Early Summer, 1990

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We can’t sleep.

We roll limp and languid beneath sweaty sheets, waiting for a breeze to waft through the screen, something cooling, calming, something that will allow our brains to give themselves over to the merciful haze. But the night is still and so we sweat. Our bodies sweat. Our brains sweat. A sickening slathering of sweat swimming with half-seen images from newspapers and anchormen and post office walls, but mostly with visions spawned from within. These are the ones that hurt the most, these gruesome tableaus of things unseen not only by us but by any but two pairs of eyes and only one of those that can be called anything like human, throttled to life in vivid detail and dredged out of the most feral and fearful pockets of our sweaty sleepless brains. Awash in a stew of what-ifs and possiblys and surely-nots that burrow into our souls, a churning eddy of bicycles and hunting caps and gravel roads and pine woods and school pictures and pencil sketches and pistols and video shops and blood and tears and overcast skies and barked orders and running running running scampering to a horrible freedom that is every inch as much a prison as any walls on which those inhuman eyes will ever fall.

We are eight. We are fourteen. We are seventenfifteentwelveninethirteen. We are eleven. We are eleven just like

We sweat. We toss, turn, whimper. We think about the dark enveloping us. We think about the light awaiting us and how often that light betrays its promise of protection. We can’t sleep. We pray for unconsciousness. We yearn to climb out of this sweaty cell and snuggle into the big bed down the hall and nestle in the safety of bigger, braver bodies like we did not so long but untold ages ago when fear gripped us nightly, a fear big and bold and almost charming on reflection, and we were not expected to pretend that it did not. But we know now that there are no gods who can save us, not even those household gods basting in their own silent fear-sweat down the hall. Saviors do not exist or if they do they do not care and we can’t decide which would be worse.

We sweat and roll and wait for sleep. It will come. It always does. Eventually. We sweat and sigh and stare at the ceiling and understand that horror is real and unknowable and unstoppable and each one of us is pitifully breakable and tragically durable at once. God blessdamn us all.

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