Well, dear readers, I’ve done it. 30 days of continuous writing. 2,000 words a day. Over 60,000 words it total, not counting these little snippets before each day. I made it through illness and frustration and even Black Friday. I’d like to say I was going out with a bang, but I’m not. That isn’t what this month is about. I never expected to arrive anywhere in particular. All I wanted to do was leave where I already was behind. And I think I succeeded.
Thank you to everyone who read my posts and commented/liked/followed. It was a big help.
I’m going to be taking a few days off, rest my brain and my fingers, but I’m not done writing. I plan to look back over the month’s writing and choose some stories that I think have potential, let them percolate a bit and then revise/rewrite/continue them. Maybe in December, maybe in a month or so. Who knows. If you have any suggestions on stories you think were the best, please let me know. I always love an outside point of view.
So, without any further ado, I give you the final post in my November Writing Challenge.
Writing Challenge Day 30 (Untitled)
By E. W. Morrow
Word Count: 2054
It is a strange and terrible thing to not be in control of your own body, to wake up and find that someone has been using it while you were away. The first time it happened to me I found myself standing in a secluded corner of a park near where I lived at the time. It was in the late hours of the night, so late that I’m almost compelled to say it was early, and the silver light from the full moon suffused the entire landscape before me in such a ghostly fashioned that I could scarcely believe I was not still dreaming. But dreams don’t hurt, and they don’t leave scars. My naked body was bloody from a hundred tiny cuts, mostly on my forearms and the soles of my feet. Most were superficial, barely even piercing the uppermost dermal layer, but a significant amount were deep and jagged. Whatever had done the cutting had been pointed, but otherwise dull, and had dragged across my skin with so much force and under enough pressure that it had hooked the skin, pierced the flesh, and torn the gashes open rather than slice them. Even to this day, years later, I still know which scars were the first and which came later.
In the beginning that was all it was, a series of events, always occurring while I slept, from which I would awake suddenly in strange locations, all memory of how I got there expunged. I consulted physicians and psychiatrists, always taking care to downplay the scale of my nocturnal wanderings, but none could give me any definitive answer as to the cause. All that anyone could say for sure was that I was a somnambulist, a sleep walker. I was put on a rotating cast of sleeping pills and anxiety medication, but the only noted change in my behavior was that I slept longer and traveled farther. One doctor suggested I participate in a sleep observation study for a few nights. All that came of the experience was a few restless nights in which it was observed that I awoke several times, looked around the room, and then went back to sleep. I don’t remember any of these supposed awakenings. For several weeks after the studies I slept soundly, and thought myself cured, but then my somnambulism returned, just as bad as it had ever been.
The most alarming part about these recurring losses of control was that little by little my activities became more and more complex, as though my body was becoming more comfortable in walking around without me there to guide it. Friends and acquaintances began asking questions, relating stories to me of parties I could not remember attending and conversations I did not remember having. Some mornings I would wake up in my own bed with a hangover, empty beer bottles strewn across my room. Other days I would open my closet and find my laundry had been cleaned and folded, only some of the items of clothing weren’t mine.
I began to grow desperate for an answer, any explanation for what was happening to me, and so I sought out less scientific avenues of inquiry. I started going to church again. Several churches, in fact, as I was always too embarrassed to return to one after asking the priest or minister or preacher if he or she knew anything about possession. The fact that I didn’t seem to believe in demons must have clashed with my fervent desire to be cleansed of one. Usually the conversation ended with the other party murmuring an apology and walking away as I begged for an exorcism, yelling my argument of “just in case” as they did so.
Then I made the biggest mistake I could ever have made. I found the answer to all of my questions. Looking back on it now, I guess it should have seemed like the most natural place in the world to discover the source of the problem, but at the time I was incredibly skeptical about anything I deemed too “new agey” or “mystic”. Hypnotherapy seemed to fit into that category about as much as anything else, but by the time I went to the tiny parlor set in the corner of that half abandoned strip mall, I was willing to try anything I could.
It was a small office with tinted windows and the lingering scent of incense soaked in to every porous surface. The receptionist was a short, college aged woman with more piercings on her face than I could easily count without being rude. She barely even glanced up as I entered the waiting area and clicked her tongue in disgust when I cleared my throat.
“Can I help you?” she asked in a bored voice.
“Yes, I’m here to see the doctor,” I said in what I hoped sounded like a casual voice.
“Fine,” the receptionist sighed as she pulled clip board out from a drawer in the side of her desk. She handed me the board and a cheap ballpoint pen with no cap. “Please read everything on the pages in front of you and sign at the bottom of the third page. On the back of the last page please list any serious medical conditions you may be in danger of experiencing including, but not limited to, high blood pressure, claustrophobia, brain aneurisms, irritable bowel syndrome or narcolepsy. By signing you declare your understanding and agreement to see the doctor, who is not a medical doctor, for services that do not constitute scientifically recognized methods of medical treatment and should always consult a licensed physician if you are still concerned about any medical issues after your visit. Please take your time before consenting and return the pen when you are finished.”
The stream of legal fine print rolled of the receptionist’s tongue in a rapid fire fashioned that held no emotion or passion at all. I glanced through the three page document, noting how it essentially said everything the receptionist had just told me, albeit in a much wordier manner, and signed at the bottom. On the last page I hesitated, unsure how to describe my condition without sounding crazy, and opted for “severe somnambulism”. Remembering, possibly somewhat cruelly, that the hypnotherapist was not a medical man I added underneath, in parentheses, “sleep walking”. Then I underlined it. Then I handed the clip board back to the receptionist, having to wave it a little to get her attention. She took it without comment and looked away again. After more than a minute she glanced up and saw I was still standing by the desk.
“What?” she asked in a short, nasty tone of voice.
“Nothing,” I mumbled. I went over to the row of chairs on the other side of the room and took a seat. The chairs were itchy and lumpy, but I was actually glad that they were uncomfortable. I hadn’t slept in days and was afraid to nod off while I waited. Even with the scratchy wool and the lumpy cushions I nearly faded out of consciousness several times in the half hour I was forced to wait. I tried to distract myself with the old, crinkled magazines jammed into the wire rack at one end of the row of chairs, but back issues of “Women’s Health” and “Fly Fisherman Monthy” did little to hold my interest. My eyes drooped and I became subconsciously aware of my left hand idly swirling figure eights in the air and tracing the tread lines on the sole of my right shoe, which was propped up on my knee, without me choosing to make it do so. I grit my teeth and forced it to stop, but whenever my concentration slipped it would start up again, sometimes tapping out a lively tune instead of tracing the treads. Finally the little beige phone beside the receptionist rang a shrill, beeping ring that cut through my exhaustion. She held a mumbled conversation with the person on the other end and hung up.
“He’ll see you now,” she told me, not getting up from her chair. She waved towards the only door in the room that wasn’t marked “exit” or “restroom” but otherwise went back to ignoring me.
I got up and made my way to the door, opening it gently in case I would be disturbing anyone. As it turned out the door led to a short hallway with three doors in it, one on either wall beside me and one at the far end of the corridor. The doors to either side of me were both closed but the one opposite was open and the light inside was on. I headed towards it, passing by what appeared to be a maintenance closet to my left and an filing room to the right, and popped my head in to the room beyond.
“Ah, Mr. Willson. Please, come in!” A large, jolly looking man in blue jeans and a bright peach polo shirt stood up from behind a desk in one corner of the room and approached me, large, meaty hand extended. I slipped in to the room and took his hand in mine, noticing how light his grip was for such a large man. He wore glasses with thin golden rims and his hair was brown going to gray around the temples. “So glad you decided to stop by. Shall we have a seat.”
“Thank you, doctor,” I said.
“Please, call me Mike,” he boomed in response. “Only my mother calls me doctor these days, and even then only when there’s company over.” He gave a hearty laugh as he led me to the center of the room to a pair of big leather chairs. Unlike the chairs in the lobby these were incredibly comfortable. I sank in to the cushion, the supple leather barely making a sound as it flexed beneath me. Instantly I felt like giving in and falling into a deep sleep, but I resisted the temptation. It could wait.
“So,” Mike the not quite a doctor said as he took a seat of his own, “tell me why you came to see me today. Trouble sleeping, wasn’t it?”
“Um, well,” I started, not quite seeing the point of telling him what he should already know and unsure how to go about correcting him. “I guess you could say that. I—I haven’t slept in a few days actually.”
“And why is that?”
“Because it isn’t safe.”
“In what way?” Mike’s relentless cheerfulness was growing a little irksome by this point. Instead of answering I rolled up my sleeves and showed him my forearms, pointing out the deepest, most violent looking scars without even needing to look. “I see,” Mike said. “And, you do this while you sleep?”
“This happens while I sleep, yes,” I said. Mike didn’t seem to notice the subtle correction to his question.
“And does this happen often?”
“Every time I sleep,” I said. “Not always like this, obviously. Most nights I just wake up somewhere I shouldn’t be. Other times I wake up in bed but things around me are different.”
“Sometimes things are missing,” I told him. “Other times I find things that shouldn’t be there at all. Friends ask me how I’m feeling after last night, but I don’t remember seeing them at all.”
“And how do your friends describe you?” Mike asked, pulling out a little notepad and pen from his pocket. “I mean, describe you when you see them and don’t remember it.”
“Um…Well, actually most of them seem to like it,” I said. Nobody had ever asked me that before. “They say I’m outgoing, fun to be around, maybe a little crazy from time to time but always amusing.”
“Is that different from how they normally describe you?”
“And how does that make you feel?”
I don’t answer right away. This wasn’t going the way I had expected it to go. I thought I’d show up and there’d be some crackpot old fool waving a gold watch in front of my face the second I stepped in the door. This large, normal looking man with the bright expression on his face and his polite, piercing questions was the more disarming than I cared to admit.