There are a number of things that must be done before I can go to sleep. My therapist calls this sleep hygiene; I call it staying sane. I check all of the locks and windows three times. I then turn on my bedroom light before turning the rest in the house off. Scuttling back to my bedroom, I turn on a small blue lamp in the shape of a star that is on my nightstand. Main light off, I wiggle under my blankets and free my feet, being careful not to let them venture off the bed. I take two sips of water and allow myself to slip into oblivion.
Until a year ago, sleep was always something that I enjoyed. I loved to loll in bed on Sunday mornings. The dream changed that. I feel asleep one night in late July and there he was, FDR standing at the foot of my bed. It felt so life like that, at first, I couldn’t make sense of it. It was only when the silhouette of our 32nd president leaned forward did I realize that it had to be a dream. His death-cold hand clamped down on my ankle and I woke screaming. This was before Mitch left. I remember shaking him awake and recounting the dream to him. He held me and cooed himself back to sleep. I went back to sleep trying not to think about it.
Three nights later I had the same dream. Then two nights after that. Then the next night. There were few variances to the theme. Sometimes he would have Teddy with him but most of the time it was just good old Frankie, staring down at me. Snatching at me. After a few months of this Mitch suggested that I go to counseling, which I did. It wasn’t soon enough to save our relationship. I developed methods to keep the dreams at bay.
If I forget a step, he’s there. I can feel violence radiating off of him. He means to teach me a lesson. I haven’t been able to figure out what he wants me to learn though, so he keeps coming back. At time he slips through my defenses, he edges a little closer to my head. His toothy grin fills my waking thoughts.
I was grocery shopping, it was a rare occasion when I actually leave my house. My hands trembled from lack of sleep. There had been a power outage last night and I hadn’t dared to close my eyes before the sun was up. I was standing in the dairy section, by the cheese, when I saw him. FDR was standing by the ice cream, leering at me. I rubbed my eyes and wondered if I could be asleep. He wasn’t moving towards me, just staring. I pinch my leg, hard, and it hurts, but the image doesn’t waiver. His head lowered and his smile widened and I found myself screaming. The hospital was a temporary respite.
I preformed my sleep rituals meticulously, adding sleeping pills and anti-anxieties. Eventually everything stopped helping. I see that bastard everywhere. He leans over me in my dreams, never speaking. Teddy will watch from the corner, moonlight glinting off of his glasses. I wake, sweat drenched, clutching myself. He is the devourer. I always have an overwhelming sense that what he really wants to do is eat me alive. I can imagine a fork and knife in Teddy’s paw like hands. My nostrils are perpetually filled with the scent of blood.
I was dreaming again but this time was different. It had to be a dream because I was standing in my darkened living room, something I would never do. I was wearing my pink cotton shorts and a light blue tank top. I was sure that this wasn’t what I wore to bed. I started to reach a hand up to run through my hair but there’s something in my hand. I was holding the butcher knife that I had put in my dishwasher before bed. It’s one of those sharp, Japanese made ones. There was another drastic change: I didn’t feel powerless. I could hear rustling from my bedroom and I slowly crept towards the door. Raising the butcher knife, I peeked inside to find Frankie snatching to blankets from my bed. He was alone this time.
The deep guttural sound of rage that came from him forced me back from the door. I must have made some small sound because he turned suddenly and his one visible eye met mine.
I woke, sitting up, trembling. I don’t know how it had happened, but there had been a power play and I was in the game. I reminded myself of the ginsu chef’s knife that I had recently bought. Its pointed end would make a much better weapon.
It had been days since my last encounter with him. His appearances were all but gone. Mere hints of his presence around corners, shadows of blood-scent on the winds. The only inkling I had that he was not gone forever was a whisper of silhouette, a shadow cast in his distinct profile to remind me of him.
Then it happened.
After 6 days and nights of a mixture of pre-storm calm and ebbing peace, I was here. I found my bare shoulders pressed against cold ceramic. I ‘awoke’ curled in my bathtub, my mind creating colors in the absence of light. The ginsu was balled in my fist so tightly that my knuckles ached. The point of it was pressed into my thigh above my knee and I could feel blood starting to roll. I refused to do this any longer.
Standing, I pulled back the white, waffled shower curtain and stepped out. It was only three paces to the bathroom door then I was in my bedroom. It was at least 10 degrees cooler. I could see him standing impotent at the side of my bed. Gathering all of my courage, I raised the knife and slipped behind him. He turned before I had a chance to plunge it into his back. He was grinning down at me. He smelt of death.
“What do you want from me?” I cried in anger and frustration.
“Your soul,” he replied in a voice that sounded like gas escaping a corpse.
| COPYRIGHT 2006-2011
Portland Fiction Project
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED