faked, looking even more hideous than the disgruntled troll that had been there only seconds before.
My heart is now beating much faster. Frustration setting in. I wander into the kitchen, warm milk my target this time, not coffee, but I boil the kettle anyway - habit? Behind me I hear the kitchen door creaking shut, a slightly off-angled hinge providing a convenient self-close mechanism, maybe I should oil it though?
A cat hops onto the windowsill, I jump, startled and bemused, opening the window a little and stroking his ginger fur. Ordinarily I would scare him away, discouraging the children from inviting him in, these moments of rule breaking taken strictly when no-one was around to see. He's learned his lesson though, this house holds no desire for him, he jumps away as quickly as he'd appeared, vaulting the fence into the garden of my neighbour, amused, I listen to the sounds of their dogs threatening him. Then back to pouring my milk.
Being a smoker, I have a much weaker sense of smell and taste than most people, a fact i've grown to accept and actually enjoy - how many foul stenches had I been saved from in the past because of my bad habit? Removing the top from the milk carton I heaved, the milk wasn't spoiled, but it wasn't far away. Unfortunately milk is one of those foods I can't compromise on, if it doesn't smell 100% fresh I can't drink it. Even the scent of warm milk can turn my stomach.
I replace the carton, hearing my partners voice in my head, "It's not off, its fine."
"Yes dear, but its not fine enough for me." I guess I'm a dairy snob? What now? Tea, a nice soothing mug of tea. No. Cancel that order. A yawn tempts me to try sleep again. I mount the stairs slowly, deliberately, trying to remember which parts of which steps creak, undoubtedly I'll get it wrong and... yes, there we have it, I continue the climb unheeding of the groans from council timber. Am I really getting that heavy?
Dropping my robe as I close the bedroom door I once more climb into bed, my thoughts giving way to the automatic actions which pull my pillow closer, turning it to act as a cushion for my head and chest rather than my neck. I lay here, facing the wall, my eyes closed.
Tick tock tick tock tick tock. The normally inaudible sound of the clock in the living room reaches me. I ignore it for as long as I can before my heart tries to match it's rhythm, the pulse in my head too close to the beat, occasionally syncopated, I open my eyes, staring at the plain white wallpaper. One day we'll decorate this room.
It's not like I don't try to sleep. I've tried everything, even counting sheep, which I decided must simply be a way to bore the mind into submission. I live in the country, have done most of my life, sheep aren't worth counting, much better to just ignore them and count children instead, it seems there are more than enough of those in my life. I can't complain though, I sometimes think that only the children understand me.
Two feet away from me the wall blurs. I close my eyes and listen to the sound of my heart, once more a gentle rhythm, no longer struggling to match the clock. Tick tock tick tock tick oh damn it. I open my eyes again, sighing heavily.
I see something. Something small. Had the cat come in after all while I wasn't looking? Did I close the kitchen window? It moved. Definately not a cat. I turn my head a little, my perception is off, the wall, which I can feel against my elbow, doesn't seem to be there, it almost seems that i'm now looking into a mirror. There he sits; four feet away, his evil glare focused not upon me, but upon the being beneath him.
I blink. Tiredness causes hallucination, wake dreaming I supposed.
He looks like a small baby, one who can crawl but not yet walk. His hands tiny and yet huge for his size, more than capable of grasping her by the throat, and he does. I sit up, looking closer, frowning. Behind me I feel my partner stir, in the hall I hear the water pump click on. Rain patters the window behind me. I am awake.
This monsterous cherub sits astride the blonde figure, his hands wrapped around her throat as you expect an adults to, squeezing the life from her. Am I hallucinating? I reach for him, to push him away from her but hurt my hand against the wall. Being a hobbyist writer my second thought is to watch, and learn what this means, to relay to you. Here we are, how do you like my insomnia so far?
There is no sound, I cannot hear her gargled struggling, only see the panic stricken scream she mouths. He smiles an evil twisted smile. This spawn of satan, fallen cherubin, possessed child, whatever, will kill her, and I will just watch.
"Can't sleep?" Her voice from behind
"No I can't." The vision gone, i frowned, its imprint burnt into my mind, a negative of the whole scene, "You should though"
"Okay" I stare at the same place on the wall, now simply white paint and wallpaper, what an imagination I have. The only problem is; lack of sleep tends to break the barrier between imagination and reality.
She's snoring now. How envious am I? What I would give to be able to lay down and vanish into the world of slumber so quickly. Even the drugs the doctor has given me don't help. What a pitiful situation, and here I am, in the middle of it, feeling sorry for myself.
Staring, I shuffle my pillow a little and settle back down. My imagination. And yet there he is again. A dark-haired 12 month old murderer, grotesque are his features, his bulbous nose, thick dark lips, needle like teeth. Eyebrows so dense they almost seem fake. Of course the whole thing is fake.
He lowers his head, face dipping out of sight, only the back of his mass of black hair visible, he hides behind the mound of my pillow. I raise myself, almost startled at how well my perception adjusts the viewing angle, lighting etc. This is what becomes of working with computers - I'm a permanent, self-created geek.
As his head returns to view, I see him stuffing a dark object into his mouth, tearing chunks from it with his savage teeth, tendrils and strings pull the object back, like a huge array of elastic bands. Her heart, he's eating her heart. I lunge, banging my head against the wall, seeing the heart pulse in his hand, the viscious grin it draws from him as he bites into the raw muscle once more.
"STOP!" I yell involuntarily, coaxing a murmer from behind me, moments later a light comes on in the hallway, but still the creature, the baby remains. Firmly routed in my conscious. Now I'm scared.
I back slowly away from the wall, shuffling into my partner and disturbing her further. I clasp my hands over my face, hoping the vision will remain, proving it to be a work of my overly tired and overly worked imagination, but no - it vanishes behind my closed fingers. The bedroom light clicks on. The vision is gone. A 12 year old stands in my doorway, "Are you okay in here?"
"Yes, I had a bad dream is all."
I turn back to the wall. He's gone. She's gone. Sighing a heavy breath of relief I push my pillow against that section of the wall and turn away, thanking my god for my understanding of the human mind. Still, even though I knew I'd imagined the whole thing, it had shaken me.
Strangely, sleep came quickly after that.
I dreamt the vision once more... this time, my partner was the victim, dreaming that I woke finding the creature on her chest, tearing aside great chunks of her flesh, breaking rib bones, clawing, biting. I swat him, over and over, screaming for him to leave her alone, but he won't, indefatigable he works, snapping at my hands like a dog before sinking his claws further into her.
Blood soaks the bed, the pillows, I realise with horror she's awake, she knows. She's staring at me, her eyes wide, "Please...." she mouths, begging for me to stop him... I swat once more, catching him cleanly, sending him flailing to hit the wall, he lays still.
"Jesus." I manage, looking at her chest, I reach, tentatively, what can I do? My phone, ambulance, call an ambulance. I snatch my phone from the windowsill and dial 999, knowing there's a better number to call but not caring, "Hello I need an ambulance, yes" Her eyes widen, staring through me, past me. No! I can't resusitate her,
"Don't, don't you fucking die."
I wake. Face down on the bed, my back screaming with an expected agony. I move, forcing more pain out of the limitless recurring injury. The dream. I had slept. Fantastic. I turn over slowly, wincing against the stiffness, and then I freeze.
The blood stained wall, once white. The strands of hair clinging to the blood, matted in to its congealed existance. The cherub beyond, snarling through the wall, burning yellow eyes chilling me to the very core. The brunette, my partner, laying beneath him. Torn open, blue tinged, organs strewn from her torso.
The mobile phone still in my hand.