After dark, when the lights are no longer illuminating, the world sleeps – and the world dreams. Some are good dreams, ones that leave a smile on waking, others though, well they are the ones that leave an indelible mark on us all. These are ones that, within our subconscious, we do not remember or recall in the waking hours – but instead are assailed by them when we close our eyes and give ourselves up to sleep.
He was having one of those dreams right now, she watched him toss and turn on his side of the bed – fighting with whoever or whatever was running around his mind. A bead of sweat was rolling down his forehead. She watched it with interest, making its way to the bridge of the nose, then off to the side, before falling, and onto the pillow.
She felt pity then, not the pity that you feel when you witness someone in peril or strife – no. This pity was born out of frustration and anger. That and what would inevitably come in the not-too-distant future.
His breathing hitched and then steadied out; mouth open as if trying to catch a fly (which is something her mother used to say to her as a child). She closed her own eyes, knowing that sleep would not come; it never did – not anymore. Once it got inside your head – the knowing and expectation – sleep was an impossibility.
As if on cue, he closed his mouth and began to snore. Quietly at first – more like heavy breathing really – but it steadily grew in volume and would so even more as the night wore on.
She did not bother trying to nudge him or move his position – as she had done countless times over years. Tonight, there was no point.
Unusually, she had fussed over him at dinner, asking him what he wanted to eat and then preparing it, along with a cold bottle of his favourite beer. He had eaten it in relative silence, grunting every now and then as he replied to something she said. Afterwards, she had cleared the dishes away and then climbed the stairs to the bathroom, to shower and get ready for bed.
It was almost midnight before he collapsed into bed, having finished off the six bottles that remained in the fridge. She could smell the alcohol on him as it wafted across to her side of the bed. He was asleep in minutes.
Now, almost three hours later, she lay sleepless – listening to him snore. Listening to the sound that had accompanied her marriage for twenty-six years, for good and for bad, for richer and for poorer.
The drugs had not been difficult to get hold of – not when you knew the right people. They had been stored at the back of the medicine cabinet for weeks while she decided what to do, behind a tube of steroid cream and an old tin of deodorant that no one will ever use – bought as a Christmas present from someone or other years ago.
They were only really sleeping pills anyway – nothing hard-core or sinister. They would do the job she wanted from them though. Afterwards, well, afterwards it did not matter. What did matter though was the task in hand. It had been long enough; it had been three hours and the time had come.
Looking at him once more, gazing down at him, propped up on her elbows, did she feel love? Once, a million years ago, they both loved each other with an intensity she did not think possible. Now, time had eroded that love until all that remained was pity. Deep down, in the depths of her soul though, the love still clung on desperately, and possibly always would. Tucked away though it was, deep in the recesses – much as the sleeping pills were in the medicine cabinet.
Grasping the pillow, she had retrieved from the storage cupboard, she lifted it and placed it over his face.
At first, nothing happened. He carried on sleeping and snoring. Slowly, she applied more pressure until she could feel his body twitch. The breathing was becoming more laboured, breath struggling to get in, or out. There would be no fight in him – the drugs would do their job.
Surprisingly, it took almost six minutes for him to die. She had heard somewhere that it can take up to seven or eight minutes for a healthy human to suffocate – contrary to what you see in the films and on television. Five minutes and forty-three seconds though is what she counted out.
When she was sure it was over – she gently removed the pillow and looked at him. His eyes, closed and peaceful, lips slightly apart and just the very tip of his tongue visible out of the side of his mouth. He looked to her in that very moment, like the man she had married, a handsome man whom she loved and whom loved her back. He looked at peace.
With a sigh, she stood and walked across to the cupboard and replaced the pillow gently back onto the shelf. Returning to bed, she laid down and pulled the covers right up to her chin – shivering a little at the chill.
Sleep was a long way from her mind, as far away as anything could be. Thoughts crowded in, battering and braying at her, to have their say – accusing and berating. She thought that it would be a long, long time before she slept again.
Five minutes later, she was breathing deeply, breathing gently and fast asleep, snoring ever so quietly. Sleeping the sleep of the dead.