Thursday, 7 April 2016
The Alien Invasions - Prague Diaries
Insomnia. At least ten of my stories feature the word, I have no idea how many confront the issue in one way or another. It’s a common theme in my fiction because it is a common theme in my life. Going to bed feeling like all I need to do is hit the sheets and I’ll be out. Getting to to bed to find that I’m wide awake and ready for another hard day’s night. I wish tossing and turning was an Olympic sport. Imagine the medals I would win with the hours of practice I put in every night. I think I show more dedication to my insomnia than I have to anything else in life, Women, Writing, Work, have all come and gone but my insomnia is a constant companion.
It doesn’t matter where I am, home or away, I perform just as well. Over the past three weeks I’ve stared at midnight ceilings in Cardiff, Prague and Tallinn, listening to the sounds of the night, watching the shadows on the wall, and worrying about the time I called Mark Lewis a tadpole in Junior School; will he ever forgive me?
no boundaries. Sleepless in Wales
And sleepless in Prague.
But sometimes insomnia is a blessing rather than a curse. It allows you to discover things that no one else knows exist. The silence of the car park in the dead of night, the couple fornicating in the park opposite my flat, the naked dog walker that dances in the rain, and best of all, the existence of aliens.
Sometimes I’m so committed to my insomnia I dream of being awake. But I must have been sleeping because I woke up. The way my body was contorted on the bed suggested it had been a restless sleep. There was a dream to be remembered but it stayed in the shadows, not ready to reveal itself. My eyes drank in the night light and grew accustomed to the shades and shadows, and it was then that I realised someone or something was watching me.
Big eyes stared at me, not blinking, not moving just watching me, observing silently. I wasn’t scared, not really, more intrigued, flattered even. I wondered if this was a regular thing, if aliens came to watch people sleep, or not sleep in my case all the time. I hoped they watched more people than me, I wasn’t a good sample. If it was only me, then their reports back would say humans did a weird tossy turny thing at night.
The eyes seemed to grow larger, more piercing. The face seemed amused, smiling at me. But you have to be careful with aliens not to project our own facial expressions on to them. I’ve learnt that in Bulgaria, where they nod instead of shaking their heads, and shake instead of nodding, most disconcerting. Maybe an alien’s gormless grin was actually a human scowl.
We continued like that for a while, the alien staring at me, me staring back at it; the cars chugging past outside and the birds just beginning to start their dawn chorus. Was there a melancholy in its eyes, a yearning for a homeland galaxies away? Or was I projecting again?
Either the sun was edging nearer to its alarm call or my eyes were getting more accustomed to the light, but I was now able to pick out more detail. I could see a tuft of something on its head, a transmitter maybe. Its arms seemed straight and lifeless, while its nose was bright red. It was then and only then that I felt a little foolish. I hadn’t spent the last few minutes staring into the eyes of an alien from far far away, but had been staring at my Mole, a Czech soft toy that had sat next to my bed in Prague for goodness knows how long.