When we need an escape from our dreadful reality, we often find solace in our dreams. The problem is that sleep only accounts for part of our life. The rest of the time, we spend it suffering the aftermath of whatever haunts us the most. Luckily, and with the help of a few drinks, I found a way to dull those feelings. However, they did nothing to deter the memories. In fact, they seemed to amplify them the more drunk I got. So, for me, there was never peace. On the night everything changed, I’d fell against the pillow and was seconds away from venturing into the Sandman’s kingdom when the phone rang.
Frustrated, I slammed my fist into the pillow with a muffled thump, and picked up the receiver. “Who the hell is this?”
“There’s a car waiting for you outside your house. It’s time.”
“Babe, is everything okay?” my wife said, which startled me.
I dropped the phone as everything went silent except for a deep ringing in my ears. A burning sickness emerged in the pit of my stomach followed by the all-too-familiar numb lips and cold face. I scrambled out of bed, the twisted sheets struggling to hold me. When my feet finally hit the wood floor, my heart played the rhythm of madness as I looked upon the bed in disbelief.
Alena said, “Honey?”
I took a deep breath, wiped my hands down my face, and picked the phone off the floor. “Y—yes. Everything’s fine.”
“Alright, well, come back to bed will you?”
My eyes drained. “I will. I just need to get a glass of water.”
She murmured her acknowledgement, already barely awake enough to respond. I set the phone on the cradle, and stood at edge of the bed.
The cool moonlight turned the otherwise colorful room into a black and white wonderland. Provocative as it may have been at that moment, it couldn’t detract my attention from my wife. Alena was as beautiful as ever. She had her palms pressed together and snugly positioned under her soft cheek, which pouted her lips. Although her hair appeared colorless, it splayed across the pillow and above the comforter like a great phoenix rising from ashes. In that moment, she was a phoenix. Returned and although sleeping—the waking world’s preparation for death—she was most certainly alive and in that bed.
After a solid soothing breath, I wiped the wetness from my face and made my way to the front door. Before opening it, I peered through the peephole. A black sedan that looked to be of an expensive make, quietly waited at the curb. Clouds of exhaust bent on embrittling the environment billowed from the back of it. The incredibly black tint allowed no view of those inside, but I knew. I knew.
After grabbing my keys and stepping out, I turned and locked the door. Suddenly, I felt eyes on my back. The chill caused my skin to tighten around my shoulders, leaving a sour tingly feeling between them. I dropped the keys in the planter and walked to the car.
The rear door slowly opened as I approached it. Though the tint left me no vision into the cabin, I wouldn’t have seen anything anyway. Inside, an inky blackness devoured the moonlight. I reached inside, and I felt nothing as my hand disappeared. When I pulled back, it reappeared. It was as if a preternatural void or a living creature of pure darkness was contained within that vehicle.
“Get in.” I recognized the voice from the phone, which wasn’t the first time I’d heard it that night.
I nodded, and stepped inside. I was in a seat with darkness all around me. The neighborhood had gone. The moon was gone. The house, the bench where my wife and I exchanged our first kiss, and the flowers she planted last spring were all gone. Worst of all, she was gone once again.
I felt someone grasp my arm. My skin burned and an icy numbness traveled to the tips of my fingers. It reminded me of the man I’d met earlier that night. His frigid stare from those frozen sapphire eyes perfectly matched his frosty voice. After our deal, we shook hands, and that same prickly feeling lingered long after he’d gone. Now, it was back and consumed every inch of my body.
He said, “It’s time.”
I left just then, never to return.
On the day we exchanged our vows, I told Alena that I’d give my life for her. She’ll never know that was the reason I left her all alone and will probably never forgive me, but that’s okay. What was important was that she finally escaped her sadness and moved on with her life.
I still see her from time to time, but I can’t leave this eternity of darkness. Despite how horrible it is and how painful it can get, I’d gladly do it all over again if given the chance. Although it hardly measures my love for her, I sincerely hope with each passing moment in this timeless place that she enjoys my final gift to her. A full life of lasting happiness.