Counting Backwards to Truly Awake
by A.J. Huffman
I fall asleep in the hands of a clock that ticks backwards. I find the counter motion comforting as I regress into dreams of the past (sometimes even mine). I welcome the variation, it keeps me coming back, night after night, even though I am never tired.
Tonight my eyes close on visions of a recognisable childhood. Parents and pets have names I do not have to fabricate. I let them pass through my fingers, soothing sensations of something almost tangible. I giggle, pretending it tickles more than my fancy to walk past this psychological conveyor of ghostly images. Laughter stops the flow. I am twelve, dancing with my two best friends in a bedroom that was not mine. We were dressed up in electric colors, holding spatulas as microphones. We were miniature Madonnas, ready for our million-dollar contracts. We did not understand what it meant to sing off key.
Hourly chime shattered the image, replaced it with another. This one fell like a blanket. Snow, piles of it lay in waiting for an overstuffed-suit and boots with eyes to come running, crashing through it. Behind me a tiny puppy, all black fur and paws two times too big for its body mimicked my every move as best as he could. All that could be seen of us was hat tassels and tail. We were consumed by icy white. Our laughter seemed frozen around me for more than a few moments, continued to linger even as invisible hands forced me further back, years elapsing with every footstep.
I stopped again, when something shiny caught my eye. A tiny tiara, prize for petite perfection, smiled back from a homemade trophy case. I was now five, and my mother dressed me like a lacy sailor. I charmed three anonymous faces. Judges. Of what? I wondered, but continued to tell them a story about helping my father fix his car. They laughed and made notes, later announced my name. I had to stop playing to collect the rhinestone crown, never fully understanding what it was for.
Suddenly it was dawn, and I could follow myself no further. I opened my eyes, reborn to reality. Today I would breathe a little lighter knowing no matter how many times I abandon myself, all I have to do is close my eyes and wait for my own return.
Counting Backwards to Truly Awake by A.J. Huffman first appeared in Issue 1 of Bare Fiction Magazine (December 2013).