The Art of Sleeping

by Carmen Tudor

I’m sure you will come to understand my need for privacy at a time like this. I think, more likely, you understand my need to do this in the cowardly fashion—that is, in hiding. Yes, even from you.

The air is cold here. Sweeping all the way from over the icy water of the river, bounding the mountains and their numerous dips and rises, it hounds me and envelopes me both day and night. My hands ache and a blue tinge haunts my fingertips even as I write. But I have wronged you, and I now try to make amends. Although my words are scratched out in this unseemly manner, let it not influence your forgiveness. My feelings are strong, my motives sincere. This letter will paint an ugly picture, but the brushstrokes are bold. And so, read on a while. Let me begin.

The people who live here in the valley have developed a strange and superstitious attitude toward strangers after the mass hysteria, that madness, that occurred here all those years ago, and of which I have in the past written a few articles. Do you remember the happening I’m speaking of? If not, I am sure it’ll come back to you as you continue to read. I will, however, refresh your memory insomuch as to repeat the name of that forlorn and forsaken place. Dunwich is its name.

I arrived only about four weeks ago, and at first was so very pleased to find what a lovely place, if not a little remote in both its locale and its general offhandedness, it was. I had my research for the Arkham Advertiser article with me and once I’d found a little inn I set about first observing its outward appearance before planning to search further into the source of the material I’d been given. You see, it was the aftermath I was interested in. I know I tried to explain it to you once, and although you smiled and begged me to continue, there was a tiredness in your look at once again having to listen to the ramblings of an inky researcher. It was to save you from ennui that I put the notebooks away then. How I thank my luck I didn’t drag you into the horrors I was myself to experience.

At the heart of my research was the effect of a little stream on the local people, and its purported tonic-like qualities. If what I’d heard was true, no one need ever go without sleep again. If what I’d heard was true, the clear waters of the little stream could cure insomnia once and for all. Of course it was all disregarded as nonsense. And at that time the claims weren’t supported by a single Dunwich resident. It almost seems they want outsiders on the outside.

With my test tubes and little vials in hand, and my notebooks and journals safely tucked into my satchel, I set about taking samples and compiling a list of names. It wasn’t a long list, but I was certain one or two at the least would spare me a few minutes. But I was wrong; by the end of that first week I’d had so many doors closed in my face and was no closer to discovering the exact bend in the stream. The ripple, I’d heard, was peculiar there. You see, instead of flowing outward, a little stone’s touch had the bizarre quality of drawing the waves inward. Whether gravity and surface tension were warring with temperature and pseudo clapotis, or whether some secreted bewitching had taken place, was not my interest. As you know, it is reporting I am concerned with. And lately, at my editor’s behest, sleep.

You know that I have never had a problem with insomnia. For me sleep comes within moments of laying my head down. Dreams for me come seldom, and when they do they are of no consequence. It’s not without sympathy that I contemplate the poor soul who lies restless and confounded night after night, and the opportunity to learn more for the article seemed the right thing to do. It was my intention to send all of the samples taken back to Arkham, and if the laboratory there yielded no results, they were to be sent on again to Cambridge. Let me tell you now the samples never made it to Arkham. I have them here with me still.

Perhaps you will indulge me enough to continue reading as I try to explain.

I now know what it is to fight for rest. Along with the unending cold, I battle a constant weariness. If you were to see me I fear you would not recognize the face. My eyes are like those of a hideous creature—so heavy and red. Underscored with madness. My skin is sallow. My nails are bitten to the quick. If I should close my eyes and let sleep take me where it will…I fear I shall never waken again. It is there. Waiting. It waits in the dark. Such a thing as I have never seen before, and such a thing as I pray I will never see again.

And so, while I wait here a while, hiding as it were, please forgive me my wrongs. Forgive the ills and the promises not kept. Forgive those weary nights you had to listen on and on while I talked. Forgive my absence now. And one last thing: if I do not come back to you, take this letter to the editor. He will know where to find me. What, however, he may find is not for me to know.

It lives. Know it lives, and the hysteria spoken of above was nothing of the sort. For you see, I have seen it too.

If you can, look up the earlier articles and photographs. There was a quote by a young lady brave enough to tell what she had seen. She was mocked and made to regret her words. But she spoke the truth. If I can, I will seek her out. That is, if she is still somewhere to be found. There is no telling at this point how far I may go. I’m so very tired.

And so, farewell. And pleasant dreams.

Carmen Tudor writes from Melbourne, Australia. Check her out at carmentudor.net and @carmen_tudor.

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