“Let’s play a game.”
Those were the four words that started it all. It was not a brain game of chess or a tickling game of twister, it was something I wish I never played.
“How simple?” I asked sceptically.
Greg was an old friend who had a doctorate certificate hanging in his bedroom and a strange concept of games.
“We will see who can stay in the between for the longest.”
“Speak English, Greg,” my other friend said.
“You know the moment when you’re about to fall asleep? The moment when your mind gets clouded with strange thoughts that overlap and make no sense? The moment when your memory fails you even though you still have some control over your consciousness? That’s in the between.”
“I bet you made that up,” I said with a chuckle.
“The term, yes. I just thought it sounded cool,” Greg replied.
“Right, so how do we stay in the between? It’s not like we can stop ourselves from falling asleep,” my other friend asked.
“I have these things that would keep your brain active,” Greg said, as he placed two little round patches on his temples. “Don’t worry, they simply send magnetic pulses periodically to stop your brain from resting.”
My other friend picked up the wireless patches and examined them before asking, “So what does the winner get?”
I laughed and shook my head. It was stupid but the game sounded interesting.
“Fine, whatever,” I said.
Taking the patches and placing them on my temples, I followed after Greg as he lied down and shut his eyes. I didn’t expect it to work so quickly but that Friday was a busy day for me, and my body accepted rest almost immediately.
As my mind drifted in and out of different thoughts, I found myself questioning everything in my head. But as I tried to find the answers, I ended up forgetting the questions instead. It was odd just to be lingering in the between, and when I finally stopped I felt even more tired than I was before.
“Not bad,” my other friend said.
When my eyes opened, I found Greg with his eyes shut while my other friend chomping down a bag of chips.
“Enjoying the show? When did you stop?” I asked.
Just as I did, Greg opened his eyes and stared at the two of us. It took him awhile to fully get his brain aligned with consciousness, and when he finally did he asked, “How long have you two been up? Can’t believe you guys started the fun without me.”
“Your idea of fun is not fun,” my other friend said.
I nodded in agreement and checked my watch. When I saw that it was almost 7 a.m., I was rather shocked. I was in the between for eight hours but it felt like minutes. After that, I excused myself and was called a party pooper.
Exhaustion was heavy on my shoulders and I desperately needed sleep. So by the time I entered my apartment, I was ready to hit the sack. It was a beautiful Saturday morning and all I wanted to do was sleep, sleep without dreams and without interruptions. Unfortunately, I had none.
My bed was cosy, the curtains were drawn, and a soft relaxing melody was playing from the speakers. I would have fallen straight into a deep slumber any other day, but that morning I was stuck… stuck in the between.
I drifted in and out of thoughts, memories, and ideas but could not slip away from them. When I gave up trying and opened my eyes, my room was already dark. I checked my temples to see if the patches were still there, but from my memory I knew they weren’t. Something was not right and I called up Greg immediately.
“I can’t sleep. Your little game messed with my brain,” I said the moment Greg answered the call.
“What do you mean? I just took a nap and my brain rested fine.”
“Your brain is fine, but mine is not! I can’t sleep, I’ve been trying but I can’t,” I replied with a hint of exasperation.
“Calm down, alright. Try to sleep tonight, and if you can’t, give me a call tomorrow. I’ll come over,” Greg said.
I accepted his answer and decided to give it another shot. Maybe it was a temporary side affect? After fixing myself dinner, I took a shower and headed straight to bed. I also popped a sleeping pill just in case. But as my head hit the pillow and my thoughts began drifting, it happened again.
I was semi-conscious in my head and I continued to stay that way. I tried to empty my mind, but every time I tried more voices and images appeared instead. I was stuck… stuck in the between.
When morning came, I rang Greg up and told him I could not sleep. He said he would come over after he ran some errands at his office, but I could not wait. So I headed to his office as quickly as I could.
By the time I reached the hospital, I jogged to Greg’s office and burst in with the words lingering in my head. “I can’t sleep, Greg. What am I doing wrong? What did you do to me?”
I sounded unlike myself, the calm and collected self I had pride in. Sleep depravation had a strange affect on me and I had no idea why.
“What am I doing wrong?!” I demanded, just as Greg asked his colleague to excuse him.
“It’s not what you’re doing wrong,” Greg quickly said as he pulled me to a corner.
“What? What are you talking about?”
“You shouldn’t be doing anything,” Greg answered.
“You make no sense!” I shouted.
Greg reached for my shoulders and began shaking me back and forth. I angrily attempted to push his hands away but I failed. Moments later, I found myself lying on a bed.
“Are you alright?” Greg asked.
Greg was hovering above me with his hands on my shoulders.
“You were yelling. You must have fallen asleep,” Greg said.
I slowly sat up and gave him a questioning look.
“I’m sorry. These patches aren’t ready. Lunch is on me, alright? Thanks for being my lab rat,” Greg said with a chuckle.
When he turned his back on me, I saw my reflection in a glass panel and immediately remembered where I was. I was in Greg’s lab helping him test out a new device. And though I could not remember what the device was for, I could remember my ‘dream’. It felt so real and I was glad it was over.
That day, I told myself to never again dwell in the between. No one was meant to stay in it. Yet somehow, I knew I would be drawn to it again. Hopefully… not any day soon.
Strange story, I know. It makes no sense. So let me tell you what inspired this.
In the between is actually a human emotion we have all experienced; the unsettling feeling of worry. When we worry, we place ourselves in a world where our minds are filled with questions we have no answers to. This world stops us from getting rest and leaves us wondering what we did wrong. We are distracted by it and we start acting like a different person. Worry is a place between reality and imagination, but a place that cripples us the moment we are stuck in it. To get out of worry is to simply do nothing, because in reality there is nothing to be done in situations we cannot control.
I decided to write about worry because recently I was worrying. I suffered the same effects until I decided to let it go, and my latest post on my personal blog helped me deal with that issue. So if you’re worrying about something, stop! It’s a waste of time and energy.
Anyway, let me know what you think of this story in the comments below! Don’t worry, I love hearing your thoughts no matter what they are :)
© 2014 Jeyna Grace
(For more short stories, click HERE)