Friday, January 05, 2007

short story I dug up the other day

He awoke, walking. The streetlights were still on, but out far in front of him the darkness of the sky was dimming, and he could see gray streaks in the blackness. Morning would soon be here. He was at the corner of Leigh and Summit, so he turned left, and headed back towards the house.

His nightgown was lightly fringed with mud. It was old-fashioned, just a simple, thin cotton shift, like a long sleeved dress, but, you know, for a guy. Very light and comfortable, though, and, apart from the flecks of mud above the spattered line, pure white. Well, he'd set it in bleach in the sink when he got back. It should come out. Some nights, when he put it on, he dreamed he was in the desert, just standing there, feeling the heat of the day die on the sand around him as the sky grew dark, and then the stars winked in, bright and clear. There were few stars by streetlight.

The air was warm, but he supposed it didn't matter. He walked around back. The front door should be locked. He discovered the puddle after the gate, small and shallow, mostly just a thin layer of mud, but a thin pool at one part, clearly shaped in the form of his foot. He sat on the wooden step, and leaned against the railing he'd put in last summer, the 4x4 not even creaking. He was very proud of that. The mud on the top of his foot had dried, so he flecked it off, leaving a gray graininess to the hairs on his foot. The sole was clean, probably from walking, wearing the mud away. He shivered, once, and stared up at the sky.

Orion seemed to be all he ever saw these days. The lonely hunter, forever separated from his hunt, his Diana, his life. He probably didn't like the suburbs either. Orion had been killed, and Diana, who loved him, who loved only him among all men, cried to her father, and her father set him in the stars. He had been a giant, until then.

In the desert, he felt the breeze of the evening, not gentle, but picking up, growing stronger until by the time he laid down, the sand whipped over him, three, four feet in the air. rasping his skin except where it pushed his cotton robe close. His vision though, was always clear. He could always see the stars.

He was never tired when this happened. This had startled him once. He didn't know how far he had walked asleep, how long he had been out. When ever he set traps for himself, asked friends or family to watch for him, hid cameras or tied bits of string to himself, the sleeping walker remembered, and did not go out. On those nights, he woke ill-rested, like his body had been waiting, tense, all night.

He was sure, though, that he did not go out every night. Some nights he didn't wake at all, and his alarm was his first cue of the morning, but he would know he'd walked the night before, and not because of some chance puddle. He'd just know. There seemed to be no pattern to the nights spent rambling, they just happened.

He stepped inside, sliding the glass door shut, setting the lock, pulling it to make sure. Every night he locked the doors, before he went to sleep, but this seemed to present the sleeping walker no challenge.

In the desert, eventually, the wind would die, and a peace would take the air. When the light died, the life of the desert faded a little. Those that could scamper or burrow did, and went under to conserve heat, and stay out of the wind. After the wind, though, the night was silent. He was not alone, but the animals of the desert night were quiet, invisible to the eye and ear. But he was not alone. After the wind died down, he headed west, or, at least the direction he remembered west being. Though the stars were far up above, their light seemed local, and he could not see far beyond himself, though his body seemed well lit. The horizon was pitch black, but his arms, sheathed in cotton, glowed. He could feel himself glowing.

He sat on the edge of the bed. When he'd been a child, he'd thought that maybe, on the other side of the world there was another person, paired with everyone. And when he slept, this person would wake. And when the other slept, he would wake. And between them they shared a single soul, who did not sleep, but constantly moved. The night had seemed long enough, then. The split had seemed fair.

Now, he supposed, if he were right, then his partner must be bed ridden, or narcoleptic. And so must most of the other people's he knew. That's a lot of people oversleeping in China. The days were fast, but the nights were faster. Yet all in all, very little happened. Maybe he got the soul at night instead. And his soul just wanted to go rambling.

He turned off the alarm. It wouldn't go off for a while, but it would only upset him. He should remember to turn it back on later though. Of course.

All of a sudden, the room felt very alone. He was not tired, but he treasured his sleep period too much to actually do anything now.

I cannot sleep for dreams I do not have.

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