Sleep No More

We were like spirits among ghosts.

We were faceless, nameless, soundless.

We move quietly among them.

We can see each other, we can see them. They cannot see us.

We see them in their final hours. It’s like watching someone’s memory. It’s like being inside someone’s memory. We drift. Together and alone. I find myself in a dining room, a bedroom, a funeral parlor. I pass down a long cobblestone street and I pause at the tailor’s. I see a group of spirits in the girl’s dining room across the hall, so I peer in that window. I see her. I had seen her earlier, downstairs in the abandoned lounge. Or was it upstairs? She was talking to another woman. She was crying. The woman had collected her tears in a vile and left her. Alone. Sad. I hadn’t followed her when she left there, I had stayed to explore the room further. The chairs stacked in the corner, bloody loaf of bread on the floor, the dusty bar, the basin with a baby covered in blood. I wondered what had happened there, but finding no answers, I had moved on.

Now I see the girl again. She’s in her own dining room. She comes to the window and sits on the sill with a sad and pensive expression on her face. She looks right at me. A chill runs through me as I realize she’s not looking at me. She’s looking through me. I follow her gaze, what she saw through where I stood, and see she is watching the tailor select fabrics from a shelf. She stands up, straightens her skirt, and goes back into her bedroom. She emerges with a clutch in her hand and heads onto the street, brushing past me to stand next to the door of the tailor’s. She leans against the wall and takes a deep breath, composing herself, before turning and entering the shop, forcing a bright smile to replace the look of worry that had been lining it. I watch them talk without words. I see him joyfully and silently ask her to wait there and run out of the door and disappear around the corner. As soon as he’s out of sight, the look of worry returns to her face. She starts shuffling papers around the desk, frantically opening drawers, boxes, cabinets. The look of worry becomes panic as she stands on a stool to reach a high shelf and fumbles around, casting furtive glances at the door every so often. I see him rounding the corner and press my hand gently on the window – I want to call out to her, want to warn her, but I have no voice, nor would she have heard me if I did. She finally finds what she’s looking for. She shoves the large stack of bills in her clutch and closes it, holding it tight to her chest. She looks out the window, but the tailor has already come through the door. She turns to him and forces the smile to return to her face as she accepts the flowers he offers her. They start to walk out into the street and she stops him. He beams at her and her smile slowly fades.  She hands him back the flowers, gives him an apologetic look and runs into her room, closing the door behind her. I watch the man, crestfallen, slink away.

I head in another direction. I wander through an abandoned hospital room, a prison cell, a hotel lobby. Through a maze of tall, thorny branches, surrounded by blue light. I find the stairs and follow some cracked, peeling signs to a familiar place.  I enter the ballroom I had been in a few times before, I see a couple dancing. I had seen them before. I had seen her kiss him to bring him back to life and lead him here. I had seen them do this dance. The memories were on a loop. They had reached the end of their final moments, they’re lasting memories, and they had started again.

Eventually, I grow weary. The smoky darkness and the thick, hot air are making me tired. I walk back through the bedroom, where earlier I had seen a blood-soaked man return to his lover, but now only remains a bathtub full of red water. Back through the cemetery, the soft dirt shifting beneath my feet, a crack of thunder sending shivers down my spine. I step back into the lounge I had entered to, the sound of voices pulling me out of this dream world I had just been living in. I pull off my mask and turn to the voice that asked me if I was done for the evening. I pause a moment to find my voice and say, “Yes”. She points towards the door and say, “Just remember, once you leave, they won’t let you back in.”

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~ by Valerie Anne on 06/11/2011.

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