The Nightmare of Sleep by Melissa Manuel

The problem with sleep is that nobody knows if you’ll wake up. Ever since the Deep Plague nobody can trust sleep. Too many friends, family, co-workers got lost in an innocent nap. So when I came home and found my mother asleep it was hard to panic.

All I could feel was this strange cold sensation was all I had. Death had become so common in my life I couldn’t even mourn my own mother, or have the courage to be afraid for her.

I took my time too.

Dropping my bag by the front door as I always did. Stepping into the kitchen for a glass of water. The only difference in my routine was I had to turn off the long forgotten stove, and had to move the burnt pot to the sink. I opened the cabinet slowly, a small spasm making my hand tremble slightly as I curl my fingers around the fake silver knob. Pulling out a glass it felt too heavy in my hand.

Shutting the cabinet with the back of my palm it made a loud thud and the sound echoed throughout the empty house. I licked my lips and pressed the glass against the dispenser inside the fridge watching the water stream out slowly. As I drank my water I felt the cool, slick liquid trickle down my throat.

It was the water that made me feel guilty.

Setting the glass down I wipe the condensation off my hands onto my jeans and finally make my way towards the living room. My mother was slumped on the couch her hair sticking to her pale cheeks and at the back of her neck.

Unsure of what to do I stood over her trying to see if she was breathing from here, but I couldn’t trust my own eyes. The news had told everyone that if they ever found someone asleep to check for a pulse not a breath. Often times even if a person wasn’t visibly breathing their hearts were still beating slightly.

I swallowed and looked up at the ceiling letting out an aggravated sigh, running a hand through my hair. I squat my knees digging into the sofa for balance as I reach a hand out towards her. Just as I’m about to move her head my hand freezes. A tiny flicker of irritation made me jerk my hand back and stand up too quickly, accidently hitting my knees against hers as I stumble to my feet. I jerk back as if I had touched something too hot.

Turning around I curl my hands into fists at my sides and stare at the flat screen tv. The shadowy reflection of myself and my mother asleep behind me taunt me maliciously. I blink and for a moment the tv reflects those we’ve lost.

A father with laugh lines around his eyes, a sister who couldn’t figure out what color to dye her hair. A brother who knocked his teeth out. A cat who couldn’t understand they weren’t allowed on the couch.

Tears burned my eyes and the irritation turned into rage. Not knowing when exactly it started my fists were shattering the glass on the tv. Again and again and again and again. I stopped when I finally realized my hands were burning from the cold glass that had sliced into my hands.

Scowling at the pain I shook my hands off and swallowed the tears and blood and pain away.

I glanced back at my mother and looked at her bruised arms from where the needles she used to stay awake had inevitably failed her. Because although no one could tell us why, humans needed sleep and when the Plague hit people had to find alternative ways of doing so. Whether it be from a lab or from the kitchen.

I wiped my bloody palms off on my jeans and sat next to my mother. Breathing heavily for a minute or two I stared at the shattered remains of the tv not entirely sure why I had attacked it in the first place.

I grabbed my mother’s hand and slipped my fingers between hers squeezing it tightly. Then I kicked off my shoes and rested my head on her shoulder and closed my eyes.

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