There is a time for everything, Solomon said, and so there must be a time for sleep. There must be, but but that doesn't make it easy to find. And about two evenings ago, it was more elusive for me than real estate on the moon.
It was just one of those nights. The kind that start two hours early, when your eyes begin to rebel against the light of day just as your boss is walking by full of energy that he is alarmingly ready to funnel into the gory task of setting you straight. The kind that won't completely kick in even two hours after they're supposed to, because those rebellious eyes have rechanneled their restlessness and sandpapered themselves into an insurrection against you in your weary hour of need. The kind that you must slog through despite the fact that you just watched a certain film about crystals and skulls and fiery ants that eat people alive, and every little itch on your skin is beginning to send tingles of terror and images of fiery red legs through your addled brain, and you are suddenly and strangely feeling more little itches than you thought possible just a few hours ago when your boss was glaring at you in the deliciously comfortable, air-conditioned facility.
That's how I felt, anyway, as I tossed and turned in a hot, sticky bed under hot, sticky covers trying to keep my hot, dry eyelids shut. Gradually I dozed off, feverishly reeling through fields of Martians and Aztecs and Soviet soldiers. The little itches continued in my dreams, magnified by the sincere belief that behind them were the malevolent little jaws of a hundred malevolent little army ants. My right arm, nestled safely behind my head, began to tingle with innumerable little needlepoints, and I could sense the poison at work. The dream grew louder and busier, until the jaws began to sound like Goliath playing a timpani (no hyperlink; just use your imagination).
Then I awoke, trembling and sweatier than ever, the crickets peacefully chirping outside and my heart racing wildly in a successful attempt to outpace their chirps by a factor of five to one. I tried to sleep again, but my mind was on autopilot at about 95 miles an hour, just like my car had been some time earlier. I put my head back on my lumpy pillow, and that was when I discovered my arm.
I say I discovered my arm, but the fact is that I discovered its absence. There was an awful itch on my nose, and I summoned my right finger to destroy it. Alas! My right finger had gone AWOL, along with my hand and biceps. My brain sent signals, but my muscles ignored them, and worse, the nerves wouldn't send back any reply. I reached around with my left arm and seized the delinquent appendage. It was cool, clammy, and limp, almost like a piece of dead meat or your two-year-old cousin when you have to carry him inside from a nap in his carseat and his lifeless, snoring mass seems to weigh ten times more than your barbells did at the gym earlier that day.
I lifted my carcass of an arm until I could see it. There was no mental connection between that thing and myself. For all I knew or cared, it could have been a hapless, five-pound bass or trout poisoned by CapeNature officials. Or it could have been the steaming lump of brisket that I had dropped on the driveway a while back. In the spirit of the unsettling occasion, I let this lump drop as well. It fell on my face with a thud which made me realize the gravity of the situation.
My arm was dead. I peered at it, in the dim light that an opalescent moon managed to smuggle around my window blinds, with a growing mixture of fear, surprise, and self-pity. "This is a sorry sight," I felt inclined to mummer. What could I do without a right arm? What would my boss say? What would my mother say? How would I type this post? I lifted the arm again several times and dropped it, with more curiosity than hope. Then, somewhere around the seventh try, I realized to my wonder that the ants had begun to arrive again. I dropped the arm several more times, and subsequently started pounding it with my left fist. The ants returned with a vengeance, tearing and devouring my lifeless flesh. With a supreme effort, I lifted the arm and curled my fingers. It was a fist of victory, and in a short time I was able to shake it defiantly at the ants themselves. Feeling the familiar blood course through my veins was such an exhilarating experience that it was almost worth the sleep it cost me the rest of the night.