Waiting for Dawn

Waiting for Dawn
by M. James Bizzell

He woke violently, gasping for air, emerging from the velvet dark in confusion. Static spots, the technicolored pixels so familiar from four-a.m. wakings, peeled away in animated clusters. Something tugged at his half-woken reality: a dream. He couldn’t remember the details. Something easy, something bad. The nightmares were becoming more present, or at least more lasting. It left him feeling off, settling in an odd position within him, taking up residence in the remote hours.

The effects of sleep apnea were jarring, especially on such quiet nights, from silence to panting terror, the greedy intake of air both confusing and euphoric. He heard nothing in the space beyond the walls of his huddled bedroom, not even the distant hum of overnight trucking. The episodes happened almost every night, every couple of hours. Wake up. Breathe. Wait for your heart to slow and your nerves to calm. Stop shaking. Go back to sleep. It was a constant and gripping fear, a suffocation in empty air—the demon on his chest while he slept.

He felt his wife lying next to him, her rhythmic breathing deep and full, completely undisturbed by his struggle. She had perhaps gotten used to it, but was a deep sleeper in any case. They had made love tonight after she had returned home from a lengthy business trip. It was something they had needed or wanted, probably both. A reward for taking care of the girls while she was away. Parenting had perks.

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