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Sunday, July 3, 2016

INSOMNIAC: Terrible Minds Writing Challenge

The unrelenting Wendig from his terribleminds.com blog has once again prodded the fading embers of my sick little campfire of a mind and brought back enough fire to roast one thousand marshmallow words out of my plastic bag of imagination that I bought at the Seven Eleven during a Tequila binge?

Well, here it is, burnt and smoking, but I like 'em that way:

INSOMNIAC




Cal’s doctor told him it was insomnia. Sleep state misperception. Pretty fucking vague term, thought Cal. Pretty fucking vague term that meant never really sleeping and never really being awake. He barely felt alive anymore. More like Purgatory, he thought.

     Do this, try that. No caffeine. No TV an hour before bedtime. No computer. No internet. Drink milk. Don’t drink milk. Try melatonin. Melatonin doesn’t work. Really? he thought as he watched blue light spill across his bedroom ceiling from the headlights of passing cars. Were they insomniacs as well? Not the cars, but the people in them; or maybe both. The slave cars kept awake by their unrelenting masters.

     Sometimes the cold helped, so he had upped the air-conditioning. At first, the cold had helped occupy his thoughts. It was sixty three degrees in his apartment, though all he knew was that it was cold, but not cold enough. Or, maybe it needed to be warmer?

     When Cal was a child, he slept. He could sleep anywhere. School, church, the backseat of his dad’s Chrysler, the crook in the tree that was in his backyard. Everything was crisp and clean back then. At age eight he realized there wasn’t really a boogie man in the closet. The world made perfect sense. Life was fair. Life was good to that naive kid. Then the world flooded in. The bad world, with bad air, bad water, bad food… evil people. People that meant him harm. People who didn’t even know Cal. People who didn’t even know they were evil. They made him itch, made him uncomfortable. He worked with these people. He was related to them. Cal couldn’t get rid of them. Their conspiracies against him spun webs through his mind, webs tickling, congesting then consuming his thoughts. Fat, bulbous black spiders sucking sleep from his brain cells, leaving dry husks cocooned in tumorous clusters. God, let him sleep!

     He had tried reading; the doctor had said to. At first it seemed to help. He’d gotten through the first hundred pages of Moby Dick before his eyelids grew heavy, the book slipping from his hands. Yet as soon as he’d put the book down and curl up under the covers, the thoughts surfaced like black muck from the bottom of a clear lake, dirty and vile. Or like a hundred shrill spoiled children screaming for attention.

     Tonight was no different. However, Cal had come to a realization. Or maybe out of shear desperation, his mind formed a rationalization. The voices weren’t going away. Oh, no; they were here to stay. It had been at least three years now. He knew it was time. Time to start listening. And Cal listened. He listened closely. He found things out. Powerful things. Dangerous things. Horrible things. Things that were inevitable.

     It was five in the morning by the time he fell into a fitful sleep. Dreams swirled behind rolling eyes; pillars of fire seared his skin, dust and smoke choked his lungs, a crushing blow shattered his bones. Cal awoke, struggling free from the sweat soaked sheet that had bound him. Panting, he sat on the edge of his bed. Shaking, he tried to gain composure, reaching for the TV remote on his night stand, switching to the morning news report on CNN hoping the reality of the outside world would wash the thoughts and nightmares from his psyche.

     Cal didn't see what he had expected to see. There were no talking heads with perfect hair and knowing expressions sitting behind laminated plywood desks, green-screen images flowing in an LCD river behind them. All Cal saw was a lone reporter, who looked like he’d just rolled out of bed, hair askew, unshaven and bleary eyed, dressed in a polo shirt with the collar flipped on one side, shirt hurriedly tucked into wrinkled khaki pants. Cal would bet there was no camera man, just a camera on a tripod running a live feed. What was going on?

     “…US government has not officially responded to the current situation. As of this time, it is assumed that China has made first strike on New York City. An estimated six million dead, a million plus seriously wounded and near death. I’m… Dale Henry, lone reporter, ten miles outside city limits…” he broke down crying, “if you’re seeing this, within a matter of minutes, fallout from the nuclear… strike will be upon you… for the love of God…”

The feed went dead. Cal changed stations. Many were not broadcasting. FOX network was broadcasting out of California. He watched for an hour, even though “lone reporter” Dale Henry had pretty much said all that was known at the time, although they were covering reports of nationwide looting and vandalism. Military experts debated when to expect further strikes, and where. Cal watched in numb silence. He didn’t even think to call anyone. What would he have said?

     Sirens wailed outside, near and distant. A few rescue and police vehicles screaming just blocks from his street. Cal felt tired. He lay back on his bed, eye lids heavy. Even the wet sheet didn’t bother him. He became aware that the voices weren’t there. Cal tried to remember what ol’ Dale had said: fallout in a matter of minutes? Cal fell into a dead sleep.

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