The evacuated streets do not whisper or even meekly hum. If your own footsteps were not present in this dreamy night hallucination, you might think yourself invisible or completely non-existent. Like a sensory deprivation tank, your body floats in an atmosphere that mimics your temperature and separates your conscious mind from your aching, aging vessel. Pain, in it’s lingering or throbbing — especially in its excruciating ways, keeps you grounded in the fact that you are living and entirely mortal. You are a slave to the laws of this plane, and in sleep you can pretend otherwise.
It is only emotional pain that can reach you now.
Thumps down a stairwell. Fingers graze against the metal hand rail in case a split second stumble should emerge. This hall hasn’t been recently painted, but the lack of air flow in this part of the building has made the air stale with noxious fumes. If you do not pay attention to your feet, you will not stumble. However, thinking makes it so. Knowing makes it so. You turn the corner once you reach the landing and see the glimpse of the man you follow. He wears a wrinkled, collared shirt and khakis. His brown hair is unkempt. You briefly see his thin-framed glasses before he turns the corner and is yet again out of your sight. You always chase him for hours before your brain reminds you that you would rather run away from him.
The air is stale with fumes, you think, and it reminds you of something else.
Your bedroom was in the attic. It was a mostly finished attic, but it had been done that way in the seventies. The carpet was an ugly shade of orange, and the walls were a stereotypical paneling that might remind you of such a time period. It was somewhat insulated but you needed a small heater in the winter and the windows opened in the summer. Twice you had to scoop a bat up with a bath towel and set it free in your backyard. You often dug through your family’s boxes of forgotten things to keep busy. And once, your father decided to take care of a pest problem. Your window was covered with Asian beetles, which you never minded, but he used an entire can of Raid on the window that was only feet from your bed. You did not think to move downstairs for the few days while the attic might air out. You often joke with friends that you might’ve been smarter had you done just that.