Creative Writing Wednesday: “The Long Dark”

Posted: October 3, 2012 in Creative Writing Wednesday
Tags: ,

I have chronic insomnia. This means that occasionally, I can’t fall asleep. No matter how hard I try, it’s impossible.

This poem was written on the day after a night when, no matter what I did, I couldn’t go to sleep. I was trying to convey the sensation of being low on energy, yet always needing to keep going. The poem itself is based a number of times when I had insomnia. It’s a composite of events– not one specific night.

I also liked playing around with non-linearity. I think the poem’s pretty good, anyway.

Yours,

~ Ian

 

The Long Dark

 

by Ian P. Johnson

 

 

1:34

 

It’s not whether I want to sleep.

It’s whether I can.

 

 

2:41

 

I have entered the Long Dark, the place

where time is distorted. Nothing exists

save those three blinking numbers

on the bedside table, blinking endlessly,

watching over me where I lie.

(Not while I sleep. I should be so lucky.)

 

Time seems to lose all meaning here: I’m lost

on a sea of errant thoughts and drifting throughout

the universe, time’s arrow forgotten, entropy seemingly

halted. There’s nothing here but shadow and

absence.

 

I have things to do tomorrow, classes, friends,

dragons to slay and demons to repress

but there’s still nothing, nothing save the darkness

and the endless stream of nothing

that I float through.

 

I cannot get out.

 

 

3:06

 

happen.

 

 

3:25

 

I try to use stories to fall asleep.

Endless episodes of Doctor Who and Red Dwarf,

funny, witty British shows

streaming 24-7 on the laptop beside my bed,

a small square of light, a fire

to keep out the Long Dark.

There’s nothing for it.

The stories of Daleks and GELFs take on a dreamlike intensity in my head,

strange images of prancing madmen

dancing in the back of my skull.

Suddenly I know what it was all about.

I know what Grant and Naylor were trying to tell the world.

I pull out my notebook, turn on the light

but there’s nothing there, nothing

but a dying ember.

(Was that a dream? I think it was a dream.)

I don’t know. I can’t know.

 

 

4:02

 

myself.

 

Huh. Okay.

 

That didn’t work. Let’s try going forwards.

 

 

4:57

 

Now I’m listening to music, headphones on

so as not to disturb my roommate,

since he’s a light sleeper

and easily irritated.

It’s a form of sublimation,

of losing myself in a song.

 

It doesn’t work.

I am lost in the Long Dark.

 

David Gilmour sings about kicking around on a piece of ground.

 

I stare up at the darkened ceiling.

 

 

5:20

 

What are the laws of cause-and-effect? I don’t know. I’m thinking things before they even

 

 

6:34

 

I decide that, what the hell, as long as I can’t sleep

I might as well go see the sunrise.

So it’s down, down to the rugby field

where I sit, a fool on the hill,

the eyes in my head seeing the world turning round,

the stars dimming, Venus rising,

a herald of morning, a child of light,

eala earendel engla beorhtast.

 

The sun comes up in a blaze of violent purple-red.

The world lightens. Birds sing.

The darkness outside has ended,

yet I still haven’t left the Long Dark.

 

I don’t know if I will ever leave.

 

 

8:04

 

Now it’s breakfast, and time still hasn’t stopped slowing.

Everyone’s speech is distorted and weird.

The lady cleaning the yogurt machine says puuuuuuut yooooouuuur baaaaackpaaaaaack ooooooon the raaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack.

 

I blink. I’d forgotten I was wearing it.

 

 

9:27

 

Morning lecture. I want to sleep. I can’t.

 

I’m looking out at the world through a plate-glass window

slicked with rain, all the people distorted and fuzzy,

swimming in a haze of watery color.

 

I don’t think my body is my own anymore.

 

I cannot break free.

 

I’m lost.

 

The Long Dark continues.

 

 

1:43

 

Everything is perfectly sharp and crystal-clear.

My body is so full of energy that it’s like an exquisite pain,

filling me up so much that I can taste it

like battery acid on the back of my tongue.

I have come to a realization: nobody I see is real,

nobody exists, we’re all just atoms and space dust

and balls of entropy that think we have souls,

and if I were to just wind up and punch someone

then it wouldn’t matter, because it would be just like

hitting a rock.

 

They’re not real. I’m not real.

 

 

5:06

 

A friend asks me, looking concerned, Are you on drugs?

 

I blink.

 

What is a “drugs”? I ask.

 

What is a “you”?

 

 

10:73

 

Night two of the Long Dark.

 

I don’t know how long I can take this.

At least I have my two friends, Bertram the Hyrax

and Abdul the Egyngolia (the last of his kind,

a genus of trilobite that went extinct in the Paleozoic)

plus my secret favorite, Helena the Harmonica-Playing Ukelele.

They sing little songs to me, all through the night.

 

 

eleventy-twentysix

 

I know how to control time. I can go back to the beginning

and stop this from happening. I can control the timestream.

I am become God. I can save

 

 

banana3

 

Echidna and the Coconut went to a Sunday Fair,

Echidna and the Coconut wore ribbons in their hair.

Echidna said to the Coconut: “My sky has but one star:

For you, my lovely Coconut,

yes, YOU, my lovely Coconut,

is the loveliest ‘Nut there are!”

 

 

???

 

I FEAR NOTHING ANYMORE.

 

 

5:15

 

Finally. Sleep.

 

Blessed, blessed sleep.

 

 

The Next Day

 

I go about my business, going from class to class. Even though I only got about three hours of sleep, somehow I’m able to function well enough without drooling or falling face-first into the baked ziti at dinner, which I count as a success. Finally, when the day is done, I lay my head down, close my eyes, and wait for sleep.

 

But it won’t come.

 

 

2:41

 

I have entered the Long Dark.

 

 

august 30, 2012

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