No Rest for the Righteous (A Chuck Wending Challenge)

Posted: July 7, 2016 in Fiction, Uncategorized, urban fantasy
Tags: , , , , ,

This week’s challenge- insomnia. That’s about it. Decided to go a bit different with the piece this time, not quite as stripped down as I usually write. As always, comments are welcome and appreciated (and replied to)!

Not sleeping is my super power.

It started in high school, staying up late, bathed in the ambient light from the three computer monitors surrounding me. It was the only time I felt I had to myself, alone. No friends. No family. No obligations, just staring at code and making sense of it all.

I’d go for walks at 3:00 am, when everyone else was asleep and I couldn’t. Couldn’t stop the thoughts racing through my head. Couldn’t settle my heart rate. Couldn’t settle my breathing. I’d walk alone in suburbia, nothing bothering me but the occasional dog wondering what lunatic was awake at that hour.

During the day I’d barely be able to keep my head off my desk, and my eyes constantly drooped. My parents worried. Teachers held meetings discussing my behavior, wondered what drugs I might be on. I managed to pass my classes though, escaped the four years of enforced education with my scrap of paper.

Two years later I was institutionalized for the first time. A psychotic break is what they put on my medical record. Seems screaming about the demons all around us isn’t socially acceptable behavior. Who knew? I think I’d been awake for forty-eight hours. I tend to lose track after eighteen. I don’t remember what they injected me with, but it put me down for three days. Three days I’ll never get back. Three days I spent dreaming of my dead mother scolding me for not doing something better with my life.

When I came out, I couldn’t see the demons anymore. I wondered if the doctors were right. I wondered if it was all in my head like the doctors said. A product of sleep deprivation. For the next week I did as I was told. I took the pills they prescribed. I slept for twelve hours at a time, drug induced and dreamless. I woke up crying but had no idea why.

Seven days after I was released from the hospital I flushed the pills down the toilet.

I went back to my usual routine. Not sleeping at night. Walking the neighborhood around where I lived. Urban setting now, the cheap apartment I could barely afford. Sleep walking through my job I was too smart for at the copy shop, but I could practically do with my eyes closed, which was good seeing as how much trouble I had keeping them open most days. Living off of Red Bull and caffeine pills and trying hard not to think what it was doing to my body, how many years I was shaving off my life.

I’d been awake for twenty-four hours or so when she walked through the door carrying a large purple duffel bag. A halo surrounded her, and I blinked my eyes against it, wondering if I was having another episode. I swore what looked like ephemeral wings sprouted from her back, but when I blinked and rubbed my eyes they were gone. She was beautiful, all delicate features and wide blue eyes. As she approached the counter I had to force myself to breathe, feeling like I couldn’t get any air.

“Hello, Thomas.” Her voice sounded like wind chimes in a hurricane. She placed the duffel bag on the counter. Something inside went clang.

I blinked. “Err… hello.”

She got up on the counter, swung her legs around to my side. “Haven’t been sleeping well again, huh?”

“No, I haven- wait, how do you know that?”

She smiled at me, a neat even row of perfect teeth. “The same way I know your name, even though you forgot to put your name tag on this morning.”

I glanced down. She was right. I took a step back. I looked back at her. The wings were back, and there was a definite glow about her head.

“I’m going crazy again, aren’t I? I didn’t take my pills, and I haven’t slept and I’m losing my mind.” My eyes burn, and I feel tears run down my cheeks.

The woman shook her head. She slid down the counter onto her feet, approached me. I tried to back away, but a stack of paper prevented me. She took my face in her hands, brought her lips to my brow.

“You aren’t crazy, Thomas. You have a very special gift.”

I looked at her, blinked back the tears. “I do?”

She smiled at me, and I felt bathed in her warmth. “It’s not everyone that can see the world for what it is,” she said. “Not everyone can strip away the layers of illusion to the truth beneath.”

“What does that even mean?”

She pointed toward the big glass window to the people passing by. “Look closer, Thomas.”

I did as she asked. As I looked, some of the people changed. They grew or shrunk. Some grew scales. Some grew horns. Some became too horrific too watch, others became so beautiful I felt like a jagged piece of glass had been thrust through my soul. I glanced up at the sky, at the creatures wheeling through the air. Dragons. Manticores. Wyverns. Harpies.

“But why?”

The woman opened the duffel bag, pulled a sword out, all gleaming steel. The hilt was gilded, and the blade nearly too bright to look at it. “You’re being drafted, Thomas. There are monsters out in the world, and someone with your talents are needed.”

I reached out, brushed my fingers against the weapon. I felt a shock like static electricity shoot between the blade and myself.

“We need you because you can see.”

I had the feeling I would never have a good night sleep again.

 

 

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