by Kathryn Kaelin

As a child, I've been told, I could not sleep unless I was in motion.
My father would gather me into his arms and he'd walk the length of our block
again, and again, until my breaths matched his steps.

Light fills the room, and I know that it is morning.
It filters in through the shades, the walls soften.
I inhale, then exhale, but remain still.

On Christmas Eve, just after midnight, my father woke me.
I had fallen asleep in my brother's bed, beneath checkered sheets of blue and green frogs.
We were needed at Spaulding. We left my brother asleep on the couch.

Child of Nyx, brother of Thanatos and the Oneiroi, Hypnos resides in Erebos,
the land of eternal darkness just beyond the gates of the rising sun. There,
he lives in a cave through which, around which, the river Lethe flows.

When we were little, my brother and I shared a room at the top of the stairs.
My father installed a night rail, a wooden gate that extended across the doorway, so that
I couldn't wander too far in my sleep. Instead, I slept walked in circles.

At Spaulding, she had a corner room, overlooking the harbor. The windows were
rounded, so when it rained, the droplets would cling to the glass. I remember how the rain
would make the water below look as though it had turned to gravel, or stone.

The room at the top of the stairs had two twin beds. On winter mornings, my mother
would come in and help my brother dress in the dark. Beneath the covers, I watched their silhouettes move about the room. I watched as my breaths made the sheets rise, and fall.

Hypnos' dwelling has no gates, no doors, so that the sound of creaking of hinges
will never wake him. At night, he leaves the cave to visit the minds of mortals,
bringing them dreams and terrors at the Gods' bidding.

Sometimes, he is asked to bring them, to carry them, quietly to death.

When we arrived, her wheelchair was wet.
She sat alone in the bathroom with a brush in hand. The faucet was running.
Her cheeks were red and stained. Her remaining hair had bundled itself into a single knot.

The next morning, I returned with a plastic bag filled with combs, and brushes, and
conditioners. I worked the yellow globs into her hair, from root to tip,
but the knot would not release. It clung to her scalp by the strands that remained.

A single, weighted mass.

I cut it out.

It was Hypnos who first lulled Zeus to sleep. The world fell quiet,
and Hera was allowed to rest. The children did not stir.

In June, we moved to Charlestown.
We needed rooms with no stairways between them.
And my mother missed the harbor, missed the water that turned to stone.

In Charlestown, my brother and I once again shared a room with two twin beds.
There was a bedside table between them, filled with fishing lures, DNRs, and envelopes
with spare keys. My father slept on the pullout, the door to my mother's room ajar.

Most nights, I slept on a mattress on the floor of my mother's room.
I did not want her to be alone, and my father was tired.

So very tired.

Sleep, the still and the soft.

In the night, she would stir. She would talk to herself, or maybe others, in her sleep.

Syringes filled with grenadine at her bedside.

Pink daisies in glass jars on the windowsill.

White sheets, white lights, the whiteness of her scalp.

She could not swallow.

When he woke, Zeus was enraged that he had been lulled, tricked, into sleep. He scoured
the earth, searching for Hypnos, only to find him cradled in Nyx's arms.
The image of mother and child made Zeus' anger dissolve.

The night my mother died, I dreamt that men were coming for her.
We crouched in a stall of some kind. Its walls were a muted gray.
I knew I could not hide her. I knew I could not keep her.

I think she is leaving us.

My father said that, in the moments before death, the human mouth can make a horrible,
grinding sound. The final extension of the jawbone, paired with the pooling of secretions
in the back of the throat, creates a death rattle: a sign that death is coming, is on its way.

He did not want us to hear it. He kept the door to our room closed.

Sometimes, I wonder what it will be like: the night before the world ends.
Darkness will come, then quiet. But first, there will be, there must be,
dripping, pooling, ineluctable water. The children will not stir.

And then I remember: I want to be buried.

I want to be made still.

Light fills the room, and I know that it is morning.

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