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Short Stories | Contos

WHAT HAPPENS AT 4 AM

Insomnia. Hell. For at least a couple of months, Raphael wasn’t capable of having a good night sleep. He tried everything, until the walls and ceiling of his house couldn’t contain him any more. That’s how long walks at 4 AM started.

He didn’t use the elevator. Eight floors down the stairs, echoing through the the corridors as a horror story ritual. In reality, it was worse than that. Pure sadness. The sadness coming from nowhere, revolving your guts for no reason. An immense boredom attacking stomach, lungs and throat, crunching the heart with spikes of ice that bring salt to one’s eyes from the recess of tears. Sea not coming ashore, currents from the depths.

The shower of automatic light in the hallway judged his escape. That instant of spotlight brought up all guilt from all his major and minor sins. Imperfection and delusion scanned, scrutinized by all those he cared for, and, worse than ever, those who were nothing to him. Raphael, the wannabe gentleman and reference of virtue.

A deep breath of cold mountain air was part of the ritual. It calmed him down, but not enough to go back to sleep. Long hesitation before starting the march. All routes were already made. Even the escape walk itself was contaminated with boredom and excruciating sadness. Time to get in to the rescue boat. Observation. Five senses eager for novelty. Look at my red nose! Watch the clouds leaving my mouth. Feel the cold on my eyelids, trying to find its way to my skull. He started walking.

Dampness everywhere. One had to be careful not to slide on the sidewalk. That would be funny, breaking a leg during insomnia. Moss grew between the slabs of concrete. That shouldn’t happen in a polluted city, as far as he could remember from the chitchat of some tourist guide when on vacations. Even paradises were a bore. He had been in a few. Most times they become hell. Too many boring people in them, doing their best to let loose the worst of themselves. Now he got the answer. The moss got fed up with paradise and went to the city, showing at early hours, away from boredom.

Is this why I am awake? He hastened the pace. The stupidity of his thoughts. Insomnia to escape from days of sadness and boredom. As if walking like that was the ultimate ecstasy, a moment of happiness to endure life, a therapeutic journey from a cheap self help guide.

“I just want some sleep, for Christ sake!”, he yelled in the darkness of an alley.

“So do I!”, shouted someone from a window. “Go home, you nuts!”

Raphael kept on walking as fast as he could. Not back home and certainly not from fear. Speed was needed. Speed in darkness. No destiny. Just nothing. Fast.

Saturday, June 5th 2021

Nuno Neves

By Nuno Neves

Owner of the Etsy shop NunoNevesStore.

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