Chris, comfortably lying in bed, surrounded by pillows, with the special comforter pulled up to his chin, stared at the ceiling. He listened to the light ticking sound coming at regular intervals from the water heater two rooms away, even through the hum of the overly expensive noise machine he had been instructed to buy by his doctor. He wasn’t sure exactly how long it had been since the last time he had slept, but he knew that his mind was wearing thin.
Weeks of research, doctors appointments, and pseudoscience solutions had yielded no results for him. He had even begun taking prescriptions to help him sleep, but they had little to no effect on him, other than occasionally granting him the reprieve from reality that only hallucinations could bring.
Tonight, however, there were no prescriptions, or anything else. It was only Chris, lying in bed as comfortable as he could be, starting at the ceiling. His mind wandered occasionally, but his body refused to allow exhaustion to gain a foothold. Hours passed and he hadn’t moved. He assumed that if he did it would reset some imaginary clock that required some arbitrary amount of time before he could sleep.
The clock tower across town chimed three times, informing him that his practically useless alarm would go off in three hours. Suddenly a thought went through his mind. Water. He hadn’t had a glass of water before lying down.
“Son of a b***h.” He muttered as he moved the covers of him.
He swung his feet over the side of the bed and slipped them into the slippers waiting for him. He walked out of the room, down the hall, and flipped on the bathroom light as he shut the door behind him. He turned to the sink, filling his glass, only half paying attention before he raised the glass to his lips.
In the mirror, where he had expected to see his old, tired reflection holding the glass, was only black. It was beyond black. It seemed as though it were quite literally nothing sitting in the cracked silver frame. He moved his free hand up to touch the nothing before him, but his body wouldn’t move.
Panic surged through him. He had hallucinations frequently in recent history, but none like this. Then he heard the whispers. They came through the void before him. There were so many voices that he couldn’t follow what any of them were saying. The volume of the whispers would rise and fall as though orchestrated by some great unseen conductor.
Chris stood there, unable to move, gripped by fear as the whispers increased in volume and he began picking words from the babble.
“Why?” One said, “Why me?”
“Please let me go, I have kids.” A feminine one said as though pleading with him.
“Run!” Another said, barely louder than the rest. “You have to run!”
The voices continued to rise in volume until Chris was sure that his ears were bleeding. Everything in the bathroom was shaking from the noise. Yet, he remained perfectly paralyzed in his pajamas staying into the void. He tried to form words but not even his mouth would obey his mind.
The blackness seemed to begin changing in Chris’ vision. He wasn’t sure if it was because he couldn’t blink, but it seemed to be moving. Drawing closer to him as the surface stretched toward his face. When it touched his skin he found his voice, but it wasn’t words he had found, it was the scream of agony escaping him from the burning cold washing over him.