Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Insomniac's Dream

Sleep is the enemy. I did not come to this conclusion lightly, but rather from years of experience, of hardship, of painfully learning how much I lost from sleep. I used to fall asleep easily, too easily, when I least wanted to. It robbed me of so much, made me look like a fool.

So eventually, I stopped doing it. I tried all the common stimulants. I started with coffee, naturally, but turned to more desperate means quickly enough. The drugs, I can’t even begin to talk about them now. They were more unpleasant than sleep, we’ll say. I tried worse things. One was a kind of shock treatment. I attached a device to my arm, which at first, when I realized sleep was imminent, I would trigger, and the device would send a jolt into my system. But even that wasn’t enough. I didn’t trust myself. I began setting the device to administer the shock on its own, at the first sign of sleep.

I couldn’t allow myself to sleep. Sleep was the enemy. I couldn’t let it win. I reached the point where I succeeded, and it was the most pleasant period of my life, strangely…restful.

But it didn’t last long.

One evening, during an eternally long summer’s day, I accidentally dozed off. I don’t know how it happened. As I said, I thought I had won. And yet, all the same, I had dozed off. I had no idea how long I had been asleep, but when I looked at the clock, I immediately panicked. It read 7:56. I knew that I was late, as I understood it, looking at that clock, bright sunlight showing through the curtains, always drawn, over my window.

7:56. I couldn’t believe it! Sleep had done it again. It was insidious. The worst part was that I truly had no concept of how long I’d been asleep. It was exactly the thing I had been fighting all those years, endured all that self-inflicted torment, which to me seemed so much better than sleep.

I set about the only activities that made sense. I tried to call in, knowing I was already late, and would be later still, by the time I was ready and could make the trip, but my mobile device wasn’t functioning. A defective device, like the one I had tried to cure my sleep with. I cursed sleep and devices, and daylight.

I could only stare at the clock. Late, and later still, and what could I say for myself? I couldn’t account for the lost time, for this indefensible lapse. I saw daylight, and assumed that I had passed many hours, in sleep.

I took another look at the clock, and then more devices. I realized that although it was indeed 7:56 when I had awoken, and bright daylight, it was still evening. It was the long summer’s day. I wasn’t late after all. Half my panic escaped me. I kept confirming, kept watch, kept confirming for myself. I didn’t know what to trust, if I should be trusting anything.

When I finally trusted what reality was telling me, when it finally grew dark, when the summer’s day turned into night, I turned back to my enemy. It hadn’t taken away as much as I’d believed, but it had still stolen more precious time from me, and I still couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe myself, of course, that I had allowed it to happen, but more importantly, that sleep, that treacherous sleep that I had just experienced, I still could not properly account for it. It didn’t seem right. I could count back in minutes and hours, how much I had actually lost, but it felt like more. I had woken up as if it truly had been a whole night. That’s why I had been so panicked, because what the clock told me, what I had convinced myself of, it seemed completely plausible.

And yet, it hadn’t been true. And yet, I still felt as if I had lost more time than I now knew to be true. I began considering possibilities again, how I might resolve this conundrum, what possibly might have happened. It wasn’t simply a matter of sleep. It had been, regardless of my confusions, a considerable amount of sleep, and yet I remembered no dreams. I know it’s common to forget dreams when you wake. I knew that even then, after a long period of having deprived myself of my enemy. And yet, even then, I knew, as I know now, that dreams, even when you don’t remember them, still leave a lingering impression, like a piece of knowledge just at the tip of your tongue.

There had been no dreaming. I knew this was no coincidence.

I correct myself, actually. There had been a dream, but it had been stolen from me, the insomniac’s dream.

For weeks, for months, I obsessed over this, as I had obsessed over conquering sleep, something I had been quite successful about, at least until that long summer’s day. I had no idea what someone might want with my dreams. Perhaps there was some conspiracy, a global concern, a mining operation that depended on sleep, a process I had subverted, and this was some kind of revenge.

They say those who don’t sleep become paranoid. I know that’s what you’re thinking, but that’s not what was happening to me. I knew unquestionably that my dream had been stolen from me. It was the only thing that made sense, that could explain what had happened.

I had no way to confirm any of it, of course, only that I had set about a campaign of eradicating my own need for sleep. If I attempted to explain this to anyone, there could be no doubt what everyone would assume. I would be viewed as worse than paranoid. But there are worse things than paranoia. There may even be things worse than sleep.

That’s what I began to dread when I realized my dream had been stolen.

What kind of technology could do this, assuming it was something a man had done? I did not discount the possibility of extraterrestrial interference. With no firm evidence of what alien life would look or behave like, how could I? My dream might even now, might be fueling someone else’s life, here or someplace else, in the stars. It might even be fueling a spaceship. Don’t laugh. It’s not so absurd.

When you eliminate the threat of sleep, anything is possible.

I hate it more than ever now, my enemy. Sleep. Can’t you begin to understand now, how dangerous it is? Without sleep, my dream could never have been stolen. I conceived of devices that could, or so it seemed at the time, of ending sleep’s tyranny. Is it so outrageous to assume that someone, perhaps working in insidious parallel with my own activities, developed devices capable of stealing dreams? I think not.

It’s all about thought, isn’t it? It was for me. Sleep is the opposite of thought, and the only thing within sleep that resembles thought is dreaming. Is it so crazy to think someone stole my dream for that reason, to balance some cosmic, existential scale?

That’s what I’m thinking right now. It’s bright out again. I don’t know how that happened.

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