I figured I’d post something fun this time; a short story instead of an analytical article. Hope you all enjoy reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it!
“Ten thousand dollars.”
“Ten thousand? For taking a nap?”
Enzo thought he was hearing things. He’d witnessed the bizarre and downright concerning almost every day since moving to the city, but this was almost laughable.
Served him right for calling the number on a subway advertisement. Now he was having his time wasted.
Enzo Lyle was not a fan of wasted time.
Still, he had been considering taking a vacation. When an ad for one of the last brick-and-mortar travel agencies left in the world caught his eye during his morning commute, he’d shrugged and dialed the number. After all, where was the harm? He wasn’t even expecting someone to pick up; but someone did, and she sounded reputable enough. Enzo had quite a few sick days saved up at work, so he’d gotten off a few stops early and now, here he was.
Honestly, the place hadn’t looked like much from the outside. The doors were filthy, the windows cloudy, and everything smelled…off. The inside (or what he could see of it through the atrocious glass) looked well-maintained and professional. Perhaps, Enzo considered, they just didn’t have enough money to maintain the building’s facade. Or maybe the landlord didn’t care enough.
Or maybe Enzo was missing something obvious.
For whatever reason, he went inside. And he greeted the woman he’d spoken to on the phone.
And he’d gone into a back office.
And he’d started asking questions.
“This isn’t,” the woman began, “the usual sort of vacation. We don’t go in for plane rides or international travel. Nobody can afford that now, anyway.”
“But you advertise as a travel agency.” Enzo glanced around at the walls covered in faded post cards and torn posters.
“Because it’s recognizable.”
The woman smiled. “It’s recognizable. The name. If we were completely honest, we’d be out of business in a matter of months. Plus, most printing companies charge by the letter. REM sleep escapism company would cost us a fortune.” She handed Enzo a pamphlet. “This should clarify things. I’ll give you a minute to read it over.”
She left the room, shutting the door firmly behind her. Maybe she wanted to give him privacy, or save on heating costs.
Or maybe Enzo was missing something obvious.
Enzo flipped through the pamphlet, scanning past the section labeled ‘The Science of Sleep.’ He thought of himself as an educated man (after all, not everyone could graduate business school cum laude) and therefore didn’t need to be educated. He knew what it would say, anyway: sleep good, exhaustion bad, blah blah blah. Enzo was proud to say he had gotten himself down to four hours of sleep a night. More time awake meant more time to be productive. More time asleep was a waste.
And Enzo Lyle was not a fan of wasted time.
The back of the pamphlet was what really got him thinking. First of all, he’d be compensated. Ten thousand dollars was worth compromising his stance on sleep. That would more than make up for the wages he’d lose taking time off work. Second, he’d be able to wake up whenever he wanted. A day or two in what the pamphlet called a stasis pod wouldn’t be so bad.
Third…Enzo didn’t have much to lose if he overslept.
Aside from not being a fan of wasted time, Enzo Lyle was also not a fan of other people.
He had been, once. He’d had a wife, friends, children.
But after the divorce…
Enzo had packed up and moved to the city. His children had chosen to live with their mother, his friends had taken his ex’s side (funny how one mistake could sever so many connections), so Enzo had washed his hands of all of them. This move had been a fresh start; and this offer…well, to say it would be a welcome break from reality was an understatement. Perhaps, while Enzo was in stasis, he would have time to think about what to say to his ex-wife and children. He could draft arguments in his head; biting words to get back at them all. He’d be well-rested. Invigorated. Renewed.
And ten thousand dollars richer, no less.
Yes, Enzo decided, this was exactly what he needed.
But Enzo was missing something obvious.
Enzo, being a man who believed he could exercise control over all things, believed he could control when he woke up.
And so he overlooked the single line in the pamphlet which stated he could not.
The woman returned, holding a clipboard and a pen. Enzo reached for both eagerly, but she pulled them away. “Don’t you have any questions?”
“No,” Enzo reached again, “I read the pamphlet. Everything looks fine!”
“You do know what you’re signing up for?”
Enzo paused. “This…isn’t some Total Recall thing, right? You’re not gonna trick me into thinking I’m someone else? It’s just a nap.”
For the first time, the woman’s smile faltered.
And for the fourth time, Enzo Lyle missed something obvious.
“Yes,” she replied, “it’s just a nap.”
The woman finally let Enzo take the clipboard and pen. There were quite a bit more documents than he’d been expecting.
I don’t need to repeat myself further. You already know.
Enzo signed where he was prompted, dated where he was prompted, and checked where he was prompted. The woman took the clipboard from him, but he pocketed the pen. “Oh sorry,” Enzo realized, “did you need it back?”
“No, that’s alright. You keep it. Follow me.”
The woman led Enzo out of the office and paused by one of the windows. She stood there, silently, for far too long.
“Is something wrong?” Enzo itched to get things moving again.
“No,” the woman sounded wistful, “I just…realized how nice the weather is. Do you want to get some air? Maybe enjoy it for a moment before you go under?”
“I just came from the outside.” Enzo grouched. “Now I would very much like to get on with it!”
Enzo hadn’t been expecting a laboratory; nor had he been expecting so many other pods. Rows and rows of sleeping individuals (“repeat customers” he was assured) stood like clothing on discount racks. The woman led him to an empty pod at the end of a row marked G. When the pod was opened, a heavy smell of ammonia gushed from inside. “This one was recently occupied,” the woman explained, “and most recently vacated. You can still change your mind.”
“You can go back and reread the paperwork. You can still change your mind.”
Enzo scoffed and climbed into the pod; settling his body against the cushions which shaped around him like memory foam. He’d never felt so relaxed.
“I’m going to close the door, now. It won’t reopen until you wake up.”
Enzo ignored her.
“If you remember,” the woman said, “warn the one who takes your place.”
“Warn them of what?”
“To read the paperwork more carefully than you did.”
The woman shut the door before Enzo could respond. A pleasant-smelling gas filled the pod.
And Enzo Lyle didn’t wake up.
For four hundred years.
When the time came, he didn’t remember. He didn’t warn the young woman who entered the travel agency just as he was leaving.
A funny thing happens when you’ve been asleep for far too long. When you wake up, it feels like you’re on an alien planet. Your brain takes so long to come back to reality that for a moment, you can’t even remember your own name. Have you ever experienced that? A nap so deep that waking from it knocks you out of your senses?
Usually, you’re back to your old self in the time it takes your heart to beat.