I hear the crack of the thunder that signals the beginning of the end. As I lay in bed, cocooned within my blankets and pillows, I no longer pray for the sleep that has eluded me for so long. Sleep is no longer my salvation. I no longer look to it for release from my madness. Now all I can do is hope for death. And just as I start to believe that I will I will finally get my wish. That I will now be able to escape the confines of my own mind, with its monsters, that keep me trapped somewhere between dreaming and waking, the Devil appears at my bed side.
The Devil. My Insomnia. My madness has indeed returned.
Why are you here, I ask. Why do you torment me so? Let me die. Let me return to the nothingness I once was.
"It's time to fight," he informs me.
How am I supposed to fight? And who am I fighting for? You have kept me awake all these long nights. You deny me the blackness that I crave. I have no energy left. I have no will. All I can do is lay here, wrapped tight, and hope my covers smother me. Oh, Insomnia, my sweet sadistic Insomnia, how I hate your presence. How I hate your familiarity. You have turned me from a vibrant woman into a shell of nothing.
Yet, I look for you to come each night. And when you fail to arrive, I panic. See, even though your depravity is slowly killing me, I find comfort in the agony. It is all I know.
"Fight," he commands.
The dark that surrounds my bedroom
is illuminated with a bright red light. Shadows dance against the walls. The fibers that hold the carpet beneath my bed begin to turn. As I walk to the window, I feel the slime of something reaching out from under the bed as it snakes its way past my leg. Pulling back the curtains reveals a horrific scene.
The moon, once beautiful and bright enough to light the night sky, has turned to a blood red. It cracks from the pressure of the creatures digging their way from beneath the surface. I see them. Large. Bat like. Even from this distance, I know that their arrival means only death.
Fire rains from the cloudless night. My neighbors, frightful of the events unfolding, emerge from their homes. Panic spreads quickly as houses, cars, trees, and even the people themselves, are consumed by the flames. The wind begins to blow with a tornado like fierceness. Spreading the flames across dozen of yards, it whips through the trees breaking them at their base. Those that manage to dodge the firestorm find themselves under attack by an unseen enemy. The wind, with the edge of a razor blade, tears the skin off its victims. Faces, eyes wide with terror, bore into my memory as I watch the horror unfold.
I continue to look out the window at these poor people. I watch as the wind grips them, ripping the skin off their backs. I watch, unmoved, as my neighbors cry our for help. The street fills with the blood of so many. Screams fill the night. I shed no tears. I do not feel any distress at the sight of so much carnage. For although their deaths are horrible, almost indescribable, they will eventually die. And as death grants them the sweet relief that they are crying for now, I will still be here, held hostage by Insomnia. I will be imprisoned, shackled by the monster that I have created. So, no horror grabs at me. I do not feel the terror that I am witnessing. All I feel is envy. Envious that they will die. While I am forced to fight a battle that I can not win.
"Fight," Insomnia whispers.
No. No. No. No. I can not. I will not. This is not my fight. I have no enemies. I have nothing to stand for, or, against. I am but a woman. A friend. A daughter. A mother.
Oh God, I gasp. My children? My babies....
"They do not long for this world," he informs me. "They are not here. This is not a fight for the young. For the innocent. This is a fight for the wicked. For those that lie awake when the world sleeps. For those that know how the soul dies when it inflicts pain onto another. This is a war. A war that can only be fought by those that lay on the verge of insanity. This is your fight. You evil wicked woman."
I stand in front of the Devil. I stand there as something unseen slithers up and down my legs. I stand there, dumbstruck, as claws caress my back and shoulders. Shadows shift all around me. They dance about waiting for my reaction. They grin, baring teeth made for tearing the flesh apart. Blood begins to seep from the walls. Saliva drips down from above as demons dance about the ceiling fan.
The Devil stares back. Patient. He waits.
I know the Devil's name. It is not what the bible refers to him as. And I know what the Devil looks like. He does not don the horns of a long forgotten pagan god. He does not crouch on hooves and he is not the crimson color we are all taught in bible school. No, he looks like my worst fear. He is nondescript. Tall with shaggy brown hair. Lean with the build of a runner. His eyes are golden brown. His smile, nonchalant, is lined with perfect teeth.
I know the Devil. His name is Insomnia. He looks like the man I once trusted. The man who betrayed me in a way that no man should ever hurt a woman.
Insomnia. My sweet sadistic Devil. My old friend. My monster. He stands before me, wearing jeans and a t-shirt. He leans against my dresser and casually explains that my children are gone. He instructs me to fight a war that I can not win.
Damn him. Damn him.
I know what is waiting for me outside. My world has died. Out there screams multiply as hell unleashes itself onto us all. Out there war awaits me. It calls to me to come and join. My army is waiting. My battlefield is the cemetery. My squadron are the corpses that have awoken from their slumber. Even now I can smell their sweet stench as they rise out of the dirt that has held them for so long. My lieutenant is the monster made of marble that stands in the middle of the dead. I can hear the flexing of its wings. He is agitated. Anxious for the blood bath to begin.
Yet, I do not fear any of these beasts as much as I fear what sits on the lieutenant's shoulder. My colonel. The creature that will issue the order to begin the destruction. The raven brought me to that hellish place to begin with. Its talons are long. Its black feathers are matted down with dried blood. Its beak, sharp, ready to dive in for a mortal blow.
Fight? I am to fight. But for what? For who? And why?
I shake my head. Dear Insomnia. Why is this happening? What side am I to stand on? Why do I fear that awful bird more than I fear you or the shadows that dance around me now? If I step out of this house, away from the safety of my room, won't I surely die just as those out there do now?
"No," he says. "You are different from them. The evil in your heart protects you. You will not feel the wind's blade. You will only experience the coldness of the fire. You must fight. You remained, on your own free will, in purgatory. Purgatory has vomited you out. Welcome to hell. You belong here. Now fight."
Am I the only one? Who are we fighting against? If this is hell, where is heaven? Where is God?
The Devil shakes his head. He crosses the space between us, and I smell him. I smell the sulfur on his clothes. His breath is hot on my cheek as he leans in for an embrace. I feel myself settling into his arms. They are familiar. Strong. I rest my head against his shoulder. The sulfur engulfs us. Breathing is difficult. The shadows move in closer.
We are family, they whisper. Come to us. Fight with us. There are others. You will not shoulder this alone. Take up your sword. There's a terrific battle unfolding as we stand here. Become a part of it.
My sword? I have no weapons. I have no armor. Whatever I am fighting against, I will surely lose. Let me die whatever horrible death you have planned for me.
But, as always, death is nowhere around. The God that I have prayed to over the years does not show. The shadows that live in my head are now settled all around me. The Devil hands me my weapon. My sword. Only it's not a sword. It is a hockey stick. Wooden. Long. It does not feel right in my hands.
I never cared for hockey.
I walk past Insomnia and the others. They follow as I cross the threshold of my living room. I do not hesitate when I open the door.
Stepping out into the night, I lead my battalion to the cemetery. There I will greet my commanders. I will await the instructions that the Raven has for me. I will fight.
I will win.