It’s two a.m. and the beast slides in under the bedroom door while I’m sleeping, a darkness deeper than the dark. I feel his weight as he sits on my chest and the tingling sensation of the tips of his talons as he takes my head and turns it slightly to face him. “Let’s talk,” he hisses.
This implies conversation, but it is one-sided. Doom seems to be the theme, oppression the objective, but I’m not paying too much attention to specifics as I sort through and catalog the degrees of my awareness. The house is quiet and still. No strange lights from outside, no smell of smoke through the screened windows. My wife rests peacefully beside me. There is just this…thing, hunkering down, pressing on my thorax. My breathing seems shallow; does it have to be? I fill my lungs several times, deeply. Breathing is good, the weight remains. I experimentally try shifting my position.
“Ah-ah,” says the beast, “does it hurt when I do this?”
Actually, no, nothing hurts. I easily move my arm and place my hand below my collarbone. The river courses deep and wide and steady beneath my fingertips in a familiar rhythm. My skin is cool and dry and yet I know the beast has found something, deep within. A tiny flame of fear, like a pilot light, and now he breathes on it and his very breath is combustible – the flame roars, seeking more fuel, wanting to consume me. In the light of day I hardly notice the steady but small flame; now in the dark every flicker seems to cast an ominous shadow. This is beyond reason, but reason I must: there is money in the bank, we are whole, the jobs are good, the basement will be dry again. I am fine and no weapon formed against us will prosper.
The beast is unimpressed, and answers each thought with a “But…” of his own, his own butt and haunches squeezing against my ribs. The debate goes on quietly for an hour. I should get up. I should get some water. I should change the scenery, but I feel trapped. “Yes…trapped,” the beast says, “trapped, trapped, trapped.” This is going nowhere. Reason is not sufficient, and argument is ineffective. If he won’t listen to me, then I won’t listen to him. I deliberately turn my mind to the old songs, the songs of deliverance and praise, I repeat them to myself, sometimes running verses together or in different order, simply using what comes to mind, from another pilot light, a garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, replacing fear with power, strength and a sound mind.
The darkness in the room changes perceptibly. It’s nowhere near dawn, but it seems lighter somehow. Peace returns, if sleep does not. At 4:00 a.m. I’m aware that my wife is awake, lying quietly in the dark. I speak softly, “Are you awake?”
“Yes. Why are you?”
I tell her what happened. She draws closer, hooks one of her legs over one of mine, her arm brushes the last traces of the beast from my chest.
“I’m feeling better,” I say.