308. At Midnight

At midnight, the imps come out to play. They emerge through little holes in the soil, squeezing in through cracks in the wall, and zipping through the air like demented insects on steroids. A hundred million invisible little creatures, all armed with little pitchforks and donning their best pair of red horns on their bald heads, come out at midnight to wreck havoc.

In a time long ago they used to set fires to farms and, in the disguise of fairies, lead night travelers to their doom in deep ravines. They used to prod cattle and dogs and cats with their little pitchforks, causing them to moo and bark and meow all night long, depriving their masters of sleep. These days, with concrete and steel replacing wood and straw, setting fires proved to be a little more difficult; and with headlights and streetlamps replacing starlight and lanterns, leading travelers to their doom had also become quite the challenge.

In the absence of cattle, they continue to prod the dogs and cats anyhow.

They fly around, silent as shadows, around heads and houses. They find their ways into closets and sew all your clothes a little bit smaller so that they will feel just a little bit tighter when you put them on in the morning. They reach into cabinets and misplace the thing that you will need first thing in the morning so that you will spend panicked hours looking for it, missing breakfast in the process, and eventually find it right next to where you thought you had left it. They excel, especially, at hiding car keys and wallets and loosening the connection between the charging cable and your phone so that you will wake up to a phone with a dead battery.

They work their ways into your fridge and subtly rearrange the items in it, pushing the jar of lard to the back of the fridge, where you will forget about it until you begin to smell the stink of fermentation months down the road. “Who put this in here?” you will ask, perplexed, and no one will be able to answer you.

With a swish and a prod of their pitchforks, they steal sleep from those who need them and pass it on to the people who would really be better off without it. They snag ideas from busy heads and plant them into idle minds, so that the once-good idea will become only good for collecting dust and growing gray mold in the stillness that is a blank mind. They steal the imagination of the new morning and shuffle them into your dreams, so that you will dream that you have woken up and washed up and went to the office, only to wake up and realize that you need to wash up and go to the office, only to wake up and realize that you haven’t actually woken up or washed up, only to wake up and realize…

Then, in the hours just before dawn, after they have filled your mind with cotton and strange dreams that you will not, for the life of you, be able to recount for the rest of your life, they flee. They disappear into the cracks in the wall and holes in the soil; and if you hear a little scurrying sound just as you stir from sleep, you will only remind yourself to complain to the landlord about the mice problem. There will be nothing left behind to show that the imps had ever been there.

And you will spend the next hour cursing as you search up and down for that flash drive that you swear you had left right beside your computer before you went off to sleep.

Meanwhile, the manic laughter underground goes on… and on… and on…

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