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The Sleepers


Before, the rains had been unthinkable. And they continued to be unthinkable well after they started, when nothing seemed out of the ordinary yet. Just a few days of nonstop rain, it had happened before, then just a few more days, then the just began to waver, other questions to be posed, and the banality broke revealing an unexplainable it, a something, at first covered up with reason-exuding phrases like meteorological abnormality or statistical anomaly, to which, however, nobody could pin down a cause. The previously unthinkable began to think us, the anomaly was everywhere, enveloping us from all sides like water or air, and we became part of it. And the anomaly did not end when the rains ended. Even more disturbingly, it did not begin with the rains either. I don’t want to try to chronicle that period—or, worse, to try to interpret it, to say what it means. I want to write instead about some events that were just as unthinkable as and in no way connected to the rains (but there is, of course, a connection, even if I do not understand its nature). Maybe they are still unthinkable. Hence this writing. As if writing were the equivalent of thinking. Thinking through. And for me it all begins with the rains. The water has effaced the features of statues, the figures in frescoes, the names carved in stone. It has dissolved paper and fried our circuits. And it has created the conditions for new, fungal habitats. I want to touch these stone surfaces and read patterns in the mold like in stars. To be able to make an important choice.

The tops of houses neatly broke through a smooth surface of glass that reflected a clear sky. Though it was not raining, I was still wearing my raincoat, out of habit, and I stared silently as the man brought our boat closer. It’s like the end of the world, he said, as I aimed my camera at the shape closest to us. It’s so still, I said, like the end of the world already came and we missed it, or maybe I just thought it. I told the man to take us between the rooftops, slowly, so I could get some good shots. Words started coming to me immediately. The stillness, the end of the world, the images in my head of the insides of the submerged houses, everyday items, some have floated to the ceiling, others are still exactly in their place, others somewhere in between, suspended in green transparency like in formaldehyde, how the whole village slowly disappeared day by day, long after there was anyone left in the area to watch the process unfolding. And the feeling of having missed the end of the world, as if we, who still moved and squirmed on the surface, had been exiled from a world that had escaped time. None of that would do for the article though. They wanted to talk about the devastation, the lives lost, the homes destroyed, heartbreaking pictures to document the aftermath of it that had held us dazed within its spell for just over a year and that could now, carefully, be consigned to the past. They wanted to make sure we had woken up from the dream, or from anesthesia.

During the 366 days that the rains lasted, it was not the massive property damage, the black mold that bloomed and spread like plague on the walls of people’s homes, of institutions, of hospitals, the alarming rise in respiratory infections and allergies, the flooded villages, the overflowing sewers, the occasional corpse floating down urban streets, the disappearances and displacements, the constant talk about the end of the world that was truly remarkable, but instead how the rains dulled everyone’s sensitivity to all those issues. A feeling of containment could be felt pressing down on you from all possible directions, through all the senses—the constant pattering, the dull roar of flows, the stifling humidity, the smells, a system we were hooked to through our own bodies, from which water flowed in and out—so that only death or else a line of flight into the fourth dimension could have saved us (and maybe it rains there too, who knows). New sights, discomforts, pains, losses became self-evident parts of a dreamlike existence.

I’ve held on to the photos of those rooftops, the glass sea, the clear sky. They adorn my Map, a wall in my new apartment in the City where I have tacked evidence of meaningful events, and among them are the pages of a text, not the article I wrote about the sunken village for publication, but the one I really wanted to write, the one I did write. They are at the physical epicenter. Surrounding them is a chaotic constellation, vaguely divided into porous categories. A row of dated photos traces the growth of a patch of mold on my ceiling. Then more photos that document other sites of infection. Some of the later ones have me in them as well, sweating, on my hands and knees, removing furniture or bathroom tiles or floorboards, as if documenting my descent into madness (like that movie with the guy who discovers roots growing under his floorboards and behind his furniture, and that his whole reality is a dream), my face blacked out in permanent marker, I did that myself, photos presumably taken by my partner at the time before moving out and cutting all ties with me. One day, they just vanished, and it all seemed to make sense, to fit into an indifferent, necessary logic. I wonder if they would have instead tried to have me evicted under different weather conditions. Then there are photos of a nasty rash I developed all over my body, those I took myself, then, underneath, about a dozen photos of rats during the “rat epidemic” my town faced during the rains, as with the constant flooding of the subway and sewage systems colonies of rats found themselves displaced, had to run for their lives and take refuge in dark stairwells and musty pantries.

I had a lot of material already, but I started working on the Map only shortly after moving to the City and starting a new job for a different newspaper. This was not long after I had covered the sunken village for my old job. After that one, I felt I needed to go, to move away. There was that and also a thing that happened in my town, what came to be known as the June 25 Cannibalism Incident, and though I did not cover it, I followed it closely. In fact, I happened to be there when they took them away. I caught a glimpse of the dead bodies, my mind driven to metaphor to blot out reality, I thought of a chemical eating away at something, a sheet of metal for example, as they were quickly covered up and taken away. Signifiers of violence littered the streets, fragments of a bigger picture just as chaotic, similar configurations unseen in other places, the whole area cordoned off, splatters and trails of blood that told no coherent story, what appeared to be fingers, cleanly bitten off, chewed on, and, by a wall, a pool of bright red vomit with squishy chunks the size of eyeballs that I could not not know were mouthfuls of human flesh, once raw, now internally parcooked, then I saw the dead-eyed suspects all covered in blood being meekly, no sign of resistance or emotion, being taken away by dozens of cops trying to compensate for the shock with a kind of forced sternness. How later at the interrogations and trials all they could express were grunts and incoherent strings of sounds, or else they went on and on about demons and hunger and togetherness, none seemed to be really there anymore, and how in a very controversial decision they were all put to death, all but one, who, it was determined, had not murdered anyone, though that was likely the result of chance rather than intent, and was placed in a mental institution, and of whom a photo was taken, published, years after, in the same underfunded mental institution, a bald wrinkled man, leaning forward slightly, staring intensely into the camera, standing on a crumbling concrete stairway with no banister, just a straight drop who knows how many floors below. Some people from the town explained the frenzy that suddenly overtook those eight random individuals who didn’t know each other, all within an area of a few blocks, which stopped as suddenly as it started, as demonic possession. Respectable news outlets tried to provide a voice of reason, specialists speaking of a “sudden synchronized outburst of hysterical psychosis,” a “tragic coincidence.” I had a feeling people weren’t convinced. Nobody of course tried to connect the incident to the rains; why should they? And the rain that began to fall after they had taken them away, that blue evening, seemed able to wash away all stains of blood and all puddles of vomit and dissolve the chunks of flesh like cotton candy.

I felt I should take a short break after that. Now, I start again. I am here, in the present, writing this text. Or maybe that is what I want you to believe so I don’t spoil the surprise at the end, the big reveal that comes like a flash and disintegrates my sanity, after which it is of course impossible to ever write “normally” again, if at all. Who knows. It’s lunch time. I write this over a bowl of cold noodles with greens and meat, tender brown pieces the size of coins or eyeballs, and a cup of green tea on the side, green a soothing color, and the meat so tender and flavorful, and I wonder about the appeal of rawness, how high-end cuts of meat are supposed to be served rare or raw, and my mother, god bless her soul, used to tell me that the virtues of the dead animal I ate would transfer to me after consumption, there was a whole system of animal virtue behind it, and my dad, may he burn in fuck, said nothing like a howling void, and if those people really were part of a cult that believed they could consume the soul and reality of another by eating their bodies—that was what some speculated—what does one do with the soul and reality of a stranger? Unless the victims were not strangers but were somehow already spiritually connected to the eaters, but official investigations were unable to establish any link between them.

I said I followed the events closely. Official and unofficial channels. The glass boxes the accused were displayed in at the trial, their mumbled, incomprehensible testimonies, talk of demons on one side and pathologies of the brain on the other, the massive protests calling for their death, the massive protests calling for the abolition of the death penalty, and of course the leaked footage of their execution, blindfolded figures, brick wall background, sudden bang and smoke, bodies falling to the ground with that particular heaviness of the no longer living. Theories ranging from the aforementioned cult to the end of days, to an international conspiracy to sow instability and foreign ideologies to align our countries to one sphere of influence or another, paths of arguments so tangled and winding it all felt like a vertiginous free-fall and I had to lie down, after which the chatter would continue in my head and structure my dreams, the rules and texture of my dreamworld.

This is how I became again attuned to the discourse, to the chatter coming from all channels, television, message boards, radio, neighbors chatting in the stairwell, and in the following months talk of the incident and its repercussions started to die down and other things began to be discussed. Diseases, disappearances, social issues, and the afterlife. It seemed to me like people were saying things—no, let me try again—like things were being said about a very narrow segment of an implied totality as we hyperfixated on small incomplete segments, like a person in an alleyway at night staring at a crack in a wall, and I felt that if I found enough people staring at enough cracks and then put those cracks together they would spell out something we were all dimly aware of but that a kind of limit, of resistance, of fear kept us from pursuing, that someone needs to come along and pursue that path and come to the horrifying conclusion that those cracks spell a coming break in the structure of the City itself and to only come to this realization one moment after the chasm opens up and swallows everyone. We wander around like in a dream until someone comes along to spell it out for us, drawing connections and dispelling something of the obscurity while revealing other obscurities too deep to contemplate without a shudder, and yet, throughout all this, something of the dream is lost.

My new apartment in the City never got any direct sunlight. The working, sleeping, and cooking areas were merged into one, and one felt like running around in circles. On that bed there, after the year of silence, I thought about the feeling of having forgotten everything. I used to dream of places. I was a seeing thing that could float effortlessly everywhere. A city I had never been to, its age-blackened medieval spires rising massive and triumphant while the catacombs below supported the visible city like a dream, and the insides of buildings merged into each other in impossible ways, and on the outskirts mountains and meadows filled me with a feeling of bliss. Then my dreams gained an awkward quality, I drove around an often unwieldy body, legs moving as if through molasses, arms flailing awkwardly, impossible to grab anything, often having to crawl when not paralyzed in space, and every item could begin to spew forth blood as I could only watch with the overwhelming feeling of having made an irreversible mistake. Then I discovered a new topography in my dreamworld, one I would return to again and again. A library. The architecture was neoclassical and blocky, and I had to be frisked by a guard outside before I could go in. The lobby, and the whole ground floor, was a wide-open space, almost completely empty, no shelves, no books, no front desk. The basement was flooded, so they had to take all the books down there, an employee told me from the other side of the massive room. Descending the carpeted stairs I came to the basement, which small, almost cramped, and golden light was streaming from an unknown source just above a large, but shallow, pool of water in the middle of the room. In it, thousands of books lay open, face-down, in piles of varying sizes. The shelves were also full, and the books there were completely soaked through and dripping, from the humidity in the air, I told myself. A sign written in a language that doesn’t exist said quiet books are dreaming. I knew that the ones on the shelves were jealous of the ones in the pool. The latter must have dreamed better, together. As I visited the drowned library time and time again, the books continued to slowly decompose, and those in the pool slowly merged together, and perhaps, I thought, their dreams would also merge together.

For my new job I tried to stick to subjects I wouldn’t have to get too invested in. One day I received a call from a woman saying that she had a story I might be interested in, something connected to appearances and disappearances, that we should meet in person and she would tell me more. So two hours later I was sitting on a faux-leather couch in a spacious, well-lit, aseptic-white apartment (clearly built after the rains), as the woman, probably in her twenties, a student of philosophy, on the other end of the same couch, told me about how some weeks before, she noticed a faint, continuous sound, seemingly coming from nowhere, perhaps from the walls, the pipes, with the qualities of a speaking voice, though she couldn’t make out any words, and it only happened when it was raining outside, though she only made the connection much later. On a night of heavy rain she went out on the balcony and saw, crouched down in a corner, what she first thought was a man (fear), but was in fact, in her words, a “grey sexless humanoid creature” (fascination), its jaw and tongue and lips moving continuously and frantically, producing words she could barely make out, but they were unmistakably words, and as it paid no attention to her she just stood there and listened, and later went to bed, the rhythm of the thing’s words winding on and on into her dreams, and in the morning, after the rain had stopped, the thing had also gone. Since then she had seen the “Speaker,” as she called it, multiple times, always on rainy days, chattering away, and though it may appear to speak only random, sometimes incomplete, words, there was, she thought, a logic in what it was saying, and she might tell me about that at a later date, but the reason she had called me over was that she was sure the Speaker came too late, somehow, should have appeared during the rains, though maybe it was waiting for something, but she was absolutely sure the events were connected, and maybe I could investigate that, and if I would we could talk about what it was saying, it concerned the future. I said I had to think about it. Sitting there, hearing all of this I felt I had been caught in a conspiracy, a trap that had lain out of sight for years but had been there all along, watching me, biding its time before it would begin to tighten around me. Because what was I even doing there? There was obviously no way my newspaper would publish anything she was telling me, and then I realized she had mistaken my newspaper,               , meaning The Truth, for             , meaning The Seer, an occult-themed publication. The seemingly accidental nature of the whole thing only increased my certainty that something was going on, and I could feel its pulse. As I took my leave, she handed me a sketch she had made of the thing, which I added to my Map. Outside, the sun was beginning to set, coloring everything in a sleepy orange, and I almost collided with a person trudging down the street with their eyes closed, leaning forward, as if propelled by the lack of balance.

On my way home I purchased the latest issue of The Seer and examined it at my desk. The cheap off-yellow paper, with their logo proudly displayed, some kind of lighthouse with an eye for a lens. On the first page was an article titled “Where Are People Going at Night? Zombie Epidemic or Cannibal Cult?” about a supposed insomnia epidemic, how people have taken to wandering the streets at night, some only return home in the morning with clothes and items that they did not have before. These sleepers seem to lumber around on the streets at night in a trance-like state, or as if sleepwalking. The article’s cadence of constant questions is maddening, like the incessant pounding on a door, it throbs in your mind: Why can’t people sleep anymore? …Have they been exposed to drugs or forbidden rituals (or both)? …Are they mindless slaves controlled by occluded forces or individuals or is this condition brought about by their own free will whose motivations they wish to keep secret? And slowly they become more unhinged, the fist begins to bleed, the bones to break: Are people meeting at secret locations for the ritual consumption of human flesh and then returning home with victims’ items as a way to further consume and embody them? …Have individuals become so alienated from each other that the only viable communities nowadays are political extremist organizations and violent cults, when they are not one and the same? …Or are even bigger forces at play, for which turning people into mindless ghouls, stalking the night like historical lycanthropes, is only a small part of their plan, a plan so all-encompassing we cannot see its edges? …Or is the very notion of a plan a crass case of anthropomorphizing the incomprehensible? Uncaptioned photos, all taken at night, accompany the article: a person walking down the street with their eyes closed, caught mid-step; a person crouched in a factory yard examining something on the ground; three dark figures standing in an alleyway arms out to the side; a small pool of blood on the pavement; the photographer’s hand holding a bloody and clearly not human bone with a trash can in the background. Clearly this whole piece is the product of a diseased mind given to conspiratorial thinking but mistrusting certainty so much that it does not even know which conspiracy to believe in. In spite of this, or maybe precisely because of this, when I read this article I felt a fear that ran through my whole body like millions of silky threads, I felt I was in the presence of a cursed object, and I had consumed its cursed substance through its words—everyday words, each of which I knew, yet together, somehow, in that arrangement and in that context, concealing a dangerous something that they were able to carry into me as it quickly spread out, changing my reality after its fatal design. The article of course also adorns my wall. And then I thought maybe there is something to this insomnia phenomenon, maybe it could be worth investigating for the paper, and the next morning, after a restless night, trying to fall asleep a fruitless exercise, like trying to solve a defective puzzle box, I phoned my boss to pitch my idea.

What the fuck is a sleep doctor? Language, my boss said, and gave me a name and an address, the essential markers of human existence, and that very day I found myself before him, the sleep doctor, in his office, where everything contributed to an impression of narcotic softness, the muted lavender tones of the vase and curtains, the creamy gray of the furniture, walls, and soft carpet that seemed to swallow up all noise, and nestled in this empire of silence, he, the sleep doctor, sitting before me, a man built like a professional wrestler, straight posture, well-kempt thick black mustache, close-cropped sharp-edged black hair, and from that body the voice of the sleep doctor issued forth, seemed to float over to me, taking its time, like a whisper, disturbing nothing. Unfortunately I cannot disclose information about my patients, as you surely know. Has there been a recent rise in sleep-related disorders? That is not for me to say. Data must first be collected and computed and analyzed for patterns, and only then can explanations and theories be put forth, and we, right now, are still at the data collecting stage, so it would be irresponsible of me as a medical practitioner, an epistemological authority figure in our society, to feed you theories that are not backed up by evidence, theories that you will then exaggerate and report as facts, instead of as our-best-guess-at-the-moment-but-really-we-don’t-know-yet, because you are selling a newspaper after all. Then these not-quite-lies, let’s call them lies by omission, half-truths, exaggerations, are picked up by society at large, people stretch the truth even further, as people are wont to do, either because they didn’t read or remember the information correctly, or they smoothed it over to fit their own personal biases, or they wanted to draw their own conclusions and implications, especially in these troubled times, and soon enough we have a gravely distorted picture of reality floating around, and who knows how many people may come to inhabit that reality, and what may happen when realities collide, when the affects that the new reality produces are unfit, even monstrous in our more mainstream, and, according to us, reasonable, one, and soon enough you have mass hysteria, random collective outbursts of violence, ideological movements built on deception, lie machines that draw up ever more elaborate maps of wrongness that once you’ve been absorbed into it is hard to get back out again. That said, to deny one’s own experience, especially with the critical apparatus that a medical professional like me possesses, in favor of the abstract idol that is the fundamental uncertainty underpinning the scientific endeavor, can be just as damning, and my personal experience, I say this tentatively, does not deny a positive answer to your question, perhaps quite the contrary. Now that I’ve delivered my speech in praise of caution and prudence and restraint, especially when discussing such a sensitive topic, I must say I am frankly disturbed by all these new cases of insomnia I’ve been seeing. It has been going on for months, I’ve seen desperate, burned-out people, in tears of despair or total dead-eyed apathy, their waking lives ruined by their involuntary extension into sleep’s domain, an excess of wakefulness that slowly withers the mind and the body, becoming its opposite, a permanent half-sleep, marked by disorientation and even hallucinations, no more real than a dream. I wonder sometimes, lying in bed in the dark before falling asleep, whether modern society is to blame, whether the stress of a dehumanizing workplace, a society built on exclusion and cruelty, the proliferation of new communication technologies, the screens with their permanent daytime and their uncanny specters that we now spend so much of our lives surrounded by, and the increase in social isolation and loneliness have forced our bodies and minds to enter an involuntary and self-destructive state of dreaming, or half-dreaming. And so, more poetically, I ask myself: has modern man lost his ability to dream? The medicine that we sleep doctors prescribe might help with some bodily symptoms, but one still feels like something remains unaddressed, the spiritual roots of the conditions. How strange to hear me, a medical professional, speak of spirit, of the immaterial, but it might not be immaterial at all, I believe the spirit can in fact also be located in the flesh, somewhere tucked away from the piercing gaze of our scientific knowledge and from the chemical solutions our medicine provides. In a different age, what would we have been? Shamans, maybe, restoring meaning, traversing the dream realm to slide the moving pieces of a semiosis back into place, into joint, providing the sick with a powerful healing experience. What does this rain-rotted city dream? When sleeping, dreaming, becomes impossible, do the dreams make themselves manifest in the waking world? Between the insomniac’s hallucinations and societal delusion is only a difference of degree, not of nature. And it must have at least crossed your mind, what if we sleep doctors, a recent profession, operate under malicious intent. What if we are not the underequipped shamans of this day and age but instead the necromancers, the zombie makers resurrecting the dead to do our bidding. People come to us with insomnia, which there just happens to be an increase of for reasons unrelated to us, and we turn them into our obedient slaves. Then it is up to you to figure out our dark design, that is, before our mindless pawns tear you to pieces and ingest all the evidence of your ever existing. But jokes aside, for that was only a joke, naturally, I believe that the zombie is the essential figure of the ambulant dreamer. A dead body brought back, in a trance-like state, missing part of its soul—of course they dream, for what can this life be after the sleep of death but a dream? And by consuming our flesh they also ingest our soul, our perspective. One could see the zombie plague as a phenomenon of nature, not a result of human design. What does this all mean for us? By devouring us, are they trying to wake up? Or are they trying to introduce us, too, into the Dream? I snapped back to attention and looked at him, the sleep doctor, with his graying hair, the drooping, dough-like skin of his face, cut by soft deep furrows, his tired, almost pleading eyes, the body of a retired world-class fighter, finally placed into submission not by any human opponent, not by his age-diminished strength, but by the quiet disappearance of any and all will to fight.

Walking home dazed from the encounter, I did not see what was in front of me, as my foot, expecting the safe firmness of pavement, was instead met with water, and I found myself falling face-first into a huge puddle, my world turned into fear, as I forgot myself, I was now an animal stranger inhabiting the same time and space as the corpse of my former I, and reality confirmed this as a voice from above boomed, young lady, what did you do? Look at you, you’ll catch a cold! Come and dry up, quick! And my new-found self blindly followed in this new path opened up by the old lady from the balcony, climbed up the stairs, and found herself in a dimly lit, modestly furnished apartment, with a towel on her head and a new temporary set of mothball-infused clothes, waiting for the water for the tea to boil, listening. This was not her, the old woman’s, house, but her sister’s, who was bedridden, and she had moved in to take care of her after her, the old woman’s, husband’s death some months back, an accident, but she is no more lonely now than when her husband was alive, as they would both sit indoors all day, no family or connections to speak of, and bounce the misery on off the other till the atmosphere in the house became unbreathable, now she was much happier, and in a much nicer apartment, and her favorite pastime was looking out the window, there are so many interesting things happening on a regular, quiet street if only we have the patience and the openness to notice them. She told me about rat migration patterns and the people sleepwalking on the street after sundown, yes, of course she noticed them, but there was more to it than that, people had been disappearing for months, but the media just hasn’t reported on it yet, it’s just like during the rains, that’s what her sister tells her, she said, but she for one slept quite well at night thank you very much, oh, the water’s boiling.

But I didn’t feel like tea. I wanted to meet this sister of hers. I thought about this decision as I slowly closed the door to her room behind me. Through the room’s bluish gloom, I saw the sister’s massive bed, a human shape covered in blankets, feet facing the door, but my eyes were drawn upward, right above her bed, to a patch of black mold that looked like the vague outline of a person with their arms outstretched, only larger. The room smelled of heaviness, I had the impression of breathing in more than just air, a concealed threat. The truth is in the numbers, come closer,                 , close that window, would you. The words did not disturb the silence, but seemed to become part of it. I looked behind the heavy blue curtains, but the window was closed, and on the windowsill was a mound of dry yellowing fur, something had died there, a cat maybe. I turned back and approached the bed. The sister’s eyes were half open, and small black growths dotted her skin, as if the mold were now finally consuming her, its prophet, that was the word that came to me, and she continued to talk, we will be all gone the rains came and went but the going away is older than us the disappearances the disappearances into god have been going on before since something was brought out of joint millennia ago since forms of god invaded the earth we see them the disappeared still in our dreams in the places we visit the places that exist only in our dreams the book of numbers tells you all this who are you we think we are alone so alone in our dream spaces but it doesn’t have to be that way how did you get in here don’t look for the disappeared but wonder whether you have not eaten them when you weren’t looking get out out.

This is the most coherent account of those days I could give you. We are closing in on the present moment. Just a few more weeks left. I could no longer sleep at night. I got up tired, wet, confused, and when I could I napped during the day, for longer and longer periods. I would lie down and wake up two, three, four hours later, I stopped trying to measure it, and woke up in a daze, trying to adjust the pieces of a half-dream, dipping below the surface of sleep then coming back up, before letting go and plunging back in again. The drowned library now only contained a pool of unrecognizable pulp, even the books on the shelves had melted into dripping abstractions. My other dreams began to resemble my waking life and my ways of thinking within waking life more and more, so that when, in the waking world, I would see a man staring motionless at the milk cartons in the timeless buzzing neon light of the convenience store fridge, or when I saw a person walking around with a bloody femur, I had the sudden pang in my chest that I was in fact dreaming.

In my restless daze, I took to walking at night. My apartment was on the outskirts of the City, a quiet half-residential, half-industrial area with a lot of green parts in-between, housing squirrels, foxes, raccoons, and all kinds of city birds. My favorite walks took me onto unlit paths that wound through the trees like through a dark forest, where all one could make out were grey fuzzy shapes, only the stars above and the few streetlights filtering from far away past the trees providing any light. Just as the sky was beginning to lighten and the birds to wake up and fill the fragile morning air with their song, I would return home tired, but still unable to sleep. The feeling of an ending pervaded everything.

This one final night, the final moment of our narrative, I was driven down a well-lit street by a pressing feeling of disgust, memories of intimacy unfolding from the void like a flower or sodden wrapping paper, my partner’s scrawny body, feelings of slickness enveloping hardness, the horrifying idea of someone else being inside of me, and my body shriveled up so tightly that I almost evacuated the contents of my stomach, I felt I had to throw something away from me, a sacrifice into the fire. Then I saw one of the sleepwalkers in the distance. I had seen them before on my walks, but paid no attention to them, which I then thought was odd, since they obviously held the key to understanding this something I couldn’t yet put into words. So I followed that one. Trailing them I saw other figures coming from different directions entering the yard of a factory, or a warehouse, abandoned by the looks of it, and that is where we headed as well. I followed them inside the building, careful to keep my distance. As I sneaked in, alone, trying not to make any noise, I saw the presence I had felt just a moment before. In the darkness, a trembling outline took shape: a giant pile of naked bodies. I looked at it. I stood there and looked. I realized that its slight, barely noticeable movements were not an optical effect of the darkness—they were actually breathing. My feeling of tenderness towards them, towards it, and how peaceful they, it, looked there, finally able to sleep, deep in a collective dream, made me want to set it on fire, it and the entire building. Oblivion through fire, the effacing of the narrative, the destruction of the answer, the reparation for the mistake.

I asked myself, what do I do. Do I torch the abomination? Or do I write a book of fire and ashes that can burn away the mold from our dreams, even if in the process the dreams themselves are consumed by the flames? I wrote this, write this, too late, hoping to find an answer, hoping a decision would emerge from me.

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M.K. is a fictional entity that writes about reality. They can be found at https://twitter.com/MKUndefined.