The sun retained an infuriating habit of showing itself, just as we were forced to venture within the cool, dark walls of this school. It was always like this, of course, but with summer rapidly approaching, I could be forgiven to thinking that this optimistic weather could, and should, remain present throughout the day, and not when we were just indoors. I sighed in discontent, lost in thought, the weight of my bag pressing on my consciousness more than my back.
It was just one of those days.
It was early April, the final month of spring before the sense of freedom could finally hit this institution again, and the foliage surrounding the building took note of this, the once-bare branches suddenly taking on a multitude of colors, from cherry blossom-pink all the way to the darkest shade of green imaginable. Even at 9am, the vast number of students scurried around with a feverish abandon, fully aware of what little time was left before the holy grail of holidays could finally, beautifully, begin.I wondered what it must be like for the majors, entering what was going to be the final months of their entire school lives, just a few exams away of making their way into the world, in all its bright, alluring beauty. Of course, that was only a dream, an ambition too steep for all but a select few individuals. Most students would simply be content with finding employment in the city, hoping that they would raise enough money to travel the world, visit the sights, fall in love.
If only they knew what they were getting into.
My footsteps were eerily silent as I traveled within the reception area, a place where the gifted musical prodigies would usually reside, chatting and squatting about the latest symphony they were 'forced' to revise, no doubt. Today, however, things were different. Instead, the space was occupied by a number of stern-looking adults, covered in head to toe with black. Their expressions picked up where their depressing clothes left off, their faces lined with age and disappointment, as if the very thing these people wanted to do was to stand here, speaking with our principal, utterly bored.
"On behalf of myself and our students, we would like to welcome you all to Kuro High School!" I could hear her say, well-rehearsed as always. That was the only trace of conversation I wanted to pick up on, and slipped into one of the many interconnecting hallways, joining the rest of the students in locating our first class of the day.
I should have been happier, even more so on the account that it was my birthday today. My Parents made a conscious effort to assure me today was going to be pretty special, with promises of my favorite meal, cinema and concert tickets, as well as a day off school, to top things off. I politely declined all of these offers. I couldn't stand to wear the happy mask for the sake of anyone, today of all days. My journey towards the Biology lab was quickly replaced with a number of moving daydreams, of both memories and aspirations. I had lived in this city for 17 years, and not once in that lifetime had I ever truly thought of myself as 'happy'. My shaggy brown hair was a mess, the finer strands of my fringe now dangerously close to my eyes. It didn't help that I couldn't sleep for a single second the previous night, lost as I was in my never-ending nightmares, depending on who asked me.
"Percy. I appreciate that you suffer from a sleeping disorder, but you will have to try and make more of an effort to stay awake in class."
Sturrige's voice was enough to pierce through the beginnings of slumber, instantly bringing me into consciousness. Of course the entire class turned to stare at me, the guy in the back of the class. Embarrassingly, saliva was beginning to pool on the edge of my mouth, and I wiped it away with the edge of my sleeve, fully aware that it was far too late for it not to be noticed. I tried to drown out the giggles, the sneers, the silent taunts that extruded throughout the entire classroom. Our teacher sighed, returning to the top of the class as quickly as he could, reaching for his papers. I could appreciate that he had a class to run, and exams needed to be covered. I sat upright in my chair, pinching my arm in an effort to keep awake, furiously trying to ignore the scores of stares still present in the room. It could have helped slightly if I was friends with any number of them, but the publicity of my 'condition' reserved me to the 'freak' end of the social ladder, and that was where I was going to stay.
I tried to take notes on what Sturrige had to say, reminding us of a report I had yet to begin. I was far too behind on a number of subjects to have them all completed in the next two weeks, but I was going to have to deal with that on my own. 40 minutes of class-time passed by with all the motivation of a chess marathon, and even with my latest incident fading from people's minds, I was still left struggling to keep up in terms of the subject matter. Biology was by far the most difficult subject I had partaken in yet, and I seriously considered receiving tutor lessons, anything to help me in this particular regard.
The sun was beginning it's slow ascent into the sky, it's rays now assaulting my skin. If anything, this benefited me, creating an uncomfortable scenario where sleep thought twice than to show up again.
"Before you go, I need you to sign a form stating that you're interested in making it to the Scientist Exhibition next week!" Sturrige continued, the first sentence he had spoken all class that genuinely caught my attention. "You will needs your Parent's signatures to go, so don't forget that. Class is dismissed."
No sooner had the words been spoken, than the furious sounds of chair scraping against wood arose from the room, everywhere and all at once. it took just a number of seconds before the vicinity was emptied, everyone focusing on the next except for me, and my worried Teacher. While outside was filled with the rush of movement and conversation, the silence that descended between us was palpable. Sturrige was never going to recommend me as his star pupil, that much I knew, I could only hope that he could see that I was still trying to put in the effort to have my assignments completed. I could tell, however, that something else was crossing his mind, and not for the first time, either.
"If there's anything you want to say, then say it." I stated, knowing where this conversation was going to go.
"I'm starting to become a little concerned, We just wanted to say-"
"Yes, we, the teachers on the school board, feel that you need to stay at home for a couple of days, get some rest, and come back again. Your sleep anxiety disorder is very troubling for you, I know, but at the rate you're working, you are not going to pass my Biology exam, and a number of my colleges feel the same in regards to their own subjects."
This shouldn't have hurt as much as it should, I knew that, but being confronted again, being told to get some rest when 'rest' was impossible to find, that hit a nerve.
"Well in that case, you mind telling exactly how I can do that, because for someone like you, this comes naturally, you can rest your head on a pillow and fall asleep and not dream about chainsaws and hatchets and blood and witches every second of every minute of every hour of every day! Explain to me how I can do that!"
It was wrong to raise my voice, especially to someone who was not actively trying to attack me, but I didn't care, I knew how this conversation would go. Sturrige was a proud man, more than anything else, and at the slightest hint of provocation, he would pack up his bags, nestle his papers into a neat little pile, and make his way outside the room, leaving me all along within it's four walls. I understood what his action said, and boy, did the action speak volumes.
'Your never going to make friends with anyone if you raise your voice like that.'
I genuinely pondered what the action equivalent of 'Fuck You' would be.
'Nightmare disorder, also known as 'dream anxiety disorder', is a sleep disorder characterized by frequent nightmares. The nightmares, which often portray the individual in a situation that jeopardizes their life or personal safety, usually occur during the second half of the sleeping process, called the REM stage. Though such nightmares occur within many people, those with nightmare disorder experience them with a greater frequency. The disorder's DSM-IV number is 307.47.'
Wikipedia could only offer me the description, not the cure. Under my sheets provided me with the only comfort zone I could possibly imagine, safe in my own little bubble of the universe. My laptop provided me with the only link to the outside world that I could ever need, scores of biscuits and hot chocolate present at my feet. It was a daily ritual, furiously scanning the internet, hoping to find something that could give me a good night's sleep for the first time in years. Today could have gone better, but I was safe for now, and with the weekend on the horizon, I was free from socially active duties for 48 straight hours. '
There are many ways to treat dream anxiety without seeking the help of a therapist. Alleviating stress within the home and personal life is a good way to eliminate any anxiety the individual may have upon going to bed. A regular fitness routine and perhaps relaxation therapy would help to make the individual fall asleep faster and more peacefully. Yoga and meditation can also help to eliminate stress and create a more peaceful sleeping atmosphere. Psychotherapy can also help an individual learn how to cope and deal with the various stresses in their life.'
So far, everything had been done to ensure I was not 'stressed', I jogged around the city park a number of times, always cleared my head just before going to bed, stopped drinking coffee and sugary drinks, even a one-way ticket to Yoga class, purely on my Mom's instruction.
So far, those methods were not working, so they were out.
I sipped the contents of my mug absentmindedly, reaching for my earphones. Soon, soft, filtering music began to play inside my ears, calming me. My Parents were gone on holiday for the week, so I was free to carry out what I wanted to do. No doubt I would have received hourly visits to my room otherwise, my parents just as worried as the rest of this city, it seemed. Their letter, left on the kitchen desk, ensured that their worries stayed at home alongside me.
'We'll only be gone for a short while, but if there's anything you need, you call us and we will rush straight over. Make sure you open the windows every morning, and feed Fido every day, don't forget that! You have Dr. Lydia's number if your nightmares get too severe, please call her if you need to! Happy Birthday son! We'll fetch you something in New York! - Mom 3'
Unfortunately, this note accidentally became a coaster for my mug, the text altered slightly with the ring of stray liquid. I swore when I discovered my error, but thought nothing of it now. It was 2am, and I realized somberly that I now hadn't slept for more than 48 hours. I could obviously feel this adverse effect eat at the corners of my vision, threatening to pull me under. I pinched myself once again, forcing myself to stay awake, not yet ready to face what was about to come. Suddenly, an E-mail popped into view within my laptops screen, distracting me. How odd, it was the middle of the morning, and no one I knew bothered to stay up this late at all. I opened it's contents, and immediately wished I hadn't. '
You should kill yourself, you know, just saying.'
No longer content with harassing me on various different media networks I was a part of, it appeared I was now receiving death threats by E-mail, as well. It was as if I had nowhere to hide from whoever was doing all of this. I was not even sure if it was even a solitary person, either. I expected it to happen, but my eyes still widened in shock as yet more E-mails poured in, each one with the same title, and therefore, the same message.
They also possessed a key error, one that I was now able to take advantage of.
They used obviously fake E-mail addresses, their IP addresses, however, could not be altered, nor were they hidden made dealing with them easier than I could have possibly imagined. I scribbled them down, eager to report this to the Police at the first sign of day. It was going to make me smile when I could finally come face-to-face with whoever was causing all of this.
I had enough of all this, and no amount of cookies and hot cocoa was going to alleviate my stress. I could feel my heartbeat in my throat, and I forced myself to calm down, to close my eyes, clearing my head. It was futile to resist, so I allowed myself to become pulled into the nightmare that awaited me, hoping that it would at least be more merciful than the last.