OWLS AT NIGHT
Your head is a block of granite with a red flare burning atop. As you lie on your unmade bed, waiting for what was called sleep, watching the door for it, a pop and sizzle in your head is the only sound you can hear at first.
Your body feels warm, too warm for lying down, and your eyes are dry like a pair of stale rock-buns. Or rocks. Or a pair of unpeeled boiled eggs forgotten in a bowl for too long – a blue, dry, plastic bowl with no cover. Perhaps, the bowl’s flat cover might be among the debris under your bed. Maybe you should get up, use some spare energy and ransack the debris under your bed. Who knows? You might find the cover in the middle of a rot-splotched magazine from 2009. It would be your secondary school graduation magazine with pages after pages of idiotic, unremembered faces rotting like the lives of their owners.
But you lie there, stiff and warm, attended by a kingdom of thoughts. You are aware of another sound apart from the small buzzing in your head — it is loud and universal beneath this layer of silence; it is the multi-chorus staccato of a hundred night-insects, yelling crickets and fat bullfrogs croaking for sex. They are so near yet so far away. You should really stop thinking. You can’t sleep if your mind is making noise like an old, untethered analogue TV, can you?
White noise: is that what they call the quiet noise of the mind? Or maybe mind noise? What about the bubbling of streams and the rushing march of dirty-brown rivers? Liquid noise? No, not that. Awkward.
You look at the wallclock. It is two-thirty a.m. You have given yourself till three, so you should really stop making noise. Does the noise your mind makes affect other people’s dreams at night?
The tick-tock of a clock is the heartbeat of silence, nature’s own way of registering its presence. Or maybe it is the noise of the universe at work. Yes, that’s it. The universe: wide, gaping, empty. Black too, and spotted with tiny blinks of white. That should be how the universe looks, right? Overwhelmingly black, with a sprinkling of sharp white. More evil than there can be good.
You hear a loud tick and look at the clock again. It is three o’clock. Your head is furiously abuzz now, your body warmer. You can wait for sleep no more. So you shift and climb down from bed, spilling your blanket on the floor. Your legs feel sturdy from rest as you walk the short distance to the window and pull the curtain aside.
The street is large and furnished with a quiet emptiness, as if it didn’t contain the worried souls of so many people. The night is large too, with a moving air combing gentle roofs. You are as tall as the three-storey building directly across the road. As irregular too. You imagine a motorcycle, a red Bajaj, running down the wet street below, passing between this building you are living in and the identical one across. You imagine it becoming an object of sudden want and desire between both buildings, the engine making a whining noise similar in pitch and frequency to the one in your head, roaring closer with that noise until resonance is reached, loud, throbbing, then ebbing to nothing: to the gentle roots of an headache. There is some smoke, too, blue and soft, wafting up, somewhat pleasant to inhale.
Beside you, on the wall, the clock continues to tick-tock. Below, an imaginary motorcycle, cheap, red, is turning at the far end of the street. Across the street, a building is sleeping with some of its lights on—
You turn away from the window, walk straight to the switch and slap it off, all at once throwing the light out of the room. You pause in the blindness and stare. Then you fumble towards the bed, gather your blanket from the floor and pull it over yourself, still once more… and determined. Somewhere, at the moment, far off and strangely close, the very still night is cut through with the echoes of an insomnia-plagued owl hooting as the clock makes another loud tick.
Agboola Timi Israel is a nineteen-year-old undergraduate. He divides his time between reading and social media where he can be found online at any time of the day writing about football, the human condition and, sometimes, David Foster Wallace. He has recently published a critically acclaimed debut novel in his mind.