Words, Pauses, Noises is entranced, yet again, by the impalpable workings of Ashley Nicholson. Her writing carries an elusive vibe of knowing but not letting you know and ‘Insomnimaniacal’ epitomises the evasive aura of her style. As Neil Gaiman put it: “You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we’re doing it.” Ashley’s ‘Insomnimaniacal’ found its first home with Synaesthesia Magazine’s September issue, ‘Cities’, and we are fortunate to showcase it on Words, Pauses, Noises.
I love the point in the night where the world goes grey and tastes of tin. Everything goes sideways a few degrees and makes sense. Less, some times; more in others. I can see, can trace the lines forward, backward. I reach through the past, pulling handfuls of painful memories to be parsed before morning. Sometimes, these feature in dreams. Wild, unpleasant things that trap me within the confines of my own head, knowing. Always, I know it for the untruth it is, the blatant falsehood of dreams.
Why, then, does it feel on these nights like the waking times and the dreams are reversed? I feel my feet leave the top floor of an old school building at the same time as the pounding of my heart jolts me into the world of sodium light lamps and the rumble-static of traffic. I feel myself drowsing, drowning in these London nighttime noises, its shouts and sirens. London is never quiet, never. The blinds are useless, my eyes open at each headlamp’s streak. The harsh white of morning comes too early in summer. In the winter, it never comes at all.
In these tin-flavoured moments I lie with my eyes closed, always pressed together because opening them will break the endless spell of half-waking. If I don’t open my eyes, sleep will come creeping across my pillows like some wild, wary creature. Instead I evaluate my life and criticise myself in ways that, in the daylight, seem insubstantial and somehow still too harsh. I construct elaborate scenarios that chip away at insecure walls. Waiting inside the ambiguous world of twilight hours, suspended between morning and evening. That place of too late and too early, unable to decide which side of the spectrum I’m on. Compelled into movement until I’ve hopelessly twisted the bedclothes. Always writhing to get away from the unpleasant thoughts, the truths and untruths, dreams both nascent and broken, burnt beyond repair or recognition.
All I want is to sleep; perchance not to dream. Aye, there’s the rub.
Writers are always inspired by their surroundings. Here, Ashley has taken two tangible ideas: insomnia and how it interacts with her physical backdrop as a Londoner. Next time you read look out for special, geographical influences in the story or poem and get a feel for how the writer was influenced by place and time.
We hope you enjoyed ‘Insomnimaniacal’ and that it inspires you to write your own piece about the simple (or not so simple) things in life.