That I was having trouble sleeping was more than an understatement. The therapy sessions with the counselors at The Comfort House seemed to help at first, but eventually my anxiety and fears caught up with me. I tried everything else I could think of. Pills and cork pillows, dehumidifiers and breathing strips. 100% cotton Egyptian sheets, hot tea, warm baths, nothing was working. I tried moving the bed to every corner of the room and slept with my head pointed in every direction on the compass. Nothing. Not a wink in four days. My work was starting to suffer badly. I would suddenly blink and look around the office of cubicles, aware that I had been somewhere else for 10 or 15 minutes. This seemed to happen with an alarming occurrence and for a longer and longer duration.
I trudged home from work that day in October; cold wind blowing up the leg of my suit and under the collar of my jacket, thinking about what I had not tried and what I would try next. I went up the steps to the foyer door walked through and went straight to the mailbox. Just because a man can’t sleep doesn’t mean the bills don’t get paid. Inside there was a plain brown envelope. The front of the envelope reads To: Mr. Curtis Small. There was no return address and no stamp. I looked around me half expecting there to be some joke being played here, but I was alone. I realized how goofy I was acting and feeling. Stamping my feet to warm them I shut the box and headed to the stairs.
After dinner, I was just sitting down to watch the late edition news when I remembered the strange letter. Honestly I had quite forgotten about it in my mundane trip up the stairs. Walking to the entryway table where I deposit my keys, wallet and spare change I found the letter right where I had left it. I picked it up and walked back to the living room. Making myself comfortable I examined it closely for the first time. The paper was of a heavy, yet soft sort, more akin to cloth than paper. The ink was darkly black and the script was of an old style of writing that was probably older than my grandparents. The back was sealed with a small blob of wax like substance. Nothing like the fancy letters you see in swash-buckling romance movies. Just a plain glob of something smashed to hold the flap closed. I opened it and inside was a letter made of the same material as the envelope, but looked like it had been typed by a malfunctioning typewriter.
Dear Mr. Small,
It has come to the attention of the caring people at Comfort House Inc., that you’ve been having trouble sleeping. Being rightfully concerned about all our wonderful and loyal customers, our specialists have come up with a plan to help you with your most distressing problem. Adhere directly and specifically to the instruction contained within and enjoy a peaceful night’s sleep
Sincerely, Comfort House Inc.
DIRECTIONS: Go to thrift store at 8213 West Summerdale Avenue. Go in. Pay no attention to the man behind the counter. They will not notice you. You have no need to ask questions here. Head to the back wall of the store. You may feel as if you’re in the wrong place. Do not worry, you ARE in the right place.
The object you are looking for is an article of clothing, handmade and in colors that are rather bland and innocuous. It will feel very familiar to you. It has a taupe motif. The straps are brown and the buckles are brass. You will know when you examine this article of clothing that this is what you’ve come for. There will be no price tag to be found. Leave the store. You will not pay for this item. No one will stop you.
You will feel tempted to wear it immediately. You must wait until the sun goes down but do not be afraid to touch it. Learn it. Know it. Its stitches will tell you a story of horrible atrocities, the world’s worst sins committed but without words or language. You will feel tempted to wear this garment in spite of all that but you must wait until the sun goes down!
When the sun goes down, you may then wear the garment. At this point, know that no matter what happens, you cannot take it off, at least if you value your life, for to do so would drive you into an insanity so deep and intense that you most assuredly would attempt to kill yourself to stop it all. The garment will seem to breathe, and adjust to fit your body.
Do not remove the garment until the sun comes up. That night will be one of the worst nights of your life, but when you wake up in the morning to remove it, it will become clear to you why you have endured all this.
The next 24 hours were an absolute hell. Dream and visions of tortured and screaming facades of humanities horror. Multitudes, busted open and wrought and torn in twain. I’ve never felt so sick and horrible in all my life. The visions while wearing the Jacket were almost too terrifying to bear, and I was starting to question the choice I had made to go through with this crazy plan. The next night, the night after the most horrible night of my life was one of sheer sweet nothingness. Sweet blissful emptiness. I cannot remember having slept so well and awaking so rested. I found that the more I wore it, the better sleep I was having. I took to wearing it every night to bed. I even missed a day of work and slept right on through until the next evening. That pissed my boss off really bad, but I didn’t care I was getting sweet, peaceful, dreamless, wonderful, everlasting sleep….
I opened my eyes. I did not know how long I had been asleep. From the smell wafting up from my bed sheets I would say it had been a while. I could tell they were soiled with urine and feces. The daylight creeping, around the curtains, and across the room was hurting my eyes. My head was splitting with pain, and my belly was gnawing with hunger, but it didn’t matter. I yawned and snuggled into The Jacket deeper.
It snuggled me back and I closed my eyes and slept.
I've always been a jack of all trades. I've been a poet, author, social commentator, comedian, online gamer, pod cast host, and Youtuber. I've had a class A license to drive semi truck over the road. I've worked as a chef, manager and all kitchen positions in hundreds of restaurants over the years. I've traveled in Mexico, Canada and through 37 of the 50 states. I've been a volunteer firefighter in Florida, where I grew up. I've fished the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and saw the far distant coast line of Cuba before its recent opening to the west. I've married, had 4 kids, divorced, got CKD stage 6 (end stage renal failure) Survived a stroke, mild heart attack, MRSA, blood clots and now chronic heart failure. Fully disabled and home bound, the internet is my social outlet, and window on the world. I go to dialysis three times a week, I watch movies, play video games and chat with people on social media. Writing is my catharsis for a life that is now spent measuring the time I have left, less the tomorrows that may never be.