Lately, my sleep had been disturbed. Not by a cold draft through the bedroom, or an inferior matress as I first suspected.
It was the dreams. They started around the same time I began waking up as tired as when I turned in for the night.
I would open my eyes, and stare into an impossibly bright light shining down on my face. I would try to move my arms to shield my face, but they were strapped tightly to my sides. Immobile. Quite like my legs, in fact. I couldn’t do anything except shut my eyes tight and wait for the droning sounds and muffled, far-away voices to end, signalling that I have woken up.
After the fifth fatigued day at the office, I decided to go and do something about it. I called up a friend of a friend. He’s not great for company, but the man works in a pharmacy. It can be a major advantage to not have to jump through the hoops of medical checkups and therapy to receive what you want.
I clutched the bottle of sleeping pills tightly on my way home. It’s been ages since I had a sleepless night. Ages. One before bed. Maybe another one, if I don’t feel suitably relaxed. Taking three is unwise. Never take four.
That night, I dreamt of the surgical table once more. The blinding light seems further now, though. I blink twice. At least I can see now. That’s better. Still can’t move my limbs, though. Infact, that seems to be harder than ever. It’s kind of nice, though. Slowly but surely, my eyes slip shut. Buzzing again, and far-off mumbling. I don’t care.
Once I’ve waken up and realize I am still as tired as before, I start caring. These aren’t working. This has to stop.
It is with great trouble that I managed to drag myself through the workday. A colleague notes how tired I look, and offers her advice. A couple others join in. Warm baths. Warm milk. Cold baths. Don’t read before bed. Read before bed.
It’s no use.
I have decided what I want to do.
It’s friday, luckily. That means that even if it goes wrong, it shouldn’t be a problem tomorrow. Going home early means ample time to set everything up. It’s going to be a hassle strapping myself to my own bed, of course. My teeth do the job just fine of adjusting the thick leather belts. There. Now, nothing to do but sleep.
I open my eyes to the burning light once more. This time, my arms are free. It worked. I roll over to my side, allowing my eyes to finally open and adjust to the room. Despite the blinding lamp positioned above my head, the room itself is dark. Machinery lines the walls, with various wires and tubes connecting to my body. I lose balance, and fall to the ground. Groaning in pain, I manage to get to my knees, ripping out one of the wires connected to my chest by accident. Oh god, that hurts. A thick black fluid pools on the sterile tiled floor, dripping out of the tubing that had been pumping into my chest before. That’s bad news.
Crawling around on the damp tiles, I make my way to a door. I think it is a door. It might be a door-shaped decoration. Can’t know unless you try to open it. I rub the mucus out of my eyes, trying my best not to pay attention to the heavy footsteps signalling the entrance of whoever has been trying to operate on me for the last few nights. I fall forwards, into a sprawling meadow. Spires rise to the skies, past the clouds, and in the distance stands a massive mountain, casting a menacing shadow, top obscured by yet more rolling clouds.
The grass feels wet on my bare feet, from fresh dew. I wriggle my toes into the soil. It all feels real enough to convince me that this is no ordinary dream-state. This was something more. Behind me, there is nothing. Forwards, then. Towards the mountain.
After what feels like a solid hour of walking, I notice that I am not getting any closer. A burning feeling in my chest. Something wet soaking into my shirt. I lift it, and discover a heavily bleeding wound in the shape of the mountain in front of me. I blink, and there I am, sitting upright in bed, surrounded by scraps of torn leather and an alarm screeching at me to get up already.
Getting closer now. Sweat beads on my forehead the next night, as I heat up the kitchen knife. Read somewhere that makes it sterile. Can’t do much harm.
Oh, yes. I slip it under the skin, tearing the capillaries in the pattern of the mountain from my dreams. It will be pleased, this way. It will let me pass. I had prepared gauze far in advance, so as to make sure my experiment did not needlessly injure me. Pressure on the chest, and it’s like nothing ever happened. This is how my body should be.
After bandaging myself, I feel the back of my head hit the pillow, and I am gone once more. This time, I wake up in the meadow. The mountain is closer than before, and seems to beckon me. The smell of sulfur hangs in the air. The skies are painted a stark purple, clashing with the bright green grass and the cold gray stone. I lurch forwards, towards it. I must get to the top. I’ll find meaning there.
The climb is grueling. Bits of rock crumble beneath my bare feet, rolling down to the meadow. My fingers bleed from digging my nails into the stone. I press onwards. I must know.
Halfway up, I notice a flatter passage, winding around the mountain. I rest with my back to the stone, and inspect my broken nails. A small price to pay. My eyes close.
I wake up in my bed. My bandages are soaked in crimson, and the wound begins to itch. I wordlessly exchange my bandages for fresh ones, and apply iodine to the wound. There are missed calls on my phone. To stop here would be suicide. Work starts the next day. I must be at my best. I claw and scratch at my walls, until my fingernails splinter under the abuse and red rivers drip down to my palms. It’s never going to be enough. Never.
Laying my battered body down on my bed, it does not take long until my body realizes that sleep is all I need. I am still so, so tired. My eyes grow heavy, and I drift back off.
A cold, bitter wind blows through my skin and chills my bones. It hurts. It is necessary. I continue my ascent. I shall give myself to the mountain. It shall answer my questions.
The higher I go, the harsher the wind gets. It cuts against my skin like a razor, flaying the outer layers. My body comes undone in the gale, and I can’t help but laugh. I stumble forwards to the summit, and at last, peer out over the clouds. There is no wind up here. There is no sound. There is only the mountain.
Tears flow down my cheeks as I gaze outwards, towards what should be the moon. It is not the moon. It is something worse. A ginormous organism, capable of watching, seeing, and weeping. It can only weep. I laugh at it. I have so much more. I could love. I had laughed, cried, and sang. It should have been praising ME! I stuck my fists up in defiance, and sang in joy as the wind picked up once more, further piercing through my flesh and ripping it free of my bones. All around me, I saw other mountaintops rise through the thick carpet of clouds, and others climbing them. Some were standing at the top, laughing and singing as I was. Others threw themselves off in despair after reaching the top.
This is my end.