Fiction: ‘Recounts of a Sleepless Girl’

Graphic Eva Wilson

Today marks the eighth day I am still alive.

I don’t remember what day this all started. I think it was a Tuesday. It had been a noisy and exhausting day at work, taking calls and listening to colleagues complain about the fights they'd had with their spouses over the weekend. Like any other day, I found myself shifting in and out of reality to avoid losing my mind to boredom. But it was on my way back home that I started sensing something wrong. 

I can’t describe the feeling that took over me when I opened my front door and entered my childhood home. Was it dread? Fear? There was a primal urge to run away from it. I can only guess it was my subconscious warning me of what was to come.

That first night, I was up late again getting frustrated at a stack of paperwork I had brought home with me. I had been writing for hours and just needed to pass by the basement to grab some wine to ease my nerves. I got up from my kitchen counter, turned a corner to reach the staircase landing only to stop in my tracks. That is when I saw it for the first time. A faceless shadow-like figure stood at the bottom of my staircase. It didn’t move or speak, it just stared up at me, as if waiting for me to react. I couldn’t move, it was impossible, my legs had stiffened, and I felt like a tree with roots digging into the ground trying to reach the center of the Earth. My senses were heightened, and I didn’t avert my gaze until a blaring alarm sounded from my phone in the kitchen. I had turned for just a split second but that was enough for whatever It was. In the time I had turned around and back, It stood at the first step of the staircase, staring down at me. It’s shadowy frame was much taller than how it appeared at the bottom of the stairs. It was only when it was an inch away from me that I could really grasp how it towered over me and could reach my ceiling while still being a step bellow me on the stairs. 

I was so startled I screamed and fell backwards onto the ground, and when I looked up again It was gone. I sat there for minutes in pure terror before I finally stood up and violently turned on all the lights in the house. I checked the staircase again but there was nothing. It had vanished. I refused to sleep after that, I just ran to my room, lights still on, and hid under my blankets, as if that would keep me safe from It coming back. I remained like that, cowering in my sheets until early morning when my alarm clock loudly went off at 6 a.m. 

That morning I was too scared to leave the house, something in my mind convinced me that by doing so that Shadow would come back to finish the job. So, I stayed inside with whatever It was, leaving my room only after I had made sure It was nowhere in sight. When noon came and went, relief gradually calmed my paranoia down until I had almost forgotten about my strange encounter. That’s when the wailing started.

It was subtle at first, nothing more than an infrequent, low moan that went on above me in my attic. Then, footsteps began stomping sluggishly across my roof, all while the moaning grew louder in pitch. A second deeper voice joined in on the moaning following closely with the second pair of footsteps loudly shuffling in the house. I don’t know how long I stood motionless underneath the creaking rooftop as I started hearing another voice join in on this torturous symphony. Soon came another. Then another, until all I could hear were the screams of pain from dozens of people, and the cries of anguish they let out mixed in with a cacophony of loud banging as boots ran up and down the room above me. I crouched down to cover my ears. I worried it would make me go deaf. Suddenly, nothing. There was pure silence in the house, aside from the ringing in my ears.

After that second encounter things only got worse. The days began to mesh, each becoming more terrifying than the last. My fear was at its highest for the first three days, but after the fourth, I was exhausted. My body and mind had started to grow so tired from the constant anxiety that, on the fifth day, my legs collapsed.

I must have laid there on my living room floor for a whole day before I heard banging and cursing at my front door. Paramedics had been called to my house after concerned neighbours hadn’t seen me leave the house for several days. I hadn’t called work either, so they were probably worried about me.

I woke up later at Saint-George’s General Hospital, dazed and unsure when I had lost consciousness. My nurse filled me in on what had happened since I couldn't remember anything anymore. During my transfer to the hospital, I fought and hurt the staff, thinking they were shadows forcing me towards the light. Apparently, at the peak of my hysteria, I scratched a nurse with a scalpel.

They’d sedated  and restrained me once I’d passed out. Though some of the doctors and nurses were mad at me for my outburst they came to pity me more. They all knew what my symptoms meant, and they knew what they were leading up to, so when they came to monitor me, some offered me their sympathies. I didn’t have the energy to care.

I wanted to scream, yell at myself, and curse my brain for not trying hard enough to keep me alive. But this had to happen eventually.

Eventually my mind would shut down on me.

I knew this hereditary curse would one day take me from this world. 

I watched it take my mother and grandmother, and how desperately they tried to keep on living while too petrified to even breathe. I watched their hair turn white and fall out in clumps as they ran their fingers through it. I saw how their bones and ribs stuck out from every inch of their bodies; eyes so sunken most days I feared their eyeballs would roll out of their skulls. 

I know why this is happening to me, and that's what I told the doctor when I woke up from my forceful sedation on the seventh day.

Spectra Obscura Furor – Dark Spectre Madness, a degenerative mental disease that causes visual and auditory hallucinations, along with paranoia, personality changes, memory loss, and insomnia. The illness is untreatable and, in most cases, causes people to slowly go insane. 

I knew that one day I would be darkened by it. All my life, I had ignored that part of my life that was tainted by my mother’s death. I tried to forget the burden she left me; a legacy of death that I would always carry.

Or at least, until I die here, in this hospital. Alone, in this empty bed. Without love or loved ones.

Dad couldn’t live with himself when mom died, and grandpa passed away a year ago. As I sit here, I wonder how many people I can count that have truly cared for me in my life. I wonder if they will ever wonder what happened to me. I don’t want them to think that I lived my life hanging by the thread the women in my family spun for me.

I don’t want to be their illness because it was never mine. It was a part of me, but it was never me, not once.

Before this week, I could take the sleepless nights and lousy mornings. The gaps in memory, my forgetfulness, and even those days I was too paranoid to feed myself, my fear convincing me my food was poison. I could survive all of it.

Because I am stronger than my illness.

At least, I was.

Now, I’m just so tired and as I finish these last few words, I can see It in the corner of my eye. It’s been standing in my room all night but now it’s gotten closer to my bed and has outstretched its arm, finally inviting me to rest once and for all.