Saturday, June 23, 2007

A Restless Night

Published 'After Hours' 1990

It sprung from the direction of the bedroom window, only visible by being darker than the impenetrable darkness itself. He flinched, expecting whatever it was to cover him with a further blanket on his bed. He wondered why he was awake in the first place; but perhaps the Thing had released the smallest sound before shedding itself. The room was as he usually liked it: without even a glimmer of light, the way he dreamed his sleep would one day become: without those disturbing images that often fleet across the dozing mind’s eye, either to be forgotten in the flurry of life’s waking business or merely half-remembered, only to join up with its other (perhaps better) half, come the following night, when the whole would become a new half of an even more important harrowing. And so forth, until the one true Sleep finally took over late in the day of life. The circle completed

He certainly felt warmer. The Thing had spread itself over the top of his duckdown, its deep black surface rippling like a pond with a sea’s consistency.

The bed should have been the safest place to stay. As a child, he’d considered it a sanctuary against those fears that lurked underneath it and in the corners of the room. He’d crawl down deeper, knowing in his heart of hearts that even the worst bomb of all could not harm him, even if it made a direct hit on the house.

Now, older, with all the hang-ups that adult versions of children can so easily suffer, even the bed lost its glamour as a safehouse. The creature of his nightmare had become part and parcel of the bedcovers themselves.

Secretly, he knew, deep down within himself, as far as he could get from the surface of his body, was a soul, a pinprick of essential spirit, which his whole life heretofore had been spent in protecting. That tiny core was him: the rest was mere masquerade. Others, less knowledgeable than him, had not protected these little fellahs, these tiny bits of themselves, had not realised the dire necessity of so doing, and had consequently lost them in one careless moment of body-letting. Such sparks, thus released, would then wander the universe until they found new vehicles for their manipulative ambitions. Tonight, an evil soul which had once lived upon the Earth inside a body and escaped one morning of flatulence and bleary-eyed unalertness, had decided to seek reunitement with matter and had found purchase in the heavy bedroom curtains: finding some unnatural skein of near-vitality in the material’s woof, it had pounced like a huge faceless vulture moth upon the next rung up in the cycles of existence

But two souls cannot live in one human body.

Most things are possible, except the impossible, and even that becomes possible in time. Never, though, can one body have more than a single master.


He woke with a panic. The window was shining with the beginnings of dawn: the impermeable drapes had parted raggedly at the middle, as if a sleepwalker had gone off half-cock in the reasonless desire to undraw them, only managing to crossthread some of the rings along the rails by tugging down instead of across. The waker could not see whether the sash was up or down. He’d wanted to sleep till noon, but the unseasonable rip of light had evidently stirred him. And the cold, too, since most of the covers had slewed off him in the night. He tried to recall a dream he was having just before rudely waking. It certainly figured the curtains, but he couldn’t be sure. He turned over and was relieved to see his wife drowsing peacefully. More beautiful than he ever remembered her.

She suddenly opened her eyes upon him and screamed…

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