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The demon on your shoulder

Past two in the morning, it all falls apart. The inspiration runs off to some other lucky rascal, the lights suddenly dim, and the pen, that faithful thing of magic, falls to the desk with a defeated clatter. It lies there, still, like a common biro, incapable of performing miracles. You stare at it in astonishment, mutters of insubordination flitting through your head.

And now, your eyelids begin to droop, though the darkness is still thick outside, and there are many hours 'til dawn. There are strange whispers in your mind. Sleep. Sleep? In the night-time? Don't be ridiculous, you reply with a laugh. Sleep comes, your mind insists. You shake your head to dislodge such bizarre thoughts, and return your gaze to the paper sitting stubbornly blank before you. It angers you, and the fire momentarily re-ignites in your eyes, but then a breeze blows through the windows and snuffs it out.

The curtains billow in this breeze, and it carries to your nostrils a funny smell - the lavender fragrance of fresh sheets and the musty scent of old teddy bears. It calls you to your bed, and when you turn to look, you find that sleep has indeed come.

It sits, a little demon, cross-legged on your bed, face split in two by a gleeful grin. It beckons, and you find yourself half-hypnotised by its eyes - dark, and swirling with dreams both sweet and terrible. Your own eyes get smaller and smaller, your limbs begin to fold. As your head nods, you suddenly snap awake. Resolutely, you turn away from the bed, back to the desk, and pick up the errant pen. You put the nib to the paper with determination, and wait for the words to flow. Again, it fails you.

Sleep, from behind you, makes a sound that is a cross between a laugh and a sigh. You hear it unfold its wings, and then fly to your shoulder, where it perches, oddly heavy. It begins a ceaseless whisper of enticing nothings in your ear, and you begin to ponder the real meaning of life. Is there really a heaven and hell? Has society truly been the downfall of man? Will there be chicken for dinner tomorrow, or beef?

In your philosophical trance, you happen to glance down at the paper again. The shocking whiteness jolts you awake. Sleep giggles from your shoulder. You reach for the mug of coffee and down it all in a fit of rage. But it has the desired effect. Sleep leaps off your shoulder as if it has been burnt, and flies a safe distance away from you. You smile with some satisfaction, and resume working. The sentences come now, not brilliant, nothing special, but sentences that will keep you your job. From the periphery of one eye, you watch sleep inching closer and closer towards you as the minutes tick by. You sit up straighter and grit your teeth. You will not be conquered. But Sleep is inexorable.

And so it all begins again. Sleep pulls the pen from your fingers, tugs at your eyelids. It blows in your eyes to make them sting, kicks at your back to make it ache. You keep brushing it away, but it just comes back, each time more daring than the last. Finally, it slips through your ear into your head and dances around, breathing a dark haze across your mind and playing football with your thoughts. But you carry on writing, valiant fool that you are, the sentences muddled and the paragraphs unlinked.

You end the battle when light creeps across the sky and the birds begin to chirp a perky victory song. Sleep's grin returns as you resignedly cap your pen and rise from the chair. It flies with you to your bed and watches you collapse, defeated. It even sings you lullabies as you close your eyes. Sleep is kind to its prisoners.

And then you wake in the afternoon, and find this crap for an article. About sleep, of all things. Is this what they call irony?

By Safieh Kabir





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