Why I Do Not Sleep

Mom and Dad keep asking why I won’t sleep. It’s colic, they say.

Out of the murky darkness of my bedroom, I wail; calling them to my side, desperate to make them understand me. They come, reluctantly, with exhaustion tugging on the skin beneath their eyes and dying it a dark purple. Muttering in exasperation, they lift me from my crib, and I briefly have hope that they will understand.

But I’m always disappointed when they place a bottle to my lips or try to sooth me in the rocking chair. I try pointing to my window, the source that feeds my ever-growing fear, but they do not look. There is so much I would say, if only I could form the words.

He says that it’s futile of me to try to warn Mom and Dad—by the time I’m able to speak, he will have melted back into the shadows and I won’t remember a thing. I am helpless, unable to do anything for myself. I am at his mercy, he says, and the flicker of flame that is my life could extinguish at any moment, suddenly.

Most of us live on and grow up, with no memories of our terrifying infancy. Some, however, are not so lucky, and are snuffed out. He never leaves any evidence behind. It always looks like an accident or preexisting illness, leaving him free to move onto the next one.

He promises I’ll forget all of this. It’s inevitable, he insists. The image seared into my eyes, the ghastly horrors of his face, will fade from my memory soon enough. But I don’t understand how I could ever forget him.

The way his nails scrape across the glass of my window before he opens it and steps into my room.

The way his dark eyes swirl with malevolence and a pinch of mischief.

The way his moist, hot breath buffets me as I try to sleep.

The way his long, greasy, unkempt hair brushes across my face as he leans over my crib.

He says that Mom and Dad cannot see him, but I don’t understand how they could miss a looming, foul-smelling ageless being such as this. How could they be so blind? But I suppose there is no use in asking such questions. They too, were visited when they were young. Yet they clearly do not remember. Was it the worries and cares of the world that shattered the fragile memories of their infancy? Or does the brain forget as a means of preservation—for it cannot survive long while it houses the memory of him?

Mom and Dad keep mistaking my incessant crying for colic—as if I would scream so loudly simply because of some discomfort. They are blind to the fear in my eyes, and deaf to the unearthly tremor of his unholy laugh. So they place me back in my crib, shutting the light. I hear their footsteps fade down the hallway.

I am truly alone with him and his enveloping presence.

And they keep asking why I cannot sleep.

Credit: Ella Ann

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