I knew it would come again. My eyes peer through the gloom, forming the number one followed by barely visible infra-red noughts on the TV display. I turn over, in the hope that shutting out the light, pulling the crisp white sheets tight around me will return me to sleep.
But it doesn’t. The cold creeps in. First to my feet and then slowly up my body, until all I can do is shiver. Pulling the bedding tighter round me, I seek warmth but the ice still permeates through the extra layers.
I turn to lie on my back, opening my eyes again. A half-light from the streetlights filters through the pale curtains allowing me to visualise the shapes in the room. I track across, noting the desk, the black box of the TV screen to the dark wardrobe in the corner. A mirror stood lengthways beside it refracts odd light beams onto the ceiling. At times I think they move, coming to life in the vacuum of night, proving that there is no such thing as empty, no such thing as a room where nothing happens.
I’m on the eighth floor of a branded hotel, locked into a corporate shoe box, alongside numerous other identical boxes. Another image comes to mind, this time the building, its wall stripped away. The occupants fast asleep in their individual cells. The picture focuses on my space, seeking the one that lies awake, staring into nothing. Cold and alone.
Pushing the paranoia away, I return to the darkness behind my eyelids. Closing my mind to intruders…but still I sense them.
Worries float in the haze, another business meeting where I will be too tired to think; a wife who wants me home, an ex who needs more than I can give. They hang around, growing like clouds, feeding on the lingering light, until they fill the room, then strike like swords, breaking easily through the barrier of sweet thoughts held for protection.
This is my night, the battle commencing, counting the red numbers round to the next cycle. Time told in digits not in occurrence; imagination finding new terrors to taunt me.
Until the numbers reach the correct combination, the circuit completes and the bell rings. Night feeding day, where sleep will tease me with hope, that come the next time, it will leave me in peace.