The house was silent save for the almost constant rustle of sheets. A sigh breaks through the momentary stillness and the sound of creaking can be heard as weight shifts on a worn mattress. The nightly dance played out as it did every night. The two dancers, Sleep and the Chaser.
It had become somewhat of a regular occurrence in the past month or so, the Chaser intending each night to catch Sleep and fall together in a warm embrace into that comforting restorative world, but Sleep for reasons unknown, had become elusive, shy and stand-offish.
Each night the scene would play out. The Chaser lying on the bed, snuggled into caressing blankets, listening to soft drones that often called Sleep forward, all muscles ready to let go of the day’s toils and soften into relaxation; into the soothing embrace of Sleep. Breaths slowing and gently lulling the mind to follow, calling to Sleep and giving assurances of comfort and safety.
For years the scene played out that way, Sleep approaching cautiously, taking time to pirouette and enjoy the sound of the drones, then swooping in, enveloping the Chaser in a warm embrace and the two lay comfortably safe, supporting one another that way for hours. At daybreak, Sleep would begin to stir, fearing the daylight hours, it would softly and gently slip away to once again wait for the nightly calling.
Well, sure there were spats, nothing major. There were some nights when the Chaser was “in a mood” so to speak and despite Sleeps efforts at comfort, the Chaser would reject and fight off it’s advances until a compromise could be reached. It was those times, when things were left incomplete that sleep would pay a quick visit to the Chaser during daylight hours – a hasty tete-a-tete, if you will. There were never hard feelings.
One evening, say a month or so ago, as the Chaser settled down into the comfort of the down filled wonder that is the bed, as the light began to fade from this side of the earth and the streets flooded with the florescent glow of the street lamps, something happened.
Sleep did not come as it always had. The scene was the same. The soft drones sent their lulling tones off into the darkness of the room, the Chaser was mindful to relax all muscles and slow each breath to welcome a relaxing, restorative state. The room temperature was at a cool setting but despite the now routine, Sleep did not emerge hesitantly from the corners of the room. It did not approach shyly like a young maiden to a new suitor, nor did pirouette to the sound of the drones and nor did it slowly crawl into the bed and slip its loving arms around the Chaser to travel down into the wonders of that world of sleep. In fact, it was no where to be found.
The Chaser tossed restlessly in the bed, worried. Eyes opened and gazed through the darkness hoping in vain to pick out a shadow, a wisp, a stir, anything to indicate that Sleep was just being overly shy this evening. The routine was begun from the beginning, drones, snuggle, relax and wait…and wait..and wait…???
Something was wrong. The Chaser got up to examine the cracks and crevices in the ceiling joints wondering if perhaps Sleep had somehow gotten stuck or misdirected. After so many years together, could it be true that Sleep had gotten tired of their now routine relationship? Or perhaps was this something more sinister? Had something or someone taken Sleep?
The Chaser crawled back into the bed, hoping for the best; worried it would be the worst. The routine began again but this time, a stretch was added to remind the long muscles to settle down and relax, Sleep would hesitate at the slightest indication of muscle tension, this was a known fact. After 5 minutes of perfect stillness, still no Sleep.
Worry began to dominate the thoughts of the Chaser and after a few hours of tossing and turning wondering what had gone wrong, the Chaser turned toward the wall and settled once again. Sleep crept hastily from the shadows, paying no mind to the drones, there was no dance, no time for pleasantries, instead, Sleep simply stood at the side of the bed and laying a hand on the shoulder of the Chaser, gently caressed for an hour or two before turning and disappearing once again into the darkness.
It happened this way each night, sometimes Sleep coming and staying for only an hour but mostly it spent three or four hours providing scant reassurance of it’s presence. After a few nights of this the Chaser seemed to get used to it. The thought was not to express anger lest Sleep leave altogether, after all having Sleep nearby was enough for now.
Daylight hours were spent in worry, wondering what had happened to change the relationship so. Even invitations to a daylight rendezvous were met with silence. And the worry continued.
After 15 days the Chaser was less worried and more upset, trying not to let the hidden anger show, arms now began to reach out toward Sleep in the middle of the night. But with each effort to bring back the old comforting embrace, Sleep merely stepped back out of reach from the outstretched arms. The Chaser would then wake up in anger and Sleep would quickly slip into the shadows to remain unseen.
It had been a month. 30 days since the last time they’d shared a night of warmth, a night of adventure and a night of peace together. Dark circles marked the eyes of the Chaser. It has gotten so that getting into bed at night was simply rejected and the Chaser forced a waking state by staring endlessly at a computer screen, reading a book or doing paperwork. Sleep became worried, sending out wisps to caress the cheek of the Chaser. Eyes would close momentarily but soon fly open again as the Chaser remembered the new dance, the placating caress. No, not anymore. I call the shots now.
Coffee filled mug after mug, as Sleep watched waiting for a chance to quickly slip forward. Just after daybreak, the Chaser sighed, a wisp encircled it’s head and the eyes closed. Sleep sprang forward, it would be less than an hour before the sun invaded this window lined room. Sleep hastily slipped it’s arms then it’s legs around the body seated, reclined in an office chair. Quickly, it slipped it’s head into the head of the Chaser and began to play out an image that they both used to love when they were younger – a beach, seagulls, old friends, old lovers, all gathered in a place of laughter, love and peace.
As the first stark rays of sun broke the line of trees outside the window, sending dazzling spikes of light into the closed lids of the Chaser. The world of sleep was cast in a deep reddish hue. Sleep raised its gaze, looking upward it, started at the reminder; quickly it released its tight embrace on the Chaser and retreated back into the last remaining shadows of the night.
Pain was the first thought to break consciousness as the Chaser’s neck muscles tried to move. The body sat, half out of the office chair, hanging off to the side, head lolling at an unearthly angle, a stream of drool pooling on the floor. Choruses of pain rang out from the muscles as the Chaser returned to a more wakeful state. “What in the world!?” thought the Chaser as its the body painfully moved into a seated position. Then it struck. As a hand rose to wipe the drool from the side of it’s mouth, the Chaser became conscious of only one thought. “You came back to me.”
A smile broke across the face and the Chaser’s heart filled with the warmth of emotion.
“We’re going to be okay.”