Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Talking in his sleep

Rolling back and forth on the inexpensive mattress, Marleen could not get comfortable. It probably wasn't really the mattresses fault, most nights she slept very well, but tonight she just could not settle in. The pillow felt hard and hot under her head, her sides and neck and back were sore and would not relax, and her mind kept spinning with the events of the day.

If at least the day had been interesting, she would understand the need for mental resolution, but it had been a regular dull day in every way she could consider. She got up that morning a little behind schedule, rushed through her regular routine, dressed herself not quite to her satisfaction, and then tumbled on downstairs to her car. In the car she fumbled through the typical morning radio programs, always careful to keep her eyes on the road as much as possible, and made a safe and uneventful progression to the office.

At work little more of interest took place. Her boss was his usual overly friendly self, her coworkers made their usual banter and her workday went quite as expected. Her trip home, dinner preparations, television viewing and eventual settling down to bed, all routine. Yet, here she was. It was all hours of the morning and she could not sleep. Her mind kept spinning and spinning over each agonizingly dull detail of the day to the point where she feared she might go mad if it continued.

Rolling over on to her side, she cast her eyes on the large mound of slumbering flesh that lay in the bed beside her. Her husband was a good sleeper, a deep sleeper. Nothing short of the house tumbling down would wake him once he drifted off, a journey that rarely took more then a couple minutes once he was safely tucked away under the covers. While she lay in bed as awake as if it was mid day, he slumbered on through the night in stark contrast.

Jealously she eyed his side, the mound of blankets moving up and down with each long easy breath. She imagined how it must feel, to be completely lost in restorative sleep, the deep uninterrupted relaxation filling her body with blissful rest. Random images floating through her mind as the days events unbuckled and released, one tiny piece at a time. She felt her body sinking down through the mattress, as each uninteresting moment from her day floated up above her and gently faded out of sight. Her limbs grew numb, the pain in her neck eased, and she started to lose any sense of her body at all. She felt like a circle of energy floating in water and gently, gently spinning as all colour and light began to fade.

And then she slept, but not for long.

As if she'd been splashed in the face with ice cold water, Marleen awoke suddenly and violently. She felt a sharp rush of adrenaline through her system, her body tightened and she sucked air hard through her throat. She sat up in bed, sweat dripping from her brow and soaking through the over sized t-shirt she'd warn to bed. Her head pounded with pain, and tears started to form around her eyes. Trying to blink away the gush of salty water, she looked over to the alarm clock on the dresser near the base of the bed. Fifteen minutes, that was all she got. Fifteen minutes of rest, and now she was in worse shape then before. Her husband shifted to his back with a slight grunt, and then commenced his deep rhythmic breathing.

She clutched her arms tight at her side, she was quickly getting cold and felt a wave of nausea erupting up through her stomach. This was too much. She had to get back to sleep. She didn't want to be a wreck at the office that day, everyone would think something was wrong, would hound her with annoying questions. Was it marriage troubles, they would ask, or a sickness in the family or any number of other unenlightening suggestions. No, she did not want that at all but really, what could she do about it?

Marleen laid back in bed, pulling the covers up high over her cold sweaty body, and just listened to the sounds of the night. The house was quiet, but no house is ever completely silent. There were slight creaks and groans as the wood and bricks settled bit by bit under their own weight. Somewhere above she could almost make out tiny footsteps, possibly a raccoon on the roof or some other critter who believed himself unobserved. She focused her whole attention on these tiny sounds, and tried to will herself to relax. She forced herself to breath slow and deep, and just kept listening to the pat pat of tiny footsteps. And then her husband spoke.

"Between the bricks and the shed"," he croaked, barely audible but the night was so quiet she could make it out. "Behind the bricks, by the shed," he said again, clearer this time. "The one with the blood on it." This got her attention. A couple summers back, while working on the garden out back, she had scraped her head on a nail that was sticking out from the trim on the shed. She was fine, but it had bled quite a lot and she'd gotten some on one of the large concrete bricks near the back of the house. She'd never bothered to clean it off and as far as she knew it was still there, though she didn't often get back to that part of the yard anymore.

She turned over and leaned closer to her sleeping husband, and listened for more but he just laid there breathing quietly. Attempting to prompt him, she whispered gently: "What's out by the shed?" but again, he was silent. She asked one more time and he grunted really loud, giving her a start, and rolled back on his side facing away. It seemed he was genuinely finished delivering tantalizing messages for the night.

She rolled on to her back again, lost in thought. In her mind she imagined herself getting up, slowly pulling the blankets aside, putting on a robe and slipping into her plastic home shoes. She walked down the hallway, trying to be careful not to cause loud creaks in the floor or knock her foot against the metal door blocker, resulting in a hilarious and extremely inappropriate sound for this hour of the night. Not that it would have woken her husband anyway, but she didn't want to have to explain herself if it did. She imagined herself carefully unlocking the back door, and pulling it open, a cool breeze flooding though, tossing her hair back and causing a few papers on the table nearby to flutter. She pushed against the screen down and stealthily squeezed past. Stepping gingerly on the stone tiles, she could almost feel the cold snake up through her feet with every step. She was nearing the shed now, and could see the large concrete bricks that poked up through the ground. A few more steps now, and yes, there it was.

The brick had a faded but visible smudge of crimson near one corner. Slowly she got down on her knees, and made her way on all fours to examine the brick more closely, her hands getting dirty as they pressed against the long since abandoned flower bed. Despite her excitement, she tried not to damage any of the perennial shoots that were rising up from the hard gray dirt. Now with her full attention on the wall, she traced the edges of the brick with her hands, closed her eyes, and gave the brick a push. She felt the wall give way, sliding forward as if it was made of warm ice and she too slid forward, following it through.

Marleen opened her eyes and saw the ceiling above her bed. The light was all wrong. Glancing around she found the alarm clock on the dresser. It was eight forty. She was supposed to be at work in twenty minutes. This time her husband did groggily stir as she pounced out of bed in a frenzy. She was going to be late, but if she hurried she could still make a meeting at nine thirty. At least she wasn't tired, in fact she felt as if she had slept for days. Even as she ran about the house tossing clothes here and makeup there, she couldn't quite shake an uneasy feeling in the back of her mind. Was there something she'd forgotten? She made sure as she left the house to double check that she had everything she needed for the day. Satisfied that she'd remembered everything, she shook the feeling from her head and managed not to think of it again.

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