's 2013 Horror Write-off:

" Faces "

Submitted by Sly Devil

Have you ever had a really bad bout of insomnia?

Iím not talking sleeping on and off during the night, waking up every other hour. Even though that sucks, youíre still getting some sleep.

Iím talking not being able to sleep at all. Lying in your bed, staring up at the ceiling, but your mind just refuses to turn off. Youíre exhausted, but for whatever reason your mind will not let you drift off to sleep. And this can last for days before you nod off, usually when you donít mean too.

I had insomnia a lot, ever since I was a child. I routinely stayed up for two days straight, catching twenty minute naps to keep me going, before I would collapse. Not because I wanted to, mind you. I desperately wanted to sleep.

I just couldnít.

About half a year ago-Iím twenty two now-it began to get a lot worse. Iíd stay up for three, four days at a time, not even able to force myself into taking a nap. Iíd collapse once or twice a week. It was awful. I was out of it all the time. My boss noticed, and let me go after I wasnít able to straighten myself out. I had to find a new job at a deli just to pay the bills.

Anyway, your mind plays some funny tricks on you when youíre tired. Iím sure some of you know what Iím talking about. One that I really started to notice was the faces. You start to see faces everywhere.

Iím not talking about anything crazy, like floating heads. JustÖI donít know how it works. One of my friends told me that the lack of sleep screws with the brainís pattern recognition. But Iím sure some of you have experienced this. You havenít slept for a few days, and when you look at a random pattern-static, or the swirls of the grain of the wood in a wooden floor, or the wrinkles of your blanket in the morning-it looks like a face. If the pattern happens to be moving, it may look as if the faces are flying toward you-I noticed this when driving through the woods one morning, the faces made by the patterns of the leaves looked like they were flying toward me. If you let it go on for long enough, you start to see faces in absolutely everything.

It was a little weird, but I wasnít creeped out by it or anything, at first. At least I never thought it was anything more than my tired brain slipping up and feeding me false information.

Over the next six months, my insomnia got progressively worse. It was about a month ago that I finally saw a doctor for it. She gave me a prescription that I couldnít really afford and told me to try it out. Like I said, it was expensive, but at that point I was so desperate for a good nightís sleep that I agreed to try it. She said it was a long-term solution-not a drug that would just immediately knock me out-and so that it might take a little while for the medicine to take effect. No more than a week. I first started taking it about a week ago. At that point I hadnít slept at all for four days. I was seeing the faces everywhere.

That night, I took a long, warm bath with the lights dimmed, to try to relax, try to get my mind in the mood to sleep, maybe? I donít know. I just like a good bath every once in a while and I really felt, under the circumstances, that I deserved one.

Anyway, I was in the bath, playing with the water, watching the ripples, watching the faces jump out at me from the water. Sometimes, when the pattern is something moving, it looks as if the faces are moving too-their mouths open and close. Again, Iím absolutely sure some of you know what Iím talking about, because this is not at all an unusual phenomenon when it comes to lack of sleep.

It was absolutely silent in that bathroom. Just me, and the dimmed lights, and a couple of scented candles, and the sound of the water dripping from my fingertips. So when I heard it, I heard it very clearly. And since I was concentrating so intently on the faces, I saw it too.

There was whispering. When I moved the water, and the faces jumped into brief existence among the patterns, they whispered. Too faintly for me to make out what they were saying, but it definitely synched up with their lip movement.

I immediately jumped out of the bathtub, knocking over a candle and spilling hot wax all over my foot in the process. I wasnítÖI guess I could say I was freaked out at that point, but I was more worried about my mind. The whispering grew louder as dozens of faces appeared in the splashes and the ripples created by my exit, and stopped once the water had grown still again.

I let the water out and watched it all drain down. I was trembling with anxiety and the chill of being wet and uncovered, so I wrapped a bathrobe around myself.

I brushed my hair and looked in myself in the mirror as I ran the hairdryer through it. There was somethingÖoff about my reflection. I couldnít put my finger on it, at the time. It was justÖeven though the reflection looked exactly like me, I couldnít shake the feeling that I was looking at another person entirely. I examined the black bags under my eyes. I really looked like shit. I usually covered them with makeup when I was at work, but it was getting to the point where even that couldnít cover it up completely. My head was starting to bear uncanny resemblance to a skull.

I spent the entire night on the internet, just mindlessly surfing. I didnít even try to go to sleep. I knew I wouldnít be able to.

Do you know how time stretches when you donít have sleep? When you canít? Thatís a whole eight hours that the human body is usually inactive. And when youíre tired, you canít really do many of the things that would normally make the time pass quicker.

You can lie on a cold wooden floor, enjoying the smooth feel of the wood against your face, for what feels like a day. And it will have only been an hour.

I staggered through my day. Luckily my job at the deli isnít very demanding, so I can get through it even when utterly devastated by lack of sleep. I had been awake for almost five days now. I hadnít ever been awake that long before. I hoped my medicine would kick in.

It didnít.

My days were reduced to a sort of dreamlike haze. I was regularly surprised by what time it was. It would seem to skip around. Sometimes, I swear, it went backward-Iíd check the clock and it would actually be a couple hours earlier than I last checked it. But I know that was just my brain fucking with me.

I called work, told them that I wouldnít be coming in until my medicine kicked in. They werenít very understanding. I hung up not knowing if I would have a job to go back to.

It had been almost seven days without any sleep at all, now-not even a quick twenty minute nap. My mind just wouldn't turn off. And yet, it was too disoriented and foggy for me to really concentrate on anything. I was lying on my back in my bed, staring up at the ceiling, at the swirls and the ripples of the paint, watching the faces emerge.

They started whispering again.

I blinked my eyes and tried to concentrate on them. Normally if I looked hard enough at the faces I saw, I could make them go away. But they didn't go away. In fact, more bubbled out of the patterns in the paint, their lips moving, whispering, just too soft for me to hear.

I jumped from my bed and ran down the hall, locking myself in my bathroom. I shut my eyes and tried avoiding looking at any patterns that might look like faces. I was on the verge of tears at this point. I didn't want to go insane. I wanted the medicine I was taking to work.

I tried to calm myself. I took a good look at myself in the mirror. I was shocked by what I saw. The thing in the mirror-it looked like me, but it wasn't me. The eyes...the eyes of the me in the mirror weren't moving along with mine. It looked much more gaunt, much more pale than I should be looking, even with me missing nearly a week of sleep.

As I stared at myself in the mirror, I became convinced that this was what I would look like when I was dead. The mirror was showing me a vision of what my rotting corpse would look like shortly after I had died.

Then I shook my head and tried to clear it. That was my tired, exhausted brain speaking to me. I ran back to my computer and spent the next few hours reading text, solid news. I turned the TV on to hear the voices. Anything to give me a connection to the larger world, and ward off the insanity that I was afraid was taking root in my mind.

I had never been much of a drinker, but I thought the medication they had given me was taking too long. My brain needed sleep. That night I went out and bought a fifth of vodka. At the very least, I could drink myself into unconsciousness and give my brain a few hours of rest. At the very least.

I sat on my bed, taking swigs straight from the bottle.

As soon as I began feeling the effects of it, I saw faces pop up. No matter where from-I was seeing them everywhere now. From the pattern in the ceiling, the knittings in my blanket, from the blank walls of my room, I saw the faces emerging, bubbling out. And the whispering, each one of them whispering.

I drank more.

Now the room was spinning. The faces were blurring before me, some of them looked like they were stretching out of my walls, like taffy, toward me. The whispering was louder now. I could make out some words, some of the whispers....they sounded like english was like if you were hearing a conversation in the background that you weren't really listening to. You knew that the conversation was there, and in english, but you didn't know what was being said. That was what their whispers sounded like to me. It was like I couldn't mentally lock on to them.

I wasn't going to be able to sleep in that room, though. So, still swigging from the vodka bottle, I stumbled down the hallway. In a daze, I went into the bathroom. I don't know why.

In the mirror, there was the mirage again. Pale, wasted, a corpse. She didn't even bother mimicking my movements anymore. I would move my hand, and she wouldn't bother to follow for a second or two.

Then, the thing in the mirror drew its fist back. What was it trying to do? It punched the mirror, cracking it. Oh god, I thought. It's trying to get out. I was consumed by an overwhelming panic. I didn't want that dead thing that looked like me in my house. I punched the mirror too, shattering it. It clattered down over my sink in shards.

I looked at my fist. It was bloody, lacerated, shards of glass still stuck in it. I didn't care. I was just glad I had stopped the thing in the mirror from getting out.

I watched the dripping blood from my hand spatter onto the white linoleum. In the random patterns of the splashing blood, I saw faces emerge.

Only these were louder, so much clearer! They weren't whispering, they were speaking!

But, for the life of me, I can't remember what they were saying.

That's why I've got to try again.

They're saying something important to me, I'm sure-maybe about why I can't sleep? So I've filled the bathtub with warm water. In the random clouds of my blood dispersing in the water, I see the faces. I can tell they are trying to tell me something, but their voices just aren't clear enough.

It's been, at this point, nearly nine days. The medicine isn't working. I'm confident no medicine is going to work. But the faces in my blood know what's wrong with me. I've just got to be careful. I've already given so much of my blood to the water, but their voices just aren't clear enough. The water isn't cloudy anymore, it's just a uniformly red soup. The blood on the tile floor isn't working that much either, the voices from the faces there are too soft. I need to just give the water enough of my blood to give it a voice.

It's time to drain the bathtub and try again. It will probably be my last try for today, because I'm already feeling woozy and faint. But I just need to let the faces tell me what's wrong with me, so I can finally sleep.

I take the knife, and run a deep gouge from my wrist, all the way up my left forearm, and hold it over the water.

I am going to need a lot of blood.