I used to welcome sleep.
But not any more!
Working, as I do, in imports and exports, my life is pretty hectic. Seven days a week I strive to complete the best deals I can in order to provide for my family. My wife, Emily, and three young children, Stephen, Victoria and Daisy.
As soon as my head hits the pillow I would drift off into a dreamless respite from the world of business, waking refreshed and ready to meet the challenges ahead.
These past few weeks all that has changed.
Now my nights are filled with a Pandora's Box of horrors. But always I return to that place! A place so dark it makes my skin crawl, even as I recall it in the safe light of a brand new day.
Last night was the worst so far!
It was even darker than usual and I was fumbling around looking for something. A something that eluded me.
I searched the dusty sideboard, pulling out all the drawers. Then a muffled sound that froze my blood as realistically as if I'd been wide awake.
It seemed to come from the cupboard. I drew closer, afraid to open its wooden doors.
That sound again! And very definitely from within the cupboard itself.
I knew I had to find out what was making this unearthly noise, though I didn't want to!
But I opened the doors none-the-less and...the bloody, severed head of my mother, Elizabeth, rolled out onto the floor before me. Her dead eyes staring up at me!
Then, out of her twisted, maggot-filled mouth, came words that still haunt me...even now!
'Prepare to meet your maker' came the raspy mantra
Then again...only louder this time and, more worryingly, with far greater emphasis on the word 'your'.
'Prepare to meet YOUR maker!'
I am sitting at my desk now. Reading letters. Doing my accounts. Arranging meetings. Anything really to try and blot out the dark thoughts that permeate my mind at the most random of moments these days.
Work fills my day...until, once more, I am home again. Happy to see my wife and children, safe in the bosom of my family...but dreading the call to my bed.
Worry keeps me awake for a short while...but fatigue soon takes me...back to that place again...back to the dark room!
A smell hits my nostrils...a stench more like. It is the foetid aroma of a funeral parlour.
I am searching again.
A large wooden refectory table stands before me. On it are three small coffins. Each tiny sarcophagus is draped in a curtain-like velvet material. Two in red and one in blue.
Without looking further, I already know the contents of these unedifying boxes.
Pale-faced and without a trace of the jollity their souls imbued, Stephen, Victoria and Daisy lay motionless before me!
Sorrow-struck, I feel life itself drain out of me.
Tears are welling up inside me as I survey the sad, broken faces of my dear, sweet children.
What had they done to deserve this unearthly fate? I ask my maker silently
All at once a single tear emerged from the corner of Daisy's closed right eye and cascaded down her ashen cheek.
I was of course deeply shocked by this unexpected and cruelly saddening event but what happened next chilled me to the very bone.
Daisy's right eye opened! And, as it did, her body shifted noisily inside the small,wooden coffin and, in an instant, she was sitting upright and staring a gruesome one-eyed stare directly at me.
Images flooded my mind like a technicolour cinematic version of events I know to be unreal, surreal even!
Had I unknowingly awoken from this hell and fallen asleep again some other night?
For the scene before me now had changed completely.
There was a surgeon's operating table on which a prone body lay still...barely breathing...but borderline alive.
I looked again, dumbfounded. It was me!
But 'I' was here, in the dark room, looking at another 'me' ...it couldn't be me!
Investigating this bizarre scene further, I saw that the top of 'my' head was actually missing. Where in reality long, dark brown hair covered my scalp was a bloodied, crazy-paving defining line above which 'my' brain was exposed to the strangely antiseptic atmosphere of this particular variation of the dark room.
I so desperately wanted to get away...get away from this...this living nightmare.
It felt so real. So real, I could not for one moment imagine my actual self being fast asleep in some parallel existence, my wife lying next to that real me...blissfully unaware of the horror in which I was immersed.
As hard as I physically tried to pull myself away from the unfolding terror in front of me...I could not!
As hard as I mentally tried to drag myself away from the unfolding terror right in front of me...I could not!
A diminutive, masked man, dressed from head to toe in clothes of black leather, suddenly entered the dark room. Very calmly and collectedly he wheeled 'my' poor wreck of a (just about still breathing) body out of my view.
I screamed out after him. I ran out of the dark room after him.
But the narrow corridors were growing exponentially longer the faster I ran to try and catch up with the slowly disappearing operating table on which a comatose variant of me was being wheeled away...into oblivion!
A large part of me expected to wake up at that point. Wildly thrashing at some unseen hell. All tangled up in the bedsheets. My wife there by my side in an instant to comfort me.
But I did not awake...
And no wife came to my side to wipe away the vile memories of that place...
Instead...I remain here...all alone...waiting for the next hideous act to play out...inside the dark room!