A shadow hung to the man as he worked. A numb cold that drained, pulling at his core swallowing delight and interest. The tendrils of this encompassing malaise had weaved their dark magic with the patience of a glacier. A slow, creeping touch of gentle despair. Like the loss or sight or the increase in weight, the softly-softly progress had been beyond human perception. Only now, with the spectre a virtual constant, was it felt.
Like his movements, memory was slow. Words failed to arrive, sometimes concepts drifted away, untouchable as smoke. How had this happened? the man wondered. How did it get like this? Was it work? Was it family? Was it him? The shadow did not answer - that was not its purpose. Instead, it hovered at the back of his sight, unseen by others, felt only by him. A personal vampire.
Some days, busy days or randomly, the shade would slip away and the warmth of true emotion would shine through in a glorious summer memory. Colours were bright, voices happy and people welcome. A return to the real world. The balance would tip and that sweet gap would close; the colours would dim, the sound dull and the connection would be lost. From outside, all would appear as before. Inside, the only movement was breath and that of the eyes: roving slowly from screen, to face, to hands. Markers of the silent tick of time.
At night, thoughts surged, worries and ideas pushing against the much sought cloak of sleep. The brain over-active as if it it could not rest until the hopper was empty. The body would breath, rest, but the mind could not - would not - switch off until exhaustion took hold as the sun poked curiously at the thick blinds.
Robotic, the man worked through as he could. Clutching at the good, shunning the bad and all the while, searching. Searching for the answer, the kernel that would unlock the puzzle and free him of the shade. Did chemistry hold the key? Those small white dots birthed from the crackle of plastic every morning. Downed with a sip of water and a dose of hope.
Hope. So long as there was hope, the beast would be beaten. Wouldn't it?