In Darkness, Cower
Dedicated to all those who suffer nightmares. I know your pain and your fatigue, and it's my prayer this night you sleep peacefully.
The perpetual ringing drip of water into the white porcelain sink was Theda's lifeline. So long as she clearly heard that plink...plink...plink, she knew she was awake.
And so long as she was awake,...
Theda didn't finish that thought. For a moment, she lay there, measuring her heart's pace and struggling to slow it from its terrified race. "I'm awake," she said, her voice hoarse. "I'm awake."
It had only been a dream. Still, she had to look at her hands just to make sure. Those strange creatures with the gaping eye sockets and the hook claws had torn her hands off in the dream, dumped her in a sopping wet coffin, and buried her in acidic earth. The last thing she'd seen in the dream was her bloodied wrists and arms dissolving in the soil as the coffin cracked and the earth poured in.
"Just a dream," she said again. Her palms, wrists, and forearms were covered in bruises and fingernail cuts, but she had never seen anything more beautiful.
She rolled into a seated position and rubbed her burning eyes. It felt as if someone had rubbed the insides of her eyelids with flaming sandpaper. What she wouldn't give for a good night's sleep. She hadn't had one in...actually she couldn't remember the last time she'd had a good night's sleep.
A quick glance at the clock revealed a blistering red 4:44 am. Sixteen minutes till her alarm sounded. Not worth it.
With another painful rub at her eyes, Theda pushed the light cotton sheets back. Her body was drenched with sweat, her hair as soaked as if she had just stepped into the shower. That was where she was headed anyway. She bumped the coffee pot on and then staggered into the bathroom.
For anyone else, this might have been a bad way to start the day, but for Theda, this was a good beginning. Last night's nightmare had been relatively manageable, and the cold water washed away the vestiges of terror along with the sweat and tears.
In fact, by the time her shower had concluded, she had shaken it off enough to be able to enjoy her extra strong black coffee, an egg muffin, and a banana.
For as long as Theda could remember, nightmares as vivid as life and as painful as raw blisters had plagued her. They all started out the same. A great gaping crack gouged out somewhere in whatever room she rested in and sucked her into a world where all was horrifying, dark, and cruel. The pain of a corked finger or a lemon juice bathed paper cut was a reprieve from what she felt in those dreams. Thank God they weren't real.
Theda rested her chin against the ball of her palm and stared at the TV. Some black and white musical played in the background. Instead of watching, she swiped on her phone and pulled up the list of tasks for the day.
Years of sleep deprivation had damaged her memory to such a point that she sometimes struggled to remember if she had paid her rent or which key combination opened the task manager on her laptop. Memories of her own family and past relationships, if she had ever had any, had vanished as well. Life was just a haze of perpetual nightmares interrupted by vague segments of consciousness when she drained energy drinks and coffee pots and struggled to scrape enough mental energy together to create salable concepts and designs.
Over the years, Theda had tried countless methods to dim the nightmares' strength, but nothing had worked. Dream catchers with amethyst and black tourmaline. Sage bundles and selenite. Blessed stones and prayer bathed water. Burning incense, potted flowers, gem infused potions, and lavender bunches. And after some point she could no longer remember, all this had become ordinary.
Maybe it was ordinary. Maybe everyone else in the world had the same problem but knew how to function better. She was certain she'd asked someone before, but she couldn't remember the answer.
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