There was no hiding from sleep. Hushed, it crept through doors or windows, with all the familiarity of a cat too comfortable in its own domain to announce itself at the door. On padded feet, it might climb the stairs, ease itself into a room. On the space of a blink, it slipped in a shadow, then seated itself boldly in the corner. Not there, and then there all at once, calm and unsurprising. It was always there, prepared.
But Nesha could run from sleep. She drank her hot drinks, kept her hands busy, kept her feet moving. There were always small stacks of things to do and always thoughts to chase around her head. It didn’t matter that sleep was a quick-sand thing, gripping her all the firmer for how hard she kicked against it. Tugging her down more forcefully after each attempt to push it away. She tipped her head back to drag in waking air and ignored the way it pulled at her ankles.
She woke up deliciously warm. Sleep fell away slowly, letting her down easy, and sunlight glowed behind her closed eyes. When she blinked them open, everything was flushed with yellow, edged in soft shadows. The window was closed, but she could still smell the ocean salt outside, locked in on the balmy air from yesterday. There was a faint citrus sharpness from somewhere she had yet to find. And she took a long breath in, pushed it back out, conscious, but thoughtless.
He breathed behind her.
Her back rested against his ribs. His arm laid flat beneath her neck. She listened to him, gently waking into the strange room.
Planned to be human.
By accident, fell asleep.
Became free instead.
cow like shadows in the want
of a long hour’s sleep.
I swear I was tripped –
Sweet stars, I would never fall
asleep on my own.
Answers served on National Encourage a Young Writer Day
Kate Kearney searched: What is an efficient and organized way to store crazy writing papers?
Once upon a time, I had one of those hit-with-a-brick ideas, and wrote the entire thing down on freshly sawn-off two-by-four. And I got a splinter. Then I walked around with a Very Important Piece of a Two-by-Four in my purse for a week, because I was on vacation, and there was no better place to keep it.
When I got home, I put it in a pretty little leather box along with about a hundred torn notebook pages, fifty other strange-shaped scraps, forty napkins, a french fry sleeve, and half of a pizza box lid.
I gave up on efficiency and organization a long time ago. I’m just happy that the box still closes.
And yes, that box smells like bacon and salt and sawdust. What does your writing smell like?
“You know hiding in plain sight is actually a dumb idea, right?” Kayda asked.
She tapped a copper coin against the the table cloth and absently narrowed her eyes at it. The server had dropped their change back onto the table in a careful stack, but she had taken it apart, scattered it between her napkin and the silver service in the center of the table. She slid her fingers along the edges, an old habit to check for clippings, then didn’t let them go.
Brais sat across the table from her and sipped his tea.
One day, Emmy wanted to stick a knife into the alley wall, yank down, and watch the paint tear away. She wanted to see how thick the paint had become, with all her graffiti stacked on top of each other, night after night after night. She had never had a good count of how many paintings she had sketched on the wall in loud dashes of neon colors over quick splashes of white or black or blue to destroy the last one. But it had been every night. Every night for the last year.
Or two years.
She hadn’t recorded the first time.
She sat at the end of the pier, visible only by her loose blonde hair in the dark. The breeze lifted her hair away from her shoulders, tugged at the long lines her jacket which was unbuttoned and unnecessary in the warm summer night. She barely moved otherwise. She breathed, and she idly kicked her feet in the water. Boots still on. Sleep-walking again.
Seeing her, Danail left his rounds immediately, and hurried to the end of the pier. Carefully, he sat down beside her, and then, he paused.
A long time ago, he had been told – by someone he could not name, but who apparently held sway – that it was wrong to wake a sleeper. He had worked out for himself that it would be wrong to let a sleeper drown. Between the two, it usually left him sitting cross-legged beside her for a few minutes while he tried to find a way to convince a person in a dream to get out of it.
“Agate,” he murmured, proud that he had finally managed to ask her name the last time he walked her home.
At midnight, Elida gave up pretending she was moments away from sleep. She gave up pretending she wasn’t cold, grabbed the blanket in both fists and yanked it tight around her shoulders. Pulling her knees to her chest, she kicked the end of the blanket back over her feet, and tucked her head as deep into the pillow as it would go. Then she took two, long breaths, willing her blood to remember its job.
Her skin still felt as if it were trying to sneak itself into numbness before she could catch it.
Groaning, Elida shut her eyes, slowly talking herself into getting up. There was an extra blanket on the other side of the room. Her coat was hanging uselessly off the back of her chair. There were clean knit socks somewhere.