TwentyMature

Elbows resting on the dust covered window sill, I watch the sun creep over the horizon of single storey buildings and towering trees. There is no glass in this window, no curtain to hold back the breeze moving past me and into every corner of my room.

“I need some sleep,” I tell Phakov as he leaps onto the ledge beside me. His eyes are full of curiosity as he scans my face – probably trying to understand why he found me awake for the second straight morning. “Early to bed, early to rise, just like you.”

The truth is that I haven’t slept, not a single minute, since I read Ashes’ note two nights ago. No use telling Phakov though, I don’t need him losing sleep over this crazy woman too.

I’ve tried to forget her threat, the danger she poses to my continued breathing; I want to close my eyes and find relief in dreams or nightmares or nothingness. Oh lord how I need a break from this madness.

But I can’t sleep. My ears hear menace in every creak, every breeze, every unseen noise; my eyes see guns in every window, in every car, behind every door. How can I sleep?

Phakov nuzzles my forearm, the closest thing to affection I have ever received from him. I reach over to give his head a scratch but he jumps down before contact can be made and struts across the carpet and out the door. So much for that.

I return to looking out over the trash filled courtyard; the sunlight is slowly stripping away the shadows to reveal the destitution dotting the ground. This isn’t a view I often indulge in but I’ve been unable to tear myself away the last couple of days.

A movement at the edge of my vision causes my chest to clench and my heart to skip a beat… but it’s only Phakov taking his leave. He glances up at me before stepping around a discarded tire and disappearing around the corner.

“I need to get out of here,” I mutter as I turn away. “I need sleep.”

I gather my things and head for the stairs, doing my best to not jump at my own shadow. Maybe I should sleep at the store tonight – DJ would understand, wouldn’t he?

Well, I’m not sure that I’d want to give him the full explanation. But if I don’t lock myself in there it’s gonna be another long, sleepless night and my brain is about ready to shut down right now. DJ wouldn’t want a zombie running his store, that’s for sure.

I reach the ground floor and pause to look around before stepping into the exposed outdoors. If Ashes doesn’t kill me, this paranoia will.

I take a deep breath and start moving again, walking only a little faster than usual, my shoulders just a bit more hunched. There’s an itch between my shoulder blades that feels like a pair of eyes watching my every step but I refuse to look. This is getting ridiculous.

I arrive at my bus stop with too much time to spare. I sit down. I stand up. I pace back and forth. All the while my eyes are darting in every direction.

“God damn it!” I yell at the morning – I consider it a small mercy when it doesn’t respond. I sit down again and stare at my shoes, determined not to look up until my bus comes around the corner.

To keep my mind busy I start to count my breaths. In one, out two, in three…

I’m up to one hundred and six when the familiar rumble of the bus’ engine reaches my ears. I feel calmer and a touch more sane but I’m still eager to get on that bus and surround myself with people.

The doors clang open and I step on board. Realizing it's not Jerry behind the wheel (I am early or late?), I toss some change in the dispenser and take my ticket and my worries to the back of the bus. I sit down and try to relax but my nerves are too shot, I can’t sit still. I’m exhausted, strained, rattled – I can’t take much more of this.

“I need some damn sleep.”

The End

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