T. Barnes

Or something like that. At first, we woke up constantly and bleary, wondering if the world had changed or if it was us.

We sat through every mood we’d ever felt, one after another, on a creaky conveyor belt of memory—but not the kind of carousel in swanky sushi restaurants where you can choose not to lift something off the moving rubber panels. We had to order everything on the menu. It was horrendous, and we felt sick.

Perhaps importantly, it all happened very quickly. We went from sleeping like sepulchral statues beside one another to thrashing our feet across the sheets, breathless, our heads plugged into the perishing microfiber. Eventually, we concluded that our pillows had passed their expiration date—they’d gone off—somehow causing us to spend more time in the past than in the present, not to mention the future, which we could not access at all except as a mauve smear. Was that a future? It could easily have been a kind of end.

Pillows should come with a disclaimer! you said. 

Why had nobody warned us? 

It was not at all what we’d been encouraged to expect, all of this. We’d never heard anything like it, but now we never left the bedroom. We lost track of any convincing proof that the rest of the world was even there, rarely making it as far as the window. Rarely drawing the curtains to see the today-sky. We saw a hundred skies every day, of course, past-skies, as we glided through each time we’d ever looked up at the clouds or at the stars —we saw it all again. Yet it wasn’t familiar.

In one instance, I didn’t recognize my own ex-boyfriend, but when I introduced you, you said it was definitely him, so I dropped the subject.

By the second week, we could barely lift our heads off the coagulated pillows and found ourselves relentlessly thrust back to selves we remembered so faintly we weren’t sure that they were ourselves. We began to wonder if we’d ever even been in the past at all or if it was some kind of illusion. Would we have to live through it all retrospectively—as bullet points—but with barely a clue what was going on in any one scene? It was so confusing.

I remember the moment when you didn’t recognize your old neighbor’s dog, but it ran up and licked your cheek.

Sometimes people didn’t recognize us and we pleaded and pleaded with them to understand. We told them that somehow they’d intertwined themselves inside our memories, and that we’d bumped into them repeatedly.

You were older the last time we saw you, we said. But they just stared at us blankly.

We tried to make them believe it. We told them that if they didn’t know who we were then there was a chance that we weren’t anyone and please could they try harder to place us.

You witnessed your own birth. That was a low point. 

At the time of writing, I can’t feel much, but I’m sure I can still feel the uneven surface of the pillow inside the greasy pillowcase. The idea of today is like a phantom limb that I can’t scratch. I picture myself tossing and turning. I like that. I think about my head as a Tardis. I think about sleeping badly forever and obsess over the possibility of waking up.


About the Author

T. Barnes is a writer from London who is currently completing a Master’s at New York University in XE.