insomniac | By: Sergei Ovchinnikov | | Category: Short Story - Dark Bookmark and Share


He wandered the city streets, not knowing where he was going. In the places with no street lights, or where the street lights had burnt out, his only light source was the half full moon. Every night for the past two weeks he had been awake, sometimes prowling, sometimes lying on his bed and watching the flickering light. Constantly awake, but never properly awake. Spending his time in that half-awake, half-asleep dream zone that most people only enter for a few minutes each day.

This particular night he was walking through suburbs. He spotted a well-lit building ahead and decided to head towards it. It was the only twenty-four hour café he had ever seen in his area. He did not even know that they existed outside the cinema. The lights of the coffee shop blinded him as he strode out of the dark night into its fluorescent interior. Not a soul could be seen inside. He stood in the doorway and absently played with chimes hanging by the front window. A woman appeared. “Can I help you?” she asked. He ordered coffee and sat at one of the booths. Waiting patiently for his coffee, he surveyed his surroundings. A non-descript café, in a non-descript part of town, with a non-descript waitress, currently working the coffee machine. Anonymous. Perhaps it was the human contact, but he felt safe here. It had been days since he had last spoken to another person. He drank his coffee slowly, savouring each mouthful.

Outside again. He did not remember leaving. Insomnia does that to you. He resumed his walk through the streets. Up ahead was a street he recognised as leading back to his one room apartment. He decided not to take it. Until morning, he wandered, seemingly in circles, each street blending into the next.

By day he worked. His job was perfect for him, in his current state. All he had to do was sit in an office and monitor the water pressure alarm for the hydro-electric dam. It had never gone off, and so sure were the architects that it would never sound, that at first they had called this an unmanned station. But the owners had taken pity on him and assigned him this job. He had been there only four days, constantly staring at a gauge which never moved. Waiting for the seconds to tick by. Waiting for sleep to finally claim him.

After work he followed his daily routine. He caught the bus home. He had a measly dinner of noodles and tomato sauce. He tried to watch television. But it made no sense to him, the colours twisting into each other until all that appeared on screen was a warped colour wheel. He lay down on his bed and tried to sleep. The inside of his eyelids became bright spots of light, blinding him, forcing him to open them again. The light above his bed continued to flicker. He decided to have a cigarette. As he stepped onto his balcony, he noticed how peaceful the city was, how serene. The reflections of lights created magical designs on the buildings opposite his but he would have traded it all for even an hour’s sleep. He decided to walk again.

He always picked a direction at random, not caring where his feet took him. Most nights, he did not even take notice of his surroundings. On this night he walked along the train tracks, their metal length devoid of even freight cars. The moon illuminated a path for him. He tried to balance on one side of the track but his foot immediately slipped off and he crashed to the gravel. Apparently, insomnia robs you even of your balance. He dusted himself off and continued his journey. After an indeterminate number of steps, he stopped, staring into a streetlight. He felt that it should take him to another place, that he didn’t belong here. Night after night he had wandered, drawn to the lights as if they were calling him, calling him to another world, to another existence.

His mother wept quietly in a corner while his father paced the length of the brightly-lit hospital room, both watching their son and the tubes that kept him alive after the accident. It had been two weeks and he had still not woken up.

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