Five minutes at the end of the world: waking to disorienting morning anxiety
Five minutes at the end of the world
I wake up when the world is ending.
All the physiological signs are there — heart pounding, bed sheets soaked in sweat, body frozen in place. The world is ending, the world is ending! my mind shouts.
The moon is crashing towards the earth. A supervolcano has split the world wide open. What else could cause my body to be so on edge? So on edge that I feel the need to think of everything I’ve done, everything I haven't done, in the span of a few breaths. That’s not a great metric to use though; right now I’m finding it hard to breathe.
Past decisions seep into my skin like the fallout of radioactive debris. I should have talked to that person, completed that task, met that deadline. These thoughts blister and fester in my head, red in intensity, rotting my perception of the past. Perhaps if I had done these things, the world wouldn’t be ending.
And then comes the future. Undead, unrealized dreams dig their way out of the recesses of my mind, plaguing me with what I haven’t achieved, what I am not. These are the worst of my thoughts, because they chase me, latch onto me, devour my willpower. Their venom must contain a paralytic, because I can’t move, can’t run away. I can’t do anything but lie in a waking nightmare as they lay feast to my brain.
A sense of impending doom courses through my veins. I know the end is near. My vision spins and blurs, catapulting my heart into a high-speed staccato. I brace myself as white consumes my vision. This is it. The light at the end of the tunnel...
No, wait. It’s not the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s…it’s the light outside my bedroom window. It’s the sun’s luminescence piercing through the gap between the curtains, burning my dilated pupils that I’ve been covering with a pillow. A day like any other, one that’s hardly begun.
No moon is crashing, no volcanic explosion lays waste outside. So the real world’s not actually ending, right?
Wrong. In these early hours of the day, I would rather have the real world crumble around me, as long as it squashes the apocalypse raging inside my brain. Because what is reality without the mind? The world outside doesn’t exist, or rather, it doesn’t matter if it exists, if I don’t have a firm grasp on the stability of the thoughts behind my eyes.
Reason. I need Reason to come. Let her be the heroine who saves me from the cerebral inferno that overclocks my heart rate and elicits the sweat soiling my bed sheets. Save me, Reason. Save me. Surely, this paragon will arrive.
But she never does. Reason doesn’t arrive because she’s not the heroine I thought she was. She’s the damsel in distress, hunkering down in a cellar while a cyclone of worry barrages my facade. Anxiety, the orchestrator of the apocalypse, holds Reason hostage.
So I must stop the world from ending. I have to save Reasoning, yank her from the rubble. But first, I have to untangle myself from the live wires Anxiety chokes me with. It hurts. Hurts. But I must move. Mentally. Physically. I must move and start my day, force closed the door that can keep Anxiety at bay. Only then will the world stop ending for me.
And the moving works…some of the times. There’s days where the world only ends for those first five minutes in the morning. Others, where it ends every other second of the day, and I have to throw my shoulder against the door again and again as Anxiety relentlessly rams its horns on the other side.
But even on the good days, where the door stays closed, where the fallout doesn’t reach me and I can avoid the hoard of panic, I still must sleep. And when I sleep, my grasp on the door loosens…
When I wake, the door is open.
The world is ending again.
Nova Ivanov lives in Austin, Texas with her husband and two pets, Django and Alaska. While she does spar with Anxiety and ADHD on the reg, she has dedicated herself toward becoming a full-time writer of sci-fi, fantasy, and literary fiction. Her current projects include a number of short stories and poems, as well as a fantasy novel. If accepted, this will be her first published work.