Digital Sleep

Photo by Ahmed Adly on

Davod wiped the sleep from his eyes with the back of his dirty sleeve. He glanced at his digital clock on his nightstand; it read 1:53 AM. His fifth night without sleep studying for his college exams. The computer screen’s image blurred, and he blinked hard. Davod heard his mother’s voice in his head telling him to get some sleep, that she wasn’t there to make sure he did. He snorted and grabbed the can of energy drink next to his laptop. Seeing that it was empty, he tossed it into the overflowing waste bin next to his chair; it was full of other cans he had emptied. Davod stood up and stretched.
For the first time since he had moved in, his side of the dorm room was a mess. Besides the overflowing trash bin, his clothes were strewn on the ground, his desk was a mess of papers and even his beloved zombie posters had rips. Davod didn’t care to clean up after himself anymore, he figured why bother when his roommate Steve was a slob.
He had the room to himself; Steve was at one of the countless parties his fraternity hosted. He doesn’t seem to be concerned about his exams. It would have been great to go to the party and not worry about his courses and exams. Even if he had the time to go, he wasn’t invited.
Davod found it hard to make friends in his college. It didn’t help that it was his first year and that he was from the Middle East. Some people weren’t so open-minded. He wasn’t completely alone; he did have Eleonore and Frank. They were all freshmen and had some classes together. Yet, it would be great to be accepted by the popular crowd. Not to have people look at him differently after they’re told that he’s from the Middle East. Not to be relegated to one group of people to commune with, his people. He sighed; he crossed his arms on the desk and placed his head on them.

A shuffling sound startled Davod awake. He realized that he was standing and his dorm room was gone. Spinning around, he looked for the familiar items that indicated that he was still indoors. There was nothing, absolutely nothing. Grey walls, floor, and ceiling are what Davod saw, though not complete darkness. It was as if he was floating; he felt disoriented. I must have fallen asleep, and I’m dreaming. He squeezed his eyes shut and opened them, yet everything was the same. The shuffling sound returned. Davod recoiled from the direction it came from.
It came again, this time closer. He peered into the gloom and saw a shadow approaching. Davod took a few steps back, glancing sideways for a way to escape. Whatever it was, seemed to be hunched over; it lifted its head and stared.
“Steve?” Davod said.
“Hey, man,” Steve said.
“Where are we? What’s going on?” Davod said as he noticed that Steve had a greenish tint about him.
“What do you mean?”
“This is not the dorm room. This is nothing! How do we get out of here?”
“All you have to do is go back,” Steve said as he started to walk away.
“What? How? I can’t wake up. Where are you going?” Davod said as he ran after him.
Just as he thought he had caught up to him, Steve was gone. Davod searched; there was no shuffling sound either. He was alone again. He stomped his feet. Pausing, he reached into his back pocket and pulled his cell phone out. It was on. Davod dialed the first number.
“Frank?” Davod said.
There was breathing on the other end.
“Frank? It’s me, Davod. I think I’m – “
Davod dropped the phone as a piercing scream filled his ear. Panting, he picked it up and brought it to his ear slowly.
“WHAT DO YOU WANT?” The raspy voice said.
Davod almost dropped the phone again as it flipped about in his hands.
“Please… I just want to get out of here. I don’t know where I am.” Davod said, his voice shook.
A dial tone answered him; It had hung up. Davod shoved the phone back in his pocket. He stifled a whimper and began walking. I have to get out of here. Maybe if I walked, I’d reach someone or a door.
Davod walked for what seemed like hours. He couldn’t remember leaving his dorm; the only thing he could come up with was that he was dreaming, yet it felt real to him. He had a ringing in his ear from the scream. Could a dream conjure that? He wondered if maybe he was kidnapped and brought to this dreadful place. But why? And who would do this? That would mean that Steve has been kidnapped too and drugged. He was acting so strange. Maybe he’s drunk, he had gone to a party. Davod caught himself before walking by a door. He sighed.
He was about to grab the knob when he noticed the greenish tint again. It glowed through the frame of the door. Davod hesitated; I have no choice. He turned the knob and entered; the green light engulfed him. He squinted and used his arm to shield his eyes. The walls, the floor, and the ceiling had scrolling computer coding. What is this?! Am I in the Matrix? Davod staggered forward. A shadow stepped in front of him, it blocked the scrolling code, and he was able to look.
“al-am?” Davod said as he stared at his mother. How could she be here too?! Is this a terrible prank?
“Davod, what did I tell you?”
“I don’t understand…?
“I told you this would happen.” His mother said
“What IS happening?! Where are we? Did we get kidnapped?
Davod’s mother bent over laughing. It echoed and bounced back to Davod. It became sinister, giving him goosebumps. The cackling stopped and she straightened up as if on hinges. His mother stared at him.
“Do – Do you know how to get out of here?” Davod said
“Yes.” Davod’s mother said; she folded her arms in front of her, her abaya dress and hijab flowing in a wind that Davod couldn’t feel.
“Please show me.”
Davod’s mother turned and sauntered off. He followed, yet it felt like his legs became heavy. She was much faster than him. With each step, she stepped further and further away into the sickly green environment. Davod got to his hands and knees, crawling. It did him no good.
“al-am!” Davod said, and he rolled onto his back.
Suddenly, a disfigured head floated into view. Davod yelped and covered his face. After a few seconds, he moved his arms. He was alone. Getting to his feet, he searched for a way to get out of the room. He found another door and was relieved.
He had entered his classroom, his classmates we seated, and Professor Killian was at her podium. No one was moving. Davod peered at the nearest student and gasped. Her eyes were black orb-like pupils, and her mouth was slightly open. He searched the faces in the room and noticed that they all had the same expression, even Professor Killian. Davod stopped and ran his fingers through his dark, curly hair. He stiffened as everyone in the classroom slowly turned to face him. They stared at him as their mouths opened wider; green light pouring out. Davod scrambled to the door, his hand slipping on the doorknob. As he pulled it open, a hand grabbed his shoulder. He dashed through and kept running until he was out of breath.
Stumbling to a stop, Davod noticed that he was at a fork, there were two tunnels glimmering with the same green light before him. He peered down each of them, the tunnels were only visible by the green light. Davod turned in place, not knowing which one to choose. A moan drifted towards him from where he had come. He stiffened and turned to look. A mass of shadows sauntered close by. Davod gradually stepped back and smacked onto the fork in the wall. It was his class, they appeared to be the walking dead. One of them saw him and raised its finger. The rest followed and then they took off on a sprint towards him. Their teeth gnashing and hands clawing the air.
Yelping, Davod ran down one of the tunnels; he didn’t care where it led him as long as he got away. The green light continued to glimmer. Davod paused to take in a breath, he glanced back; none of them had followed. A putrid smell wafted along the walls of the tunnel. Davod placed his arm over his nose and peered down the hollowed space. A massive worm slid into view, it took up most of the area of the tunnel. Davod stumbled back and quickly turned to flee.
He stopped, realizing that he would be heading back into his classmates. Frantic, Davod searched for another way out. He found his escape – a grate on the ground. On his hands and knees, he gripped the grate and yanked. The worm lurched, its slimy body shuddering with effort. Davod concentrated in removing the grate, refusing to look any longer at the worm. Falling back, the grate lifted up onto his lap. He flung it to the side and peered in. The shadow of the worm was upon him. Davod peered up as the creature bent down towards him. He screamed and pitched himself forward into the abyss.
Sliding in darkness, Davod attempted to hold onto the sides to slow his descent; but there was nothing for him to grip. The slide curved upward and he was air borne for a few seconds. Davod landed and was buried in whatever it was that caught him. He scrambled out, it crinkled under his weight. It smells like paper. A spotlight turned on, for a moment he was blinded. His sight adjusted and he scanned the floor. Davod was standing on a pile of papers, some had words on them and others were blank pages with lines. He tried to walk, but the papers slid underneath his feet. Trying again, the paper slid all the way to its edge. He felt himself sliding with the paper and he fell to his knees to grab it. The paper sliced across his palm. Davod cried and yanked his hand back; his hand bled freely. A papercut?! He felt woozy as he pulled his shirt off to tie it about his hand. Sitting, he looked over the edge of the pile, the ground was not that far down. He jumped.
Davod was bent over, his hands on his knees when suddenly, the grey environment shone brightly in front of him. He glanced up; it took him a few minutes to understand what he was looking at. Through a giant frame, he could see himself sleeping in his arms. There was daylight shining in through the window. Steve appeared into view and was tapping his shoulders. Davod didn’t respond to the tapping. Steve tried shaking him, yet again Davod didn’t move. Steve placed two fingers on his exposed neck. Davod watched as Steve took a few steps back, his eyes and mouth wide open, and then he ran out of the dorm room. Davod screamed.


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