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This fiction piece is in response to the Writing Reader’s prompt – Insomnia

For those who sleep soundly, a full night’s sleep is never enough. The struggle to wake up every morning is very real because sleep is their ally. Alarms are snoozed for five more precious minutes of sleep. Carol had forgotten how that felt. She wished she was one of them. People who could summon sleep whenever they wanted. She wished she didn’t feel so blue when dusk came along. In lighter moments, she would call herself a “human alarm”. She could be counted on to wake anyone up at any ungodly hour. Because she hardly ever slept. She would joke that if alarms didn’t exist, she could have made it her profession! But her insomnia was no laughing matter.

She had tried everything from meditating to warm baths to sleep aids, but here she was at 1AM, still tossing and turning, unable to switch her brain off. Ed, her husband, snored softly by her side, blissfully unaware of her nightly scuffle with sleep. He was aware that Carol suffered from insomnia, but after a hard day’s work, he couldn’t resist the sweet siren song of his comfortable bed. Ed was a wonderful husband, but he seemed so distant when he slept so soundly. How she wished he would stay awake with her, just for a night and talk. Just talk. And tuck her back in bed when sleep finally beckoned. They had been married for too long for that to happen. She sighed and got out of bed. Ed didn’t even stir. He was too far away to listen.

She turned the kitchen light on and made herself a little snack. Waking up in the middle of the night always made her hungry. The neighborhood sounded so tranquil at this hour. The exact opposite of the storm in her mind. She turned the TV on and scrolled uninterestedly through the list of channels, watching nothing in particular. The sound of the dishwasher sloshing was quite loud. Slosh slosh, Sam, Sam, Sam….Over the TV volume, it went Sam.. Sam.. Sam. Carol shut her eyes tight and forced her brain to think something else. Anything but Sam.

1.45 AM. Had only 45 minutes passed? Really? It’s surprising how time has different speeds for day and night. Mornings are always rushed, but time drags on at night, like a toddler who doesn’t want to go home from the playground. Every ticking second is interminable. More so because you really have nothing to do, but wait till it’s morning. Carol thought about how much she could get done if only banks and grocery stores stayed open at night! Maybe they should start a special service for insomniacs. “For Insomniacs, By Insomniacs”. She took a bite of her cold sandwich and almost smiled.

She walked out to the patio. It was slightly chilly. A cricket chirped rhythmically somewhere. She heard a few bikes roar past. Late night revellers, perhaps. It was a Friday night. From her spot, she could see Mr.& Mrs.Yang’s house. The light was on in one of the rooms. Chris must be up. Typical teenage behavior. Chris, Sam’s best friend. No, not Sam. Think about something else. Divert your mind, Carol! A sudden breeze caressed the trees..Sam Sam Sam…

If only she hadn’t stopped to pick up milk from Costco, she would have been on time. She had met Marla there and she had stopped to chat for a few minutes. She should have just snuck away from Marla’s view and rushed out to pick Sam. She didn’t even like Marla. She probably should have picked up that milk the day before, when she was driving home from work. Why hadn’t she done that? If she had, she would have gone straight to pick Sam up. Sam, her precious 15-year old son. He was waiting outside his guitar class for Carol to pick him up. He was the kindest soul Carol knew. He was also the victim of a senseless killing. All he had tried to do before he was stabbed was run after a thief who was trying to grab someone’s bag.

Maybe if she had left work 15 minutes early, it could have been avoided. This was Carol’s obsession. Constructing these scenarios in her head. She liked doing that because Sam was alive at the end in all of them. The unfortunate truth always hit her eventually. That Sam would never come back. No imaginary situation would bring him back. She was losing her mind over something that fate had already sealed. She felt a heavy hand on her shoulder and almost screamed in fright. Ed was awake. A knowing look and an unspoken dialogue passed between them before Ed said “Come on, let’s try and get some sleep”. Tomorrow was another day.

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