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July 04, 2022

Got Sleep?

By Josh Brown

KNOCK, KNOCK.

KNOCK, KNOCK.

The rapid popping in Helena's dream intensified until she awoke and realized someone was knocking hard enough on the door to her trailer to shake it. She groggily rolled off the bed, landed on the floor, then forced herself to her feet and grabbed a robe. As Helena stuffed her arms into the sleeves and hastily tied the worn robe shut, she yanked open the door -- which happened to be two long strides away from the bed.

"What?" Helena said, looking through squinty eyes as the bright sunny day outside poured in. "Trying to sleep here!"

Huh? She blinked her eyes and stared at... nobody. Glancing over her shoulder -- because it was so likely somebody managed to slip around her -- Helena found more of the same emptiness. She hopped over the two steps leading into her humble abode, her bare feet landing on packed dirt.

The whole area appeared deserted. Four other trailers stood in their various degrees of deterioration but no people anywhere. "I'm not amused," Helena said loudly.

She climbed back into her trailer and slammed the door shut, locking it behind her before promptly flopping back down on the bed and returning to sleep.

KNOCK, KNOCK.

KNOCK, KNOCK.

Growling, Helena shouted, "Go away!"

Then it dawned on her that she had five neighbors. Huh? She had only counted four trailers. Shoving herself out of bed, Helena adjusted her robe and flung open the door again. Once more she hopped outside and looked around.

One... two... three... four -- no four. What? Only three trailers? Helena darted her head left and then right, confused. These weren't mobile trailers and there was no way any of her neighbors could just pick up and move at a moment's notice -- that would involve large vehicles and physical labor, neither of which could have been used since she was last out here ten minutes ago.

Helena padded across the dirt road toward her nearest neighbor. The light blue trailer appeared abandoned from outside, it always had, but its owner, Miss Linda Stevens, never stepped outside. As Helena approached the trailer's door, a light breeze blew dirt across her bare feet.

Helena rapped her knuckles against the door and waited. Despite Linda's lack of outdoor skills, she never refused a guest and was the politest woman Helena had ever met. So why wasn't she answering the freaking door?

Helena knocked again, getting irritated.

Out of the corner of her eye, she thought she saw the shaggy green curtain covering the window move just a smidge. "Open up, Linda!" Helena shouted. "What the hell!"

After another minute, Helena flipped off the front door and stormed back to her trailer. She climbed in, slammed the door shut, locked it, and fell into bed. The mystery could wait, she decided, until later. If anyone knocked on her door again... she went back to sleep.

KNOCK, KNOCK.

KNOCK, KNOCK.

"Argh!" Helena reached under the bed and yanked out her shotgun. She stormed to the door, grabbed a handful of shells, and started loading the gun. "You better hope you aren't out there," Helena shouted, "cause I have a gun!"

As she snapped the shotgun shut, she tossed open the door to find -- surprise, surprise -- nobody. Yet again Helena hopped out of the trailer, and yet again she looked around. Frowning across the street, she froze with the shotgun sagging in her hands. "Huh?" she murmured as she stared at the empty space that had once been filled with her neighbor's disgusting bright-orange trailer. In all the years she'd lived here, Helena never got around to meeting the occupants of this trailer. Not that she minded. Her lack of social skills suited her just fine.

Shaking her head clear, Helena turned sharply back to her trailer to make sure it was still there. Then she looked over at the last two remaining trailers besides her own. Tightening her grip on the shotgun, she again jogged across the dirt road toward Linda's trailer.

With the butt of the shotgun, she slammed on the door and shouted, "Open up, Linda! This is an emergency!" She blinked at the rather noticeable indentations she just made in the door. Oops.

When nobody answered, Helena tried to open the door and found it locked. Growling, she stormed down the road toward the last remaining trailer. The half-missing siding had once been a yellowish color, back when Helena first moved in. Now -- she had no idea how you'd describe that color.

Once more she hammered the butt of the gun into the door, longer and harder than before, and waited. Had she known this neighbor, she might have waited a little longer. Her void personal attachment to any of her neighbors gave her reason enough to just plow on ahead with her next plan. She took several large steps back, raised the shotgun, and blew the door right off its hinges. The blast from the gun echoed in the air and her ears rang loudly as she climbed into the trailer and looked around.

"Hello? Where are you idiots? I just want to get some freakin sleep! So show your face, tell me your alive, and tell me what the hell is going on."

But sleep seemed to be a fleeting idea for Helena. The trailer was empty. More than missing people, in fact -- it appeared the occupants had moved out.

Jumping out of the trailer, Helena gazed up and down the street. Her trailer remained, as well as the other two she just visited. Helena glanced over her shoulder and frowned as she reached the foot of her trailer. "Wait a second..." She spun around and lifted a hand, trying to rub the ringing out of her ear.

Was it just her imagination? She couldn't tell now thanks to the noisy shotgun, but she could have sworn she'd heard no insects, birds or even distant traffic earlier.

Even more annoyed and puzzled, Helena climbed into her trailer, slammed the door shut, locked it, and then set a chair in front of the door and sat down. She lifted the shotgun, pointed it directly at the door, and waited. One way or another she had this mystery solved the next time someone knocked on her door.

Ten minutes passed and nobody knocked. Helena glanced longingly at her bed but knew that as soon as she closed her eyes the knocking would return. So she waited ten more minutes.

After reaching the thirty-minute mark, Helena went over to the window and peeked through the curtain. Both of the remaining trailers hadn't moved. Satisfied, she returned to her chair and waited some more.

Hour later, still nothing had changed.

By now the bed practically begged Helena to get back in it. Refusing seemed near impossible, but she held off just a little while longer. A little while longer, though, was all it took for her to start drifting off in the chair. No sooner than her eyelids sank closed...

KNOCK, KNO--

Helena jerked awake and blasted the shotgun at the door. The entire trailer shook with the force of the shot, her ears nearly exploding at the enclosed sound. None of that mattered, though, as Helena sat there, staring wide-eyed through the now missing door. Down the street at the puke-yellow trailer, Helena watched as the trailer tilted to the left and then the right and then simply crumbled like a sculpture made of dust. The knocking noise, she understood now, was the rocking of the trailers.

Hovering over the now missing trailer, however, was a creature Helena had never witnessed before. It floated several feet over the spot where the trailer once sat with wings spread wide. A vaguely shaped body hung between the wings, lacking limbs of any kind. The head, the head most of all drew Helena's attention; it was nothing more than an oval. No features were visible on this head, no hair sprouted from it.

Slowly, Helena stood and stepped toward the doorframe. As the creature's wings began to beat back and forth, it moved slowly toward Linda's trailer. As she watched, she slipped a couple more shells into the shotgun and then hopped out of the trailer.

Her confusion gave way to a bit of disbelief. Then that, too, faded away to anger. Whatever this creature was, it was obliterating her neighbors! Sure -- she didn't like her neighbors particularly, nor did she much care about them, but what the hell! They were still her neighbors. And, maybe more than anything, she was angry that they apparently got a memo about this creature and moved away before it got here, while she was stuck in her trailer, trying to sleep, and being harassed by whatever it was.

"Hey! Asshole!" Helena shouted as she ran across the road toward Linda's trailer and the creature. "What do you think you're doing?" She said these things as if the creature had ears, much less was able to understand her.

At Helena's shouts, the creature paused in mid-flight and spun toward her. Its oval head tilted inquisitively toward Helena and then it continued on its way.

"How rude," Helena muttered. She lifted the shotgun but was too far away to get a decent shot. By the time she got near the trailer, the creature had stopped above it and, much to Helena's disappointment, vanished.

She stood there a moment, looking above the trailer, trying to find an outline or something to show the creature was still there and hidden. When she found nothing, she heaved the shotgun to her shoulder and sighed. "All right," she said. "All right. We'll do this your way."

After tossing the shotgun onto the roof of the trailer, Helena climbed up and took a seat. She rested the gun in her lap, stretched back and closed her eyes. "I'm going to sleep now, buddy. Feel free to come back whenever you want."

Naturally, she couldn't get to sleep now. Perhaps it was the blood raging through her veins. Just the idea of being on top of this trailer when it was about to be vaporized didn't appeal much to her, either. But she had a perfect spot, and that creature wasn't going to be destroying this trailer or her own.

Sometime later, after relaxing and easing her mind, Helena started to drift off. And then...

KNOCK, KNOCK.

Helena jumped up, raised the shotgun, and frowned. The creature was nowhere nearby.

KNOCK, KNOCK.

Helena spun around so fast she nearly lost her balance and tumbled off the top of the trailer. To her horror, she watched as her own trailer faded into dust. And hovering above it was that very same creature.

"You piece of shit!" Helena shouted. While she could have been referring to her home, she was speaking in particular to the creature. Despite her trailer's crappy interior, it was her home, and now, thanks to this creature, she was homeless.

Lifting the shotgun and aiming it at the creature, Helena waited. Sure enough, the creature began flying straight toward her, back to its spot above Linda's trailer -- the trailer she now stood on. "Not if I have anything to say about it," she muttered.

As the creature flew nearer, the sweet smell of cinnamon announced its imminent arrival; its beating wings pushed the odor at Helena like a deadly lure. She scrunched her nose, her finger tightening on the trigger.

"Die, you home wrecker!" Helena shouted as she pulled the triggered. Her foot slipped from the recoil and she stumbled back, hit the edge of the trailer's roof, and tumbled down to the ground. A loud squealing pierced through the ringing in her ears (both from the blast and the fall.) Dazed, Helena crawled to her feet and forced her away around the trailer to look at her kill.

Pain rolled through her right ankle and knee, but she pushed on, shotgun at her side, as she rounded the trailer and spotted the creature on the ground. Approaching, Helena forced a smirk through the grimace on her face. "Not such a bad-ass now, are you?" she asked the creature.

The creature's wings flapped once, then twice, and finally the squealing stopped and the wings fell still. A warm, gooey feeling of accomplishment settled over Helena. She managed to save one trai--

"What have you done? shrieked a voice that Helena immediately recognized as Miss Linda Stevens. For someone that never left her trailer, Linda didn't appear too disturbed at being outside. She ran toward Helena and the downed creature. "You killed it, Helena! You killed it. OHMIGAWD, you killed it!"

Duh. Helena eyed Linda as if she'd lost her marbles. "Look around," she said. "It destroyed all of our homes!"

"You stupid bitch!" Linda said, shocking Helena -- she'd never known Linda to curse. "Maybe if you'd participate in our local gatherings once in a while, you'd have known we agreed to give up our trailers. It was going to turn them into two-story homes."

Helena's nose flared. "I didn't make this deal, so what was it doing to my trailer?" That pissed her off even more than being left out of the deal.

"I thought it'd be a nice gift for you. The others said you should just live in your trailer while we all surrounded you with our nice new homes. You better get out of here. When the others get back, they're going to come after you."

Helena shook her head, heaved the shotgun on her shoulder, and stormed off to her car. "What a bunch of morons," she said aloud. She paused at the car door and glanced back at Linda. "What the hell is that thing, anyway?"

Linda looked up from the creature, her eyes flashing, and said, "An angel! You killed an angel!"

"Right then," Helena said. She rolled her eyes, hopped in her car, slammed the door, locked it, and drove off far enough to get away from the returning trailer owners. Then she settled back and closed her eyes.

"Nobody screws with my sleep," she murmured as she drifted off.

Article © Josh Brown. All rights reserved.
Published on 2006-04-24
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