February 7, 2013 by The Ascending Staircase
Most of Britain in this day and age hardly ever see the clock strike 5am. Barely anybody stretches their limbs, lets out a great yawn and exclaims, ‘5am! I’ve slept in late today!’ Church bells toll for nobody to hear (so do they still make a sound?), and birds tweet only for their melodies to fall onto deaf ears. 5am is neglected. I have seen 5am; I see it far too frequently (I will be seeing it once again in the morning). So, for your benefit, I shall describe it to you.
5am is a time of peril and chaos. The only way you can rouse yourself from the delirious, coma-like state is to hide your alarm clock so that the continuous noise drags you, seething, from your warm sheets and into the world. A whole new day.
You stumble half blind out of your room and into the hallway, but it does not feel like your hallway. There is something lurking there, monstrous and witty. It thrives at 5am. You suddenly find yourself, you aren’t sure why, racing down the stairs and firmly shutting the kitchen door behind you, throwing the lights on as you fly past the switches. Monsters, thieves, murderers, vampires, small children, zombies; they all hate light, and so light is your friend. Probably your only friend at this time of the dawning day.
The coast is clear. A cup of tea in one hand, a piece of toast in the other. Maybe 5am isn’t so bad. You get the house all to yourself, at least. And so, rather more optimistic than before, you get ready and step out to face the world on this brand new day. What you’re forgetting, of course, is that 5am is the true witching hour. It is a time caught between night and day, undefinable, untameable. It is a time when most people who are awake have grown tired and defenceless. We let our guard down, and they know this. They can sense our weakness.
Your step is, at first, brisk. You mean business today, because today is so promising. Monsters? Pah. Yet, the street seems longer than it did yesterday. You walk a little faster. The wind rushes through the trees, whistling, and it sounds like footsteps. You walk a little faster. In a small, dark side-street, there is a shadow of a man across the road. You walk a little faster. A cat runs out in front of you on the path and you jump backwards and barely manage to swallow your scream. You want to kick that cat. Goddamn that cat! Instead, you put your head down and just keep walking.
When did this road get so long? But, wait – is it? Yes! The bus stop! It comes into view, a small beacon of sanctuary and light. Light! Your 5am friend, here to save you from the peril of cats, leaves, shadows and flickering street lamps. You are safe at last.
But, no. Here are the students returning from their drunken shenanigans. They want to talk, yell, screech. They want to drink – and they want you to drink too. Why aren’t you drinking? Why else in the world would you be awake at such a ghostly hour? They laugh and walk, or fall, in the road, and you shout at them to get out the road but they’ve already forgotten about you. You are a vodka-stained, 5am dream.
The bus turns up. Finally. Its dim lights are comforting, and so is the irritated driver, the bleary-eyed commuters, like yourself. You sit down near the back. Safe at last. You made it safely. Safe…
You wake up at the end of the line, the bus driver shaking your shoulder. So 5am has managed to weave its black magic; you are 45 minutes late for work.