It has been such a horribly long day. I just need to sleep. God, I would fall asleep right here on the metro if it wasn’t for those annoying kids beside me! They are joking, laughing and telling each other ghost stories.
“And that’s when he saw that the man didn’t have a face. The next day they found him dead.”
“So did the man without face kill him?”
“No, I think it’s more like a symbol. A death sign. Like if you see him you know you will die.”
“Ok, ok, I'll tell you about the ghost cat. So there is this cat. The old lady was at home alone when she heard a cat meowing.”
They are horrible at telling horror stories. If at least they were a little good then maybe I could even forgive them. I like horror stories, after all. Oh, good now they’re getting off. My station is the next. Ah! The lovely silence!
I get off at my station. It’s so dark already. I always get on such a strange mood when the light of summer starts to leave. Hey, summer sun! Don’t leave me here in the darkness all alone. I won’t stand another winter like the last… Well, I guess I’ll just make it through in the end. Like I always do. I don’t look forward to it at all, anyhow.
Finally, at home.
I open the door and step into the large residential building. The concierge is looking through some papers behind his desk. I say good evening and he doesn’t even look up when he answers. I continue to the elevator. I used to always take the stairs but I’ve been so tired lately. Who cares anyway? Who’s there to judge me? No, I’ve even stopped judging myself by now. I don’t care about keeping fit and saving energy. I’m saving my own energy. That’s what really matters. Look, I’m already on my floor! And not a single staircase. How wonderful.
I take my shoes off at the entrance to my apartment and go directly to my bedroom. I’m not even going to eat anything. I can’t be bothered.
Ah! So wonderful. Finally at home. Finally in my room, on my bed. Now I will sleep. Nine good hours of sleep before I have to get up tomorrow.
Silence. Such wonderful silence.
BIIIIP! BIIIIP! BIIIIP! BIIIIIP!
What the fuck?! Is that the fire alarm? Shiiiit! Not now!
I turn on the lights, rub my tired eyes and put my clothes back on.
The fire alarms of the whole building are connected. It’s probably just that strange old lady who bakes cakes and cookies the whole night who burnt something again. Just like a few months ago. I walk out and lock the door before, tiredly, making my way down the stairs. You cannot even take the elevator in situations like this. That old lady should be forbidden from baking. I don’t care how many grandchildren she’s got. She can buy the cookies from the store.
When I get outside there is already a group of people there. It’s windy and chilly. I close my jacket better as I walk over to the corner where everyone is standing. We’re not a lot of people living in the building at the moment. Nobody likes to live in these kind of buildings anymore, if they can choose not to. I’m not planning to stay here much longer either. It’s not even been a year since I moved in and as soon as I have enough money I am going to find something better. Something more central, preferably. Something nice and pretty that isn’t falling to pieces like this shit of a place, all built of cheap materials put together in the ugliest way possible. My neighbors greet me. There is the family with four screaming children, the alcoholic, the two immigrant families, the old deaf man and the drug-addict couple. I cannot see cookie-grandma anywhere. Did she burn herself along with the cookies? The concierge is standing a bit further off, talking at the phone with his back against us. Can’t he even be bothered to give us some information about what’s going on? God, it’s getting cold! Oh look, the fire truck is here! A few fire-fighters get off and disappear inside. It takes a while before they are back. Nope. No fire. Just some fault in the system. We can all go back. Great. Fantastic! A fault in the system has taken almost an hour of my sleep time. But I don’t care. No, not at all! This fresh air is so lovely! I can’t get enough of it.
I’m finally back in my bed. I close my eyes and feel the heavy tiredness in my whole body. It never seems to leave me anymore. It has just been gathering and gathering over the past weeks. Over the past months actually. It feels like I never get enough time to rest. But I shouldn’t think about anything now. Just sleep. Just let my mind empty itself and fall into a welcome nothingness.
For heaven’s sake… Why is it so hard? That alarm ruined everything. I’m almost expecting it to start sounding again at any moment. My ears listen for it. My muscles are tense and ready.
Ok. Just try to breath in deeply.
What time is it now? How many hours have I got left? Shit. Just seven and twenty minutes. It will take me at least those twenty minutes to fall asleep. That means seven hours. Just seven hours! I should take a day off tomorrow. I could tell my boss some excuse. I needed to stay home because… because… Fuck it! I can’t stay at home.
Some cat is mewing outside. Not loud but persistent. The world seems to be determined not to let me sleep. It must be the cat that belongs to cookie-grandma. Or it’s the ghost cat that those kids were talking about. The one that is really a demon and will eat you as soon as you let it inside your house. Well I’m not going to let it in here so I’m safe. Come on. I cannot let that really bad ghost story scare me! It’s just the tiredness. And all this fucking darkness. It’s really getting to me.
The cat keeps meowing.
I get up and walk over to the window. Where is the cat? I live on the third floor and it’s hard to see much from up here. The street lights cast their yellow glow on the wet street. Outside of that yellow light there is a lot of shadow. That’s where all the creepy things hide. And batman. I hope batman can take care of all the creepy things. I wish that there were more superheroes. The world would need them. Some man in a hoodie walks along the empty street. His steps echo loudly between the houses. He’s surely a drug addict like half of the other people in this area.
I go back to bed. The cat has stopped meowing. Let’s see how long that lasts. I check the time. Just six and a half hour left. It’s still not worse than my usual sleeping time, at least. I listen to the silence. That cat story was really bad but I remember another cat story that was much more scary. It was about some cat who made a man go crazy and kill his wife. Wasn’t it written by Poe? I think it was. That always scared me each time I would hear it. No, don’t think about stories like that now. Don’t get yourself scared. Your tired mind won’t be able to handle it. Don’t think about scary stories. Don’t think about cats, darkness or all the strange noises and what could be causing them. Those noises have always been there, you just don’t think about them when it’s light. Yes, those noises are normal. But what could be causing that scratching noise? It must be something. Could it be the wind outside? But is sounds as if it comes from in here. No, stop thinking about it.
I try to concentrate on my own breaths again. It’s working pretty ok until I suddenly remember the suitcase down in the basement. I was supposed to bring it to work and give it back to my colleague whom I had borrowed it from. I had totally forgotten! I must remember it tomorrow. I cannot let it slip out of my mind again.
I must remember it.
Ok, if I keep thinking about that I won’t even get a moment of sleep. I take my phone and write it down on the calendar. Done. Now I won’t forget it. And I have only five hours and forty minutes left to sleep.
It takes me a long time before I finally manage to drift off into sleep. As my phone-alarm rings I quickly calculate that I’ve had only three and a half hours of rest. It almost makes me cry out of pity for myself. Not even the one time when I had the chance did I manage to sleep enough! Who knows when I’ll get the next opportunity?
I ready myself for the day through the haze of tiredness. I’m barely aware of what I do. At one point I find the toothpaste in the fridge and I have no memory of placing it there. I leave my flat and take the elevator down to the ground floor. I say good morning to the concierge who is reading the newspaper and only answers with a rude little grunt. The stairs down to the basement are a few steps away from the elevator. I don’t know how stupid you have to be to design it this way. The elevator doesn’t even go the whole way down to the basement so whenever I have something heavy to carry I have to carry it up the stairs.
When I get to my storage room I realize that I have no idea where the keys to it are. I take a deep breath to calm myself down. I want to cry. Everything goes wrong when you’re tired. Everything gets so fucking complicated. And this means that you have to work even more and get even less rest.
I go back up to the entrance hall and ask the concierge if he can help me open the door with his key. He puts down the news paper and reaches for it.
I check my phone. I’ve got a message that there will be a meeting. It’s getting late already. I won’t be there when the meeting starts. What will everybody think? What will my boss think? The concierge has the key now and I follow his back down the staircases to the basement. He stops to turn on the lights but I know my way and I precede him towards the store room. The lights flicker a little as they turn on. The strong light hurts my tired eyes. Next night I’m not going to think about demon cats or cats that make men go crazy and kill their wives or anything else like that when I’m trying to sleep. Didn’t the man who killed his wife put her in the wall of his basement to hide her? And then, later, he heard the cat meow from inside the wall and when he tore down the wall he found the cat sitting there, on top of his dead wife’s head. If I see those kids again I will tell them this story. It’s much, much more scary than all their stories about demon cats and men without faces. I hear the steps of the concierge behind me. By the way, I don’t know if I have ever seen his face. Now that I think of it I cannot remember that I did see it on a single occasion. It’s always turned away, or hidden behind a newspaper or something similar. So I turn around.
And I feel my stomach sink into my feet.
Where his face should have been there is nothing. Just a smooth, featureless surface.