A Good Night's Sleep

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Short-Story of about 1100 words. Bizarre.

In his dream he stands in front of his grandmother’s old hall clock and wonders why it is so noisy. There is nothing else, just that old clock and him, together floating in a black void that has no boundaries. The monotonous Tick-Tock is the only sound in the world. It rings in his ears. It’s loud, too loud, and getting louder still with every swing of the ancient pendulum. He stares at the clock for a long while, unmoving and anxious. The sound scares him, it always has. As a boy he spent the night at his grandma’s place sometimes. When he woke in the middle of the night that sound was there, harsh and minacious. Tick-Tock. Like a wagging finger.

Now the clock starts to dissolve and instead the noise itself takes some abstract shape he cannot fathom. The shape takes hold of him, its grip is firm and full of malice.

He wakes up.

Tick-Tock, Tick-Tock, Tick-Tock.

The noise fades away and so does he.

 

Asleep again, but not at peace. The ticking is still there but now very remote and bizarre. He dreams again.

He’s on deck, surrounded by the vast ocean and even though he’s dreaming, he somehow comprehends that it’s the same ship. The same ship on which he stood as a young man when he went sailing for the first time. The sky is clear and limpid blue. The sea calm, as if it was drowsing. He stands at the railing, gazing out. It’s hot. There should be a fresh cooling breeze, a fondling warmth from the sun, but instead he starts to sweat.

The ship horn starts to blow. Something is not quite right. The sound is dissonant and way too high-pitched. It is the sound of something else but he fails to remember what. He turns around, unhanding the railing, and sees the hall clock standing on deck, relentlessly counting.

Tick-Tock, Tick-Tock, Tick-Tock.

He wakes up.

His mind is lesser hazy; he realizes that he’s awake but doesn’t bother to open his eyes. The tooting is gone and he is ashore again. All is fine. Or not, it isn’t, not at all. He is tired, exhausted, so enervated he feels he could never move again. He should sleep some more.

 

A long time passes. An eternity.

No, he thinks. An eternity does not end. But it’s been a long time since the dream about the ship.

Tick-Tock.

The noise. It was there all the time. Why didn’t he hear it?

Sleep can make you deaf. You can feel unnerved by a tone the whole night, but once sleep finally overcomes you it is gone.

 

A dripping sound.

It must be the faucet, he thinks. He would like to get up and turn it off, but his legs feel heavy and they hurt. He tries to block it out. Sleep, that’s all he wants. Those are the worst nights, when you just can’t seem to get any rest.

The dripping mingles with the clock’s steady ticking and tocking, together composing a sleepy sonata. Soon he is immersed in it. But this time, he doesn’t drift off to sleep but rather becomes suspended between here and there, in the middle of noise and silence, betwixt and between awareness and dream.

 

Distant voices.

Am I awake? he thinks. It must be very late at night by now. Certainly not morning yet. I should open my eyes and see what’s going on.

But his eyes they feel so weary, so very weighty and by no means ready to being opened.

What are those voices? Why are people talking so late at night?

Tick-Tock.

Maybe they want to complain about that clock. That would be understandable. The damn thing seems to get increasingly loud.

The voices sound very agitated, almost anxious.

Drip-drip-drip.

His thoughts lose their shapes, they meander away and once again he is floating, drifting, and sleep shrouds him like a childhood cuddle blanket.

 

It’s getting warmer.

Should it be daytime yet?

He struggles to disentangle himself from the blanket but somehow he can’t reach it, cannot even find his arms, and the effort makes his legs aching very badly.

The voices are back, and so is the dripping and ticking. He is more than slightly irritated now.

Never have I been this tired, he thinks. My head hurts and my legs too. It’s just to frigging warm in here. I want to sleep.

He listens closely so as to hear what the voices are saying.

“It’s too hot — I can’t — Bring a —”

Sighing, he decides to ignore the heat and the noises. Everything for just some more minutes of fine sleep. Everything.

 

He dreams of home.

In this dream, he is lying in his bed and some heavy cars come to a halt right in front of his window. Their noises even drown out the clock.

A very heavy engine starts all of a sudden and simultaneously there is a loud flushing, a swooshing noise.

Those are not cars, he thinks. He is fairly awake now. Should he open his eyes after all?

The engine roars and moans and the voices are back, too; they shout and yell and suddenly he knows: It must be road workers.

Oh how peaceful it was when only the clock was ticking time away!

But at least the heat diminished.

 

A moment later. A tremendous noise annihilates all sleep and dreaming. This sound he can’t ignore. The word gargantuan comes to his mind at once. It is a gargantuan roar.

A deafening squeaking, a blood-curdling ripping sound.

All is lost now and, accepting his defeat, he flashes open his eyes at last.

Tick-Tock, Tick-Tock goes the yellow lighty in front of him. The ceiling vanishes above him and everything is at once sun-drenched. He smells burned leather and charred plastic and all sorts of disgusting odors.

He looks up just as a man dressed in a lurid red vest reaches for him. Grabbing him at his back and legs he starts to lift him and suddenly there is only pain. He screams. The man lowers him again. Some sort of belt is brought down to him through the hole where the ceiling should be. The man fastens the belt around his waist. And then he moves, he floats, involuntarily.

„Can’t a man have his night’s sleep for once!“ he yells, infuriated now. “It’s Sunday morning!”

But as he is lifted out of the car he catches a glimpse of the digital clock displayed next to the rhythmically flashing yellow light. Puzzled, he notes that it claims Wednesday, 5:48 PM.

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