Nov. 26, 2015
"This one tastes better," said Jill with a shrug, tapping the vial with the bright blue liquid. "But otherwise it will do the same thing. You will be out cold for ten hours - no dreams."
I picked up the vial, it looked like antifreeze or those blue freeze-pops that were labeled "Blue Raspberry." I had never seen a blue raspberry.
"You're sure?" I asked, not able to keep the tremble out of my voice.
"That's what they say, anyway. I don't dream," she said, and began to chew at a hangnail on her thumb. Behind her were shelves with hundreds - maybe thousands - of other containers of all shapes and sizes. Some filled with powders, others had live insects. There was one, half hidden behind a jar of meal worms, that held a tiny humanoid body with wings suspended in some kind of viscous liquid.
I handed her the envelope of money. It had taken me three weeks to scrape up the five thousand dollars she had been asking for. But I needed it. Just one night. One night without dying. It would be worth it.
I left, walking through the alley that was slick with muddy slush. A blanket of gray clouds smothered the moon, but made the night feel warmer than it had in weeks. But that only meant more snow. Not even halfway through winter and a long way to go before the sun made a lengthy stay.
Sleep was what you're supposed to do in winter. We're predisposed to it. Just curl up under heavy blankets and sleep until spring, like a squirrel or a bear. But every time I sank into sleep I would learn of a new way I could die.
At first it seemed normal. Stress nightmares where you fall and wake with a start. But they became more intricate as time went on. Just last week I had a party with friends, we were sitting around the dinner table laughing and joking. I had never felt so happy - which should have been my first clue. As one they all turned to stare at me, and their eyes were missing. As one they stood and began to pull pieces of my body away and eat it before my eyes. At one point, my best friend Jenna, paused in the middle of chewing on my bicep and then offered it to me. I woke screaming.
I've drowned. Hung myself. Been poisoned. Slaughtered like a hog. Burned to death. Electrocuted. Pulled apart by animals. Choked on a sandwich. Once I was even tickled to death - which as silly as it sounds was one of the worst in memory. Now if anyone tries to tickle me while I'm awake I start sobbing uncontrollably.
I got to my apartment and it was dark. Even when I turned the lights on and started the radio to fill the silence it felt hollow. In my old apartment I could have a cat, but when Neil left me I couldn't afford my old place. And Mr. Phillips was clear about his stance on animals.
"If you don't need it to tell you when to cross the street, you don't need it," he said. Which meant Neil got my cat. I missed Mrs. Rex more than I missed Neil - which was probably a small part of the reason he left.
I pulled out the vial and looked at it. There was no label. Nothing to say what was held in the delicate glass container. I pulled the stopper and the smell of lavender and peppermint spilled out. I sipped it and then downed the whole container.
I decided against eating anything. And I went to my bedroom, which was just a mattress on the floor. A hamper of unfolded clothes was in the corner - I couldn't remember if they were clean or dirty. I didn't bother with curtains or alarm clocks. I didn't sleep enough any more to need them.
This had to work. It had to. I'd find a way to get them the money if I could just sleep through the night.
The mattress sank under my weight and I closed my eyes.