It's 3.30am. The heat of the previous day has yet to fade and I am restless hot and sweat. In the dim yellow light of my bedside lamp, the artex pattern on the ceiling mocks me. One swirl has joined with another to form what looks like a boot. It jumps out to strike against my head. A dull thud settles at my temple.
The light flickers to distract. I put my hand up to the bulb, so close that my hand glows red. My fingers; they're almost see-through, as much as skin can be, except for the threads of blue veins. I feel the heat - the slow burn of flesh - and yet, I can't snatch my hand away. I am compelled to leave it there a while, watch it glow. I feel like E.T.
The sheet, which I tucked in tightly at the end of the bed, suddenly feels like lead. Within the coffin confinement I wonder how it would feel to be buried alive. I imagine the earth, chalky thick and brown, crumbling as it tumbles around me, clogging my eyes, sapping me of air as it fills my throat. I inhale deeply to make sure I can still breathe. I watch the rise and fall, rise and fall of my chest. I think of my veins knitted through my fingers, the job they do. It's all okay. I am alive.
My legs are heavy with unease and fight with the sheet above. Air licks my feet and toes wriggle with delight in their freedom. My body has a fidget fit and for what seems like an age, I turn and turn and tangle within the sheets. The pillow is not a friend and I punch it with fists until a stream of white feathers graze the air in a soft dance. For a while, all is still.
But then, the door moves within its latch - a slight hitch back and forth sounds as loud as thunder in the morning silence. There must be a breeze, though surely it's a sinister kind never to grace my flushed skin. I throw my leg over the edge of the bed. It's there all of three seconds before the creep creep of unease; the loss of protection, the feeling that something will snatch and bite and I'd be legless and not in a good way. It doesn't matter how old you are; deep down, a person will always wonder what exists beneath their bed.
I curl into myself with the knowledge that insanity is a real possibility.