Author: Adamson Wood
“Whoever got rid of sleep was an idiot,” screamed Jack, because saying the words out loud gave them validity. He tried to think of the guy’s name. Bill Smith or Johnson. The kind of name you’d easily forget because two billion of them were born every second. As if their galaxy wasn’t already overpopulated. Still sucking on Mother Earth’s tits like an old man with enough amnesia to think he’s a toddler.
He switched his eye contacts to dark mode, disappearing in the black void of emptiness that mirrored the milky way’s vastness, a hundred thousand light-years of nothingness, barren besides human specks splattered on worlds without end that still managed to screw one another over as if a billion miles wasn’t enough separation to sign the divorce papers already. Bill Anderson was it?
Sure he could down a seebe, hallucinate something wilder than any rem sleep cycle could ever dream up. Or if he had money, spend a century or two in a cryo chamber. But everything Jack had read about sleep said it was about more than just passing the time, or even the dreams, more than the revitalization that they now got from invigora injections. Sleep was about forgetting. Starting over. Ending a day and having a fresh start tomorrow. Something now impossible thanks to galactic hero Bill Whatshisname, who was now in a cryo-chamber while the rest of the genetically altered humans were wide awake for the past couple centuries, trying to chemically replicate what was lost like neutered dogs jacking off.
Was it Jack—no, that was his name. He considered asking his eye pod to look up the name, but there was something satisfying about figuring it out himself; something about knowing that he was more than just the technology that fenced his life and occupied his body. He grabbed a pen and tablet, ‘cause he was old-fashioned like that, and started scribbling down names to trigger his memory. Bill Jones. Miller. Williams. Bill Nye the science guy. Every name seemed off, like the high after eight hours in virtual reality, living as some prince instead of the pauper he was. His head vibrated with the dull throb of cooked neurons.
“Why don’t you sleep it off,” his great grandfather used to tell him, too old to receive the genetic “upgrade” himself because at one hundred eighty years of age, what could you possibly offer society? He spent his final three months in and out of sleep, a smile on his face bigger than the statue of Bill Belikeme, titled The Billevable, that Jack now doused in corrosive acid since what else was he supposed to do at 4 am.
“Bill Brown! That’s the one,” said Jack, reading the fine print of the statue right before the letters cankered. He envisioned the real Bill, empty sack still fighting off the rot of death. Bill Brown, body now white as ever as his pale skin turned paler in his cryo-chamber back on Earth—Earth’s number one tourist destination, which was probably why they would never wake him up, not the incurable disease used as a pretext. Someday, thought Jack as police bots surrounded him, after finishing his ten-year sentence of 24/7s for destroying this statue, Jack would visit Bill’s final resting place, wake him up like in Sleeping Beauty. After all, for the man who got rid of sleep, he’d been sleeping an awful lot.
I don’t normally enjoy angry-voice stories, but this one won me. I like how a simple premise – doing away with sleep – can have enormous consequences. Great ending, too.