Sleep Well, Shadow
By Aliyah Smith
Every day, the same routine. Alarm pierces through my skull. Wake up in a cold sweat. Stand up from the mattress on the floor. Eat breakfast. Take a shower. Go to work. After 12 grueling hours of sitting at a desk, I go home. Repeat. The only thing that changes is the fact that my sleep is getting worse. A new nightmare emerges from my cerebral prison every night. The shadows from my nightmares take over my life. I often wake up, shaking and quivering, wondering, when will this end? I tried talking to many therapists and doctors and they all shake their head at me. Like those shadows. Nothing can be done, they said. So, I suffer. Until one day, I just happen to watch TV and see an advertisement for a ‘special’ sonologist. “He will make your dreams become truth!!” the TV blares. “100% guarantee or your money back!”
“Is that so?” I mumbled under my breath. My inner thoughts perk up at the sound of my voice. Maybe you should call him. After all, you have nothing to lose. Except your mind. I call the number on the screen. A cheery-high pitched voice answered on the other end.
“Hello! Thank you for calling Dr. Arin’s Sleep Office! Walk- ins are welcome! This is Shannon speaking, how may I take your call?”
“Um…” I was taken aback by the exaggerated nice voice. It sounded like someone with an automated message system and held it at gunpoint. “My-my name is Will…I would like to make an appointment with Dr. Arin please–”
“One moment.” The cheery voice cuts off abruptly and music starts playing. Twelve minutes of awkward music plays before the ‘Shannon’ lady speaks on the phone again. “He can see you today. Is that fine?”
I frowned. I almost wanted to wine like a puppy. I didn’t want to see anybody today!
“This is his only day that he is available. Would you like to see him in the next 10 minutes?”
I wanted to scream profanities. How can I trek to the other side of town in the next ten minutes? Before I answered with the thought I had in my head, she spoke again.
“Video chat, of course. You’ll be seeing him on the computer. Unless it is an emergency. Then you need to call 911, not us.”
“No-no, its fine. I can see him today.” I said, anxiously.
“Great. Ill will give you the connect code for the online appointment now. Mr. Will, I hope you have a great day.” She hangs up as soon as the connect code shows up on my phone.
I look over the numbers tensely. What will he say? Will he shake his head like the others? Will he believe me?
“It doesn’t make since to worry, I’ve already made the appointment.” I say out loud to convince myself. I walk to the other side of the room to get on my old desktop. The black screen shows a reflection of a man who has straggly sable hair, ivory skin, and tired brown eyes. The bags under the reflection’s eyes look like they were painted on with a grey permanent marker. If it wasn’t my reflection on this dusty screen, I would pity you. The desktop powers on without any problems. I put the connect code in the computer and waited. After a while, a slightly young handsome man comes on the screen. At least, I thought he was handsome. His smile is similar to a theater mask and his hair is curly and unruly like beige tumbleweed. His legs were crossed on the seat unprofessionally, like a teenager who is in their parent’s office for the first time. Is he my doctor? Or Is he a kid?
“Hello! Nice to meet you Will! I am Dr. Arin!” A jolly, bright voice speaks up from the unkempt ‘man’. “As you know, I study sleep patterns and abnormalities. You must be having nightmares. I can tell from your body language. I can also tell that you are an overthinker, which adds to the problem of sleeplessness.” He spun around in the chair. “Am I right?”
“…You are.” I say. I want to be annoyed but I can’t when he is right. “I want to be able to sleep without the shadows torturing me. I haven’t had a decent sleep in years,” I put my head down. “Please Dr. Arin, how to I make the shadows go away?”
Dr. Arin spins around in the seat slowly. His smile is gone, and it seems like he was thinking. “Shadows, you say?” He mumbles. Then he stands up and goes to the back of the room. He tinkers with some unknown objects in the back before he turns around towards the screen. “What’s your address?”
I tell him.
“Great. I’ll be sending this medicine over to you in a drone. I’m afraid that this cannot wait until tomorrow.” He turns back around and continues working on whatever he’s doing. “Listen, those shadows… will overtake you soon. Either you face them, or death. You may never wake up if you don’t. I will send over some medicine that will help you sleep. But listen closely!” He sprints to put his face on the monitor. “Count to sixty. Sixty minutes is all you need with this medicine. Be warned, if you break focus, the shadows will pull you with them. Don’t ever lose focus. Do you understand? The pain will be greater, the noises will be stronger, but your mind must be stronger than all of it. Got it? This will be the worst sixty minutes of your life.”
I am horrified. But it must be done. I will trust Dr. Arin.
Soon after I bathe and prepared for the night, the pill comes in a small helicopter drone by my window. Although I am weary of the medicine, I must take it so this will end. I must not falter now. I take the pill with a full glass of water and lay down on the mattress. The clock says 10:00pm. Here I go.
Tick. Tick. Tick. The grandfather clock in the hallway ticks loudly. The monotone tick of the clock is summoning the shadows here. They begin to stretch their hands on the wall, almost like seduction. The shadows tap the walls with their long and sharp pointed fingers. Beckoning me to come closer. Tick. Tick. Tick. The clock continues to hum ominously. Now it is not the time to be scared! I begin counting.
Something moves in the corners and I open my eyes without breaking count. A figure stands in my room. It is vaguely shaped like a man, but with elongated lips and limbs. No eyes.
“41…42…” Even with this monster in my room, I still kept counting. The figure in the corner starts moving its lips like it’s in a conversation but no words are coming out. Then I realize while I was counting, its…copying me.
I quickly shut my eyes and kept counting.
I hear footsteps now. They are on cue with the clock in the hallway. Coming closer to the mattress. Closer. Closer. Tick. Tick.
“53…54…” I open my eyes while I was still counting. The figures mouth is still moving, but now its salivating. A feeling of dread comes over me. It’s so close! Get away from me! The pressure on my chest becomes greater.
The walls groan. They scratch. They want me to be distracted.
I felt hot air go down my neck. Breathe, Will. Although their rough, sandpapery hands scratched on the walls felt oh, so real.
Will this truly be the end?
It was pure, serene silence. Relief washed over me like a cold rag on a hot summer day. Before I could think about another thought, the sandpapery hands of slumber wrap around my body. Slowly, I descend and succumb to the sweet nectar of sleep.
Aliyah Smith is a novice writer currently studying Creative Writing in Full Sail University.