Sleep has been taking me less and less lately. I’m sure it’s the stress that crackles about me like hot oil each day, the hurried faces on the other end of the coffee shop counter, the rejection letters floating in with the day’s post, the circled help wanted ads in the newspaper on the countertop.

Even when I dose myself with the strongest, cheapest sleep aids, I don’t get any rest. I’m plagued by stress dreams, not recurring in the Hollywood sense but anathema to peaceful slumber all the same. I’ll be somewhere I once was but now feel out of place: high school, the old forest behind Aunt Peg’s house, the lakefront before Cara sold her cabin. And I’ll be trying to move about, to fit in, and failing. Failing for two reasons:

In each dream, I can’t help but see myself as hopelessly out of place and living a lie that will be exposed at any moment.

In each dream, I see a shadowy presence quietly observing–stalking–me in my peripheral vision.

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