I woke to a grave sense, tucked away in some dark place which was unpleasantly familiar. These unknown adventures of mine always left me restlessly eager for a peaceful night, strange as the combination of senses was to the inexperienced man. But I’d experienced much of the terrors of coming to atop the roof or sitting idly on the city sidewalk as men in trench coats and bowed heads passed me by. I remember vividly the night I drifted off in bed only to arrive at some unknown harbor, both feet submerged in the water as I stared blankly out at the shimmering moon. The night, save my fear, had been beautiful, and afore I’d cause to believe my being there was anything but a dream, my parents both stomped along the wooden planks calling out my name. I persisted in my place there, taking their voices as nothing more than the echoes of reality attempting to steal me from that paradise. But as their hands fell upon my shoulders and wrenched me from the edge, when the “dream” failed to end and my senses remained quite vivid, the daunting truth fell upon me. How I cried that night! I cried and listened to my mother’s consolation as she shared an excess of stories similar to my own, passed down from members of her line. “The first one is always when you’re seven,” she’d explained and laughed at the unfortunate irony of that age.
I have since come to understand that this condition travels along my mother’s genes alone. Despite numerous consultations with doctors, at least once a generation, it was deemed something more severe than the usual blend of sleepwalking which, as you may know, does not manifest itself within the genetic structure. Cursed was my bloodline, but I learned to accept and live with it. Within the base of knowledge amassed in regard to the matter, one detail instilled in me some passive hope. “By the time you reach twenty-five or so, it starts to fade away if it isn’t already gone.” Hearing those words on the second night of my night walk gave me much courage. So long as I survived to that prime age, the rest of my life would unfold without event.
But survival proved quite near impossible. An exceeding number of nights saw me removed from my bedroom and flung into some far-off reaches where none but my parents could surmise I might appear. Of the many adventures, few yielded to pleasure. An unshakable darkness had attached itself readily to my inherited condition, and from that great pitch, many months of unforgettable nights etched into my history.
Tonight I feel claustrophobia. My eyes, not yet accustomed to the darkness I’ve awoken in, struggle to differentiate one form from the next. I rise nonetheless and begin my weary journey home. No long duration of time escaped before the harsh darkness became bearable; I was able to determine my location as a forest somewhere. Immediately thereafter, my mind troubled itself with the task of revisiting every memory of similarly-vegetated regions with which I may have been familiar – certainly, as with all my other spells, I’ve come about in a place not alien to me. My parents had often taken me along on their fishing trips to the harbor; father had a habit of stargazing up on the roof; the schoolhouse down Greene Street did my father the honor of housing the wake of my grandfather who had been one of their most generous patrons. Many more similar locales awaited me during awakening, and insofar as forests, the only I can vouch for as a viable ground for awakening is the medium plot behind our house where father took me to pretend we were out camping in the mountains because he didn’t quite have the mettle of my mother who more often made authentic lodging in the heart of the wild. It was him, though, who instilled in me a sense of adventure and survival, but with my composure so muddled, I scarce can recollect the tools and techniques imparted upon me.
I continue along my way, ignoring the misty lightness of my legs. So needing for energy, they struggle at lifting from the ground, and somehow avoid the tight tangle of branches and drops of perspiration which drum against the ground below. No one tree can be differentiated from the next. Any attempt at marking some particular faunal form as unique ends in failure even after extensive examination. I gaze for minutes untold from every angle imaginable. Left, right, up, down. I take all courses but fail in attaining fruit from my examination. Whichever path leads me from this place, I cannot be certain. Nor do I feel I can afford to loiter before finding my bearings. With that, I move on, wondering what time it might possibly be. The night is a deep black, near midnight it would seem, and far from the emergence of the sun. I give this momentary thought and decide at this moment that I’ll be best off to sleep as well I can in this natural place, awaiting the rise of the sun. Daytime should illuminate the mysteries which bind me here. Moreover, common sense informs me that I may very well be progressing in a direction counter to my desired destination.
The rest of my body feels as limp as my legs – that is to say, there’s hardly feeling in them at all. Wild thoughts run their course, aimed at deciphering the cause of my numbness, and I find myself much too energetic to avail a good night’s rest. My attempts at shuttering my eyes end as well as my faunal investigations: an exercise in futility. As I’ve firmly decided upon my current course of action – inaction – the impending sleepless night weighs on my soul.
Twilight cuts through the trees in an unusual and captivating pattern, dropping splotches of scattered rays along the dewy trail. As if expected from one who suffers a restless night, the emergence of the sun brings me displeasure, the harshness a disturbance to the dark I’ve acclimated so well to. This minor grievance notwithstanding, I cannot discount the majesty of this moment, nor can I recall when last I sat outside to witness the sun bringing life to the sleeping. Though my predicament leaves me afraid and uncertain, that natural beauty remains uncontested. This, I say despite feeling marked coldness from it, as though the rays of light are phantom things. To be home again in the company of family is the only light that might penetrate this pall of cold – that much, I doubtlessly know. This initial vexation is met by another: my legs, which I hoped might recover over the course of the night, remain flaccid appendages, and while I can still locomote on them, the strangeness of the floating sensation sends chills through my essence, at least whatever remains unburdened by the inactivity of my senses.
Amidst these peculiarities, one redeeming fact pleasures me, namely that a familiar landmark hangs in the distance, barely visible though it is through the thick of trees. It would seem that my travels the night before brought me nearer to the edge of the forest than I’d had reason to believe; I curse myself for not venturing farther and having comfortable lodging for at least the night, and I curse myself twofold for finding myself so far from home! I take myself from my dwelling place the several dozen meters out to the empty road. The brilliance of the sun taunts me evermore, now unencumbered by the thick of trees yet no more comforting. But I don’t want for a son if I’ll have a friendly face to greet me across the road where Mr. Nash’s lodge smiles compassionately at me, the warm redwood exterior perfectly capturing the coloration of the star overhead.
Three or four cars sat in the lot adjacent, two of which belonged to Mr. Nash and his wife Rebecca with whom I’d spent several nights prior under circumstances similar to this. They’d be more than willing to take me up now in this strange hour. A bed, perhaps, might sooth the ailment in my limbs. With that thought pressed to the forefront of my mind, I will myself across the street and up the brief flight of stairs – a feat managed, surprisingly, without incident – and reach out to give a rap at the door. I feel the kinesis and an extrasensory force against the door, and my mind prepares the sounds which accompany such action. And then I wait.
And continue waiting.
And wait hopelessly.
This dreadful hour of day! It can’t be long after seven; I grapple with the possibility that the residents are still asleep. The thought irks me. For all my hopes that at last I’d discovered a bastion, it reveals itself to be hollow! But an end to my journey home, this will not be. I return across the street into the protection of the woods, now near fully covered by the rising sun. Within the hour, I know with certainty that light traffic begins passing through this area, and should I wait for those bursts of cars to come along, I may find myself a generous benefactor to conduct me home. Peace again falls upon my mind. I trust in the benevolence of man to reach out to his fellow in times of duress.