My head settles into the pillow, the duvet forms itself around me, my body finds its familiar groove in the mattress beneath me and I close my eyes.

My breathing is slow, rhythmic. I feel the muted whump whump as my heart beats behind my eyes, in my temples, in my chest. I find the feeling comforting and disconcerting. It fascinates and terrifies in equal measure.

Shapeless forms swirl behind my eyelids; phantoms that drift and coalesce and join and break and rejoin. I try to follow them in that strange space that is everything and nothing, which seems so impossibly vast and yet can’t be as it’s behind my eyes, inside my head.

Images flash. Thoughts whirl. Voices echo. Each image or thought or voice is there for the briefest of moments, to be replaced instantly by another and another and another. I try to latch onto one, try to hold it and expand it and study it and make sense of it but I can’t. They’re like snowflakes, there and then gone too soon.

I’m so very tired.

Morpheus, for whatever reason, does not bestow upon me his gift; there are no dreams for me this night, like so many others before.

I open my eyes and stare. The streetlight’s orange glare shines through my window, through the blind that keeps prying eyes at bay, and casts angular shadows across the ceiling. How often have I seen this sight? How often have I laid here staring up at the shapes and patterns made by the shadows? The bumps and forms of the ceiling as familiar to me as the lines on my hand.

Someone walks past the house – their footfalls loud in the quiet and the still. I wonder where they have been and where they are going. I wonder about their life and if they are happy. I wonder if Morpheus will be visiting them tonight and feel stupidly envious.

I listen for as long as I can before once again silence descends. The only sound now is my breathing. I try to concentrate on that. Try to clear my head of the infinitesimal thoughts that scratch and itch and threaten to spill but never do. But to no avail. Despite my efforts, or maybe because of them, the thoughts remain while my lungs continue to do what it is they are designed to do. No amount of concentration is going to change that. I know this for fact because I have tried so many times before. Yet despite the futility of it, it’s a technique I try again because maybe, just maybe.

I shift my weight and rearrange my legs, the duvet rustling as I move. I am so very aware of my body – its weight, the sensations of the cotton against my skin, the way the material envelops me and keeps me warm. One arm resting across my chest, the other laying straight by my side. My fingertips feeling chest hair and duvet simultaneously and for a fleeting moment I marvel at how this is possible and then the thought is lost.

How much time has passed? I want to look at the clock on the bedside table, knowing full well I won’t like what I see when I read the blue neon display. During these endless nights the very nature of time seems to become elastic, stretching a minute into something… more. A unit of time as yet unnamed which exists solely to torment and to torture.

Not really knowing how I know, the cat has silently entered my room. With a reassuring mewl he jumps onto the bed and makes his way to my chest. He pushes his head into my hand, instinctively knowing there’s no way I won’t reciprocate. His fur is thick and soft and not unpleasant. He purrs and I welcome his distraction.

For a while we remain like this. The weight of his body on top of mine is somehow comforting; the purring rhythmic and soothing.

His eyes are closed and his purring is now long and deep and I know it won’t be long before he is asleep. Sure enough, he sits up, yawns and finds his familiar spot next to me, in the crook of my arm. He curls himself up tight, in between the space my arm and my body make, and allows himself to settle. I feel the heat of his body against my arm and welcome it.

I wonder if he will dream.

And thus we remain. One of us already in Morpheus’ sweet embrace, one of us not.

But I know he will come for me too, eventually.

I hope.

Sandman by Dave McKean