The only sound that could be heard was the faint humming of the lamp, the tapping at the window was not expected. He stood up just as suddenly as the sound disappeared. He looked through the blinds, the chill of the night air felt through the glass, and looked out.
He could see nothing, save the street light down the block and the dark of the lawn. The tapping was imaginary, he thought, a trick of the mind and maybe of the ear. There would be nothing out there, everyone else in the house was sound asleep, and for that matter, he would be soon, too.
But he could not sleep. He had not slept, not in days, never enough and not as comfortable as he would like. The restlessness gnawed at him, he grimaced as he ran his fingers through his hair, his hands across his eyes, and rubbed them. He was exhausted, that was for certain. The strain of all that he had on his plate was taking its toll. Something had to change.
And again came the tapping, a little more faint this time. On went his shoes, his gray jacket, and out the door he went. He stood for a long time in the doorway, wondering whether he should just go back into bed. Deciding against more tossing and turning, he went out into the lawn. The wind whistled around him, the branches shook, the Earth seemed to breathe around him. He breathed with it, seeming to match his exhalations with those of the grass he was stepping on. He kept walking, out onto the street, closer to the street light.
The street light buzzed and bathed him in pale yellow light. The color made him think of illness, and indeed, how nauseous he suddenly found himself feeling. Crossing his arms across his chest, tucking his arms together, he tried to make himself warm. What the fuck am I doing outside, he thought. He looked up and down the street. Not a sound. The traffic of the nearby expressway was faint; in a city this big, there is always something happening. A siren here. A car crash there. Maybe some other fool was outside in his skivvies, looking for the source of a tap he knew was probably illusory.
He wandered back inside, into the warmth, but still felt ill. His stomach was in turmoil, he had a knot in his throat, and his face felt flush. No, he thought, no this is nothing more than anxiety. Pressure. Pressure will do that to you. Enough pressure can crack the ground itself, why not me? How could I, a mere human, hope to withstand that which can make the very ground we walk on quake?
In bed, he curled under the blankets, and felt a sweat coming on. All he had left to do, a whole life un-lived lay before him, and he felt the nausea sink deeper into his gut. The tapping at the window was even fainter than before, and he listened to the trees groan. The wind was swift, and he heard the snap of a branch. It fell with a thud to the ground.
Tomorrow is another day. I can breathe easy now, as the Earth does so with me. We can get through this. He muttered to himself until his eyes fell shut.