I’ve been having trouble sleeping lately. My boss has been tossing me back and forth between the day and night shifts at the weld shop during the busy season, so my sense of time has been lost. Light, dark… Day, night… My brain doesn’t even know the difference anymore, not to mention my eyes are already jacked up from constantly looking at my welding arc without the proper PPE, making it even harder to adjust. Most days/nights, when I’m home, I just lie in bed covered in a heap of blankets and deep, deep darkness. The two windows in my bedroom have three layers of tin foil duct taped over them (a trick my dad taught me when I was a kid because he worked the graveyard); I never take them down just in case the boss man puts me back on third shift. It’s a miserable life to live never knowing the time of day, let alone what day of the week it is. I hardly ever leave my room anymore since I work almost thirteen hours a day. I sleep, I wake up, I get dressed in a hurry, I work, I come home, I shower, I sleep, I wake up… You get the picture.
Sometimes, however, I do get up to take a piss since, you know, I’m human, though I’m sure some might say I’ve become part zombie over the past two years. The urge hit me last night, so I got up out of bed and stumbled toward the door. I unlocked it and cracked it open slowly to see if any sunlight leaked in. Nope, nothing. It must’ve been nighttime. Luckily my eyes, damaged as they may be, have grown accustomed to navigating in the dark. Making it from my door, down a small hallway, through the living room, down another small hallway, and to the bathroom blind used to be quite the challenge, but it’s almost muscle memory at this point. Typically, if I’m exhausted (five days out of seven, I’d say), I stumble to the bathroom without issue, take care of business, and stumble back to my bed without even thinking; however, last night, as I said at the beginning, I was restless, so my brain was racing at a hundred miles per hour.
Nights like that are always the worst because I have a tendency to get kind of paranoid. You know when you’re a kid and you’re walking up or down a flight of stairs at night and you feel like someone or something is right behind you, creeping ever so slowly to get you, so you run like the wind to avoid being caught? That’s how I felt last night, maybe not to the point of hauling ass through my house, but enough to make me feel uneasy. My night vision is good enough to where I’d see an intruder before they saw me, but still… I get spooked.
I opened my bedroom door fully and walked through the small hallway, then into the living room. I dodged the couch and coffee table, an easy task since they haven’t moved in over three years. The next hallway, well, it can barely be considered a hallway — it’s more a small, L-shaped corridor with a closet on one side and the bathroom door on the other. I made it to the closet, turned left, and boom, there was the bathroom door. I did it! I made it and nobody murdered me! Always a positive thing, right?
I grabbed the cold knob of the door and pushed. The artificial scent of apple cinnamon hit me in the face as I reached for the light switch. Next came the part I hate most: the initial shock of three sixty-watt light bulbs scorching my already pretty fucked up eyes.
The lights shone brighter than ever, causing me to flinch and tightly shut my eyes for a second. It’s crazy that I can make it all the way across my house in complete blackness, but as soon as the lights come on I’m like a drunk at last call, stumbling and flailing about. It was a straight shot to the toilet from the switch, but somehow I still managed to ram my thigh into the marble corner of the sink. I jerked and slammed into the glass doors of the shower, then bounced across a bit and finally stopped at the toilet. The bathroom is all of fifteen feet from the door to the toilet and I somehow managed to hit everything in the room with my body.
As I stood at the toilet, I observed the silence around me and drew in a breath. The only things I heard were the hard stream of piss hitting the water and the slow drip of water in the shower behind me. It is so quiet in the house that it creeps me out sometimes. I’ve lived alone for quite a while, but when I stop and listen to the nothingness, I can’t help but feel paranoid again. Sometimes when I stand at the toilet with my junk in one hand, I move the window drape aside with the other to take a quick peek outside. My brain always warns me that someone’s pale face might be on the other side of the glass staring at me, yet I still do it. Last night was no exception. I pulled the drape back slowly, moved my face closer to the pane, focused my attention, looked out and…nothing. Just the shed out back and an old, skinny tree beside it. I let go of the drape and finished my business.
I flushed the toilet and stumbled back to the light switch. I kicked the door open all the way with my foot and quickly turned the light off. That’s when the fun began. As you probably know, spending more than two seconds in light at night causes you to go absolutely blind once they’re turned off. What was once an easy task was now one hell of a trip back to my bedroom. I slowly walked out of the bathroom with my arms outstretched. Once I hit the closet door with my hands I knew I was good to turn right to head to the living room. I slowly walked the same path I always walk, using my foot as a sort of cane to help feel for the furniture. A few close calls, but I made it to the other hallway. Another straight shot with no obstacles, I brush both hands on the parallel walls of the hall all the way until I hit the threshold of my bedroom. I pushed open the door…
Another trick my dad taught me when I was young is the quick on-off technique. If you can’t see in the dark and aren’t sure where exactly to walk without stubbing your toes, you turn a light on for about a second, take in your surroundings, and turn it back off. He told me it was something he did in my and my sister’s bedroom when he came home for lunch to tuck us in. The quick flash of light wouldn’t wake us up and he could see where all the toys were on the floor, thus avoiding anything breaking or making noise. I utilize this technique quite often, including last night. I flicked my light switch on for a second, surveyed the room, and flicked it back off. I walked in from the hallway, shut my door, and turned the lock. I stepped to the side and felt the edge of the bed on my calf, then slowly shimmied to the side until I felt my blankets, which is my cue to hop back in.
The bed was just as warm as it was when I left it. I settled in, took a deep breath, and stopped for a second, thanking the gods that I didn’t get shanked by ghosts or robbers yet again. I snagged the blankets from the end of the bed and brought them up to my chin. I rolled over to face the wall and felt my phone rubbing against my rib cage. Of course I no longer felt tired, so I decided to browse Facebook for a bit, maybe check up on some old friends or whatever. Why not, right? I brought the phone up to my face and winced when the bright light pierced my eyes. I thought to myself that I’d never get to sleep. Unfortunately for me, it was not because of my state of restlessness or my crippling social media addiction, it was because of something that I didn’t even see.
When I got up to use the bathroom, my paranoia set in. What if someone was in the house? What if something was watching me in the dark? Of course that’s impossible, but what if?
I suppose I had every right to feel that way.
I didn’t see the tall, lanky man sprawled out on my couch as I passed through the living room. He saw me.
I didn’t see the wet, dark-haired woman peering over the glass doors of my shower as I went to the bathroom. She saw me.
I didn’t see the small child hiding in the corner of my bedroom when I quickly flicked the light on and off. She saw me.
And I certainly didn’t see the wide smile and pitch black eyes of the man directly behind me, even though his pale face was illuminated by the blue light of my smartphone.
But I did feel his breath on my neck.