Torn fingernails slash at my head, creating a gossamer bush of a hairstyle. There’s burning near my eyes, cheeks. I lower my trembling hands and curse at the dried blood under my nails. An inhalation of mucus causes me to cough.
What has happened to me?
It’s been 30 days since I last slept. My thick footfall moves toward the calendar. I lift my arm to find today’s date; the task is difficult as if a large floor magnet is pulling it down. Finally, a finger movement that mimics a stroke victim, lazily swipes across, up and down, until the tip lands on the day.
April 1. Is this some foolish joke?
Thirty days ago, I noticed an absence of senses. Aside from sight and hearing, I couldn’t smell, taste, or feel anything. Since being sleep-deprived, my memories are beams of light splitting and reflecting off mirrors. Clips pieced together. I wait.
I turn to take in my bedroom. Charcoal walls and floors—black soot covering parts of my body that made contact with them. A lone abrasive light bulb catches floating dust mites. The darkness prevents me from seeing what’s scurrying around my bed. Small squeaks. Tiny scratches on the floor. My arm raises toward the light. I catch sight of bone.
No sound. The flesh is eaten down to the bone.
Help me! Someone help me!
I cradle my half-eaten arm as I shuffle toward the dripping noise coming from the far left wall. With every step, the wall shifts away from me. My steps become mutant slides as my curved tibia sweeps along the blackened floor. A hollow moan inside me vibrates against my ribs, playing a menacing chord. Senses coming and going infatuated with my tortured soul.
I’m feeling cheated of air. I begin to feel heat. A red flame bursts from the floorboards, eating away at everything. This stops me. In the middle of the room, I turn in circles, screaming, watching the fire lick at my bed, the ceiling, and dancing with excitement. There’s pounding all around me.
People. More people. Like me.
The fire sways to its own groove, and then is sucked away. The pounding is gone. I stand alone, straining to hear others.
A white noise pierces my psyche. My bones clatter to the floor like Pinocchio losing his strings. I wipe at my tears but my hand comes away dry. Petrified from the slow creeping of sensations I begin to feel senses returning in strength. Agony sliced at my boneless frame, skin wrinkled and gathered on the floor like a wet towel.
Before I can scream again, a door swishes open, and a newspaper slides toward me. Similar to a worm, I squirm to the paper, my eyes glancing over words—Obituaries. Smack dab in the middle of the paper is my obituary, thirty days ago.
Like gargling stones, a phlegmy laugh comes from the door. It intensifies into a deep hissing laughter, every breath pushed with force. Loud. Grating. And then it stops.
A whisper penetrates the darkness. “Welcome to Hell. Sleep no more.”
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