You lie in bed. You can see by the dim lights of the street lamp outside your window. It casts long shadows upon the ceiling, and you look into the black pools gathered above.
You are not afraid of the dark. That is a childish fear. Your daughter is afraid of the dark. She cries at bedtime, wanting to be held, wanting to sleep in Daddy’s bed. She is still afraid of the night behind her eyes.
You shut your eyes. It is dark, but you are still there. Your voice exists in the darkness. You think of the day past, of vague anxieties you can’t pinpoint, of the empty space beside you because your wife is away, of the alarm that will clang too early, of the child that will wake you earlier than that.
You are not afraid of the night behind your eyes.
You know that you will slip quietly into sleep. Somehow–after all these years, you still do not know how–you will disappear. You will wake in the morning. In the blink of an eye, you will wake. You will have traveled through time. The black hole leads to the future, to morning.
You know that this has happened hundreds of time. Children don’t understand yet. Sleeping in natural. The sun will come out tomorrow. It will.
You open your eyes to check the clock. You haven’t slept. It has only been ten minutes since last you looked.
Some say life is a dream, that you will wake and find everything you thought was real wasn’t, like the ending of a bad movie. You know this is nonsense. Your memories are real. You have lived day by day. You are a continuous being. Except for those hours you can’t remember, those hours in the dark, those hours when you are temporarily dead.
You’ve seen others sleep. You’ve watched your children sleep. Nothing happens. It’s natural.
It is useless to consider those wild thoughts that sometimes come. Have you lived? Of course you have. Are those previous days of memory only illusion, backstory? Of course not. Your daughter is afraid of the dark because she is only a child. She is not a warning. She does not understand something you do not.
There is nothing to fear in the dark. It holds nothing. Nothing except that which does not exist.
You close your eyes. Nothing is there, behind your eyelids. If you let go, you will slip peacefully into it. You will disappear. How will you return? You don’t know. But you have always returned. You will again.
When your daughter was newborn, you snuck into her room to make sure she was still alive. She wasn’t crying, so you had to check. She was only sleeping, but you had to make sure she was alive.
Right now, you are alive. You are staring again at the ceiling, at the clock, with heavy eyes. If you close your eyes and disappear, who will check on you?
Your grandma used to pray a strange prayer when you stayed with her as a child. “If I die before I wake….”
You pray. In the dark, science is nonsense and experience is doubt. You realize how weak you are, how alone you are. You cannot even keep hold of yourself as you sleep. You are at the mercy of every force in the universe. That is why you pray.
And then you readjust yourself, mutter, “Good night,” and close your eyes for good.