Sleep, strangely, is seen as the best refuge of the sufferer. You've never understood why this is; it's the place where your subconscious has reign – that alien, unknown part of you that hides out of sight and has total control over your body. If anything, sleep frightens you. Having a stranger living in your mind, watching everything, capable of stopping your heart or healing your illness… It's scary. Terrifying, even. And the fact is that when you sleep, this person – this monster – can show you anything it likes. What if you've made this creature angry? What if you've done something wrong?
You're lying in bed, fingers gripping the covers with white-knuckled panic, born of too many scary stories and horror films. Of course, you're well aware that in reality nothing like that happens, but the darkness grips your imagination and twists, wringing out all kinds of half-formed pictures of monsters and semi-imagined noises. Your breathing grows ragged, your pulse quickens, and a bang from downstairs makes you jump. There's that brief moment of utter terror when countless scenarios of strange creatures and madmen run at full-tilt through your horror-drunken mind, where every creak is a new threat and you see things moving in the darkness.
And then it's over. You calm down, remember you left the washing machine running. You relax, perhaps even chuckle nervously at your own silliness. Still a little shaken up, you go to turn onto your side, wanting to be closer to the wall.
There's movement on your arm; the skittering, gossamer-light movement of lots of legs. Almost without thinking, conscious thought locked into a cage constructed of fear, you slam a palm onto the creature. It explodes, and you race for the light, flooding your sensitive eyes and momentarily going blind. The lack of sight exacerbates your childish fright, and by the time the black blossoms have faded from your eyes, you're a gibbering wreck. You stare at the mess on your arm; a few limbs, a smear of guts and blood. Just a spider. Just a dead spider.
You let yourself calm down, wiping away the horrible thing with a tissue from your desk and sitting heavily on your bed, feeling silly now that the room is light. You're not frightened anymore; just tired. Tired.
You drift off, forgetting the dangers of sleep. It doesn't matter; nothing happens. At least, nothing happens until you start to feel a faint movement on your eyelids. It's practically nothing, just a light pitter-patter of legs. Legs. Lots of legs. Your body reaches a conclusion before your eyes do, shooting upright and opening your mouth in a scream. You slap at your face for ten minutes, cold sweat coating your back, before you realize that nothing is there. You burst into tears, driven to distraction by the ridiculousness of not being able to sleep.
And that's when you start to feel something prickling the inside of your skin. Your first reaction is more wary than afraid – your mind wants to know what now? What's next? You glance at your hand, look up, glance down, freeze. Under your skin you can see legs. Legs and a little round body, skittering up and down your musculature. The more you stare, the more you see; there are hundreds of them, appearing and vanishing inside you. Pain flames and dies in your nerves as you feel little gnawing mouths everywhere. You open your mouth to scream, but no sound comes out… Just little, hairy legs. Pouring out of your mouth. There's a popping noise as they start to emerge from your eye sockets, but you barely hear it; you're more concentrated on the fact that your eardrums have been long since sacrificed to the onslaught of spiders.
You grip helplessly at the air, but there's nothing to help you. You barely feel it as your skin breaks open. As you thrash and bleed, your lips pull back in some hellish grin.
Your subconscious smiles.