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Keeping You Awake

February Write Club

By Rebekah ConardPublished 2 months ago β€’ 4 min read
Top Story - February 2024
Keeping You Awake
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

You've drunk your Sleepytime Tea. The dishwasher is running. Pajamas are on. Teeth have been brushed. Face, washed. Pills, swallowed. Cat, fed.

You glance at the clock for maybe the 20th time this hour and decide you've put it off long enough. You climb into bed. The sheets are cool against your skin. Most nights you try to fall asleep before they warm up. Too bad Thursday night is not "most nights." You pull the covers over your head and shout, "Alexa, lights out."

You close your eyes and try not to listen, but you hear it anyway: the heavy dragging sound from under the bed, on carpet now, though it used to be on wood. It's a sound you've heard every Thursday night since you were 12.

Footsteps thud around the room. There's a soft click.

"You forgot the nightlight," says a gravelly voice. "You know I like the nightlight," it continues when you don't respond.

You don't need to peek to know what it does next. The thing takes a seat on the floor beside your bed. It sits hugging its knees. It stares at you, and it never blinks, because the freak doesn't have eyelids.

"How was your week?" it asks after another long minute of silence.

When you were 12, you were too afraid to answer. After a while, you got a bit used to its presence and chose to engage. Maybe if you looked at it and talked with it, it would be satisfied and leave. For a little while when you were barely an adult, and aimless, and sad, you even looked forward to the late-night company.

That was a long time ago. Since then, it's gotten louder. Meaner. Annoying. Unwelcome. Tiresome. But it's still here, every week like clockwork.

"It's all right. You don't have to tell me," it resumed. "I know it all."

Your body has gotten a little stiff, and you wish you could roll over. Even under the covers, you don't want to turn your face to it.

"You had a big presentation at work this week. I've seen you working on it for weeks. How do you think you did?"

It went fine, you think to yourself. Everything went fine.

"It went fine, you think, right? Sure, maybe. But there's always room for improvement. Here, I took some notes about details you failed to mention when the big moment came."

As it begins to rattle off every little omission from a presentation you gave four days ago, you try to concentrate on something else. Anything else.

As if sensing your want of distraction, your feline companion, Lionel, noses his way under the covers. His approach was nearly imperceptible, but his presence is the most welcome surprise. Lionel comes right up to your face and gives you a big wet nuzzle. You gather him in your arms and try to lose yourself in furs and purrs.

You adopted Lionel when he was a kitten. It was spooky to be alone in a tiny apartment with only that thing from under the bed as a companion. You half-hoped the cat would drive it away, or at least discourage it from staying so long every Thursday. As far as you can tell, though, Lionel and the thing aren't even aware of each other.

Wait, you know that's not accurate. It knows.

"Ah, the cat is back," says the thing, wrenching your attention back from a happier place. "How old is he now? About 11? 12? Do you even remember? He must be getting up there."

"Fuck off." You didn't mean to say it out loud. You grit your teeth and cuddle Lionel harder.

"What was that?" It sounds amused.

Fine. You mean it. "Fuck. Off. I don't want to think about that."

The thing sighs. The sigh sounds a little like you and a lot like your father. You've heard this before, and you know it's not sincere. If you were brave enough to look, you know you would find it smiling.

"I don't think you have a choice, my dear," it rasps, "but let me see what else we can think of. Do you remember that time in 4th grade math class when you raised your hand even though you hadn't been paying attention?"

You realize you're breathing a bit too hard. Honestly, as much as the litany of embarrassing memories hurts your stomach, you prefer this to the previous train of thought. You're starting to feel exhausted, like you ran a marathon without leaving bed. You slip your phone from beneath your pillow and check the time. It's late. So late, it's practically early. This sucks. You thought it had only been an hour or two.

The thing is still speaking. You think it's been repeating the same painful story for the past ten minutes or so. Lionel is sound asleep, and you envy him. You put your head under your pillow, and it muffles the sound a bit. Soon, you're no longer making out words. You just hear the noise, the tone, the quality of that awful, grating voice that sounds as if it may have been your own at some point long ago.

Eventually, the thoughts give way to dreams. In a few hours you'll wake up, wishing you had a few hours more, but knowing you're safe... until next time.

Short StoryPsychological

About the Creator

Rebekah Conard

31, She/Her, a big bi nerd

How do I write a bio that doesn't look like a dating profile? Anyway, my cat is my daughter, I crochet and cross stitch, and I can't ride a bike. Come take a peek in my brain-space, please and thanks.

Reader insights

Nice work

Very well written. Keep up the good work!

Top insights

  1. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  2. Masterful proofreading

    Zero grammar & spelling mistakes

  3. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  2. Expert insights and opinions

    Arguments were carefully researched and presented

  3. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

  4. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

Add your insights

Comments (12)

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  • Hannah Moore2 months ago

    This is great. What a drag!

  • Anna 2 months ago

    Congrats on Top Story!πŸ₯³πŸ₯³πŸ₯³

  • Amber Van Wort2 months ago

    This gave me chills! Congrats on getting Top Story! πŸ‘

  • Congratulations on a well-deserved Top Story, Rebekah! πŸŽ‰

  • Test2 months ago

    Kudos! Keep excelling in your workβ€”congratulations!

  • Gabriel Huizenga2 months ago

    Wow- this is so well written, and tragically quite relatable to many of us I think. Really, really good job friend! :)

  • Bonnie Bowerman2 months ago

    So well written! Very very well done!

  • Cathy holmes2 months ago

    That "thing" came to visit me last night. I hear ya. Well done and congrats on the TS.

  • Rebekah, your tale resonates powerfully with everyone who has faced inner demons, as it captures the agony of those sleepless nights wrought with self-doubt and unwanted thoughts.

  • Oooh, this really got me thinking. I lie in my bed and criticize myself. My mind races with the worst thoughts. I try to distract my mind, but it takes me hours. I can relate so much to your story!

  • Daphsam2 months ago


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