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 Mass Insomnia - Horror/Fantasy, All welcome, casual, no fuss
mezmusic
 Posted: Jul 1 2015, 12:31 PM
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[[overview for those interested in joining. All welcome. Just jump in.]]


Was it possible for idle dreams to build up in the brain after months of going undreamt? And if they were left too long, might they spill from the cavities in the skull, and seep into the waking world?

Timothy (smells like dung) Mung's eyes were open. They were always open, always counting. Counting the beige, stucco nubs that dotted the ceiling. Counting the clicks of his box fan's blades as they rapped against the plastic frame, unsuccessfully beating back the mid-August heat. Counting the neon-green hours lit up on his alarm clock (4:29 AM). Slits of orange streetlamp light stretched across his bedroom, which was less of a room, and more of a walk-in closet. "A cozy apartment", the realtor's listing had said. As cozy as a satin-lined, pine box, six-deep in the earth.

Sleeplessness had descended on Tim a month ago, as quietly as the common cold. The first night, he’d blamed it on the double-shot Redbull he’d chugged halfway through his afternoon shift at Wendy’s. On the second night, he’d blamed his internal clock, which had probably taken too many knocks and late-night staring contests with his desktop monitor. It wasn’t until a week had passed that he caught the headline on a copy of The Dorchester Reporter, left on the restaurant’s outdoor table among the scattered remains of a Combo #3 and #7.

MASS INSOMNIA STRIKES NEW ENGLAND

22% of Dorchester residents had been affected, which was a little less than the average across New England. There was no pattern to it. People of all ages, classes and races had it (whatever it was). Even stranger, those affected didn’t feel the symptoms associated with lack of sleep. In fact, Tim had felt more energetic in the past month, than he had the whole year. Suddenly he had an extra eight hours to fuck around, and what could be so bad about that? It wasn't until two nights ago, when the figure had appeared in the corner of his room, looming over his bed like it was waiting for him to get in, that he’d begun to change his tune.

It had been 4:42 AM. Hunched at his desk, Tim had felt a creeping sense of dread. It was the kind he felt when he laid in bed, one foot dangling over the edge of his mattress where some thing might grab it. It raced through him, raising the hairs along his arms and neck, chanting, don’t look behind you. But he had.

The figure had been dark, untouched by the street light, or the computer monitor’s blue glow. It was like staring into a starless sky, endless–like all his sleepless nights had multiplied and stacked, like reels of film, each layer leaving the sum darker than the last, until the darkness was too dense to be pierced by the eye. Its shape was that of a human shadow, stretched and warped so that it towered from floor to ceiling. Tim had stared into it, sure that the moment he looked away would be his last. In the hours between then and sunrise, the figure didn’t move, didn’t make a sound. And when the morning light slipped through the blind’s slats, it faded with the rest of the shadows. The next night, it returned. 4:42 on the dot.

I might die here.

The thought flickered in Tim’s mind. He shifted his weight from one butt cheek to the other, causing his desk chair to squeak. Why not? Average people had heart attacks every day for no apparent reason. He’d read about kids sitting at their computers for hours, a lethal clot forming in their legs while they grind their level 100 Paladin. They never saw it coming.

Tim slurped from his Cup of Noodles, which had gone cold hours ago. Maybe this soup of carcinogens and monosodium glutamate would do him in forty years from now. Maybe his twilight visitor was the start of a brain tumor, sprouting in the center of his gray matter. They’d catch it late. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d had a doctor’s appointment. Then it would take its sweet time, gnawing away at his insides until there was only rot. But not tonight. Tonight he was preoccupied with the volcanic zits on PrincessButtercup94’s nose. It turns out his high school computer lab course (the one class he’d attended regularly) had paid off. He was just proficient enough in Photoshop to make a quick buck correcting photos, mostly headshots for wannabe actors.

Tim squinted at the clock in the corner of his screen. 4:37. Ten more minutes, and he might have been able to finish PrincessButtercup94’s face, but the memory of the figure waiting over his bed made him shudder. Not tonight. Tim was still dressed in his plaid, flannel pajamas when he headed out the door. He'd received them in the mail from his mother last year on the day before his 27th birthday. Included in the package was a bag of Aji Ichiban dried mango and a crisp twenty dollar bill. No card.

At 4:42 AM, Tim crossed the empty cul de sac, fingers jammed in the holes of his pants pockets. He didn't notice that the sky, black and brooding, had smothered the stars, and swallowed the moon.
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alyeska
 Posted: Jul 1 2015, 01:30 PM
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It was 4:30 am.
It was always 4:30.

The clocks in Pepper's house stopped working the day she stopped sleeping.
Twice a day, she could claim to be on time- which she never was- and she had the phenomenal luck of being awake for them both.

And she was always awake.

At first, the extra hours seemed like a blessing. For someone who never had enough time, those night-time hours, left uninterrupted by sleep and the desire for it, granted her just what she needed; the opportunity for a magnificent game of catch up.
For once, the week's paperwork was done on time.
The appropriate calls were made, the emails placed.
The laundry was washed, dishes cleaned, shopping finished.
Imagine that. Pepper Peralez: Functioning Adult


And then she'd started seeing them.
First, around corners, as fleeting shadows in the darkness.
Lurking after hours in the empty cubicle beside her, outside of her window, at the end of the grocery aisle.
The more time that passed, the braver they became, until every little shadow made her jump.

Even as a child, Pepper had never been afraid of the nighttime or the darkness it ushered in.
The Dark was only the absence of light, until it was standing over her bed at four in the morning, breathing hot air down the back of her neck as she whispered 'Hail Mary's into the wood-carved rosary around her neck.

Her prayers had lasted two nights.
Two full, torturous nights of laying in bed, frozen, staring into the unchanging neon of the alarm clock on her bedside table, praying for Someone Out There to save her from whatever lurked behind her bed.

The next morning, she had bought her first pack of cigarettes since her teenage years, and left her 5-year anniversary AA coin discarded in the trash outside of the local Wine&Spirits.
She stopped going to work, and the laundry piled up.
Her email went unchecked, but she managed to grind her Pandarin Monk to level ninety before her internet and television cut out, leaving her with a useless phone line and stacks of unopened bills buried beneath a mountain of empty Chinese take out boxes.

~


It's some time after 4:30 in the morning (she guess) when she taps the last two cigarettes from her sixth pack, shaking loose tobacco across her cluttered kitchen table.
There are a handful of 24-hour businesses within walking distance- a lingering positive of the insomnia plaguing a fraction of New England's population- and almost all of them sell cigarettes. Another positive, since cigarette smoking between ages 18-38 had jumped considerably within the past few weeks.
But nighttime is their time. Even as that last cigarette panic sets in, she can feel the darkness shifting in the corners of her apartment. Behind the kitchen counter, they begin to take form, and she forgoes the cigarette for the imagined safety of her perpetually lit bedroom.
Only when she swears she hears the monsters under her bed begin to growl does she trades the three day old tank top for one slightly less dirty, still crumpled, and shoves her last twenty dollar bill into the pockets of her denim shorts.


It is still dark when she ventures outside, locking the door to her apartment behind her.
She pretends it helps- pretends she doesn't see the shadows that slip beneath the opening anyway. Just like she pretends not to notice that her own shadow is nonexistent when she lights her remaining cigarette underneath the toxic orange glow of the streetlamp outside of her building and begins her convenience store trek.




~
ooc;

insert trash can emoji here
  also sorry i switched tenses i just thought it sOUNDED BETTER bye
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mezmusic
 Posted: Jul 4 2015, 11:53 AM
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When the insomnia story broke, the news stations had been all over Dorchester, nabbing anyone wandering around past 1:00 AM for a sound bite. Somehow Tim had managed to avoid them; maybe he was invisible. Four weeks later, no closer to a cure or a cause, the frenzy had died. The insomnia didn't appear to be contagious. People were expected to return to work, with nothing more than the occasional, "How's that sleep-thing goin'?" during smoke breaks.

At the end of the cul de sac was Lee Drive, a two way street that was only wide enough to accommodate one car. One side was lined with brick townhouses, the other with trees. The asphalt was pocked with potholes from last winter (and the winter before that, and so on); it was horrible for driving or biking. Walking it was okay, though. It reminded Tim of the first night he'd gone trick or treating without his mom.

Flanked by Anton Wilson and Peter Bercotti, he'd dared to walk the double yellow line. He had, after all, been invited out by two 6th graders. Him, a lowly 4th grader. How triumphant Tim had felt, marching outside on the cusp of daylight with a tan cowboy hat and a plastic revolver tucked in his belt loop. He'd pried the orange cap off the evening before to make it look like a real gun.

He hadn't batted an eyelash when Peter had suggested cutting through the empty playground behind their school. That was the shortest path to the big houses on Washington St, the ones that gave out the king sized chocolate bars. All was well until Tim had spotted Jeremy Watts on the blacktop, nervously tucked between two 6th grade boys. A pair of plastic bags sat at their feet. They were filled with dark sludge. Much scrawnier than Tim (who was light to begin with), and born with a lazy eye, Jeremy had been the designated butt of every joke since kindergarten. The kid had been built for it, with a heavy head that bowed easily. He had delicate features, like the moment he was born, his eyes, nose and jaw had sensed his place in the societal food chain, and had retreated into his face so that he might go unnoticed.

Seeing Jeremy, that's when Tim had known something was wrong. Because Jeremy Watts was a loser. Peter and Anton wouldn't have invited Queer Eyed Jeremy trick or treating for all the king sized chocolate bars in the world. There had been a look of resignation on Jeremy’s face; unlike Tim, he had known exactly what awaited them.

Tim was halfway down Lee Drive when he heard an engine growling behind him. The tinted high beams came next, spotlighting his back and casting his gangly shadow on the asphalt in front of him. It was quite like the dark figure that haunted his bed, except it was real. It was going to kill him. Tim leaped for the grassy shoulder, arms thrown over his head. The car shot by, a deep bass drumbeat blaring from its speakers, and warping as the car passed.

Tim landed hard, his whole body tingling. Still alive. The car screeched to a stop. Lying on his stomach, Tim eyed the car's brake lights, trying to make out the plate number. Then, with a lurch, the car drove in reverse and pulled up beside him.

"T, is that you?" The voice greeting him was thick with an exaggerated Southie accent; it sounded like a parody. Peering out the passenger window from the driver's seat was Kevin Cho, one of the fry cook's at Wendy's. He had a helmet of black hair, which was coated gel. He was built like a sailor.

"Jesus Christ, Kev," Tim grunted, pushing himself to his feet. He brushed patches of grass and twigs from his pajamas.

"Shit, man. I almost hit you," Kevin said. Tim couldn't tell if Kevin was angry or amused. In the high beam’s eerie light, Kevin's expression seemed distorted and jackal-like. His jutting brow kept his eyes in shadow. “What’re you doing in the middle of the road?”

"Sorry," Tim muttered with a shrug. "I was heading towards Dorchester Ave to kill some time."

"You want a ride? I'm headed to work, so it's on my way." Kevin raised his eyebrows, and the shadows covering his eyes grew big and round, like a cartoon skeleton's eye sockets. Tim looked up and down Lee Drive, hesitant. "Come on, man," Kevin said, patience draining from his voice, "I'm already late."

“Yeah, okay,” Tim shook his head clear and got in the car.

The instant the passenger door was closed, Kevin's foot smashed the gas pedal. Speeding at 48 miles per hour, Kevin turned the volume up on the radio. The music made the entire car tremble. On the floor by his foot, Tim noticed what was either a used condom, or a crumpled napkin. He inched his feet closer to his seat.

"This insomnia shit is the best thing to ever happen to me," Kevin shouted. His breath was a cloud of Listerine, cinnamon gum, and peppermint toothpaste. It was almost enough to cover the stench of stale beer. "Freddy's been letting me pick up hours all over the place. I'm surprised you stuck with your day shift."

Tim watched the dark mass of trees blur together as they passed. He could feel Kevin glancing at him. Kevin had always rubbed him the wrong way, all smirks and no smiles, a teasing glint in his eyes. He was the kind of guy that boasted about spitting in people's food. Tim had seen him do it, too. The bastard was fast, almost unnoticeable, and his aim was disturbingly accurate. Since then, Tim checked every burger he ordered for lunch, just in case.

"Nah. If I take any more hours, I'll hit 40 a week. That's the last thing Freddy wants," Tim said.

"Sucks."

"Yeah."

They rode in silence, drums and bass bursting from the radio and filling the space between them. Tim wondered if Krissy was working the register that night. Krissy with a K and two S's, like the word 'kiss', she'd said with a wink on his first day behind the register. He had blushed. Even in black slacks and the company issued shirt and visor, Krissy was gorgeous. Not like his finished photoshop jobs. Half way down the bridge of her nose was a faded scar, after which her nose angled to the right; her cheek had a brown patch of skin, like the OB-GYN had marked her with bloody thumb print, and it had since dried. She was all the more charming for it. Behind all the sass and charcoal eye shadow was the sweetest smile Tim had ever seen.

"Who's working your shift today?" Tim asked as nonchalantly as he could. Kevin snorted.

"You mean, 'Is Krissy working my shift today'?" Kevin teased, waggling his eyebrows. Tim's ears went red, and he hoped it was too dark for Kevin to notice. Kevin threw his head back and laughed. The car veered towards the shoulder. "I've seen the way you look at her, dude. I mean, we're all lookin', you know?"

Tim sucked his cheeks between his teeth, still staring out the window.

"Oh, come on," Kevin said, rolling his eyes, "You know she's blown the whole staff in the back freezer, right? Like, everyone but Freddy. And you, I guess." Tim side-eyed Kevin, who was side-eyeing him back. Gleeful smile lines folded at the corner of Kevin's eyes. Laughter sat on the edge of his lips, which held it back like cohesion holds water from the rim of a full glass.

"How would you even know?" Tim said, scowling. The laughter spilled from Kevin's mouth, a seemingly endless flow. He wheezed, coughed, spit out his open window, and laughed some more. A series of images filled Tim's mind: his hands wrenching the steering wheel from Kevin, a curtain of maple leaves and branches smacking the windshield, followed by a nice, solid tree trunk. His fingers tapped his knees restlessly.

"Forget it, T,” Kevin shook his head, “Anyway, she's not working today. Said this insomnia shit’s really been getting to her. She called out sick for every shift since two nights ago." A lump clung to Tim’s throat. Two nights ago… Did she have her own phantom? He turned towards Kevin, whose mouth made a grim line. They passed under a streetlamp, and for an instant, the shadows vanished. The light painted the car in tones of amber and gold. Unshaven stubble had crept up Kevin's cheeks. His eyes were rimmed with dark circles, and stitched with red veins. In them, Tim saw fear.

"I've been thinking of calling in sick, too," Kevin said. He measured Tim with his eyes. The car began to rumble. They were driving on the right shoulder, heading straight for the trees.

"Kev! Kev, the road!" Tim said, gaze bouncing between Kevin and the trees. But Kevin just stared at him, like he was waiting for something. The car listed as they went over a stone, and then another. The frame rattled as rocks, launched by spinning wheels, smacked the car’s underside.

“The spiders! I know you see them, too!” Kevin shouted, spittle flying from his mouth, “I’m not crazy!”

Tim sprang across the car, reaching for the steering wheel. Crazy or not, he wasn’t dying for this steroid-sucking fuck. Just as Tim’s fingertips graced the leather, Kevin yanked the wheel to the left. They spun out.

[[not done yet >< will edit/finish soon]]
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