I walk in the city just like the night before and the night before that one. Slowly, I pass in front of closed stores, those I am so familiar with. I know already where I will go, even is my body, my legs and all my limbs perhaps don’t know yet. I know, because it is that way every time.
Every time, as if mesmerized or hypnotized by some strange force, I quit the main streets, the great boulevard, all the secure places where I feel almost invisible for the way people don’t seem to pay attention to the way I look, how I move, or to the clear and echoing sound of my footsteps. But still, I let my mind drift away and I enter some dark back alley, a very narrow one. Little by little, the sound of the street nearby fade away and the lights, forgetting me, disappear like simple candles.
When I realize that it is now completely dark, a shiver runs through my spine. I take some time to listen attentively around me then I stop, frozen. Not a single sound, but the coldness. The suffering heat of the usual summer night, suddenly gone and replaced by a stronger and much colder wind. But it is now that I realize that some light is coming from above. The Moon, barely full. Paying attention to the darkness surrounding me partly defeated by this celestial shining, I stare at some dirty papers and magazines left over on the floor. They are not moving. The wind I feel strongly against me doesn’t seem to even affect a centimeter of my surroundings. As if to confirm my thoughts, I actually see the breeze wrapping my body tightly, making one with it, comforting me sweetly and assuring me that I have nothing to fear of it.
Against my will, I feel my legs being attracted by something. It can only be that force… Pulling me toward it. Or maybe it is the wind that forces me to go to it? I am not sure.
For some reason, I look up to gaze at the moon. Had it changed? I think so. Or it is changing… yes, slowly, it starts to disappear. No clouds are covering the sky and no eclipse is occurring either. I know it should look odd to me, but it does not matter to me at all. At last, the obscurity is omnipresent, complete and whole. No stars are hung anywhere to help me. But somehow, I can still see… and I see that nothing is there for me to see. But the wind still makes me walk in all directions, over and over again for what seems like eternity.
To my disappointment, the overwhelming tornado leaves me. Then I find myself in a normal back street alley, once again on my own. Some stars shine in the sky, but no moon. I still wonder if I am in the same place and world. And that temperature again, giving me goosebumps all over…
I turn back to walk away, but my mind tells me that nothing lies ahead and any attempt to get away is simply illogical and useless. So, convinced, I look back and start to walk carefully down the tiny desert street. Nothing is on my left or right except for two high and endless walls.
Then, I hear it, the source of everything. A regular sound, scary but exquisitely irresistible. I need it, oh yes, so much I want to see it. It is like a breathing, slow, as steady as a metronome calling for me, whispering in my ear softly. That delightful and mysterious beat…
As I walk on and on, the breathing intensifies. It is not a whisper anymore, that is for sure. But its regularity is unchanged, awfully the same. Everything seems normal to me, perfectly in order to my eyes until I come to where a man is sleeping positioned in a sitting position and resting against a large garbage can with a considerable amount of newspapers covering him filthily. He looks so old and weak that I am not even sure if he is peacefully sleeping or rather embracing his last moments.
Suddenly I realize that he is not that old, maybe in his thirties, just like me. That somehow, I know he is still young but monstrously old looking. And as I come close to him, he wakes up and, totally in a natural way but almost annoyed by my presence, he tells me:
And like if nothing has just happened, he returns to his previous position and state of strange sleep. I realize that I am shaking furiously. His words simply scared me. But the magnetism is stronger and I decide to continue my journey.
Finally, the alley comes to an end and I find myself standing in front of a great metallic gate. Its designs remind me of some past gothic era. I look attentively at the details. The person who did those really was a talented artist. At that point, the constant breathing is so loud that it is unbearable. With my right hand I push the door and to my surprise, it opens easily. That is where I always wake up. For weeks I had been having that very same dream every night.
I always wake up sweating all over and out of breath. When I go to the bathroom to wash my face I can’t help but look at my reflection in the mirror. The image seems so distant, so unnatural. My face looks very tired, even though I don’t feel particularly exhausted for real. Then I go back to sleep, relaxed at last. Before I close my eyes. The digital clock calls me to look at it. Every time it had been exactly the same hour. Then, peacefully undisturbed by any dream, I sleep until the next morning.
On the last night, I decided I had had enough of all those repetitive nocturnal attacks. Instead of going to bed, I made exactly what I been doing in that dream. Without any difficulties, I found my way into the city where my dream somehow wanted me to be. I looked down at myself and I realized that unconsciously, I had dressed with the very same clothes.
Instinctively I quit the main street and one by one, my clear steps being the only perceptible noise in the dark, the vivid moments of my dream were repeated with the same accuracy. Was I really awake by then? Yes, I really thought I was, even both states seemed perfectly identical.
The same gentle wind brought me exactly where I knew I would arrive, that is, in the empty walled alley. Without any genuine surprise, I saw the sleeping man just ahead. Only then did I realize that during all that time, the breathing was in my head, my ears. Making a whole with me, like my own heartbeat. The man woke up, but he remained perfectly still and silent, only looking deeply into my eyes. Finally, he shook his head slowly in some kind of disappointment and I knew he was feeling sorry for me.
Inevitably, I walked until I couldn’t go any further, facing the huge antique gate. I brought my hands to my ears perhaps hoping that this foolish gesture would protect me and make the loud breathing go away. Of course it didn’t.
I stayed like that in front of the door for a long moment. Then, and I really still don’t know why I did this, I looked at my watch. It was the time it had always been before I returned to bed after my dream.
The breathing had stopped at once. I pushed the door and I enter some kind of huge golden shrine. The door closed itself behind and there I saw it. The original source of the breathing and of it all. It came right in front of me in all its height and strength. No words ever came into my mind to describe the horror that stood before my very eyes. I couldn’t even characterize the putrescence filling every cell of my lungs. And the roaring breaking my ears… I felt my skull crack open and my brain wanting to come out of my head, to escape ultimately the agony. Paralyzed, I screamed and cried with all my will and might, in prey to an indescribable fear.
My bedroom. How did I get there? I reached to feel my forehead. No sweat. I tried to touch my legs but I felt nothing. Every place I tried to touch gave no sensorial response. But every part of my body was still there; I could see everything of it.
I raised from the bed and went in the bathroom. I looked in the mirror and I saw my face. Not the distant face I always knew, but older. Too old! The traits of an old person. And my hair. It kept the same length but it was all gray and white. An emptiness fell inside me as I stood in front of my image, unable to react. I knew that shivers were running inside me, but I felt nothing. Then, one thought came to me like an illumination. Was I dead? Even now, I still don’t know.