The witching hour

It is half past midnight and the air is stained with sleeplessness.

Time stops. The clock ticks hollowly, marking the empty seconds as you lie trapped in thoughts of unpaid tax and unwashed dishes; haunted by the things you wished you’d never said, the books unread. The other lives you could have led.

And the witching hour holds full sway.

The darkness pools around you like water, swirling through the windswept limits of your mind and washing old thoughts to the shore. You pick and sift through them, a carbuncled crone hunting treasure in the tide.

You clutch only those pieces heavy with regret to your cavernous chest, disregarding the rest as fodder and flotsam. The light, bright things are gaudy and faithless in the moonlit tide; nothing but cheap baubles of frail glass and childish fantasy. The sharp, the ugly, and the jagged to touch are what you pick up and draw jealously close.

The stopped clock beats on, its unmoving hands slowly picking at the intricate embroidery of your sanity. The darkness seeps in; everything has cracks...

Outside the stars glitter gently and shadows sweep wide and graceless across your darkened walls. The blood pulses hard and red and hot over your shut-tight lids and the stiff, stale air pours from your lungs in slow, silent cries, as if to summon sleep from darkness.

In the soft stillness your thoughts are bright and sharp; barbs to catch in your chest as you eavesdrop on the pale sounds of the night; the muted breathing of your sleeping lover; the creaks and cracks of the bones of your house. And the incessant snick of the stopped clock.

These are stolen hours.

In the corner something watches. From the ceiling something spies. Beneath the bed something waits and listens, for this is no man’s land and you are alone here. One slip and you fall to their teeth and their claws with only yourself to save you.

The spring coils tighter, the night draws you in closer and the darkness deepens down before it can fade. You can wait. Sleep has abandoned you. It will not come tonight. And so you wait with them, quiet and still and ready; an uneasy truce falls, but just until the darkest part is passed.

And slowly the hours creep away, hollow eyed and cotton mouthed until the pink slivers of dawn begin to drift into the sky. The shadows recede, slinking back into the cracks. There is nothing watching. There is nothing spying. There is nothing listening. Only you, waiting wakeful, baring your teeth and your claws. And with only yourself to save you.