Sleeper Hit

Image: George Hodan / publicdomainpictures.net

Image: George Hodan / publicdomainpictures.net

I haven’t done a flash fiction challenge response in a while. This is partly due to Indies Unlimited switching to image prompts instead of written ones. I’m just not as good with those and frankly, I found IU’s prompts to be rather uninspiring. but that’s just me, other authors keep doing great works with those.
There’s other stuff, like my hard drive taking its journey to the everafter in February.
But that aside, let’s do one of these again. It’s Chuck Wendig’s turn again, who this week asked for a story that features insomnia. Well, here it is. I went into this having no idea how dark it would get to just run with this idea. Oh, it got dark alright.

Sleeper Hit

Edinburgh, Scotland, 4:13 a.m.
For almost a minute, something was very wrong. Granted, 176 hours of partying always took their toll, and Burt knew the feelings that caused all the way from hunger to thirst, even boredom. But exhaustion was something he had stopped feeling for a long time now, a glimpse of maybe a second or two once a year was all that ever reminded him what kind of an emotion it even was. One like lead and rainy days and refusal of nice things. So bad, it made sleep desirable, that old king of unproductivities.
He had done away with all this a long time ago.

Bandar Tidur, Malaysia, 12:10 p.m.
Another one. Izzati fixed her view on the screen that had been pulsing with red for a few seconds before it went numb. To quick for anybody to rush in and change the bulb. A young immigrant from Thailand, like so many bulbs somebody with no other options in life here and only even worse ones back home. They were willing to take the risk, silence took care of that not changing.
When it began, one bulb could work two customers – batteries, as some started to call them, despite the weird reversal in terminology that created opposed to the real relationship between the two. A year later, there had to be one bulb per battery. Now, some batteries had started to burn through one bulb per year.
Bandar Tidur was asia’s hell needed to create europe’s paradise. The furnace to its engine.

San Jose, California, 09:00 p.m.
No matter how much he brooded, an empty page kept staring at Steve. He was the one man who banned unproductivity itself and now that blank page was mocking him for it like it never happened. He began anew.
“Sleep and death have much in common. The two great unproductivities, neither of which really known to man.”
He liked that, though it was followed by more blankness in his mind. The thing was, he had conquered sleep. When he invented a chip to monitor health years before, strange readings showed up and led his team to realize exhaustion was transferable and could be transformed into awakeness using sleep, to then be transferred back. Nobody really understood how it worked, but it did.
He and his team made these findings into machines, a network capable of electronically shipping sleep across the globe, to sleepers sleeping for their customers who could stay awake as long as they lived, continually drained of their exhaustion and supplied with new awakeness.
And yet, here he was, asking himself how to put to page a story everybody on earth already knew, effectively doing nothing with that time gained. More time, more ideas to have and pursue, but somehow not much had changed.
He erased the line and began anew again.
“So, this is the story of me, and how I did not change the world.”
That wasn’t it either.

Bandar Tidur, Malaysia, 12:12 p.m.
A new girl entered the chamber, her predecessor already removed. This one was a native, one of the first in an experiment. She did not look any different, but she was specifically designed to make her sleep more durable. Maybe a little pale for a Malaysian, but other than that just an adolescent young girl.
She let herself strap into the machine to be infused with exhaustion. Within a minute, the new bulb was asleep at work, hopefully quickly enough for the battery not to realize anything. Angry customers were the worst.
The old bulb passed Izzati’s door on its way to the pit, now somebody else’s problem.

Edinburgh, Scotland, 4:14 a.m.
The display in Burt’s left hand confirmed a short connection failure, but also his vitals being excellent. The connection problem had its fault with the other side, so he filed a short complaint. Within seconds, a response arrived, apologizing and explaining something about a bulb that needed to be changed.
As long as it was working again, he really couldn’t care less.