Usually when I wake up, there's a short reenactment of Sumo wrestler vs infant played out between myself and the night stand's alarm clock. You can figure out who plays which part, I hope. Today was different, of course, otherwise I would not be mentioning it. Nothing more irritating than someone droning on about routine occurrences, right?
My bedroom is not a candidate for an episode of Cribs or a layout in Bedrooms of the Rich and Famous, but it does suit my needs adequately. I can best describe it as teenaged rebellion meets rock and roll nostalgia. Mainly, that describes me as well. I'm old enough to remember the days of The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Strawberry Alarm Clock, yet inside of my balding head, a rebellious youthfulness silently rages against the onset of Alzheimer's based senility. My jealousy of Peter Pan is unbridled and without remorse.
The bed, being the largest piece of furniture, occupies most of my fourteen foot square cell, and from it I can easily survey all my collected toys and memories. A bookcase at the east wall proudly displays works by Poe, Twain and Bradbury, while the remaining walls are adorned with black velvet portraits of The Band, Hard Rock Park, and an eclectic mix of music memorabilia. I read somewhere a long time ago that close to one third of your life is spent in the room where you sleep, so it just made sense to me it should be a place to feel comfortable with. Since my CD player is always loaded the night before with selections ranging between The Clash, Beethoven and Nicky Minaj, I wake to sounds that keep my spirit on an even keel between past, present and punk. I have arranged this room to fit me, and I am very pleased with the way life has been. That is, until today.
Against one wall is my computer desk and office chair, which see me often absorbed in online searches and instant messaging. Above the computer desk is a curtained window that allows some sunlight to filter in, acting as my secondary alarm clock. (It wakes the flesh when the spirit is unwilling.) I woke up today to see a man in the chair, forehead to chest, hands bound behind, and a low moan escaping his throat.
A timepiece's hand moves one degree, sweeps through a memory unsuccessfully blocked, however forcefully, an instant unchangeable forever. That sudden report, a round whistling past, and life has changed. One second of life irretrievably, indelibly blemished, another erased.. From dream to reality, shadows prank the mind and fertilize imagination. I am assured there is neither here, as the echoes burn my skin. I still do not understand.
He moves before my eyes, the unmistakable sound of death's grasp as the last ounces of life rattle through the windpipe. A sound I remember from my own grandfather when emphysema cashed in his debt. Some
sounds reverberate through life, mice scampering through the cheese holes of memory, the claws scratching on linoleum remaining a tease of what was once so clearly heard. Such is the farm of rodents racing for answers in my early drowse. In their maddening pace, it is clear they are asking one another, “Where is the cheese?” No one responds to their unspoken query, nor does any clue surface to illuminate my dark haze.
Of course, I am still asleep, where feet never touch the earth and the mountain elves still dance freely before Rip Van Winkle's comatose carcass. Imagination in overdrive, Scrooge's lament, the payment for an evening of overindulgence, nothing more. Let's be sure now and try the age old pinch.
Okay, now that was not as bad as the booster shot Doctor Peckson gave me at age five, although at the time his needle seemed disastrously enormous, but it did hurt. So, I'm not asleep after all, and this mystery still presents itself as an unannounced, unwrapped gift. No accompanying card is attached to explain who sent this unwelcome surprise, except for the meaningless, gutteral utterings pouring from his throat.
Where I sit, tightly tethered to bed's edge, there's about five feet to this visitor's spine, and it is filled with a mix of curiosity and trepidation. Do I jump up, grab his collar, and spin him around to find in an instant what is happening? Shall I speak, hoping miraculous intervention will prove the scene to be nothing more than a malicious trick perpetrated by my fellow revelers?
I presently experience nothing akin to alcoholic malady, nor even a slight buzz, as my celebrations are never out of control. I know my limitations, so I stay familiar with soda and water, more often than not being the designated driver. Last night, I spent a few hours with those who also maintain sobriety, and went a bit off my normal path by enjoying one Tequila Sunrise. Certainly, taking into consideration my advancing girth, one drink would not have caused hallucinations. Perhaps it caused me to forget some event between farewells and the front door. It is uncommon, yet conceivable.
That's it, the fellows have devised a ruse to ruffle my feathers as I wake, so I should erase the sinister suspicions, greet the pretender and enjoy the laugh at my embarrassment's expense. So, I'll just get up and...
My feet refuse my impulse. Cramps in my legs I would feel, and acknowledge. This is not a tight thigh, I just pinched myself and felt it. My state of alertness is reassured, my sobriety is certain, yet my lower extremities exert no energy. At once, I recall wasted teen years of ingesting assorted illicit pharmaceuticals, and ponder the possibility of delayed effects. During my twenties, the protracted stage of drying out, the Physician's Desk Reference was a constant night time reader, as were
the JAMA periodicals. As fast as my mind can review those stored tomes of data, nothing comes forward that would explain a thirty year delayed reaction anywhere close to this. Again, what is this? Is this a major hallucination, a dream within a dream, or is it real? If it's all real, what the heck is going on with my body? Now I can't swivel my torso. Life's force is leaving my body, starting at my legs and moving up.
It's fairly well known that when you're in quicksand, the best move you can make is to be calm and not squirm. That thought just popped in, and I decided I'd act accordingly. Try to reason this through and the solution will present itself, I tell myself. The only problem with that solution is that I can't stay calm very easily. I'm trying, though.
Sunlight fiercely struggles to burst free from the confining curtains, illuminating every part of the room, throwing shadows near bedside. The seated figure is slanted in caricature against the wall, above its head rise the same steam shadows as from a toaster. I study the shape, noticing its abdomen has no movement normally associated with breathing. His noise has ceased as well.
My chest is now constricted, tightened by invisible belts that threaten to crush my rib cage. I grab a pillow that was my headrest moments before, and toss it towards my unnamed acquaintance. As it flies, my arm empathizes with a pro baseball pitcher after a protracted game with no relief pitcher. Every muscle is strained, intensely affected by the simple act of a pillow toss. Concentrating on pain adversely affects success, so I attempt anew, blocking out my thoughts.
Celebration over victory must wait. My projectile hit its mark, moving the seat's silent occupant forward, his upper body slowly toppling like a collapsing monument. Skull slowly met desk's corner, remnants of his bodily fluid forming a stream running from desk to floor. As I gasp in horror, my throat tenses, my jaw locks, and my sensations change.
I'm lifted up, watching as I fall out of my chair, and pass through the ceiling.