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Without Sleep by Kathy Pawluk

When you don’t sleep, your senses become intensified. You hear a pin drop. Something

moves…just a fraction…but you see it. You smell things: bread baking at 3 am, bacon frying,

coffee. Breakfast. You question and doubt yourself. Did you really hear, see, and smell it? My problems and the solution to them came to me when I went without sleep. You may not

understand this now, but you will.

I do all my washing and bedtime preparations with my nightlight on. I’ve never liked bright lights at night. It’s because I just don’t want to see what is there…I am like a camel with its head in the sand. If I don’t see it, it doesn’t exist.

Then one day, I just stopped sleeping. I lay in bed for hours. I put on my short nightgown, so I’d stay cool while sleeping. It is well-worn and very old, but so comfortable. I fought the urge to scroll on my phone, but every time I gave in and looked, the time had barely changed. I didn’t feel like reading or watching TV. Gradually, I felt myself starting to drift. Then glory, I fell asleep. Suddenly, I opened my eyes and looked at my phone. I checked the time only to see that 20 minutes had passed. I shut my eyes and tried to fall back asleep. This pattern of falling asleep and waking would repeat itself. I told my friend about that first night.

“It’s crazy. I just couldn’t drop off and then when I did, it was so short. Twenty to thirty

minutes, and I’m back at square one.”

“Oh, I hate not being able to sleep. It’s the worst. Why didn’t you get up and drink a

glass of wine or something stronger?”

“I did!”

“Really? Didn’t that help?”

“No. In fact, it gave me more energy for a while.”

“Well, what about putting on some relaxing music or something?”

“Yep, I did that. The wine plus the music had me ready to hop right out of bed.”

“Well maybe you should. I mean, maybe it’s better than just lying there.”

“Just lying there is not for me. If I got up, it would be up for good.”

“I always take a shower before bed.”

“Oh God, not me. I really wake up after a bath or shower.”

“Well, I’m running out of suggestions. At least tonight you’ll likely go right out.”

“Yes! I think so!”

But I did not. Every night I rolled around and got so hot and uncomfortable. I was sweating and had broken out in an itchy, red rash.

Weeks later, my friend called.

“Still not sleeping? Go to your doctor and get some pills. You need to sleep.”

So, I did. He gave me the lowest dose for one month so I wouldn’t get addicted to them.

The first night I fell asleep immediately. Thank God. But an hour later, I woke up. Although I was relaxed and groggy, I couldn’t sleep any longer than the usual 20-30 minutes at a time. This time, there was more. I could hear strange sounds like a scraping in the walls. The scraping turned to knocking and a grinding just for a moment, then there was silence.

When my friend called again, I foolishly told her what had been happening.

“Well, maybe it’s just your lack of sleep. You know your imagination takes over. It’s like you’re dreaming, but you are really awake.”

“No, I don’t think so. “

“Well, how do you explain it? I mean you’ve never heard this before, have you?”

“No, but maybe that’s because I was asleep. I’ve noticed other things too.

“Like what?”

“Things are not where I left them.”

“Well, Jane, that’s likely just your memory. I know I’m like that too when…”

“No! That isn’t it! I know where I leave my things. In fact, sometimes they are missing altogether. I think I need to change my locks.”

“Oh, do you think you need to go to all that trouble? I mean, is it really necessary, Jane?”

“Well, what would you do? Should I just let someone come in here? I’m a sitting duck. I’m really afraid now. I might get a dog.”

“A dog? Aren’t you allergic to dogs?”

“Well, I have to do something.”

“I think you should go back to your doctor.”

“What for? Those pills don’t even work.”

“Well, maybe he can give you something else.”

“No, I think I’m not sleeping because my instinct tells me something is going on and I need to be alert to it. Pills aren’t the answer. They just make me think, walk, and talk too slow.”

“I don’t know what to say Jane. I think you…”

“Never mind. I know what you’re thinking.”

“Oh Jane, listen.”

“No! Don’t call me. I’ll call you when I’m ready.”

“No, wait, I want to help you.”

“Well, you haven’t.”

Then I hung up on her.

Getting limited sleep does have its challenges, but it helps with so many other things. I realized how my friend patronizes me and tries to tell me what to do. She tries to control me and always has. I don’t know why I never realized it before. She tries it every time she calls.

“Hi Jane, how are you? I’ve been so worried about you.”

“I know you’ve been interfering. Calling the doctor?”

"No, Jane! I haven’t!”

“They took the dog away.”

“The dog? Well, Jane, you said he was a rescue, from the shelter.”

“Well, I did rescue him from those awful people, and he has been sleeping on the end of my bed for a week, or it is a month? I don’t know. It doesn’t matter, he’s gone.”

“Oh, Jane. I think you are becoming a bit confused and I’m sorry. I want to help.”

I hang up on her and turn off my phone. It’s the only way to handle her and people like her. To shut them down and off.

Then, one night I wake again like every other night. I know they are coming because of the dog. He growls. I know I am being targeted. This level of attack could never be perpetrated by just one person. The doctor’s number is on my phone almost every day. I think my friend is contacting him hoping he’d do something to help. But how is he going to help me with this?

I hear myself breathing and my muscles shake as I hold still. I know if I move a muscle, they will come into the bedroom. It’s too bad about the dog, but of course he was a threat to them, so that’s the first thing they take after removing all my food from the fridge. It is after midnight. The light from the kitchen spills through the bottom of my bedroom door. I watch as the lights turn off right away, so I know they have left.

I decide that this must stop, and that tonight is the night. I tell myself that I will feel better when it is over. I start to cry. Don’t be weak, don’t be afraid. That’s what they want, I think to myself. The dog helped. I fed him and petted him. He gave me something to focus on. I was helping him too. He knew it. He was so glad to get away from those people. He was the only friend that I could trust. I told him all the details of what has been going on and he agreed with me. He was such a little dog, but they don’t call them teacup Yorkshire Terriers if they aren’t tiny. Small but mighty, as the expression goes. They underestimate me too, I told him.

I am so sad now that he is gone, but then I begin to put the pieces together. I call my friend. She manipulates me and tries the fake concern on me, as always. I stop all that.

“Forget it. Can you come over here?”

“Now? Jane it’s late, maybe tomorrow. I…”

“You said you want to help and now you won’t come.”

“Are you sleeping, Jane? Could it wait until tomorrow? I’ll come first thing in the morning.”

“No, it must be tonight. There is no time to call the others. Come now and don’t call anyone.”

“The others? Jane, I can come, and we’ll talk. Ok?”

“Yes, come. The door will be unlocked. I know what you’ve been doing so don’t try to fool me. It won’t work this time.”

“Oh Jane. Can’t I get…”

The call and everything ended. That’s how it all came to be. They ask me many times about that night, but what they should ask about are the three months leading up to that night and what they had done to me. They explain away all my facts and the proof I have for what happened to me. They try to convince me they are right.

At first, I argue. I am angry. I fight them. Why can’t they see? They keep on about the

sleep. The lack of sleep. How it manifests, how it creates delusions, things that aren’t real. But I know they are real. Nothing can change my mind on that. The lack of sleep has sharpened my focus, honed my senses razor-sharp.

For a while, I take their pills, but I feel horrible: groggy, sloppy, and not at all myself. I know then I can’t continue to take them, so I make a plan. It is so simple. They can’t even tell if I have taken the pills or not.

“How are you feeling Jane?”

“Oh, so much better.”

“How are the sleep disturbances? Have you experienced any noises or seen anything that was upsetting to you?”

“Oh, no. Nothing.”

“Good, Jane. The treatment is really working.”

They are so pleased with themselves as they write the silly notes in their books. Oh, how I wish I could read them. Maybe someday I will. The doctor is on my side now. He knows and has always known what the truth is.

One more week and then I will be free of this place. Then, I can finally get a good night’s rest.

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