The Exodus of the Dreams

I’m tired; I blink in the drowsy air. But sleep won’t come. The longer I wait, the further afield it floats. I sigh. The facts can no longer be ignored: sleep has made itself scarce. So I hulk on my newly strange bed, feeling expectant and bereft. Like a boat on the sand at low tide, or a wheezing beached whale, flapping my appendages with dwindling zeal. The world is reduced to a dim slit. Life makes itself small, occupying the cramped spaces beneath my eyelids with understandable reluctance. I am apprehensive; life gets mean when it has to tie itself in knots like this. So I try my best to entertain, to make up for the pinched quarters. If my mouth were a dreamcatcher, I declare with passable mirth, I’d grow fat on juicy neon slumbers. I say it out loud, hoping for a laugh. But hosting is a tough job. Life turns away, cringing, and there’s an uncomfortable pause. I can tell I’ve said something uncouth. My pillow snorts, breaking the silence. In a scornful voice, he rebukes me: even dreams have to give consent. You can’t just force them into it. Dreamcatchers are barbaric, he tells me. Life nods in agreement. The pillow carries on: primitive, ghastly things, dreamcatchers – they should’ve been outlawed long ago. And a pillow would know; he’s seen what those things can do and let him tell you it is not pretty. Usually muffled and soft, my accuser’s voice is replete with the leaden sobriety of judgment. His tirade descends like a gavel and the air between us hums with its sonic afterimage. I’m embarrassed. I’ve never thought of it that way, I stammer. I should have known better. Don’t apologize to me, the pillow says. Apologize to them. I realize the dreams have overheard us. They have witnessed my blunder, and they are rightly offended. My face grows prickly and hot. It turns out they’ve been here all along, waiting politely in the corners of my eyes. Waiting for me to invite them in. But now they are marching away. Disgusted, they leave my sockets and ducts behind, returning to their outposts on the moon or melting into the darkness of local attics. They hide themselves there for storage, sometimes. For the moment, I’m too ashamed to ask them back. I blink in the smog of their departure – disgrace is an effective irritant. My eyelids feel looser than before, my eyes drier. Far away, a man whistles in his sleep. It’s a sailor’s tune: the tide is coming in.

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