For reasons unbeknownst to me I was having trouble sleeping.
Part of the cause I attributed to my residing in a new apartment, but as I write I check the calendar and notice that months have now passed since inhabiting this place and still deep sleep eludes me. Yet it was not always so, and I do not recall such impediments to slumber in the first weeks of my occupancy.
No, my inability was more recent than not, and frequently I rack my brain in search of an answer or explanation as to what has changed. These mental exertions inevitably occur at the end of my long days, when I lay in my bed desperately trying to quiet my mind so that sleep might come, but instead the opposite takes place and my conscious mind dedicates itself to solving the mystery before it will surrender my body to sleep.
If it wasn’t spiteful it was cruel, and I agonized over my frustration as it grew stronger and less tolerable with every wakeful night. I took to the bottle to soothe me and of course was able to succumb, but this was not without consequence: It often cost most of the next day! And the pills, they gave me fever– not illness of body but an ailment of mind, and the resultant impairment was far worse than any sleepless night.
So I resigned myself to more natural remedies, come what may.
Sleep did not.
It was during the third week of a rather serious bout that my affliction became extremely concerning. Throughout the course of the day I would be struck by insufferable spells of fatigue, so consuming that I would be forced to return to my abode and collapse upon the couch, lest I fall asleep very publicly wherever I happened to be gathering. Often times I imagined myself having conversations, when in reality I was merely staring blankly at an expectant and increasingly troubled associate. I no longer trusted myself to operate a motor vehicle, for my condition had grown so severe that at times I would close my eyes while driving, completely rationalizing in that moment that it would only be for a second. And still, when the stars would come out and I would lay my head on the pillow, nothing would come but the beguiling sounds of the darkest night.
It was on a night such as this that it finally happened. I had adopted my customary pose and placed my hands behind my head, letting the weight of my skull stretch the muscles under my arms. The relaxation spread from my shoulders to my neck as it arched back, finally dropping down my throat and into my chest. A deep breath sent the feeling further and I hardly noticed my eyelids growing heavy. If I had, the observation would have been enough to derail the entire episode, for unbeknownst to me I was on the verge of natural slumber, so rare in these days that I did not even recognize the symptoms. But it was not luck that prevented me from realizing the spell I had fallen under.
It was music.
It came upon the gentle breeze that rattled my open windows, the sound of the orchestra, a symphony of strings, woodwinds, and a choir of seraphim, euphonic ecstasy, dancing in harmony while each moved to the front to carry the tranquil melody, constantly circling around each other and seducing me further into mellifluence, as my mind’s eye followed the source of the sound through a dark and snowy forest toward a seaside castle, besieged by the tempest and mourning for the sun, as did the lonely maiden in the tallest tower whose eyes never left the spot on the horizon where her lover had vanished into the maelstrom, never to be seen again.
I grieved for the maiden; I lamented for the sun; and as the wind carried the tune over frozen fjords and barren fields I knew the sadness of the primordial world, which had seen eons of death and destruction and had never once been given the chance to rest, to shut its eyes to the senseless slaughter of the best it had to offer, only to watch the diffusion of the darkness as the sun vanished beyond the horizon, off to illuminate other worlds that were more gracious to its light.
The tragedy continued, and would continue, no matter who was watching.
No matter who was sleeping.
The music continued to swirl, as did I, and my thoughts ceased to be my own. Still the vision held, baffling in its violence and utter soundlessness, with only the music escaping not as a result but as a symbol and expression of the sorrow of the world, carried by the ceaseless winds from sources unknown and never to be known, for none could know that place from which the wind began, as none could know that time before the storm, when the world was quiet and the sun never set.
Truly this vision was the closest any being could come to knowing what prevailed in the Great Before, and perhaps still resides in the Great Beyond, for in the lifetime man endures he is blind to the elemental forces that afforded his existence. Only in dreams and in death is he granted such insight, and in that moment I realized that I was either sleeping or that I had finally left the realm of the living.
Like a rubber band I snapped, the sensation starting in my chest and springing my neck, arms, and then head forward in a shock. It was not unlike an automobile accident, and for a moment I was so disoriented that I suspected I had finally succumbed to sleep behind the wheel. When my bottom bounced again I realized I was still in bed, where I had spent the night in peaceful slumber, for the sun was now seeping through the cracks in the blinds, and the soothing song of the wind had been replaced by the cordial chirping of birds.
I gave a stretch fitting of one rousing from hibernation. The blood rushed to my head and I was forced to sit down, lest I collapse upon the floor. I let my muscles relax and caught my sinking head in my hands, rubbing my fingers through my hair and facilitating a slow and subtle return to conscious thinking. It did not seem to be a momentous occasion, though this was the first time I had slept through the night in over fifteen weeks. If anything it seemed matter-of-fact, a simple return to my waking life from a slumber that had lasted just long enough.
Gone were my troubles, shed at some point during my journey through my dreamscape. They had evaporated like a weight off my shoulders, and without the pressure in my chest I felt like I was floating. Finally I stood and threw open the doors and windows, inviting the chill touch of the brisk October air, and knowing without proof but with absolute assurance that I would never have trouble sleeping again.