life

Misgivings

You know most of this already.

In the car with them, sitting in the back seat with her up front passenger-wise and turned back to me the two of us and talking fast like always like she had something to sell that she knew we hadn’t the cash or care to buy and the rain pelted the windshield and the wipers swung right back and the dark was outside full of unfocused and flickering points of light, streetlamps and headlights and incidental bokeh, while some vague figure in shadow form all the while drove us on.

Afterspiel, when she’d used up all her words and most of the air in the vehicle, I told her in fact no, our problem is we try to do too much too fast, all force and no finesse, just blind dumb vigor and ataxia and too little brains, like these wipers here, perhaps, I felt, reaching for a metaphor, sweeping dismissive overreliance on artificial intelligences built up around sleights perceived and true and entitlements seemingly due, ungrounded emotion and mechanical philistinism with an inarticulable mission like the goons who forcibly removed that doctor from a plane in Chicago and probably went home that night and had the nerve to believe in civil society though in their idiomatics it’s hard to believe any such nerve is needed, they haven’t even the proper vocab for the fact that kids in the same city kill with AK-47s and five people died last Wednesday just because, nothing happening, nothing going on, just a Wednesday in the city and what do you make of that, if you were to stop and sit still and be quiet for a minute.

The other there with us in the back seat with me was compelled to agree with me and I wondered what keywords in her repertoire of principled social consciousness I tapped, knowing for sure she wasn’t packing even the slightest hint of directional allegory, as oblivious to irony as those goons and maybe just as gullible, just as crowdsourced, giving a mere simple pacific piggybacking mhmm and nod of head, pleased that someone had done the thing and spoken out because somewhere along the straight and narrow well-meaning way she acquired the notion that speaking out said something but it at the very least for the moment changed our atmosphere.

And with that, nevertheless, just her up front stillness and quiet and that slight sound and musculoskeletal gesture in the back beside me within the still-floating presence of my words, I’ll be damned if a faint fellowship did not for a moment shine upon us all four road-weary travelers like the immediate aftermath of a photograph flash, a fraction of assent trying its best to be illumination and hanging in the air and draping us in what I can only think to call our common humanity, common and shared and base, and for that instant it felt not as if we were two against her brazen, impudent one, not as if the three of us outshined and consumed his resolute nothing drive-along indifference and better-knowing onlooker’s bemusement, but as if we were actual, and in that actuality a forward step might be taken, an honest word might be uttered, some responsibility assumed, a tide turned, a leaf flipped, a change made.

But it swiftly turned to dust as always tends to seems to happen with everything with vocal chords and no backbone and all was once again rain and shadows and distorted glows and she just looked at me through streaks of darkness and light and a sort of crazed eye blaze on par with Colonel Kurtz and I wished I hadn’t said a thing, wished I could vanish along with the dust of our fleeting fellowship, right along with it be turned to dust myself and taken away by wind and washed away by rain,

but all I could do was shrink from the terrible inordinacy of the space she occupied up front in that fractured darkness, already shaking off my rejoinder like a dog fresh out of water while I began inwardly apologizing by proxy and diminished presence for others’ misdeeds, her misnomers, our great misanthropy, daymare dreaming in my passive defense a wishful little thesis about going beyond thought as if awareness were something cartographical lying somewhere off the edge of the world, somewhere where I might forever sever ties to the false freedom of staying small amongst the throngs and the safety sense that silence might be the way to say what life’s about, beating myself into a backseat submission that like a deep bruise I felt lacked his up front strength and dignity, and yet

And yet there is hope, he said, and stopped us all.

Standard
fiction

CAGED

Chris R-2-20 Image by Christine Renney

The bird had fallen down into their chimney. They had missed this, hadn’t heard its descent. Trapped and stalled but still attempting to fly, the bird bounced against the bricks.

They could hear the wings beating, its head and body bashing against the thin board that had been tacked in front of the fireplace.
‘We have to do something,’ she said.
‘Like what?’ he asked.
‘What do you mean, ‘like what’?’ she glared at him, incredulous. ‘We need to get it out of there, to set it free.’
‘How?’ From where he stood he studied the board. He couldn’t see any screws or fixings and suspected it had simply been glued into place and that removing it wouldn’t be difficult or particularly disruptive.
‘If we’re going to remove the board we need to get in touch with the landlord,’ he said. ‘It’ll pull the plaster away with it and could cause some damage.’
‘I don’t care!’ she stepped closer and, reaching out, placed her hand at the centre and the board wobbled slightly. The bird had quietened a little but now began to thrash and flail more violently.
‘Oh, I’m sorry,’ she said to it. She moved back.
‘We have to help it,’ she pleaded.
‘It’s a wild bird,’ he said. ‘If we let it out it’ll be disorientated. How will we deal with it? It’ll be covered in soot and I don’t know what else.’
She crossed to the window and, drawing back the net curtain, she flung it open.
‘It’ll find its own way out,’ she said defiantly.
‘I’m not so sure, why don’t we go out and when we get back it will have gone.’
‘No,’ she shook her head, ‘it won’t be gone, it will be dead.’ She moved to the kitchen.
‘I don’t care,’ she shouted back at him, ‘about the damage or the consequences.’
He listened to her rummaging in the junk drawer until at last she came back brandishing a paint stripper.
‘If you won’t do it then I will.’
He had been annoyed by just how indignant she had become and at how quickly. But the indignation had now turned to something else, something less fleeting, more settled. He took the paint stripper from her.
‘Okay,’ he said, ‘I’ll do it.‘
The board was indeed flimsy and, pulling away from the wall, it started to bend. The bird was bashing against it and then it wasn’t. He was shocked by how small it was.
He released the board and, letting it flap back into place, he stood and together they watched the little bird fluttering in front of the open window.

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prosetry

Fall In Two

Ah, what good does it do. Could mine meaning from every last phrase but sometimes it just fills space.

I told you that and you said you like the way(s) I talk and I heard the parentheses. We sat on the big brass bed in the old white house on the hill where so many of my dreams seem set, recurring stage, varying scenes, and I talked about kissing you and you moved closer on instinct, still sitting up, us both.

The comforter was pillowy and soft and I thought the same of your lips, knew it, didn’t that time say so though. I said instead something annoyingly poetic about the inability to imagine a room you weren’t the center of, hazily depersonalized as if it were some first principle, still thinking about a couple somethings you’d recited earlier, memories and a dream, and I forgot the order and quantities and wondered like I usually do what the difference was, is, and what it makes.

But all I said was even the rooms you’re not in revolve around you, your beautiful energy. It sounded almost too good, the feeling almost too easy, too clear, too shallow, too too true, almost, the echo of my own words in my head making me cringe conscious self and I turned it around to get it out—energy, beautiful—and said so and you said “sometimes the truth’s like that” and I started to tell you the whole of it, soft and low.

*

So, we’d been standing at a red light corner in the daytime, I said, another scene, a brand new different setting seen, new city, it was, not ours but could easily one day home become. Who knows about these things. Skies grayish like a storm coming or just past or both and we were of course in between laughing about the story you heard about the former navy man from Florida who was found unconscious in an LA motel room and only spoke Swedish and called himself Johan Ek when he woke up, which I heard as Johann Eck and said that’s some funny ridiculous impossible shit and that made it feel a little more like it. Home, I mean, like home.

The light changed and we crossed the street on a slight decline, short caterpillar string train of stopped cars to our right, cab at the lead with its blinker on in that dim broad daylight, rows of silent empty vessels parked down each side like bowling lane gutter bumpers from where we were doing our us thing hand-in-hand, down each side to vanishing like the sea was out there and I for no apparent reason said from time to time I defect from time and this is the result and you looked at me like it meant something which made me feel good because I wasn’t sure it did, just that it came from somewhere and had been floating around my head for a while. It came from somewhere and a “from somewhere” always to me meant a thing must not be nothing so I’d developed a penchant for bugging people about sources and origins and preceding thoughts and you were the only one who ever really went along, really and truly wondered and knew because you did too.

Midstreet I told you I can’t be anywhere when I’m with you because being with you is everywhere at once and you stopped walking and turned me to you in some unfelt gesture about three paces past mid and I could feel the cabby’s dead eyes on us from behind his bowling ball’s steering wheel, staring down the spare, could hear his blinker out of the corner of my eye and then I came to, came back, went away, woke up, however you’d call it, before I could find out if we’d get knocked down and swept away, drearily mad at my alarm or consciousness or daylight or whatever I could think to blame for the abrupt cessation.

That’s where I started and truly could’ve stayed, where I picked our big brass bed talk up, with that chopped off cliffhanger, telling you about waking up from the sleep that brought it all, still caught on and trying to prattle us away from that dream of yours you’d recounted about seven minutes before, give or take, the one where you came to stay with me and found another woman there as though she were your rival and in the dream I ignored you and kissed her goodbye in front of you (that time I heard the punctuation) as if that was just a regular thing to do and she was skinny and not pretty and you walked with her down the hall to the elevator bank and she was mean and cold and cruel, rubbing your face in what you’d just witnessed like she lived for that.

Then you had a hard time getting back to my apartment because you couldn’t get the elevator to go to the sixteenth floor I don’t live on unless you break that out as six plus one and so you were scrambling around the terrible Vegas hotel-type maze labyrinth mystery dream building and couldn’t get back to where you were supposed to be, lost and upset and you said you weren’t sure even in the dream sure why you were working so hard to get back up to me and that stung a little because the truth is sometimes like that.

But I understood, dream considered, and who wants to get lost in a Vegas hotel with a skinny little nasty bitch rubbing your nose in ugliness where there’d once been pure beauty, vast and open an untarnished by either word or deed. It’s ok, you said, you’re here now, we’re here, together, only for life.

*

When I’d finished my retelling and finished dwelling for a quiet blind minute in yours from before as if I’d done you wrong in sleep I came back again at the thought of those together words, for life, back to a lifetime of desire sitting in front of me at the old white house on the hill in the daytime still.

You got up to take a shower and mix a drink and I laid myself back on that big brass bed to fall back into the soft duvet like it was a fantastic cloaking cloud till monkey mind did again what it does sometimes when you’re away and I’m out of bananas and turned stormy, replaying bits and pieces of what you’d told me about some guy from before who misread all your poetry, trampled your prose, and was more or less deaf to your speaking spokens and heartfelts with eyes always half-elsewhere on nowhere else and nothing much but who knows what besides his vacant self and I thought “figures, typical” and said it breaks my heart to think of you unheard, unseen, unfelt, un-anything and you said he didn’t care enough for it to really matter or harm and in my stormy replay head he started getting mixed on theme with that arrogant, cocky asshole other I too once knew and knowing he more than knew you made me wish him dead while a not small part of me simmered in self-deprecating resentment that either he or the unlistener ever had the chance, their differences made no matter, that anyone ever had anything even remotely like the chance but me, as if the chance was all and only ever mine and they’d stepped in and trampled my you like how I felt coming out of that other dream that other time where I almost had you and then lost you and woke up dazed and thinking in the waking of who am I to own you who am I to own you who am I to own you.

But that was just a song from the night before.

And the monkey wondered mid-scatter if he, the cocky asshole other, was somehow the one I’d been standing beside in my rueful nighttime darktime imagination when you rushed up out of nowhere and hooked his arm and said hey stranger with a big beautiful smile beaming and he turned like I had and you kissed him a friendly hello lip-wise right in front of me and I thought I’d release my insides mouth-wise and later I told you so and got some odd not-you vague dismissive rejoinder about how you noticed my bother but it was a non-issue though we could address it if I thought otherwise and my misreading mind’s eye saw that as “non, issue” in modest Francophilia but all I said was “ok.” Like me. And like me I didn’t at that moment get up and come tell you in the steamy bathroom what I wondered.

But that was just a dream, too, mine, from the night before.

That’s ok, she’s here now, we’re here now, for life, awake. And in a few minutes you came back into the room in that short green robe and towel on head with a fresh sweating glass in one hand for the both of us and shook me from my trance looking like love and stunner-smelling, talking as you entered about one of those shower musings along all the same lines we’d been tracing and clinging to since words broke into day and proceeded to tell me about a time when … that’s ok … his place … she’s here now … back when … we’re here … beside him … here together … unseen unheard unfelt undressed … for life … and it took us both back in the telling, then.

I listened but only heard pieces, went back in parts cut with parts because parts were all I had to go on and more than enough, my parts and pieces cutting in to that remember dance, and a smaller, sicker part of me was sick at my small sick self for being in any way conscious of what I gave as if the giving were only a countermeasure to counterbalance and tarry with some negative and I thought of Žižek and how melancholy obfuscates, how what we never possessed can also never be lost and of Proust on how the immensity of what’s immediately before us leads the rest of the world to assume the insubstantiality of a dream in comparison and I always liked to wonder if it wasn’t the reverse, knowing my chosen refuge, reveling in the irony and the solace of literature and theory.

I listened, though, stubborn and stuck. I heard and kept hearing till you leaned over to me on that big brass bed and lips on mine erased my mind and in my head I knew that nursery-rhymed and didn’t at all for a second care, because we were back to where nothing else mattered like in the middle of the bowling lane and behind closed eyes I saw pieces of us back in that night the one night the real night the great wide waking night in the pool under stars and my hands under your long back so you could float sky parallel and watch the heavens while I should’ve kissed your stomach but didn’t the same way I didn’t tell you I loved you long ago and only looked and missed and then in the water that night holding you I looked up at the pin-prick holes we might fall into and felt the nighttime flight that brought me there under those same sky specks and over the electric ones around us, all the patches and clusters glowing down below between departure and arrival and the relief inside of simplification and silence, the falling away shedding of peripheral pieces, images discarded from a central all-that-truly-matters-whole that’s always been because I was coming home, finally coming home to where a mountain and a desert were waiting for me, hot, arid, clear, glorious, and as infinite as infinity needs for all intents and purposes to seem.

Fall into these pin-pricked holes; just not seeing right; defect from time; sometimes it just fills space. Say something beautifully, ugly. Say something ugly, beautiful. We found each other in dream, you in night and I in day and in the end I can hardly remember where it started anyway, setting down the shovel and the pick-axe and the troubles they unearth and freely choosing instead to find all the meaning there’s ever been in the finger- and tongue-tip tracing of the soft contours of now, falling apart, together, and back again, no thought, no dream, no fear, no house, no room, no robe, no cover, no bed, even, nothing but it all. For starters, for finishes, foreverything in between and again.

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poetry, Uncategorized

Lost though glimpsed

http36.media.tumblr.com347614774b00010e47bae3c5d35de193tumblr_n7t037miRs1r4ueyro1_500

If I had the power

I might do no more than this

sitting watching dust captured by light

as drowsy it drifts

or I may

do far more

dependant upon the hour of birth

runic stones thrown

alignment of planets

decisions ours and not our own

would it make sense to you?

that I found your burning sage madness truth?

only pausing when I could not follow the maze

for my pocked arms were ablaze

holding no feathers

if I had the power

I would ask you subsume the hour last

you felt a need to reveal and trust

and becoming green-tipped bird

I’d fly you into the mouth of your past

and becoming shivering fire bird

I’d conquer the elements of volition

causing you to shrug me off

as unwanted skin without use

I am slower than your torturer and you

If I had the power

though I have no way of encouraging magic

not even a fistful of lightning to raise our sum

stamping like forsaken giants roar

declaring; no you shall not

claim us

I am

too old by days and hours

by too many stared-at empty houses

with boarded windows rubbed dark

nobody is home to light the way

for either of us

don’t you see that’s why I always strained to hear?

my ear to the flat of your prison and mine

flaying xylophone chords with missing fingers

If you’d sat next to me when no-one looked we’d have merged into one

instrument

taken out of ourselves and the backward clock

a poison for some, is a cure for us

If I had the fusion

to dwell in your rage directed my way

I’d walk through maelstrom seeking reverse of fate

where, by watchful limb

we sit shoeless

wringing our bruised legs over yawning edge

one, two, three

let go of holding hands

If I had the power not to be me

and you had the power not to be you

both of us damaged and saved at differing points in history

overlapping star travelers

burning up the universe to reach through

this hijacked soul

lost though glimpsed

in warm breath on

cold step

Standard
poetry, prosetry

Daughters of descending dusk

Who was that girl, covered in cheap thrill?

the one who got so happy when you looked her way

who drew you paintings

kept your dirty shirt

pushed you on the swing-set even though we both weighed too much

days of over-size flannel and Doc Martens

Smashing Pumpkins versus Hole

you said I looked like

Ione Skye

you didn’t resemble

John Cusack

while the studious exchange students with excitement hangovers

wouldn’t climb out of their window and meet in the high weeds park

even by then I knew how to have sex in public without my skirt getting wet

who needed second base?

go all the way and work backwards

you weren’t the wrong choice were you?

wearing eyeliner and forgetting birth control

all then, a bad trick in adolescent undergrowth

slurs are girls with provocation

before social media calumny

dimpled notes

inking who gives the best head

who has the firmest … grasp

you have me laid open in your sweat shirt like a dissected stag beetle still able to feel its shell

sent me crayon colored tapes where you exulted my willingness

I sang on my knees like Marianne Faithful with a throat-full

thinking you filled me with more than noise

riding our bikes after, sore between the legs

slow were the socially awkward who did it right first time, soothing off their spectacles for CEO jobs

while we daughter’s of descending dusk

carved deep our error

in the inside of our doughy thighs

the days a road lay empty as a girl’s hands

saturating smell of popcorn

fantasizing backward to the beginning

illuminated by glow stars on the ceiling of his room

habits inching across failings

unfinished sympathies

how can a song collapse a heart?

wishbone shaping the way like Baba Yaga’s dance of skeletons

we who didn’t need food

ran ragged on empty

female cranberry bogs filled with ire and specter

and one day we were no longer young

staring down at boxes of cassettes and letters tied with pieces of the past holding up a manikin who could once have been us

now unsure in twilight of age

as time will betray all but deepest memory

adhering despite all attempt

to dissuade

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prosetry

Clamo(u)r

Read something in a dream last night that was better than this so I revised it—this, not the dream but in the dream I could plainly see the words and world and almost taste them both, so when I woke up I exhaled and did.

Did it, I did, pushed the air back out of mostly empty lungs like backward going for comfort first, starved of art and full up on food and shelter after years of choking down silence for dinner and only really making sound in sleep, remembering how someone I know and daresay might as well trust said it might be hard out there to find good old fashioned neuroses and interesting conversation and so I closed my eyes and stayed inside and pictured people all around and everywhere frozen with the scream face. At the table, at the corner store, down on the avenue, crossing the street, driving, in bed, everywhere muted terror and I felt ok.

Then I remembered and the story happened. Two times in New York one night, time one in some small seedy hotel room from horror films and horror thoughts and the not so distant past—old of structure and worn and soiled from top to bottom and inside out, more like too much had happened, though, than too little cleaned. The big wet spot on the bed—just left of center—had been made by an almost steady drip from a crack in the ceiling up above which felt like the firmament pressing down, the world pressing down, ready to break through. I was there with at least one other, some other standing silent seeming far off away from me in the shadowed corner, not benevolent, not malicious, but instead a being of perfect indeterminacy split 50/50 good and bad and making my neck hairs stand. Yellowing light like old book page paper corners and just as thumbed-through fuzzy crept through lowered and downtwisted jaundice blinds as if their decay and nicotened filth was in fact the source of the room’s meager illumination, aside from a whitish slice of hallway light wedged beneath the door. The bed stood an inexplicable most-of-the-way across the room like it was edging toward the window and I didn’t blame it, its featureless brown wood-like headboard a good foot off the wall, an accidental screaming statement of incidental significance and I wondered why and, as usual, how I’d ever get out without motion and how I’d move without sound.

Later in a car, parked, motor off, windows up, and cold. Vastness of a nighttime parking lot, the verysame nighttime night, but time two this was. Same part of town, though, still unfamiliar, tall scrapers looming all around and a snaking river nearby reflecting scattered lights, the water at least eight shades darker than the black-orange sky. Trying to get hold of him, that’s what I was doing, because I needed help, and there I sat in that car in the middle of that no man’s land scrolling thumbwise and hopelessly through some absent someone else’s misleading tangle of contacts, a glowing rectangle of scrambled names and numbers in my hand and I hadn’t the faintest sense of where to look or how. Or maybe that was just my head. Not in it, just it, because for the death of me I couldn’t tell who was who or even if any of those seeming non-whos were, if they were anything more than entries on an endless catalogue of indistinction, known and unknown no ones even more silent than me.

All I needed was his help, just his help with that fucking leak—ah but here I am telling it bolder than I felt, bolder by far with the angry voice and firm tone since we have appearances to maintain when there’s a low-hum of almost white-noise terror gripping, moving, consuming with psychopathic eyes, the kind of eyes that pose threats and all you can think to do is yell back and shout them down but they freeze you and grab you and hold you there and then it’s you with the scream face and no way out, no sound.

That leak, though, I could even hear it from the car, from the lot, over the river, over the city, that water drip       drip       drip      slow steady drip dripping from the ceiling back at the run-down yellow-brown-dying room in the building at the lot’s looming fringe and all that seemed around me were a scattered smattering of empty cars and an equally empty goddamn fucking ticket booth and that wide and snaking river with its mocking shimmers and there I was faking bold with searching scanning fearful eyes projecting solidity like how we talk our way out of jitters from the retelling of a nightmare as if it’s really something as elemental as sound that’s gonna put us back together and save us.

But that wasn’t the dream. That’s just a story, another story from another dream from another night and through that story I, teller, wondered if the dream is where I found it, if those were the words I read and, waking, knew this waking state couldn’t top it

and if in between this waking state and the next twilight moonlight recess I’d without intention find a way to stop it

and still be around to say I did, after being quiet for far too long.

Standard
fiction

THE AFFLICTED

Chris R-1110228 Image by Christine Renney

Tyler was amongst the first to stop sleeping. It was quite possible he was at the head of the chain, although officially it would not be recognised because Tyler didn’t tell. He did not want to offer himself up for scrutiny and, despite everything, he held to this and managed alone.
At first, Tyler believed the insomnia was the beginning of something else; that he was coming down with a fever, a virus of some sort. That it was just a freakish interlude and that the excess energy would eventually lay him low and that after a few days in bed he would recover.
A couple of sleepless nights didn’t seem so unusual and in fact, whilst at work, Tyler forgot. It wasn’t until late in the evening when his wife was readying for bed that he realised he didn’t feel tired and it was then that he remembered he hadn’t slept.
Nevertheless, Tyler followed her upstairs and lay beside her in the bed. For a third night he stared blankly in the darkness and he tossed and turned, trying but failing to settle and the following day he didn’t forget.
Tyler began to worry. Something was happening or, more accurately, had already happened. He neither could nor needed to sleep and that night, the fourth night, for the first time Tyler abandoned his bed.
He untangled himself from the twisted duvet and his sleeping wife and, in his robe and bare feet, padded out onto the landing. He hovered for a moment – he didn’t know what to do or where to go.

He stood at the sink with a glass of juice and peered through the window, trying to see into the garden. His wife appeared in the doorway and Tyler watched her reflection in the glass as she moved toward him.
‘Can’t you sleep?’ she asked.
‘No.’
‘Why not?’
‘I don’t know. Just not tired.’
‘Aren’t you feeling well?’
‘I feel fine,’ he snapped. ‘I’m not tired, that’s all.’
She reached out and placed a hand on his shoulder.
‘Come on,’ she said, ‘let’s go back up.’
‘No, not now. It’s not worth it.’
‘Don’t be silly, of course it is. Come on,’ she urged, ‘let’s go.’
Tyler turned.
‘You go,’ he said softly, ‘I’ll be up in a few minutes.’
He watched her in the hallway, sleep already reclaiming her and it almost had her but she would of course make it back to their bed.
Tyler placed the glass, still untouched, on the counter and he leaned back against the sink. He waited like that until it was time for him to get ready for work.

Even before the end of the second week, on the eleventh day in fact, the others began to emerge. At first it was just something on the internet with only those directly affected participating. But they were doing what Tyler could not do; they were talking, desperately trying to understand, to make sense of it and wanting to be heard and believed.
Tyler studied the news on the web. Late in the night, whilst his wife was sleeping, he sat with his tablet, frantically scouring site after site, scanning from page to page, reading and re-reading all the brief messages and devouring the lengthier blogs. Although tempted, he didn’t add any comments of his own. Not even out there in the ether Tyler couldn’t say it, he wouldn’t confess.
As the days progressed, the others began to post video diaries. Amid the speculation there was much talk about what they were doing, how they were utilising the extra time, they were sharing and comparing and coming together.
There was a college student in Cranston, Connecticut, who had set himself up in front of a webcam, where he intended to stay put for as long as he needed in order to silence the sceptics. But the doubters of course would cling on and it seemed to Tyler an entirely pointless exercise. He could see quite clearly just how quickly the phenomenon was building, that it was spiralling and could not be contained.
Nevertheless, Tyler found himself drawn to this self-proclaimed spokesperson, who in a manifesto of sorts, had stated his intention was to read. He had even made a list of the books he intended to keep close at hand. But whenever Tyler checked on his progress he was always talking, either directly to the camera or with his girlfriend who sat off-screen, only coming into the frame when she leant forward, gesticulating in order to make a point.
Tyler wasn’t listening, he didn’t switch on the sound. He didn’t want to hear, what he wanted was for him to fail, for the college student from Cranston, Connecticut, to begin nodding off and to fall asleep. But of course, he didn’t. Like Tyler, he remained rigid and wide awake.

Tyler couldn’t help feeling that he should be making better use of his time, doing something with it rather than simply standing and staring into space. And yet here he was again, leaning back against the sink and gazing across at the clock above the fridge.
He could read, not in a showy and attention grabbing way like the ‘college student from Cranston, Connecticut‘, but down here. Uninterrupted, he could get to grips with “War & Peace” at last, or Don DeLillo’s “Underworld”. Tyler realised that, other than news reports and the testimonies of others on the internet, he hadn’t read anything at all, not since this began.
Or perhaps exercise was the key? He could easily picture himself out there, beneath the street lights, pounding the pavements, head down and breathing hard, weaving his way in a tracksuit and running shoes, although he owned neither. But a strict and gruelling regime might help to make the time pass. But of course it couldn’t and wouldn’t.

By the middle of the third week it had escalated and as Tyler had expected it was everywhere. He watched his wife at the breakfast table struggling, bleary eyed, with the newspaper, readying herself to face it, to contemplate it yet again.
‘It’s remarkable,’ she said at last, ‘unbelievable.’
She began then to really grapple with it and it didn’t matter that Tyler wasn’t contributing. It was a monologue and one he had played out in his own head many times. And now all he needed to do was sit back and listen.
He was almost ready to tell her but not quite. After all, he had been granted all of this extra time and so why shouldn’t he linger a little longer? A few more hours, another day at most. Let it build, become even bigger. It had already been estimated that a least twenty five per cent of the world’s population had been afflicted. Those not sleeping, the non-sleepers, had been angered by the use of this word. ‘Afflicted.’
Declaring that what was happening to them wasn’t in any way an affliction, with many claiming that all the evidence suggested that only healthy and well-adjusted individuals had been affected, had, in inverted commas, ‘been chosen’. Those who could manage, who were able to cope.
Tyler wasn’t really listening to his wife now but he found the sound of her voice soothing. She was excited and although she wouldn’t say it she was wondering if she or he or perhaps both of them would be next.
Tyler stifled a yawn. He stretched out and, pushing back his chair, made himself comfortable. For the first time in weeks he felt at ease and also very, very sleepy.

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