Monday, October 9, 2017

The Sleepwalker

The SleepWalker

By Michael Cannata

His wife lay quietly in bed, listening to the muffled sounds of her husband wandering aimlessly around the rooms below. He was sleepwalking again and she was worried. He'd started doing it over a year ago. The first time his movements woke her, she found him down in the basement, drilling holes in the family room walls in a random pattern. He didn't respond when she called to him. He didn't seem to know she was even there. When she touched him on the shoulder, shaking him, he woke with a terrified scream. He seemed dazed and had no idea where he was or how he got there.

Over the next few months his episodes grew more frequent and even more bizarre. One night, the police brought him home when they found him pushing an empty stroller down the middle of the street. When they woke him, they got the same startled reaction. Looking utterly confused, he explained he was dreaming he was walking their daughter in the park. They helped him home safely to the relief of his worried wife.

He sought a psychiatrist's help in figuring out what was causing the problem. The initial diagnosis was stress. Things were tough at work and, with the economy the way it was, the company was suffering. He was always worried about being laid off and had fallen far behind with the bills.

He continued to have episodes. He often left the house, only to be returned safely home by the police. Soon, everyone in the neighborhood knew what was going on. Neighbors sympathized with his wife and took turns returning him home when they found him wandering in their yards. He never remembered anything the next morning.

He never hurt anyone, but it was clear he was becoming a danger to himself.  His wife dealt with it as best she could while living in a constant state of fear, praying he wouldn't hurt himself while hoping his doctor could cure him. She let him roam the house, rather than wake and scare him. Eventually, if he didn’t leave the house, he always returned to bed.

Finally, she heard him coming up the stairs. She was relieved he was coming back to the room. She moved over ready to hold him close once he was back in bed. He always responded to her affections with a sigh and settled against her as she held him. He came into the bedroom with the same glazed look.

Only this time he was holding a gun, pointing it at her. Frightened, she called out to him gently, "Honey? Please honey, wake up!"

Slowly, deliberately, his gaze changed as he looked straight at her. "I am awake, sweetheart!" he whispered, staring at her with an insane grin.

He shot her twice, smiling as she fell off the bed to the floor. He climbed back into bed, pulling the covers over him to wait. He was sure the next door neighbors would call the police. They called every time they heard loud noises at this time of night. After all, they didn't want him to hurt himself sleepwalking.

When the police arrived, knowing who they were dealing with and seeing the gun on the floor, they approached him carefully. As always, he pretended to remember nothing about what happened and they believed him, as usual.

It took over a year to set his plan in motion. He had all the medical evidence from some of the finest doctors he needed. He had a lawyer who had successfully defended others who had committed crimes while sleepwalking. All his friends and family testified as to the love between him and his wife. He was confident and played the role of the inconsolable, grieving husband as effectively as he had the role of a sleepwalker.

He believed no jury would ever convict him… he was right.

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