The first fingers of dawn crept over the distant mountains, rousing birds to protest the incessant splattering of rain. True to Portland weather, the night had been plagued with bouts of torrential downpours and menacingly overcast periods that were never long enough for anything to dry out.
The bird song grew louder as the rain faded away, the cloud’s sobbing becoming an intermittent hiccup until, finally, its tears dried. The day would still be a somber gray accented by more gray, but at least it matched my mood.
I was exhausted. Sleep had threatened to claim me all night, but I was terrified that if I succumbed, I would never wake again. And, as long as I was still conscious, I could still fight. There was still hope that I could figure out what the homeless woman had cursed me with and escape.
But as the long hours of the night had crept by, the sounds of life around me had disappeared, and I’d felt hope siphon away. I’d envied the sleeping world, wishing I could join it; knowing that I wasn’t ready to let go and have my story end as a lonely tragedy. So I’d fought to stay awake. I’d replayed the memory of the earlier confrontation over and over, but there was nothing new. No grand epiphany to discover. All it had done was further destroy any last flutters of hope.
Eventually, I’d just stopped thinking. I’d stared into the dark, listening to the soft sounds of the river and watching the occasional headlights flash across the highway like bolts of lightning. The hours had ticked away until dawn found me, motionless as my exterior suggested, empty of everything but the swell of exhaustion.
I watched as the gray-blue light of dawn illuminated the undersides of the clouds, painting them slightly silver in the weak, shivering light. Pink suffused the horizon, and I noticed the call of one bird in particular. Louder than all the rest. A plaintive question of six cascading notes, melancholy and obstinate, that pierced the early morning stillness. I’d always heard it at dusk, never realizing it book-ended Portland’s days with its query. Vaguely, I wondered what kind of bird it was, this creature I had never given any thought to, so much a part of Portland’s sound, and so different from the bird calls of early morning Virginia. It’s repetition lulled me, and I felt the claws of sleep dig a little deeper.
I should just let go. Welcome oblivion. It would be better than spending the rest of my life encased in concrete. Wouldn’t it?
The edges of my vision started to blacken, and I felt my thoughts grow sluggish and heavy. Maybe, at last, I’d be free. I’d fall asleep and death would finally claim me. With welcoming arms, I relinquished my hold on consciousness and fell face first into the black pit of sleep.