Thursday, April 21, 2016


By Sean Mulroy

Some people wake-up walking. They’re usually stumbling around in their hallway or kitchen or other familiar place. This would be nice but it’s never happened to me that way.
I always wake-up running and I’m never inside the house. Sometimes I have shoes on but usually I’ll find myself barefoot. And it’s in the isolated parts of town I always seem to be waking-up; running along Industrial Drive at 4:00 am in the morning or jogging through local parks at midnight. Why just this morning I woke-up at my son’s high school running around the vacant oval. This is somewhat concerning as two and a half years ago I found myself at the exact same place sprinting up and down the quadrangle with two policemen chasing behind and two other horrified bystanders off in the distance staring my way; it was the janitor and principal.
Even though this episode was embarrassing, it also proved to be a real game-changer – Why? You ask – well, simply because the event kicked off my long and failed attempt to get help.
First there were the doctors, just your plain old small town GPs. Then specialists entered the scene. They found nothing wrong with my vision, hearing, balance, coordination or reflexes. My CBC (complete blood count) showed nothing out of ordinary either. Machines came next. I got acquainted with MRI scanners, CT imaging, positron emission tomography (PET); just about every neurological examination money can buy except for a biopsy, which I bet some doctors would have just loved me to go through with. When even the machines couldn’t figure it out along came the swindlers. I mean the psychologists, then the psychiatrists, then the psychoanalysts. They prescribed a swathe of coloured pills; selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), antidepressants even antipsychotics like Thorazine, Haloperidol, Clorazil, Risperidone, Olanzapine etc... Nothing worked. After eighteen months with this crowd we had got as far as:

1. I used to sleepwalk very rarely as a child
2. All my life, whenever I dream, I always dream about running
3. Not long after my first child was born the running thing started
4. And since that time I don’t dream, not that I can remember anyway

But I don’t suffer from exhaustion, tiredness or anything like that. Whenever I wake up I feel refreshed you know, just the same as ever. I reckon those psychologists and psychiatrists got more out of me than I gained from all our expensive sessions; and I’m not just talking about the money.
One of them, Dr Melina Hartman PhD, actually wrote an article on my condition which was published in the Lancet. Even so, they never gave me an explanation or offered a treatment that actually worked. I got moved around to different clinics, different doctors, different pills, prescriptions etc…
We all did agree on one thing though; point number 4 must in some way be the common link which somehow ties all loose threads together.
“When you became a father you stopped dreaming,” said Dr Hartman. “And then the sleep-running started. Why was that?” Ditto asked Dr Tarrant, ditto asked Dr Patel, ditto asked etcetera, etc…
And here is my confession.
I’ve always known why; ever since the whole running thing started I’ve known exactly what has been going on. Basically it’s just so much easier to pretend I don’t and that my rare condition is strictly a mental one.
Also I do not want to stop the running. I never have. To do so would be madness. The only reason I’ve put myself through this entire silly therapy phase is because my wife demanded it; either she goes or the therapy begins, that was the actual ultimatum. Don’t ask me why she takes it so personal.
But she can leave, take the kids too, I’m still not going to tell. My family leaving is not so bad, not as bad as what would happen if the running stopped.
Hey, remember I told you how those doctors were forever asking about my dreams as a child?
If I could remember them?
When I answered in the affirmative and explained that the dreams I can recall had always been about running they’d replied “Oh yes, there’s got to be a connection.” Well out of all those so-called professionals, out of every academic heavyweight I went to not one of them ever asked “What is it in your dreams that you’re running from?”
And if I’m completely honest I’d have to say that this is the crux of my problem: I actually know what I’m running from, I’ve seen it. To put it simply: that’s precisely why I’m running. It’s been nearly twenty years since I’ve had a proper dream, nothing on earth can convince me to want one of them again. There was something always in my dreams, just out of sight, something you can only observe from the corner of your eye. Once I did stop running and turn around to see; only I didn’t look for very long and since that time I’ve noticed my running pace gradually getting quicker and quicker – please understand that putting a great distance between the thing and myself is of vital importance, because unfortunately, I can’t run forever.
Want to know the really scary part?
I’ve started seeing it outside of dreams, in real-life. Mostly at family gatherings; in my brother’s eyes, even the gait of my father is eerily similar. No longer do I flip through old photo-albums since my nerves can no longer withstand the exercise. Also on the faces of my own children I’ve recognised the distorted features of my nightmarish tormentor. Don’t tell anyone, but last night, I smashed all the mirrors at home and boarded up the windows. This way I can’t be caught unawares again.
So yes I have seen it face to face, just once or twice.
Hey, why do you think I’m still running?

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Sean Mulroy lives in Newcastle, Australia. His fiction has previously appeared in Every Day Fiction among other publications.


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