Nanoprep 2021 Day 14: You Should be Sleeping, Harold
By Robin de Voh on 2021-10-21
Harold hit the snooze button a last time but knew he'd not hear the next alarm. It was time to get up. He rubbed his eyes, whipped the blanket off of him and let out a low growl of discontent. He flicked the button, turning the alarm off for real, and rolled out of bed. His back hurt, he noticed. So that's still there, then. He shuffled out of his bedroom and into the kitchen and flipped the coffee maker on.
Just before the coffee machine started gurgling its loud coffee-making death gurgle, something stood out to him. He shuffled over to the kitchen window looking out over the street all the way down from his 15th floor apartment, and noticed the quiet, the emptiness.
It was never quiet or empty here. Ever. Not an exaggeration. The hairs on his neck stood on end.
As drops of water slowly made their way through the coffee grounds, picking up flavor and color as they did, Harold fished around in his bathrobe pockets, but he'd left his phone in the bedroom. He forced himself from a shuffle to a walk -- still not brisk, but his muscles hadn't warmed up yet -- and went into his bedroom to get his phone. He expected messages of others who were confused, but saw nothing.
Tapping some app icons, he checked news sites, but there had been no updates for hours. He went to a foreign news site, also no updates for hours. He checked social media, but also nothing. As far as he could tell, the internet... Stopped. Suddenly. 4 hours ago.
He opened the phone app and dialed his mom's number. It rang. He checked the time, she'd definitely be up, she was a morning person. But it just kept ringing, eventually going to voicemail.
She always picked up.
He tried a friend, same deal. Another friend, also. A coworker, voicemail. His boss. Phone was off.
The coffee maker stopped gurgling and instead started hissing like an angry cat. He absent-mindedly walked over and turned it off. Without thinking or looking -- he was browsing the internet more to verify it was really everything -- he grabbed a mug from the cupboard and filled it up with coffee. He then walked, purely on muscle memory, to the living room and sat down on the couch with a soft grunt.
He turned on the TV and all channels were basically just off-line. Some were still showing things, but those were the ones he had already suspected were basically just a video playlist going in loops.
"What the hell," he said out loud, to himself, not knowing what else to do anymore. Things seemed to have ground to a halt, and only he seemed to be there to notice. Were other people still there? Had they disappeared?
Was this the rapture? He wasn't a religious man, but he knew about the rapture. It'd make sense to leave him behind, but he also didn't know his mom was religious. His boss in specific was certainly not someone who'd be taken up to heaven.
Not the rapture, then.
After finishing his coffee he decided to go out. First off, he was out of coffee. Second off, he might be able to find someone else, perhaps find out a bit more about what was going on.
He got dressed and grabbed his keys, then walked out the door, locking it behind him. Part of him thought that, if he suspected correctly, he might not even have to lock his door, but better safe than sorry.
He tried the elevator, but it wasn't responding. After a minute of trying he sighed. 15 flights down it was.
By the time he got the ground floor his muscles had warmed up and his back didn't hurt anymore either. His knees, however, they did. When he left the apartment building's lobby, he saw that there was really nobody around on the streets. At least not walking around. It was a beautiful day otherwise, but the eerie quiet just unsettled him.
He figured he'd just walk to the store, and see what he came across.
When he'd walked 2 blocks, he turned a corner and saw someone. A woman, mid-40s, slumped against a blue sedan which was parked at the side of the street. He hurried over and bent down.
"Hey, are you okay?" he said, shaking her by the arm a little. Her head lolled from side to side but other than that not much happened. She seemed to be breathing, and when he really took a close look she seemed to be rather content. She wasn't out cold like you see with people who've fainted, more like she was asleep.
When he focused a little more, he could hear a slight snore coming from her.
He got up. Sleeping in the street? Against a car? Who'd do that?
"What the hell," he said to himself again.
He kept walking to the store and saw the door was open. His hopes went up that there might be someone awake here, but when he went in, he just saw 5 people sleeping all over the place. One on the cash register, drooling ever so slightly on the keys, and 4 people who seemed to be customers. One actually had fallen forwards into a refrigeration unit that supposedly they'd been opening when they fell asleep.
So it was sudden, he thought to himself, as he walked to the refrigerated customer and carefully lifted them backwards and into a comfortable position on the floor.
Then he walked through a few aisles, grabbed a pack of coffee, and walked back to the cash register. He dropped 2 dollars off and looked back.
"What. The. Hell."
As he exited the store, however, he noticed the sky had changed. From the beautiful blue sky he'd noticed before, to an almost purple sky with black streaks in a circular pattern. And there was something in the air he didn't like either. He had found the quiet eerie, but something was at least ten times eerier now. The hair on the back of his neck went up again.
A soft rumbling sound started up, and Harold couldn't place where it was coming from. Until he could, and knew it was coming from everywhere. Everywhere all at once, at the same volume, as it got louder and louder, and it started to feel like his bones were vibrating along with it. His knees nearly buckled, but he grabbed the handle of the store entrance and managed to stay standing.
He looked back up to the sky and saw something. Something he instantly knew he'd never be able to describe, a confused muddle of features of something far too old and far too powerful to be truly seen by a human. He saw it, but it was like his mind was dodging the knowledge of having seen it, like it wasn't supposed to be seen. It filled his vision, as it was literally huge. A being, humanoid-ish, he thought, standing up from the water just outside the city, and he could tell the rumble that was still intensifying was now intensifying from that direction.
It roared -- he thought, though his mind for some reason refused to be certain of it -- and its tentacles whipped around as it shook the water off its wings. Or at least, he thought they were wings, but who can be sure about that sort of thing, his mind countered.
His knees hadn't stopped trying to buckle, and his stance wasn't steady at all. And something in his mind was starting to go off, a distance between what he was experiencing and what he thought he was experiencing was forming, a disconnect. He felt the thread between the two being stretched and screamed in pain. Not physical pain, but the pain of knowing his sanity was in sincere danger.
"WHY?!" he shouted as loud as he could, his voice cracking and skipping, even though it was only a single word.
The being suddenly looked at him and leaned forward a little. It was miles away from Harold, but for some reason he could both make out exactly what it was doing, and not at all what it was like. The thread in his mind was now pulled taut, and he screamed again.
"You should sleep," a voice boomed in his head, too loud for him to cope with, and he closed his eyes in pain. "Everybody should sleep," it added.
Harold screamed out even louder. A small trickle of blood ran from his right ear as his knees finally gave way, and he crashed to the ground on his knees.
"Sleep," the voice said one final, loud, and all-encompassing time.
Harold felt himself get tired, and slumped to the ground. He was consciously falling asleep, but just before the sleep really took hold of him, he could feel something happening.
A thread snapping.
When Harold woke up, others were also awake, and they had gathered around him. Someone was on a phone, calling emergency services. Harold recognized the store owner.
"What happened?" he asked Harold.
Harold had intended to answer, but when he opened his mouth to speak, Harold just screamed. Screamed until his voice was hoarse and he could taste blood in his mouth. It didn't stop him. If anything, it spurred him on to scream even louder.
The screaming only stopped for the onlookers who had helped Harold when the ambulance taking him away was far enough.
Harold was never the same again.