phantastery

A soft dawn breeze slipped through a half-open window and carried the smells of warm earth, summer dust, and pine resin into the bedroom. An electrical clock next to a large but inornate bed displayed 6:30 in silvery ciphers but no alarm rang. Slowly the pastel blue duvet began to stir, lissom limbs appeared from beneath the cloth and pulled the blanket bit by bit from the black-clad torso. The woman sat up in the bed, yawned, and watched the sunbeams slipping between the half-closed shutters and splashing against the books on the overcrowded shelves, then stood up, stretched for a long moment, slipped out of her clothes, sauntered the few steps to the bathroom and stepped into the shower. The first droplets of tepid water pulled the last fibers of tiredness and sleepiness from her flesh and by the time she had turned off the water to lather her body a glacial clarity had seeped into her mind, and even the marrow in her bones felt suffused with a spectral wakefulness.

In the evening she was sitting in her white leather armchair, reading a book on the growth of witch cults during the decline of the Roman Empire, when a wave of drowsiness surged up in her muscles, marking the moment when she could still get a full night’s sleep and wake up amply rested at the exact minute she needed to get up. She put the book down, slipped out of her loose, woollen pullover, switched off the lights, lay down on her bed, and fell into a twisting dream of tangled woods.


A slim woman was standing naked in her bedroom, only her shoulders were covered by a carmine towel with which she had dried herself off after a long shower. The first light of dawn was dripping from her skin. In a few minutes she would have to get dressed, eat a quick breakfast of fried eggs and fresh strawberries, then leave for work, but first she had to sleep backwards through the night, and sleep late into the evening, before she could start her morning, so she threw the towel over the hallstand, put on her pyjama, and huddled under the covers of her bed.

At one in the morning she woke up, due to a noise which had already dissipated and whose nature she couldn’t remember. She looked at the faintly glowing numerals on her clock, and knew that if she were to go to bed now, she’d be very tired in the morning, so she lay back down and quickly fell asleep again.

The previous evening she awoke in a twilight room whose deep darkness was only broken by her clock and the shimmer of city lights oozing through the roller shutters. She lingered in her bed for a while, then got up, letting her past self listen to an old recording of Messiaen’s Petites esquisses d’oiseaux and read a book she had been studying for the past few evenings, while she stepped into the morning, smelling a budding summer day’s fragrance.