Stay Asleep (new short fiction story)

Just to prove I’m still alive, here’s a little short story I wrote recently about a scary thought I’ve been thinking about, a fear someone mentioned to me somewhere that stuck with me.

Check out “Asleep.”

“Asleep” by Costa Koutsoutis

I couldn’t sleep.

It’d been a regular thing for about a week, ever since the funeral, so I just got up, swinging my feet off the bed and into my slippers right by the side of the bed. I stared, best as i could, into the dark at myself in the bedroom mirror, getting up. It was still dark and I didn’t feel like turning the lights on just yet, content to walk through the house in the muted lack of light, feeling it around me, a low hum of sleeping TV, the fridge, the tail end of the dishwasher’s cycle running down.

Out the bedroom into the living room, past the couch and into the kitchen through the doorway, the opening I’m ninety-five percent sure the landlord just carved through the wall because he didn’t want to put in a door. It was one of the draws of the apartment when I first moved in, putting the bed, the wall mirror across, the couch and TV, and the kitchenette table and chairs I’d inherited from my mom down on the smooth polished wooden and tile floors that I was walking across now, slippers barely shuffling and swishing.

I opened up the fridge, peeking in, the bright blink of light washing over my face, making my eyes hurt.Nothing of interest, my leftovers, my lunch to take to work tomorrow, some frozen veggies thawing, half a leftover takeout Korean meal, beer, water, juice, vegetables and fruits and cheese. I didn’t even want anything anyway, just stirring around in the dark, quiet, feeling the heavy breath of the night around me.

Even in the empty house, alone that night, I eased the door closed quietly out of habit, walking over to the couch and plopping down. I flipped through a few channels of silence, mute on, nothing catching my interest at all, just commercials, reruns, televangelists, more commercials, sports commentary about D-level high school basketball, and soft-core porn.

Whatever.

I made my way back into the bedroom and lay back down, tired now suddenly, the wave of energy that had woken me up gone. I realized I still had my slippers on, kicked them off under the covers, snuggling up with the comforter before sleep overtook me again, and I felt my eyelids lower, softly, heavily, a wave of soft silken lead.

~

Benny woke up, the sunlight on his eyelids hurting him almost, his head weighty with the feeling of cotton and a bone-deep tired. He stared at the bedroom mirror, the big door-sized one across from the bedroom, stretching out under the covers to yawn, feeling his feet kick something under the covers, his slippers. 

That’s weird, his brain vaguely registered, walking barefoot out of the bedroom, rubbing his eyes. Coulda sworn I took them off before I went to bed. He couldn’t be sure though, not with the way he’d been sleeping recently, just a string of days of barely-dragging through, eyelids perpetually heavy.  

The tiredness had been happening for a while now, maybe a week of sleep but no rest, ever since the funeral and the reading of the will, the boxes of stuff from his grandmother showing up, him signing for them dead-eyed, barely remembering it.

Constantly waking up every morning, tired, as if he’d been awake all night. Sleepwalking, maybe? He didn’t know, his coworkers suggested a new bed, someone told him about mood music to help him sleep better, others who knew about the funeral suggested maybe a therapist, or barring that, a vacation. 

He shuffled through the morning routine, coffee, shower, dressed, rubbing his eyes and out the door to work without a thought. In his bag was a book, his lunch for the day, more coffee in the travel mug autopilot the entire way through his morning, and then later on, continuing through the day.

As the apartment’s front door clicked closed, the forgotten light in the bedroom clicked off, the sheets in the bed shuffling. In the bedroom mirror, the reflection groaned slightly, rolling over in bed, pulling the covers up over his head.

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