Through the darkness, the ticking clock sounds its countdown to the dawn of a new day. Just another day he thinks to himself. Beneath his eye lids he could hear it all, the way the world moved gracefully around him, the eery way the storm birds called out into the dead of night, to the soft buzzing of the electrical lines outside. Cracking tired and restless eyes open, he faces the window. Darkened curtains hiding in the shadows hang either side of the window bay, resting peacefully on the floorboards, unmoving. The room is lit by the orange shade of a street lamp, standing lonesome and bright, illuminating half the road and a small patch of dried grass before the shadows seep over, refusing to give light to the darkness. David had lost track of what day it was, how many hours he had lost to sleep deprivation, all he knew was that this was going to be another night of thoughts and restlessness.
His eyes are closed but his mind demands to be alive. He recalls the conversation he had with his doctor just the week before, sitting in the clinical coolness of the blue padded chair.
“Doctor I can’t seem to sleep.”
“Is it fear or stress that’s keeping you awake?”
The way the doctor pushed up his glasses and frowned was something that should be concerning, only he said nothing at all. The way his stomach tightened in the silence told him he knew something more, something dark.
“Is there anything you can do for me doc?”
“I’m afraid not David….Try counting sheep.”
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6… Fuck it. Useless experiment
It was pointless, nothing worked. Cracking tired and weary eyes open he casts his red-rimmed eyes out towards the lonesome street lamp. The warmth of the pale orange light brought a sense of warmth to this cold December night. He had taken the little blue over the counter pills but it was no use. He could not sleep. Through the bathing warm glaze of the streetlamp David glances towards his bedside table, shadows of stacked books and failed magazines visible in the red shade of pills in the neat form of numerals, 2:30am. They didn’t work either. It wasn’t long until he had to rise and start another tiresome and everlasting day.
A harsh and sudden wind howls against the window snapping his head upwards in fright. David turns glancing at the small window, his lungs now seized. Shadows of the shrubbery dance along the snow frosted window sill. He sighs, laying back down as relief flows through his veins, tingling receding in his limbs and breath steadying. He rolls over, sheets shifting loudly in the calmness of the night, the clock lit up under the pale shade of the moonlight.
“Shit David, keep it together man.” He whispers to himself, rubbing a cool hand across his forehead in distress. It was ok. Nothing was out there. It was just him, his dog Stanley…Just them, alone inside of their home, they were safe. With a final sigh, David rolled over, back facing the window, facing the darkness as he waited out another night.
His heart pounds against the restraints of its cage, begging to break free, snap free of its strings and run away. His breath comes in short rapid pants, coming out in frosted puffs. It’s only the shrubs, he thinks to himself.
Tap, Tap. Tap
It’s steady and lagging in rhythm, slow, but determined to grab his attention. David lifts his head, weary and exhausted as he turns from his side to peer out the window. Fingertips tap repeatedly behind frosted glass in a steady rhythm, stopping and withdrawing from there action upon being watched. Flicking back his heavy bedding, he makes for the window. Goosebumps rise against his skin at the sudden exposure to the cool winter air. This place was always cold in winter he thinks to himself as he pushes the frozen latch at the base of the window sill open with difficulty. With a sudden wave of bravery he pushes the small glass window up, exposing the house to the predator he thought was lurking in the shrubbery beneath the small opening. Peaking his head out, looking left before looking right, he found nothing but the untrimmed twigs resting against the frame, swinging blissfully in the steady breeze.
“Hello” David calls, voice rusted with anxiousness and a lack of sleep. Deciding it was nothing but the power of his imagination he shuts the window in an angered harshness before forcing the latch shut and returning to his bed.
“Fucking stupid …There’s nothing out there you moron..Go to sleep.” He demands to himself in a broken whisper, yanking the covers up to his shoulders in frustration, his tiredness wearing thin on his emotional wellbeing. He forced his eyes shut and wiped his mind clean, counting the sheep furiously, begging for sleep to return and take him away from his distress.
For an hour, perhaps two, he could not tell, the world was silent, his mind was at rest and he was dead to the world. He had counted one too many sheep, but dare he say it had worked to calm his anxiety and relax his mind. He’s bordering sleep now, dazed and relaxed as visions of sheep jump to and fro in the walls of his mind. He can feel himself slipping into unconsciousness, a spread of happiness and warmth fills his body. Finally David thinks to himself.
Tap, Tap, Tap
It’s more defined now. David squeezes his eyes shut, begging it not to be as the tapping returns. Returning in a slow soft rhythm, so soft it was barely recognisable. Rolling over David notes the time on his alarm clock, 3:30am.
“Awesome.” David sighs tiredly as he looks to the window, all tapping has ceased. Strange, he thought. Stanley begins to bark outside the bedroom door as the normally steady street lamp begins to flicker. David looks on, alarmed and shaken as the street lamp struggles to regains its strength. Fighting for unconsciousness yet wanting to be alive. David smirks to himself as he lays back down and watches the flickering fight for unconsciousness rage outside his window. He could not help but relate to the lamp. The orange shade and flickering madness calms him and soon his eyes close on there own terms. David tries to fights back, wanting to watch for just that little bit longer. He forces his eyes open, blinking steadily as the light flickers to a still. A man stands stationary, leaning against the lamp post facing Davids bedroom window, face tilted downwards under the shade of his trilby hat. He gives a small wave with the trickling of a few fingers. Blinking in confusion, David fights to stay conscious. The mysterious man had not been there just a few seconds before. Stanley yelps downstairs as the darkness consumes David, his world fading to black.
David awakes to the sound of soft humming, it was pleasant yet out of tune. His body coated in sweat and limbs now tingling in fear as he is unable to move.
Tap, Tap …Tap.
David turns his eyes to the bedside table to see the outline of a tall man, sitting in the grey material chair beside his bed. His long fingernails tapping on the wooden oak tabletop, walking themselves steadily towards the edge closer to him before retreating once again. He captures a glimpse of the time, 6:30am. David jerks his head away, unable to look staring up at the ceiling pleading for sleep to return. He clenches his eyes shut.
“Make it stop, God make it stop!” He sobs before the tapping recedes. With caution he opens his eyes to the sound of soft swinging coming from the hanging pendent lamp above his head. The figure stands from his chair, his tall appearance and trilby hat now evident in the soft glow of the rising sun. The humming continues as tears track down Davids cheeks, catching in the crevices of his nose and lips. His heart pounds viciously in his defence as the man descends a hand down towards Jack’s face. His leather like skin and the cool smoothness of his overly unclipped nails brush the tears away as he ushered the word in a soft concluding hum.
“Sleep.” He demands as the sun begins to rise before vanishing in a cloud of grey smoke as David falls into induced unconsciousness.
David jerks upright, feeling now regained in all his limbs. He trembles as he looks around. The chair is empty, the ceiling light now still, the window is locked, the sun had risen. Everything was in normal condition as he left it before he fell asleep. Flicking the bedding back he stands, feet making cool contact with the wooden floorboards. The alarm begins to shout as David turns in his defence and knocks it off, hitting the snooze button, 7:45am. David notes the encounter had only just occurred a little over an hour before as he races towards the window and pushes the frozen lockstitch sideways, successfully opening the glass panel and sliding it up in a screech. He pushes his head outside, the morning sun now warm against his pale skin, and the air now has a fresh coolness to it that burns the hair from his nostrils as he looks down at the shrubbery. The bushes had been con-caved towards the window as if leant on for a better view. David breath caught in his chest as he extends a hand down to rub the outside ledge noticing ten distinctive claw marks lay carved into the white painted frame, exposing the tanned surface beneath the paint. David creases his brow as he remembers the feeling of the mans long fingernails rubbing against his cheek to sooth his fear and dry his tears. Looking down upon his surroundings the sun catches light on a piece of metal lying at the bottom the bushes attached to that of what appeared to be a small grey hat. Confused and curiosity getting the better of him, David reaches down into the shrubbery as the streetlight flickers on again. His gaze diverts as he wonders why such a lamp would turn on at this hour. The sudden and heavy weight of a hand encloses around his wrist capturing David off guard, attempting to drag him down towards the depths of the bushes below. David screams and tears his arm free from the harsh twisting grip. Nails slice through his skin in unsteady streaks as he breaks free. Slamming the window shut, he locks it in a hurry before looking down at the bushes. Nothing was reaching upwards, there were no hands, no nails. There was just a bush. Streams of crimson pour down his arms as his head begins to lighten. David stumbles against the furniture, leaving a bloody hand print swiped across the glass of the small window. His blood drips a steady trail onto the polished floorboards as he collapses into a small space beside his grey material chair and oak bed frame. David stares down in horror at the heavy blood flow as footsteps echo down the hall. Closer, coming closer now. The mans boots casts a shadow beneath the slit of the door as he comes to a stop. He groans .
Knock, knock, knock.
He looks up as the shadowed man enters his bedroom with a creaked shove of the door. Uninvited.
“No, no, no, no.” He begins to beg, as the man kneels before him, humming a familiar tune. David watches as the man extends a hand out, cupping his cheek in its rough familiar palm.
“Sleep” it demands, mouth extending wide, face now distorted. David begins to feel lifeless, his body no longer willing to fight the blood loss as he succumbs to death in a heavy heap on the floor.
Sleep was forever his now. It had taken him.