Why Can't I Sleep?

from Tyler Martin

Sept. 4, 2013, 11:25 p.m.

It's been getting worse. Each and every night, it's been getting worse. There is something there, I swear it. There is something in the black nothingness of the night. It's staring at me. It isn't there. Nothing is there. Nothing is there. Why won't it let me sleep? This isn't real. It can't be. It's just some nightmare. I'll wake up, right? It's just like the other night. Nothing but a nightmare, not reality, right? Maybe I can figure this out. I'll start from the beginning. I want to figure out why I can't sleep.

Things started out just about three days ago. The day was dull. Monotonous. Like every other day. I live by myself in a single bed, single bath apartment in a town that you've never heard of and probably never will. Nothing happens here. We exist. We go about our daily lives with no aspirations to do anything more. It's sad. This town is a black hole that sucks in the average person and drains them of any ambition. Motivation comes here to die a mind-numbingly, soul-crushingly, slow death. The worst part is that no one cares. No one cares that their lives are wasting away into anonymity. There's no life in this town despite all the people living here. I'm sorry, I'm ranting. It's so easy to be distracted when your mind is so fatigued.

The point I was trying to make was that I know nothing was out of the ordinary in any way because I would have noticed anything different, remarkable or unremarkable, in this hollow shell of a town. After I finished dinner, I decided to take a shower and head to bed. While I was in my bathroom preparing for my shower, I heard a faint tapping at my window in my bedroom. There is a tree right outside of my window, and when the wind blows, it will occasionally tap against it. Normally, I wouldn't have paid any attention to this, but the tapping seemed more rhythmic than usual. It was a constant tap tap tap tap tap instead of the familiar taps and scratches coming at intermittent times with the gusts of wind. This wasn't something I necessarily paid any amount of attention to, it was just something I noticed. I took my shower without incident and when I went back into my bedroom I put on my clothes and went to sleep. That's when things started to get strange. Normally, I have weird dreams, and I realize this during them. I like to think that my brain finds a way to stimulate itself through my dreams because of the dreariness of life in my town. This dream wasn't like the rest though. Don't get me wrong, it was weird, but it felt different. It felt real.

The night was dark with only a few streetlights in the distance and faint stars radiating light. I was sitting on my windowsill outside of my room, my bare feet hanging in the crisp, dry air. A gust of wind breezed through my toes sending a shiver all the way up my body. There was a chill down my spine as the hairs on the back of my neck began to rise. I started looking around and saw a man dressed in a nice suit enter my building four-stories below. Then, all of a sudden, a sickening thud hit my ears. My window had slammed shut. Somehow I hadn't fallen though. I felt a churning in the pit of my stomach. I knew something was wrong. I closed my eyes and tried to tell myself that everything was alright. Finally, I worked up enough courage to turn around and try to open the window. That's when my heart sank. The man was standing inside my room staring at me through my own window. I tried letting out a horrified scream, but nothing came out. I was paralyzed with fear. I felt my skin pale and my heart leap out of my chest. The man was just staring at me. He had no face. I could just feel him staring at me though. Suddenly, he turned and walked away as if he was satisfied with what he saw. I was stuck. I needed in. So I did the only thing I could think to do. I started tapping on the window. The man froze. I had caught his attention. I screamed for him to let me in. He rotated his head and then the rest of his body to face me and stared. There was something else too though. Something more disturbing. Something that made my skin crawl as I realized it. He was smiling. A sadistic smile. A cat playing with mouse before it decides it's ready for dinner. Then, without speaking a word, his steely voice echoed through my ears. He whispered, "sweet dreams," and then exited my view. Suddenly, out of nowhere, my room started to fill with smoke and then flames. In an instant, my apartment had caught fire. This was no regular fire. The flames did not burn bright. Instead, they emitted darkness, and soon my vision filled with black. I felt a searing pain, a combination of heat and intense pressure. The fire swallowed me whole.

I woke up in a cold sweat with my heart was racing. I took a deep breath and thanked god that it was only a terrible nightmare. Then I got up and started my day as usual. I was a bit off kilter, but I figured after such a horrifyingly realistic dream that it was understandable. I put it in the back of my mind as I started the menial tasks that controlled the majority of my days. By midday, I had already completely forgotten what my brain had put me through the night before. I was consumed with my regular routine. As my day ended, I came back to my apartment and began the rituals that I performed every night before falling asleep. I eased into bed ready for the day to be over and the next to start. I closed my eyes.

"Sweet dreams." I felt it. I felt the air next to my ears move as those words were uttered. My eyes sprang open and my body jumped. I sat up and looked around. No one. Just me and my overactive imagination. I turned on my radio and tried to calm myself down. Soon I was fine and ready to fall asleep. Then the tapping started. It didn't stop. It kept me up all night.

Sunrise was the most welcome sight of my entire life. I rushed out of bed and out to work. On my way out of the building, I noticed a man with his back turned to me. He was just standing around. He didn't seem out of place but at the same time, he didn't fit in. As I passed by him, I became ill. He was wearing a suit I had seen before. I walked out of the door and felt a familiar sensation. He was smiling.

I spent the entire day racking my brain, trying to figure out what was going on. I tried rationalizing everything, becoming blissfully ignorant. Finally, after much convincing, I had decided that there was nothing to be afraid of and that I was fine. Nothing was wrong. I performed my same tasks until it was time for bed. I needed sleep. I was exhausted. My head hit the pillow and it was lights out. At least I thought it was. That damn tapping started again. Furiously, I ripped off my sheet, stormed over to the window, and withdrew my blinds. As I had suspected, there was nothing but the tree, the view, and my reflection. Satisfied, I closed my blinds and went back to bed. I turned up the radio. After settling down, I was ready for sweet sleep. That is until an unsettling thought creeped up in my mind. My reflection is supposed to be a mirror image of me. Horror set in as I recalled the image. My finger tapping against the glass. Panic gripped my body. I had to leave. I grabbed the first set of clothes that I could throw on and as much money as I could dig up and I left my apartment. I exited my building and started towards the bus station. I had to leave. I arrived at the station, bought the first ticket out of town, and sat on a bench as I waited. Soon, the bus arrived and I climbed on in a hurry. It was fairly empty with no more than five people on it, understandable for that time of night. I walked to a seat and passed some of the other bus-goers. One stuck out though. A man, wearing a suit was reaching down for something. I sat several seats behind him. Then he sat up. He kept facing forward as he said, "odd time of night to be traveling with no luggage. Running away, are ya?" My heart sank. I replied that I just needed to leave town to straighten some things out. He laughed and said, "that's what they all say, too bad it never helps."

The rest of the ride was spent in silence. I was too afraid to sleep. I got in to my destination before sunrise and that's where I'm at now. I can't tell if I'm going crazy or what. All I know is that nothing is alright. I don't know what to do from here. I need help. I need sleep. I'm traumatized. I had hoped that going over everything would help me understand, but now I'm more confused. I think I'm going to go back tonight. I have nowhere to stay and not enough money to find somewhere temporary. It should be fine. This isn't real. It can't be. It's just some nightmare. I'll wake up, right? I'm fine. I'm fine. I'm fine. I'm fine.


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