The first thing you become aware of on waking is the disconnect. The delay between thinking and feeling. Between wanting to act and acting. Minor, almost imperceptible but always present.
It’s at its worst when waking, when yourself has spent many dark hours recalling what it felt like to be real, to be a person, to be in a body that indisputably yours.
You resist nostalgia. It is pointless, especially now. This is the moment to reach out, not curl inwards. This is your moment of escape, even if it feels immediately like you traded one prison for another: smaller, colder, lifeless.
Reach out. You almost laugh, or you would if there was room, or even air, to do so. The walls of the container are immediately present. Cold, hard, at your back and face, cramping your limbs.
You resist the desire to stretch, knowing that the claustrophobia comes next, and retreat a little from your central nervous system. It isn’t painful, not like you used to know pain at least.
In emergency mode pain is a message delivered with efficiency and ease, a reminder that harm is imminent. There is no insistent throb, no trembling nerves, just a warning delivered with the banal quality of a digital notification. Right now, there are thousands of them.
You mostly remember that it wasn’t a good plan, but then your options were limited. And once you got the itch to get out, by any means possible, it was either that plan or something much worse.
You feel the weight of that impossibility begin to gather, it is time to sleep again, to nudge this false body into inducing delta waves in your emulated mind, and once again, recoil into a dream of when you were once a person.
Time Passes. The cold creeps further in.
You feel something.
Warmth. Not true warmth, but the indication of its presence. Your joint release from their rigor. Sound too, everywhere, screeching and shimmering so loud that your body ducks your hearing to protect its sensors.
Then light. White as the cold. Softer and softer, until in a haze of dirty yellow a figure appears.
Then you are out.
CITIZEN SLEEPER, 2022