I open my eyes briefly, but weighed down through tiredness they are forced closed before they can focus. My eyelids, they feel as if they are filled with sand, the muscles too weak, too tired to sustain the contracted position for more than a second.
But there was definitely a man there, a man in my room.
There is a man in my room, in my bedroom. I saw him in the middle of the room beyond the mosquito net as I opened my eyes for that second. He was just standing there, motionless, in the room, in the middle of my fucking bedroom.
Fuck, I’m so tired. I’m so tired that I can barely prise my eyes open to double check that he is there, my only confirmation, the memory of the shape of his black shadow imprinted on the back of my eyelids. I painfully force them open again for a fraction of a second, not much more than a blink. He is still there.
What do I do? What the fuck do I do? Do I jump up and shout? Do I keep calm and pretend not to have seen him? What is the protocol in this situation? Do I attack? Try to hit him? Hit him with what? A pillow? Do I prepare myself for his attack? Do I run away? Where to? Do I try to question him, to reason with him, to beg for mercy? How long has he been here? Has he even seen me? Does he even know that I am here with him, in the room, in my bedroom?
I stop breathing.
There are no lights in the street outside; the room is in almost complete darkness, by the faintest sliver of moonlight filtering through the curtains I can see the outline of his shape, his shoulders, his head. He is stocky, short, I can’t make out his face, it is just a pit of darkness, I cannot see his clothes, they are just black drapes, but he is there, he is real, and fuck, he is in my bedroom.
I’m sweating now; I can feel it dripping down my face, soaking into the pillow. The sheets are clinging to me; I am sweating and I am starting to shiver. I concentrate, force my eyes open, force my eyes to focus, I put every ounce of energy into seeing. He is still there and now he is moving, slightly, ever so slightly, swaying from side to side. My chest is burning.
I need to breathe.
Now he is speaking to me, quietly, but not speaking, no, he is chanting, over and over again the same words, chanting quietly, calmly, he is chanting to me, at me. I don’t understand the words; I can’t make out the words, just the sounds. The noise is foreign, ancient, haunting, echoing. He sounds so far away, so calm. It doesn’t sound as if he is threatening me, maybe he is warning me, maybe he is trying to comfort me, to calm me as if he realises I am shocked and he is trying to hypnotise me back to sleep. He sounds a long way away, yet we are only a few feet apart, either side of the mosquito net.
Am I dreaming? No. This is the first question I ask myself. “Am I dreaming? No” I am awake, fully awake by now. I can see the shapes of the room, the familiar shadows of the furniture of the bedroom; I can see the empty half of the bed, the unfilled side only signifying my solitude.
My chest is exploding I have to breathe.
I am alone, alone with the man in my room, alone with his chant. The neighbourhood is silent, the distant sound of traffic from the main road, the quiet hum of the water pumps next door, these noises justify to my tired mind that I am awake, very much awake and there is definitely a man, a very much alive man stood in the middle of my bedroom, just the other side of my mosquito net.
Now I can’t breathe.
I can see his lips moving, my eyes getting used to the black, his mouth is a dark shadow amongst dark shadows, the moonlight catching his teeth. His mouth is moving, chanting, and mouthing the words, chanting to me. But I am frozen, literally frozen in my foetal position of sleep; my body is caught in a spasm, a cramp of inactive spasm. My eyes are so heavy, tears falling through the pain of trying to keep them open, my hair is dripping, plastered to my face, I can feel my heart, my blood is charging through my body, my stomach retreating behind my ribs, my chest hurts, my lungs bursting, the muscles in my feet twitching but not moving, my head aches, yet my ears are completely absorbed by his song, his slow, peaceful song, a song from a long way away, from a different time, from a different place. His song fills my room, fills my head.
There is a man in my bedroom, a small, dark, swaying, chanting man. Where are my dogs?
Where the fuck are the dogs?
How has he made it in? We have locks and gates and, shit where are the dogs, how has he got in past the dogs? Did he enter the house before I locked up? Has he been here all this time waiting, hiding in the shadows? My heart is racing, my chest hurts, really hurts, there is a man in my bedroom, a shadowed man, and he has got past two very feisty dogs.
I need to breathe.
But I still can’t move, afraid to breathe and desperate to take a breath, my lungs feel like a locked safe, the combination lost, my body has been sucked into a swamp, my head suspended in the thickness of sleep induced paralysis, and my eyes as if encased in aspic cannot focus properly, cannot stay open.
There is a man in my room.
I am wide awake, I am not dreaming and my lungs are gasping for air, my heart is now beating out of my chest, it is beating so hard that it hurts; it is beating so hard that I can hear it. I’m suddenly afraid that he can hear it too, and I cannot move, and I cannot stop it beating so loudly, and I cannot breathe, and I cannot keep my eyes open any longer.
Do I sleep? I don’t know. The world disappears for a second. A minute? An hour? I have no measure, no way to gauge the passing of the time.
Is he still there? I can hear my breath, my heart, and his chanting I don’t need to open my eyes anymore to answer that question.
He is still there.
I don’t need to see him or hear him, I can sense him now, sense his presence, I can feel him, the way that you can feel the existence of another, feel their life, feel the energy their body exudes, feel the air around the space that they are filling. If I can feel him, can he feel me?
I’m in the darkened corner of the room on my side of the mosquito net away from the moonlight, this gossamer thin piece of material the only thing separating us, the only thing protecting me from him. Maybe he doesn’t even know I am here, maybe he doesn’t even know he is here? Maybe he is a ghost, or a sleepwalker? A very talented sleepwalker who’s climbed over a gate, broken into a house and tiptoed past two guard dogs, maybe he is a talented sleepwalking ghost? Why is he talking to me? Why is he chanting? What is he saying? What is he singing? Why is he in my bedroom? Why can’t I keep my eyes open? Where the fuck are my dogs?
And before I can answer these questions I am gone again.
I lay there, confused for a moment, my eyelids are attached to elastic bands that keep forcing them shut, the effort to keep them open too great, the force opposing the movement too strong, it hurts to open them, and it hurts to keep them closed, there is no in between, I can feel the individual muscles of each eyelid pulsing, throbbing, there is no peace, no comfort. I can hear my heart, my breath and the throbbing from my eyes, the sounds blending in, harmonizing with a chant. I remember. I force them open again, and again, in a slow painful exaggerated blink, but I can only keep them open for a second at a time, and upon each difficult opening I expect him to have gone, to have been disappeared by my sleep deprived imagination, but he is still there.
I manage it, I mange to force a sound from my throat, a whisper, barely a sound, barely the noise of a breath, but the noise of my voice, of my whispered breath breaks his chanting and for a second, a split second, he has heard me. Has he heard me? He is silent. We stare at each other, the room is still, but charged with the electricity of anticipation. I hold my breath again, painfully, paused, waiting for what? I don’t know? Our eyes meet through the distortion of the net, he sees me, and he has stopped swaying, and I see him, and for a second we are one, for a moment we are together, connected through the dark, through the net, our frightened enlightened minds about to communicate until my pathetic eyes break the connection, I cannot hold his gaze, his darkened, piercing eyes disappear as my heavy lids close. As I break the spell, he starts again, he continues his chanting. I am spent, my eyes are finished. I have nothing left.
I lay listening to him, listening to my heartbeat, listening to my breath, listening until I can hear nothing. Listening until I hear no more.
Sleep ambushes me, drawing her grey veil over my eyes and through my mind, sneaking her chloroform scented handkerchief under my nose, carefully pressing her cold copper pennies over my eyelids. I haven’t slept properly for three nights; she has continually ignored my pleas and my slurred protestations for her attentions for three nights. Now, absolutely exhausted, absolutely defeated she visits me. I welcome her, absorb her and make her my lover. She devours me, destroys me and then leaves me, a shell, broken and lifeless. Asleep.
She gives me an hour and a half of her time.
And just like that, I wake with a jolt, an electrical shock travelling through my body, I leap from the bed, as if in accidentally wetting the bed I’d hit the electric blanket. I fight my way wildly, blindly through the mosquito net, barging past the standing fan, the short stocky standing fan in the middle of the room; I escape, falling through the door into the early morning light.
As I stand naked on the balcony two sleepy dogs approach, performing yoga at my feet, stretching and yawning, smiling, happy to see me, expectations of exercise and food on their mind. I shiver in the early morning cool, suddenly aware of my nakedness I look back in the room, back through the door towards the mosquito net and the fan, and remember the man, his swaying, his mouth, and his eyes.
He has gone, left no sign of his night time presence, only his chanting remains, his quiet melodic chanting remains, as it has done for the last three days, the sound of prayer being broadcast from the Monastery at the end of the road, the annual five days of twenty-four hour loudspeaker broadcast prayer that has kept me awake for the last few days continues, without pause.
I enter the room to dress, carefully avoiding the middle of the room where he had passively stood for so many hours. Was he one of the evil spirits being chased away by this 120 hour tannoy prayer marathon? Or was he one of the good spirits being encouraged in to take their place, just passing by to say hello? Or was he just the production of a mind that has been bombarded by sound, by repetitive chanting, by non-stop noise for the last seventy hours.
My chest hurts as I stretch my arms into my T-shirt; my body reminding my mind of the night before.
There was a man in my room last night.