Snakes and Pills

137 - junior string

The sound of the curtains fluttering in the wind woke Allan up, yet again. Already, he had beckoned for his servants to close the windows to stop the gusting air outside from disturbing him. They had done as he wished, but the tempest proved too strong for the old glass panes to resist. Somehow, the wind still snuck through, and Allan finally gave up on sleep.

He sat up, fully admitting defeat, and checked the clock on the wall. The time was now only a few minutes past nine, which surprised him. He had expected to sleep in much later, given how late he had been up the previous night. Allan had been engaged in his library until at least five in the morning, drawing connections and causations across various pieces of evidence, as he was wont to do.

Last night had been particularly productive, which was what caused time to slip away from him. Even at his advanced age, a sudden break in a case could cause such excitement that he would become wholly absorbed in continuing his progress. Chasing down the loose threads and finally undoing the knot was cause for him to forget all the other urges, demands, and requirements of being alive.

The difference of the present, when compared to his youth, was that now Allan knew he would eventually pay the price for skipping out on those most basic of human obligations. Subsisting on an hour or two of sleep was something he used to get away with, but now whatever time he borrowed was a debt that needed to be repaid to the Sandman in full, and then some.

Thus he expected to easily have remained in bed until noon. The grogginess that was clouding his mind was a strong reminder that he had not gotten enough sleep. On the stand next to his bed stood a row of bells, the different tones of each one served to alert different assistants to his requests. Delicately, he selected the kitchen bell, and gave it a good, solid ringing.

Presently, an attendant appeared in the doorway. Dressed in a drab uniform, the young man asked what the master of the house desired from the kitchen.

"Coffee, and lots of it," was Allan's curt request. The servant lingered for a moment to ensure that Allan desired nothing more, and then disappeared as quickly and as quietly as he had arrived.

Left by himself, Allan focused on the sound of the wind that was still whipping against his windows. He wanted to curse the wind for disturbing his rest, but in the back of his mind, he knew that he would be blaming the wrong demon.

Allan allowed himself to recline back in his bed, and go over the thoughts still running around in his head. His sleep had been anything but restful, and the cause of that had very little to do with the wind.

He sighed. He dreamt of her again last night. When he wanted to fantasize about a life with her in his dreams, she never appeared. But on those totally unexpected and tired evenings, she always found a way to weasel into his subconscious thoughts. Repeatedly, as her presence was enough to rouse him from his sleep more than once. Yet, when he finally found sleep again, she still managed to haunt and torment him each time.

The smell of a strong coffee permeated the air in the room as Allan's assistant reappeared and served him bedside. Without a word, Allan clutched at the steaming mug and felt its warmth in his hands.

The servant once again noiselessly left the room, and Allan sipped at the black liquid, entirely alone.


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