Listen. The warning of a steady click, counts the tick of time. It is the sound of my heartbeat, reminding me I live, and the sound of the second hand rotating past time. Forget sheep, I have counted the seconds; ninety-nine, then I lost count by an interrupting chime – a distant ornament from the floor below, but it echoes and I hear it though the walls; the eleventh chime of a clockwork rhyme.
Sleep – and my eyes flick open like a camera shutter, but they won’t remember this image; the shadows in the dark or the angry glow from the alarm clock, which like a bomb, anonymously waits for its hour of display. No; no true image will conjure in my mind when I ask the tangle of tethered connections for a photo of the dark. It may try and form some false recollection of a filled ebony, forgetting the moonlight and the stars which intrude through the cascade of curtains; they themselves warping the grey nightlight. My mind will not remember the whimper of the silence, or the kiss of the starlight, or the shape of silhouettes – all will be stolen by sleep, if I sleep.
Is it not strange; how when you lie alone in the night, thoughts flood into your mind and you lose track of the trails when another thought barges past the previous. Then you try and get back on track and both tail-ends disappear into thin air. The sound of silence is left.
Foreign echoes. From a land that lives in my mind, purple dancers speak. I hear them like sirens; ebbing at the water’s edge calling for the love which they lost only to find upon close inspection that their hope is false, tearing apart the impostor in exaggerated rage. I pull my mind away from them and their misty shores. The dark is better than a deadly dream.
Where am I going with this? The night is still young – 11.30. Am I doomed to lie awake in dire contemplation whilst sleep weighs the point of wrapping me in its rocking arms? Its umming and ahhing are amplified by the boilers downstairs, the last load of the washing machine, the sound of the television falling, itself, into blessed rest. Hear the footsteps on the stairs, the owls are turning in, their nightly hunt for their own natural rhythms is over, their battle with mice in the dark ceases and they tarry to bed. Yet, I am still awake in the still, hot air.
Too hot. My eyes are growing heavy.
I turn over.
What is that strange silhouette breathing by the wardrobe? Goodness, some ominous figure watching me sleep, its face a moving warped splodge, eyes and nose twisted into some swirl and mouth in some evil smirk. I will not take my eyes off it. It moves gently back and forth, swaying to the beat of empty darkness. Where is the other side of my bed? Where is the wall? It is cold there, but I am further from that weird figure. It will warm up. Did I create that in the light? I do not remember.
Just turn the light on and it will go away. No, no it is over the other side of the bed, closer to that thing. I must be brave for a moment, I cannot stay in fear of something I accidentally created all night and thus not rest. This is not good – my heart it beats – the silence is louder. It thuds in my mind – my fingers are shaking. I must do it now, before I….
The light is on. The strange figure was only my clothes hanging on the wardrobe door, rustled gently by the wind from through the vent.
I must breathe a moment.
I suppose sleep is necessary. Although, I do not have the greatest inclination to face my own darkened perception of ordinary objects when the light is turned off again. Sometimes falling asleep in the light seems a much better option, though an improbable one.
The light is somewhat of a comfort. If I leave it on I know, that if I go to the window and peer behind the hung curtains, nothing will pounce at me. I know another thing: that if I step onto my floor, I will see every obstacle which in the dark can secretly reach out its arms and pull my weight to the ground. And I know: that if I leave the light and venture anywhere in this greyed out house, I can always run back to the light. So why would I wish to turn it off - why would anyone turn off the light when it is safety, when it is a little more warmth and a little more comfort? They will smother the light because they are not adventurers in the night. They do not seek the dangers or the flight or the mystery that is hidden in the shadows, they do not see the broken and the hurting cowering in the only place they have to call home, because they do not wish to, they have not this kind of bravery. But the bravery they possess which I do not: they will allow the darkness and shadows to encircle them as they sleep, they will dream in the daylight because they allowed all around them to become dark, they will see their own mysteries, which fixed in the daylight, come to life in the night. They will know who they are, how they think; I will forever only understand others.
That is, if I would only get up from forgotten rest and venture into the night, look after what is secret and hurting and hopeless, bringing my own nightlight with me so that they will learn to share the day.
If I do not, I will remain alone, with the light turned off, trying to understand what I think. Maybe that is the best option, the safest, because the only monster I will face is my own perception.
Who can blame the night, for being the company of solitude? Both melt into an image of an ink sky.