They Come to Her at Night. Short Story.

She didn’t want to sleep, she was afraid. Sleep is where the dreams lived.

Her eyes were sore and heavy, sleep would be the easiest thing right now, so simple, all she needed to do was close her eyes and then there would be nothing but that was the problem. There would be nothing, in the beginning. Then they would come, twisting and shifting and growing, spreading through her mind, sending out soft, silky tendrils that would expand and flex and wrap themselves around everything and anything, entrenching her deeper and deeper into the world they create. The dreams were nasty skulking things that liked to sneak up on a person, come at them in the dark, at night when their walls are down, when all protective measures have been relaxed, when they are most vulnerable. That’s when the dreams attack.

She doesn’t know what they get out of it, not really. Originally she had thought life, that once they lived out their dark fantasies they would be gone forever, but they kept returning, a dream is an idea and an idea can never die. It may go away for a short time, maybe even a long time, but it will always return. She stood from the couch, it was too warm, too cosy, it lulled her, creating a false sense of security so that she would begin to relax and her head would begin to nod until finally the darkness rushed in victorious. She’d been having these dreams for months, maybe years. Time was hard to keep track of. She didn’t work so the days melded into one another, she couldn’t work. How could she when she was so damn tired all the time. Sleep is the ultimate tease, promising rest and restoration but instead it takes everything and leaves little behind. She will be a little less tired, but never rested, never sated. Her body felt slow and sluggish, her mind was trying to think but each thought was like wading through mud, struggling to go anywhere and trying to reach the next chain before it dies of exhaustion. Sometimes she thinks that might be best. Dying. Just surrendering to eternal darkness, she has in some of her more sleep deprived states been ready to do it, the only thing delaying her is the fear. Fear of what death will be like. What if it’s the dreams, forever. No escape.

She had a variety of tricks to keep herself awake, she drank coffee, though mostly she did it for the taste, it no longer seemed to have any great power in keeping her awake, cold showers to shock the body and mind to alertness, horror movies, the sudden adrenaline rushes would ensure she stayed awake for another few hours. Strangely, horror movies did not scare her, not in the way the dreams did, she knew they were fake, sure in the moment, when they pulled her in they could make her feel fear and jump, but it was different. She always knew, somewhere, that they were not real, it was all pretend, but the dreams had no such mercy. Everything was real, nothing was impossible and it was all hell. She used her computer a lot, that was useful, a way to distract herself from the impending sleep. She lived her life like this, trying to stave off sleep until it eventually takes over and she drifts away where ever she is. When she was younger she would wake up screaming, but her parents frightened faces soon put a stop to it. She sometimes woke with a whimper, but that was as loud as she got. She hated and loved those moments of utter disorientation, hated them as she was still in the dream, still in the dark hell, alone and loved because they signalled the end of the darkness, she could reorientate herself and relax, knowing she was safe again for a little while.
She had been given, and tried, all sorts of drugs to ensure restful sleep, sleep without dreams, but they never worked, they just imprisoned her for longer, she couldn’t snap awake, instead she had to wait it out, fighting against the drug that shut her body down until finally it released its grip long enough for her to free herself.

Most days passed by in a strange blur, time became meaningless, was it this morning that she made tea? Or was it yesterday? Did the repairman come this week or last? Sometimes she could go months without interacting with another human being without realising it. Her siblings and parents were usually good about visiting her, but their visits gradually declined from long stays to short visits to make sure that she was still ok, that she had everything she needed. She sometimes felt bad about the fact they were supporting her, but then the grey cocoon enveloped her again and she was lost to the world, a strange, sleepless waif, with pale skin and deep, dark stains under her eyes that moved throughout her home, never quite sure who she was or what she was doing.


About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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