Sleep Inertia

Sleep Inertia

By: James G. Boswell

Caitlin sat on the edge of her bed and opened her sleep tracking app. She scrolled past the charts and graphs of her sleep patterns until she got to the section at the bottom. There, she found the list of her sleep recordings – sounds she’d made while she was asleep. She listened to each and heard herself snoring, lip-smacking, and sighing. But in the last one, she thought she heard herself say something. She couldn’t understand what it was at first, so she turned the volume up and played it again. In a faint whisper, she heard, “Soon…”

“Good morning, Caitlin. I’m Dr. Rosenthal. I understand you’ve been having some issues with daytime sleepiness?”

Caitlin shook the doctor’s hand and then sat at the desk in her office. She glanced at the wall and saw a framed medical degree next to a certificate in sleep medicine.

“Yes, I’m always tired throughout the day and I don’t know why. It has been like this ever since I returned from my expedition.”

“Your expedition?”

“I’m a geologist, and my team and I were in Antarctica studying peculiar rock formations for several weeks. We returned about two months ago. Since then, I’ve been drowsy all the time, but I don’t know why. I’ve started using an app to track my sleep patterns to see if that helps. The app also records any sounds I make while I’m sleeping.”

“Interesting. Do you mind if I have a look at it?”

“Not at all.”

Caitlin reached into her purse to retrieve her phone. Then she opened the app and handed it to her. The doctor played the recordings of Caitlin’s sleep sounds aloud for them both to hear. When she got to the last one, instead of the sound of Caitlin’s voice, all they heard was snoring.

Caitlin awoke and sat up in her bed. Confused, she blinked her eyes and saw moonlight spilling through the bedroom window. It took her a moment to realize that her comforter lay bunched against the wall across from her bed. It looked as though someone had thrown it there. Before she could react, someone smacked her hard across the face. She screamed and curled up into a ball on her mattress. Several moments passed, then she looked and saw that the room was empty.

Her phone buzzed against the headboard. The sleep app opened by itself and a recording began to play. Caitlin heard her own voice speak in a soft, raspy, voice.

“It arrives soon… soon… soon…”

Caitlin awoke and sat up in her bed, her eyes wide with anxiety. Rectangular slices of sunlight shined into the bedroom through the open window blinds. Her comforter covered her body, and she felt no soreness of discomfort on her face.

She grabbed her phone and opened the sleep app, then saw that there was a recording from the previous night. With trembling hands, she pressed the play button and listened. She heard herself let out a quiet snore, and then a muffled giggle, but nothing else.

The doorbell rang.

Pulling herself out of bed, she took her phone with her as she crept over to her front door. She looked through the peep-hole but no one was there.

With trepidation, she unlocked the door and inched it open, peaking through the crack. On the porch sat a small package wrapped in butcher paper and tied with twine. Caitlin picked it up and looked at it with morbid curiosity. Then she took it inside and shut the door.

Bringing it to the kitchen, she laid the package on her table and stared at it. Her phone buzzed in her hand and she jumped. The sleep app opened, and a recording began to play. She heard her voice say, “Open it.”

Caitlin put the phone down next to the package. Then she pulled the twine away and tore open the butcher paper to find a small, leather-bound book inside. It had no title nor any other writing on its covers. She opened it to a random page and saw esoteric symbols inscribed upon it in bizarre patterns.

She tried to drop the book but couldn’t as if something had taken control of her body. It then forced her to walk back into the bedroom and lay in her bed. She placed the book upon her chest with her arms crisscrossed over it, then closed her eyes.

Caitlin awoke and found herself kneeling inside a cold, dark space. She looked around and discovered that she was in a cave. At one end of it was a small opening through which she could see the night sky, filled with stars.

A fire with dark purple flames flickered in the center of the room, surrounded by a circular rune drawn upon the floor in chalk. The book lay open next to the fire. Flames licked its pages, yet it remained unburned. Caitlin heard a muttering chant echoing off the walls and realized it was her own voice. She was speaking in tongues.

Tentacles dripping in vomitus ichor emerged from the book. They wriggled and spasmed towards her, and a nausea-inducing stench filled the air. Caitlin gagged and stared in horror, unable to move.

One of the tentacles touched her wrist, and at once she felt she could control her body again. She leapt up and ran straight for the cave’s opening. A tentacle wrapped itself around her ankle as she went, but she kicked free and continued her escape.

Arriving at the exit, she saw that she stood at the edge of a cliff a hundred meters off the ground. Waves from a tempestuous sea crashed against the jagged rocks below. She looked behind her and saw that the tentacles were writhing ever closer. She was trapped.

“This must be a dream,” she said.

Then she closed her eyes and jumped.

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