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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Horror/Scary · #2031765
In the night she watches him waiting for him to face a truth that will set them both free.

                                                                            The Sleeper

Shuffling across the kitchen floor head bowed, pushing around a worn, tattered pair of slippers that were barely able to hold onto his feet, he paced back and forth with incoherent mumbles dripping from his lips. Above him the dull diffused light of dimmed ceiling spots cast him in sinister shadow. His dark faded dressing gown gapped open, the long ragged belt sitting uneven through loops, trailed down one side following him like an apathetic appendage expecting amputation as it was dragged uselessly in his wake.

Ignoring his obvious bed head she stood watching him from the doorway, arms folded across her chest, brow furrowed and a deep set mask of fearful concern etched across her face as her head leaned to one side resting on the door frame. Night upon night now she had stood here in the doorway watching his somnambulant ambling, searching for clues in his actions and demeanour, something, anything that would show her he understood why these episodes persisted.  Listening intently to his garbled rambling, trying to decipher words, untangle incoherence in order to make order of what she increasingly believed was order-less, she had watched and waited.  He was sick with denial, in her heart she knew


Oblivious to her presence, fingers mindlessly fidgeting with the hem of his robe he glanced up at the clock on the wall above the counter, pausing momentarily mid step -more mumbling- head shaking slowly as some silent inner disagreement persisted. His head cocked, left ear raised to the ceiling as if discerning something she could not hear, or had missed maybe. There he stood, still, statuesque.  The dull, inoculate ticking clock became the only indication of motion within the dimly lit enclosure of the kitchen, its deep muffled rhythm seemed suddenly to fill the room like the sound of ominous drums beating in some far away distance.  The frozen moment thawed and his whispered rambling, foot dragging ambling continued.  A cold shiver ran through her and she couldn't help but think that she had missed or overlooked some significance in those few seconds of his active inaction.

She had fretted and worried, watching, waiting for him to give her some hidden indication that he comprehended what was troubling him night after night. Armchair analyzing his slightest movement his every murmur, and still she saw he was no closer to reaching anything like an answer, anything that would maybe cling to him releasing her from this nightly vigil. These wanderings of his he never remembered, had no recollection or recall of and so tomorrow night, oblivious to the fact that he had spent three maybe four hours wandering around the kitchen, wearing out the soles of his slippers fiddling with his robe or bottom lip in a parody of worry, anxiety and stress he would continue his nocturnal routine. All the while he was lost to her, deep in the solace of Morpheus' embrace. She stood there watching him stumble backwards and forwards in his twilight state of discombobulated torture. Torture from sources unknown unimaginable to his waking mind. He didn't even know, wasn't even aware that he was lost in a cyclone of apparent pain and confusion.

Yet deep inside, his head was a whirlwind. A raging torrent filled with darkness and the incessant tick tock of the mounted timepiece. It echoed as if he were hearing it under water, muffled, deflected somehow. It's meaning just out of reach, beyond any keening he could muster, no matter how hard he tried or what avenue he perused, translation became impossibly apparent. Sitting on the tip of his metaphorical tongue, there but not there, an answer he refused to acknowledge. An answer his comprehension failed to reach, denying him the ability to accept or make sense of. A truth wrapped in the lie of mistranslation, something he refused to accept or believe. A truth so painful as to reject his conscious self, and the storm continued to rage inside, relentless.

She watched, mindful of the revolution taking place inside him. Totally, unequivocally aware of the forces that raged in his broken mind, as it hurtled towards the epiphany that her furrowed brow concealed. She could not help him he had to find this truth on his own. Her concern kept hidden with crossed arms and a casually leaned head. She would have to leave soon, time seemed to pass so quickly when she watched him, the minutes and hours feel away like water falling through cupped hands. She could already hear the birdsong rising in its dawn chorus and knew he would turn and leave himself soon.

She wanted to reach out to him, to comfort him but she knew she couldn't. He was beyond her embrace now. She turned to leave, her heart weighted with a truth she could not share with him. She knew just as surely as he did not both the truth and the reason it hid away in his mind. She had barely taken a single step out of the kitchen when she heard him utter the first coherent word he had spoken for nights now.

"No." He croaked. She stopped, looked over her shoulder at him. His back still to her she could make out his head shaking slowly from left to right.

"No." He repeated, this time the word was clearer, louder. She turned around fully, facing his back again. Hope sprang into her aching heart.

"NO!" He screamed. "NO,NO,NO.NO!" He had collapsed into a disjointed heap on the floor. His shoulders jerking in unison with the heavy sobs emanating from his bowed head.

"Why?" He asked the cold empty shadows in the kitchen.

"My god, what have I done?"

She stood frozen to the spot. Was this it? She thought. Was this to be his moment of revelation that would free them both from this torturous cycle they seemed doomed to repeat night after night? She could almost feel the weight lifting from him. There seemed an almost palpable lightness to the atmosphere in the room, she wouldn't have to stay much longer now she knew.

"I'm sorry." He announced. "Heaven help me I'm sorry." She could hear the heart wrenching honesty in his words but she knew that no pleas or protests would help him now. Her disembodied self began to tingle all over, her essence or soul began to shimmer and glow illuminating the air around her. She felt a lightness, as if she were weightless, being drawn up by loving invisible hands.

Shadows converged on his seated sunken form as he turned to face her. Pain like fire rose up from the now thick shadows beneath him. Agony wracked his being as his spirit took on a weight that threatened to drag him through the kitchen floor. Their eyes met and he mumbled again. "I'm so sorry."

She just smiled benignly. She wasn't angry at him for stealing her life, for strangling her until her face turned blue and her eye bulged as if about to erupt from their sockets. She pitied him. She wasn't angry at him for taking his own life either, drowning her three month supply of sleeping pills with a litre of vodka. She understood, he couldn't live with the guilt. The shadows around him thickened, reaching up in wispy pain filled tentacles, surrounding him, pulling and clawing at him as the living darkness began to swallow his soul.

Upwards she was drawn, her now illuminated essence mingling with the radiance that poured down on her from above. She watched as his ghostly form was torn asunder and heard in her heart more than in her mind, the terrible screams his actions had elicited as the living darkness shred and devoured his soul.

She wanted to go to him despite his wrongdoing, her compassion profound. She wanted to wrap her arms around him and comfort him, as she had so often when they were alive. She wanted to tell him that it was ok, that it didn't matter any more. But she couldn't because it wasn't, and it did.



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