Author : Matt Forshaw
This is how I sleep; in a sarcophagus amid the stars, my body quiet and unmoving. There is no blanket to keep me warm, no pillow, no mattress that I rest upon. I do not toss or turn. I do not shiver, though it is cold. My chest does not rise or fall, there is no gentle rhythm of a steady beating heart. My breath is stored in hard chrome tanks and fed to me through valves and tubes. It is not gas, but a complex fluid that gives to me the oxygen I need. Likewise, my blood is kept safely outside of me, and there it remains for the duration of this journey. I do not need it as I sleep. Throughout my veins and arteries, a solution is pumped to keep me cool.
This is how I sleep, with wires and tubes attached, to ensure that I am living. Though in this state you would be forgiven for thinking such was not the case. The hum of electronics and environmental systems provide a soundscape to my rest, though I do not hear it. While I sleep, I travel. Incomprehensible distances at speeds I cannot fathom. My body travels faster than all of my imagination. I travel with my eyes closed. I am told I do not dream, though I often feel as though I’ve dreamt. I remember snippets sometimes, images and flashes, imprints and emotions from the dreams I’m told I do not have. They say it’s from the electricity they use to start my body up again; that my brain interprets it as sweet remembered episodes. It sounds plausible and scientific to me, but perhaps it doesn’t matter. Either way, my eyes do not move or flicker as I sleep.
When I awake, or rather when I’m awoken, it is with a drawn out wrenching gasp. The world takes a long time to return, though I suppose I am the one who has been absent. It is visceral and wet, with choking and mucous and fluids I do not know the names of. I itch in places I can’t reach. My skin is red, my muscles sore. I wash myself with water and I marvel at the sensation. I breathe. It has been long and far since I’ve truly felt a thing, even sleeping as I have been. Time passes, and I am awake to experience its flow. I no longer travel faster than my thoughts, into the gaps between the stars.
I have a room to sleep in now. It has a bed, and a door that leads to another room for washing. I find I cannot sleep on the soft bed, wrapped up in the warm blanket. It suffocates me as I stare at the ceiling with unblinking eyes. The floor is not much better. The small room for washing affords me greater sleep, where I can lie in a pool of cold water. But still, I am kept awake by the sound of my heart, a drum inside my chest. The movement of my lungs is a distraction that will not cease. The blood pumping noisily around my veins is anathema to my rest.
They will find me one morning with the blood removed, it is better on the outside. My chest will be still, with no noisy tattoo issuing from its beating muscle. My tubes and wires will not be sophisticated, but at least they will be there again. This time I tell myself I will not dream. I am tired. This is how I sleep.