Insomnia... It's a feeling Anna knows very well. On one of her many mindnight strolls she meets a Tobias. A deathly pale night dweller, much like herself. Is there a plausable explanation for his n...
She glanced at the alarm clock on the desk. The sharp red numbers glared at her in the dark. 3:49AM it read. Anna sighed from deep within her chest and pressed her fingers against her eyes, as if trying to rid them of weariness. She rubbed them, and then let her arms drop to her sides. She felt heavy, like somebody had placed a lead weight at the base of her neck.
Anna stood up, glancing around the room with slow, tired eyes that burned and itched in their sockets. She stumbled over to her wardrobe, fighting off a wave a nausea as it rolled around her stomach. She caught hold of the wardrobe and leaned her head against it. The coolness of the mirrored door was a welcomed relief to her fevered forehead.
Anna stood back, and stared at her reflection, waiting for the remains of the inky dizziness to be burned away from her vision.
The girl staring back at her was deathly pale. She had thick black rings under her eyes like somebody had given her two quick jabs to the face. Her hair was a messy tangle of dull brown curls, and her cheeks were sunken and gaunt. Anna pressed her pale lips together until they were just a thin line.
Quickly, before the self pitying worries about her less than satisfactory appearance consumed her, she opened the door and stared at her clothes. Without really worrying what she was picking up, Anna wiggled into a pair of jeans and yanked a black t-shirt over her head. She shut the wardrobe and picked a brush up from her cabinet, which was cluttered with the usual mess of makeup, perfume, hair clips and styling products. She barely spared these things a glance as she yanked the brush through her wild tresses. She felt some strands of hair snap and ping under her man handling with the brush. She sighed and set it back to it’s cluttered home on the cabinet.
She checked that she wasn’t harboring anything embarrassing on her face, and did a quick check of her clothes to make sure yesterdays dirty socks weren’t clinging to her somehow. Not that it really mattered. It was almost four AM on a Thursday morning. The only people out at this time would be conceptual vampires or raving lunatics. At present, Anna felt like she was teetering somewhere in between the two.
After the first few streets Anna wished she picked her old parka coat off the peg by the front door. When she had first stepped out of the house it had seemed to be a mild spring morning, but now the bitter wind was really biting with a vengeance. It seemed to be taunting her, flipping her hair over her head and howling in her ears. She glared at the chewing gum speckled pavement as she walked and hugged herself against the cold.
She dodged around an old man as he came ambling up the street, muttering under his breath as he walked an equally ancient looking sheep dog. Anna glanced at the dog as she passed; it looked weary under the sickly yellow street lights; like it had lived one age too long. She quickly averted her eyes and hastened her pace.
She headed into town, which looked completely different in the night. The glassy shop widows looked like the milky ominous eyes of monsters and shadows lurked everywhere, perhaps housing infamy and all manner of horrors. Anna shook the thoughts away, and told herself she was being hysterical.
It had been two days since she had gotten any considerable amount of sleep and Anna felt sick to her stomach. The fresh morning air was helping to make her more alert, but she knew the only cure was a long sleep. At the moment that was all she wanted, and yet, couldn’t have. For a week she has led in bed, night after night listening to her own incredibly loud thoughts. It seemed rather ridiculous for her thoughts to be physically loud, but it was as if somebody had connected a loud speaker to her brain, and was playing the thoughts in churned out on full blast. As if that wasn’t enough to drive a person insane, it seemed as if there was a movie screen behind her own eyes, and scenes from years ago managed to play over and over again until she was ready to gouge her own eyes out. Yes, she was being hysterical again.
Anna arrived at an all night café. She stood outside the coffee shop, in a pool of yellow light that flooded through the wide glass windows. There was only two other people in the café. A customer with a shock of very dark hair, which contrasted starkly with his pale, pale skin, and a weary looking waitress who was sat slumped on a stool behind the counter. She was flicking through a magazine, her hand turning the pages periodically. Even though she was looking at the magazine, her eyes weren’t moving, which made Anna believe she wasn’t really reading it.
Anna entered the shop and was greeted by a blast of warm, coffee scented air. Bumps erupted over her arms at the sudden change of temperature, and she took a seat at a table in the corner of the café. She sat still for a moment, rubbing her arms, trying to coax the bumps down. The waitress behind the counter staggered over to her table.
“What can I get you?” she asked in a voice that was supposed to be polite, but actually sounded completely fed up. Anna felt just how the waitress sounded, so she didn’t bristle at her tone.
“A strong black coffee please,” she said
“Is that all?” the waitress inquired, not even bothering to scribble Anna’s order down on her little pad.
“Yes,” Anna confirmed, dismissing the waitress with her finalizing tone. She shuffled back behind the counter, switching the coffee grinder on. The machine droned loudly, making terrible grating noises. Anna rubbed her eyes again, and then ran her fingers through her hair. She glanced at the man in the shop. He was sat at a table, which was more or less directly opposite her. He was swirling the last dregs of his coffee around and around, while staring absently into space. His eyes were a startlingly pale blue, and they almost looked translucent. He had dark, bruise like circles under his eyes too, and Anna wondered if she wasn’t the only insomniac in the café that morning.
As if he could sense Anna looking at him, he glanced at her. Anna snapped her eyes away, staring at her own hands. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see the man still looking at her, while he drained his coffee mug. The waitress finally came over with her coffee. Anna was thankful for something to busy herself with; her face was still burning crimson as she picked up the mug to warm her hands on.
Anna searched her table for some sugar packets, and then glanced around the rest of the tables. She raised her head in the direction of the counter to call the waitress, but she appeared to have left her post. Anna frowned, staring down at the dark coffee. It seemed a daunting task without sugar. The bitter taste was too strong without the accompaniment of two generous sugars that Anna usually drank with her coffee. She huffed and sipped the steaming drink, grimacing as it sent a shudder along her spine. She heard a chuckle, which made her look, now paranoid, at the man from earlier. He stood up. Anna watched him walk briskly to the counter, lean over it, and pull four, small sugar packets back.
“Looking for these?” he asked, smiling and walking back over to her table and tossing them gently at her. They slid across the shiny marble table surface, and bumped ever so gently against the side of her mug. Anna smiled back politely, “yes, thanks,” she mumbled, afraid to speak too loudly less she slur her words.
He sat down at her table, dragging the seat loudly across the floor and plunking into it. Anna stared at him with shocked, wide eyes.
“uhh,” she hummed anxiously, sitting back as far as she could without actually moving her chair. She thought the man was very forward in his actions.
“I’m Tobias,” he grinned. Anna did a double take. Had he just randomly introduced himself? She paused for a millisecond too long, and Tobias chuckled again.
“Do you have a name?” he prompted, using his hands in circular motions to indicate her input. His tone was slightly sarcastic and Anna felt her cheeks blanch.
“Uhm....Anna, my name’s Anna.” she garbled, rolling her eyes at her own stupidity. Tobias laughed again, and folded his arms.
“Sure about that?” he said, grinning at her with very white, straight teeth. Anna nodded thoughtfully, managing to pull a small smile to show that she wasn’t serious.
She hastily grabbed two of the four sugar packets, and emptied them in her mug. She swirled them around in her coffee with the wooden stirring stick the waitress had brought over with her coffee.
She suddenly felt an immense pressure to say something witty and relevant. She wracked her brain as she sipped her coffee awkwardly, very aware that he was looking at her intensely.
“You look tired,” Tobias said, as if he was talking to a close friend. Anna nodded, while feeling a pang of annoyance. Of course she looked tired! She hadn’t slept well for a whole week!
“So do you,” she shot back. For some reason this tickled him, and he threw back his head and laughed. It was at this moment that Anna noticed just how many freckles he had. They were pale and hardly noticeable, but there was lots of them, sprawling over his neck, and disappearing under his t-shirt.
“I’m not tired,” he laughed, wiping a tear from the corner of his eye.
“Right,” Anna said, narrowing her eyes and drawing the word out longer than necessary. Her hostility didn’t deter him. He leaned across the table, suddenly invading her personal space. She scooted back, and winced as her spine pressed painfully through her skin ,against the hard back of the chair.
“So Anna,” he started, and when he said her name his voice rose and fell dramatically. Almost as if he was singing.
“Why are you in a crummy café at, oh…” he glanced at his watch, “….quarter to five o’clock in the morning?”
His translucent eyes prodded her dull brown ones.
“Insomnia,” she said without thinking, and then suddenly wondered why she had divulged this information to a perfect stranger. He nodded knowingly, looking sympathetic.
“I know how that feels,” he told her.
“Here’s my expert advice,” he was going to tell her whether she wanted to here “expert advice” or not. Anna smiled politely, still sipping her coffee.
“Go home,” he told her.
“Make yourself one of those,” he pointed at her coffee, “but, here’s the difference, put a touch of whiskey in there and take a paracetemol,” he grinned, and Anna found herself chuckling too.
“Oh that’s sound advice,” she said playfully, not sure if it would work. He smirked.
“And why are you in a ‘crummy’ café at almost five o’clock in the morning?” she returned the question.
“It’s a bit late, isn’t it?” she stated, making a mysterious smile work it’s way onto his face.
“It’s not late for me,” he said, confusing Anna completely. She cocked her head to one side and furrowed her brow.
He smirked, “I’m a conceptual vampire,”
There was a silence, that was filled only by the clock on the wall above them, which ticked ever closer to five o’clock. Anna stared at him blankly with wide, shocked eyes. She was reminded of her earlier thoughts. How was the stranger able to repeat something she had silently thought about an hour ago?
“W-what do you mean?” she asked, suddenly rather frightened of Tobias.
“That’s everyone’s reaction,” he told her bitterly. Still too shocked to be offended by his tone Anna leapt up from her seat. She abandoned her coffee.
“I have to go,” She fumbled in her pocket as she made a swift exit to the door. Tobias was watching her through narrowed eyes as she left. Pausing by the door Anna pulled a crumpled five pound note from her pocket and slapped it on the counter. She yanked the door open and charged quickly down the street.
When she was at least two streets away, she stopped by a bright red post-box, holding onto it for support as she caught her breath.
With a creeping sensation like she was being watched Anna hurried home, glancing over her shoulder all the way. She slammed the door of her house when she arrived, locking the door quickly and putting the chain across. She stood in the dark hallway, unable to move, like her feet had just spouted roots and anchored her to the floor boards. Such a sickening sense of horror crept over her Anna nearly cried out. She covered her eyes and ran upstairs, blindly making her way back into her bedroom.
Sleep. Yes. That’s what she needed. She was being stupid, making a mountain out of a molehill so to speak. She tore off her t-shirt and kicked off her trousers, leaping into bed. She suddenly felt like a frightened child as she curled into a ball and yanked the quilt over her head, fighting off exhausted and scared tears, while trying not to think about Tobias.