Archive for March, 2016

Storytime: Safety Cap.

Wednesday, March 30th, 2016

I leap, I crawl, I flow and am alive.

Strange strange day out there it’s trickling bleeding upstairs from the CLOUDS there must’ve been mistmistakes made when they launched the the.
It’s alrightgood enough we can live love enough withoutoutit. This isn’t the worst thing to come
Out of the sky hahahahaha not even in the past WEEK
But I’m hungry and it’s still not niceatall weather(there?) to be hunting in. going to have to anyways though third stomach is cramping bloated roiling soon it’ll overheateateateat me if I don’t give it mince raw to take pieces up from and turn into MORE.
Maybe clockwestwards. Haven’t hunted clockwestwards in longwhileswhaleswails.

I leap, I crawl, I flow and am there.

Not so bad out here now all the old crumbles overhang and sag and cover up us U.S. from the cruel big wide sky let us hide well enoughagain. And the crannies give manies places for food to hide hide hide run away to.
There it is
it’s goodfood, goodfood, goodgoodgood. It shrieks shrieks shreds when I open it up from the outside against my clawsFINGERSclawsclawsclawsFINGERS but inside are the little red ones I love the little red ones they are soft and melt on the inside of my mouthes for months for mangled like M&Ms back a long time ago before the world went all soft and sticky at the edgars edges and the sky stopped MAKING things and we put things in it.
it’s good food but I am not full at all I could use more.
maybe that place, the place, the plaice, that buildbolding with the red roof that is where food goes it hides in there thinks I can’t see it and it’s right but I can’t smell it either I can hear it though I have good ears ease of ears easily can pick it out from the NOISE.

I leap, I crawl, I flow and am immense.

There is food here alright it’s good stuff it’s old and gnarled past best-by date it’s a mess but I can’t complain it can’t complain, it has it coming this is all its faultfoucault anyways IT made this messyme in the first way way way way way way way back and it stops making noises at me when it’s inside me now it’s me making noises gut groans grains drains away into more me, more me, always more ME for MASS.
There is another noise that isn’t food I checked it’s something trap-dancing under broken rabble squeaking shimmying barking baying is it a thing? It’s not food it’s not food, it has none of the red inside, or the yellow, or the green or pink or blue.
It’s woman I think or maybe man. Notfood. Just what oncewas, for me, for me, for me. before all the food was everywhere, in the air, no care, ahahahahaha

I leap,
I crawl,
I soar

I brought bought the manwomanwomanwoman(man?)[wo] back with me so it could tell me stores of stories of times gone by bye. It is reading the names of my foods that are good they are long long ago nameses like xylosoandso and tetraflourhydra and carbonated and decarbonated and orgone and non-orgonic and they are wonderful, ful of wonder I wonder when the world gave such smalltime names to such things as me that have none when little foods are given so many it’s not fair, it’s far from fair from afar or close either WAY.
The man-wo tells me that I do not need the foods that the skybleeeeeeeding down on us is rain, rain, come again, now full of food we’ve filled the whole planet with food there’s no escapading it escaping from it all and now I can stand out under the red glaring SUN and SUN and drink my fooSUN through my skSUN SUN SUN.
The an-wom is full of lies they want my food good goof, they want to trick me and crack me they won’t.
They won’t they won’t they can’t they didn’t didn’t done done
They are not goodfood they had none in them nothing at all they were hungry for mine I KNEW it.

I, I, I, i

I tried to walk in the rain today
It was a nice place today
It tasted like good food today
Maybe the sun won’t be so bad today
My stomachs are growing outward today
It’s all jagged inside today

Tetra penta deoxy ribonucleic all-natural all-artificial fermented vat-grown free-range CHILD SAFE

I wonder how much bigger I will get before there is no more food.

Storytime: The Rocket Man.

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016

Do I remember?
Yes, I think I remember him. A long time ago, longer now than ever.
He wore a shiny spacesuit and a dusty leather jacket. His chin was square and his head was hard. His eyes were blue and his words were blunt. He was strictly no-nonsense and saw it everywhere. He came to us in a long, smooth steely shaft.
He called himself the rocket man, and that was all we knew.

The rocket man said he was here to bring us free-thinking, and the virtues of independent thought, as long as we were independent in his way and came to the same conclusions he did.
A couple of us weren’t sure of his arguments. He dismissed them as fascists.

The rocket man said he was here to bring us knowledge. Big machines and nano machines and a thousand ways of describing a parabolic arc that ended in a manly, thorough thud.
One or two of us queried him on the purposes of this, as the stars were very far away and our troubles were very near to heart. He dismissed them as simple-minded.

The rocket man said he was here to bring us enlightenment. He spoke long hours into our flickering wayfires about personal responsibility and self-government and the self-respect that came from the self-regard of self-ownership.
Several of us disagreed with this, preferring our current system, where any lonely may come to ask of a hubbery companionship. He dismissed them as communists.

The rocket man said he was here to bring us sexual revolution. He lectured us on the small-mindedness of taboos and the perils of falling prey to our superstitious and irrational culture, and the unmanliness of masturbation and thinking indecent thoughts about the same sex.
Some of us disputed this, saying that it was alright to not covet one’s own parents and that it was normal for some to brood with fellow-brooders. He dismissed them as unscientific.

The rocket man said he was here to bring us weapons. A million glorious kinds of kinetics, always kinetics, for the rocket man swore allegiance to two-fisted hard-headed sweat-of-the-brow rationality and the effeminate excess of light or plasma-based weaponry had earned his scorn many times over, or so he declared.
A number of us opined that hunting with the dazzle-caster and a sharp stick was still among our most successful methods of garnering small protein. He dismissed them as socialists.

The rocket man said he was here to bring us into the brotherhood of man, or the fatherhood, really – by the hand. The universe was vast and uncaring and it was dog-eat-dog out there, but we were very nearly hominid in shape, or at least nigh-tetrapods, and for this we were blessed with the most perfect of all shapes or close enough. Our opposable digits, our upright posture, and our two-footed gait had blessed us with perfection in form, and we had a galaxy of our (near) equals out there waiting to benevolently guide us in this glorious path.
Quite a lot of us staunchly spoke against this, pointing out our reliance on the potency and might of post-brooding brooders, and the usefulness and ferocious speed of the sixlimbed-life of the elderly. He dismissed them as populists.

The rocket man said he was here to bring us leadership. Our people were complacent, humble, and somewhat fair, and in our acephalous communities he saw future danger – if not conquest, then obsolescence. Stick with me, he said, thrusting out his chin, and I will raise you up, body and mind, and I will take you to the stars, the cold clean stars that are hard and bright and math and pure and no place for feeble women or watery-eyed weaklings.

Yes, I remember the rocket man. Your grandbrooder buried him two fields over, out back, under the big rock.

Storytime: Leaf it be.

Wednesday, March 16th, 2016

It’s a terrible thing to watch a body eat itself, particularly when the whole job’s in on it, not just the mouth. The liver overrunning the kidneys; the small intestine trading jobs with the large; the brain beating an angry poem into the lining of the skull as the blood vessels swell and sputter like indignant old men.
Regina was breathing her last. It was just that, thanks to the complicated series of tubes jammed through her larynx, her last had been in process for over six months already.
“Tell me,” she asked her relative (lord knows she couldn’t keep track of them all by now, four generations deep as they were), “what kind of day is it out there right now?”
Her relative looked out the window. “Sunny,” they said, after a while. “Very blue. A good day for throwing Frisbees, swimming in ponds, catching frogs, and admiring birds. The plants love it.”
Regina rested her gaze on the only plant representative available, a tiny long-ago-potted specimen that, regardless of former species allegiance, by now resembled some sort of diminutive dwarf strangling vine. “Selfish little bastards, hogging it all to themselves,” she muttered.
“Oh, nothing. But I tell you what, there’s nothing worse than to sit indoors on a day like this without so much as a fresh leaf to brighten the space.”
“We could take you outside.”
“Not since they installed that last tube. It goes, I go.”
“We could take it outside.”
“It’s connected to this machine which is connected to this pump which is connected to this valve which is connected to this generator which is connected to this wall.”
“Oh dear.”
“It happened last week, dear, don’t worry about it too much. I don’t think you were on shift then.”
Regina’s relative looked apologetic. “Still…”
“Oh, don’t be that way. Look, if you want to make it up for me, I’ve got one thing I want. One wish. I want you to get me a tree.”
Regina’s relative paced the doorway’s width three times, squinted and tilted their head, moved their lips a lot, and made a sort of aimless buzzing sound deep in their throat. “Well, maybe a sapling’d do it…”
“No deal,” said Regina firmly. “I want a tree, not a potted planter. Now hop to it and let me have some rest.”

So Regina’s relative hopped over to another of Regina’s relatives who phoned up another of Regina’s relatives who sent an email to yet another of Regina’s relatives who knew one of Regina’s relatives who knew a guy who wasn’t related to Regina at all but who seemed to recall seeing something like what they were talking about in the bottom of the back of an old, old, old, old mail-order catalogue from the early 1980s, buried under a heap of advertisements for long-dead home computer systems.
They sent the cheque in anyways, because inflation had rendered the sum nominal by now and they figured it was worth a shot. And indeed, two to three mailing weeks later, Regina’s relative opened their door to find a box the size of a car wedged onto their porch.
“Sign here please” said a very faraway and irritated voice.
A clipboard was launched over the box’s top, with pinpoint accuracy.
“On the dotted line, the dashed line, the solid line marked with an X, the solid line NOT marked with an X, the three perforated portions, and the supplementary signature section, boxes Q through Z-B.”
“Right. Isn’t this a bit much?”
“Oh god no. You have no idea how much paperwork it takes to get a tree built around here.”

The first step of the matter was to get the tree to Regina’s hospital. This presented difficulties until one of Regina’s relatives mentioned that they knew a guy who knew a guy who knew a girl who knew someone who had a trucker buddy who was awfully free with company property, at which point all transportational difficulties were solved with eighteen wheels and a few thousand horsepower.
The second step was to unload it, piece by piece. Each portion of the tree had to be lifted up three stories, and the hospital refused the use of their cargo elevator.
“The insurance doesn’t cover trees,” the director pointed out. “Even if you don’t so much as chip the paint – which I very much doubt you’ll manage, I mean, is that a conifer?”
“White pine,” said Regina’s relative.
“A nightmare of scraping,” the director murmured. “The needles alone could peel a wall to the bare bone, the sap, the sap, the awful, awful sap…” She shuddered and shook herself vigorously. “Anyways! Even if there’s no damage whatsoever from the rough rough bark ANYWAYS I’d be in trouble for permitting that sort of risk to take place on the premises.”
“What if we winch it up?”
“Oh that’d be fine, go nuts. I think one of the old dialysis machines we’ve got in the basement can be repurposed to do that, if you ask one of the technicians.”
It could and did, because nothing gets something done faster than a bored techie, and soon, ring by ring, a disassembled heap of tree was growing on the floor of Regina’s bedroom as she dozed the afternoon away.
“I can’t let you do this if there’s going to be any hammering,” the head nurse told them. “This is a palliative ward. People need their sleep.”
“Don’t worry,” reassured Regina’s relative. “The manual says this thing assembles without so much as a screwdriver. It’s all dowels.”
The head nurse opened his mouth and shut it again and repeated that a few times, then settled for a friendly pat on the shoulder. “I’m sure it’ll all be fine in the end,” he managed through a three-tooth smile. Then he departed, slumping.

The basic principles of tree assembly were simple.
Each ring was attached to the next largest ring with three dowels every four inches.
The outmost ring was attached to a slab of bark with four completely different dowels every five inches.
Pasted between each layer was 4 fluid oz. of sap mixed from four separate plastic pouches, none of which were labelled.
All needles were labelled A through Z and 1 through 1,000, in reverse alphabetical order, and each had its own corresponding dowel, all of which looked to be of equivalent size and none of which were.
The roots were in a separate bag hidden somewhere in the bottom of the box which had to be retrieved from the hospital’s recycling dumpster. Each root was composed of eighteen or more interlocking and wholly unique dowels, like a jigsaw puzzle.
You see? Simple.
“This is not at all simple,” said Regina’s relative, buried somewhere in needle clumps Q010, R592, and S008.
“Simple or not, it’s got to be done,” said another of Regina’s relatives, who was trying to sort the (unlabelled) dowel packages into the comfortable illusion of control provided by orderly rows and columns. “And I don’t want to hear one more thing about it.”
“Um…. One thing.”
Another of Regina’s relatives dropped the package she was holding, which bounced off six others and sent them spraying across the floor with a noise like a cat pissing on a tin roof. “Yes?” they said.
“What do we do about the ceiling?”

The next problem was the ceiling.
“We could cut a hole through it?”
“No,” said the director.
“We could separate it into portions, and just sort of stack them up floor by floor, each above the other but separated by the floorboards, if we just moved some of the beds around.”
“No,” said the head nurse.
“We could cut a SMALL hole through it…”
“No,” said the director.
“What if we planted it outside the window and just moved her over to look at it through that?”
“No,” said Regina’s relative.
“What if we used a drill instea-”
“NO,” said the director.
“What if,” said Regina’s relative, “we just assembled it sideways?”
They all looked at each other, carefully assessing reactions, cataloguing acceptance, measuring sanity.
“Fine,” said the director. “But run it through the south door. East is the children’s ward, and they’ll try and climb it.”

Regina’s eyes opened. It was a bigger accomplishment than it looked on paper.
“Surprised, grandma?” asked Regina’s relative.
She looked up. Not terribly far up; six inches past her nose it was nothing but needles.
“We had to stick the roots out the window,” said another of Regina’s relatives. “But it seems to be doing all right.”
Regina turned her head, with some difficulty. “Wow,” she said. “How big’s that thing?”
“One hundred and forty-two feet,” said another of Regina’s relatives promptly. “We ordered size L; XL said ‘limited stock’ and since the ad was thirty-four years old we figured that-”
“Wow,” repeated Regina. “That’s some tree all right. That’s really nice, you know that? Thanks.”
“You’re welcome,” said Regina’s relatives.
Her lips pursed. “Still… did it have to be a pine? I really WOULD have liked to see a fresh leaf in here; it’d really brighten the space.”

And Regina laughed, laughed, laughed, laughed at their expressions, a long, full cackle that sent four miles of plastic tubes buzzing with glee.
“Oh man,” she choked out, “you’re REALLY easy to get! Oh my! It’s lovely, thanks, I’ve never been happi” and then she died, but very cheerfully.

They brought the tree to the funeral.
It seemed right.

Storytime: Slightly Used.

Wednesday, March 9th, 2016

I walked out my door and into a man. Good thing I was planning on walking; if I’d had my car keys out, he’d have speared himself on them. Not that he was moving very quickly, or at all. He was just one of those people who seemed to be hurrying in place.
“Hey hi there nicetameetcha howzitgoing heyyoulivehere nicehousehowaboutthathuh heyyyyy…” he gargled out and then paused for breath.
“Uh-” I managed.
“SO! Want to buy a World War Two-era battleship?”
“I want to get some milk from down the street,” I said.
“Right, right, right. Good stuff milk full of calcaratilagenoucerouscarcharadoncherrycumulu-cumulo… Calcium! Right, calcium. Good for strong bones! But buddy c’mere and check this out what I’ve got is so good you won’t WANT bones you’ll have steel and iron old ironsides ahahahahahahhaha ANYWAYS it’s only five dollars.”
“Five what?”
“Five dollars.”
My head was hurting at this point. “Five…million?”
“Five thousand?”
“NO! Five. Five hundred pennies, a hundred nickles, fifty dimes, twenty quarters, FIVE DOLLARS. NOW YOURS! For four dollars.”
Now my eyes hurt too. Mostly from squinting. “What’s wrong with it?”
“Wrong? Wrong?! Nothing’s wrong with it! It’s a part of history, it’s a piece of the action, and it’s YOURS, YOURS, YOURS for three dollars fifty cents. Two dollars fifty cents.”
My ears hurt, the sun was starting to sting my shoulders, and the man’s shoulders were vibrating in a sickly way that offended me. So I shoved half my milk change in his fist, mumbled “thank you,” and left as quickly as I could.
I didn’t really need more than a litre that day anyways.

When I came back, I had a battleship moored in my driveway.
It was about two hundred and sixty metres long, according to careful use of about thirty measuring tapes. It probably displaced something like forty thousand tons. It was equipped with four 16-inch rotating turrets that could fire multi-thousand-pound shells. And it was the rustiest thing I’d ever seen in my life; caked red and brown and grey and mouldering faster than last fall’s leaves. It sighed when I walked by it and groaned when I walked on it. The smell was somewhere between an oil slick and a lake of blood, and everything I ate tasted like dead metal the moment it went in my mouth. My dog ran away from home, the neighbour’s dog ran away from home, the whole block’s dogs ran away from home. I expected complaints, but heard none, although that could’ve been because the battleship’s hull looming over my house was ruining my cell reception.
There was no name on its hull, only rust. So I called it Earl.

I was locking up Earl for the night that Thursday when I practically ran into another man, who looked absolutely nothing like the first one I’d practically run into. The pace was the same though. He was vibrating.
“Hey hi there nicetameetcha WANT A TANK?!” he gasped into my face. His jowls were really alarming things, somewhere between barbels and basset hound lips. They quivered at rest, and I was filled with fear that he would dart his head forward and swallow me whole.
“Yes sure whatever you say bye!” I said, and then I was off and away, scampering like a rat down the street and cutting corners until I felt myself comfortably out of sight, mind, and sanity. I had a brief lunch of junk food and waste liquid to fortify myself, then returned to find a genuine Mark I tank parked over half my lawn and most of my front stoop, not even remotely as fresh and shiny as it had been the day it had been abandoned in a flooded bomb crater in the Somme. Mud dripped from its gullet, bird-nests filled its interior, there was a raccoon inside the right six-pounder and a macerated stray cat in its treads.
I crawled over it to reach the door, went inside, and drank for four days.

The next day I woke up brushed my teeth walked outside checked my mail and found that my mailbox was full of aged, decrepit firearms and expired grenades. Also, my mailbox was now made of concrete, some twenty feet across, fitted with firing slits, and was a pillbox. A small note in a neurotic hand attached to its front with scotch tape charged me forty cents for the privilege, all for labour costs.
I left fifty and went to bed again in the hope that the world would make more sense the next time I woke up, or at least be less flecked with rotted steel and grime.

It didn’t. The first thing I saw was a set of yellowed, half-ground teeth. The second thing I saw was that their owner was sitting on my chest, whimpering and begging and pleading in an endless stream that was probably more at everyone than it was anyone.
“C’mon pal,” he muttered through a moustache that had slid into a goatee, “don’t leave me hanging. Just give me a chance. I’ve got a lot of stock to clear out and the boss’s coming back soon and I need to show him proof it’s not my fault, it’s not my fault. You get it, right, that it’s not my fault c’mon give me a hand don’t do this to me. It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s nobody’s fault. Just help me, give me a few minutes, I just gotta get rid of this stuff-”
I stuck my head under the pillow and hummed for three hours until I passed out from lack of oxygen. When I took it off again he was gone, but there was an entire set of extremely used gothic plate next to my bed, complete with the large, rust-eaten dirk that had been jammed through its eyeslits.

The next day I went outdoors, the sky had changed. Someone had parked an aircraft carrier of unknown make (it was covered in sixty years of corals and sponges) next to my house, then dumped aircraft on it until they ran out of deck and had to use my roof. A derelict Boeing B-52 Superfortress had slid off at a funny angle and squashed my backyard flat. Helicopters lay splayed across the street like flies in midwinter, rotors at random and mostly disconnected.
I went to work and hoped it’d all be over when I came home, spent my shift searching the internet for answers and not even finding questions, and when I drove back I found that my backdoor was blocked by a heap of long-expired “Fat Man” atomic bombs, my front door was somewhere inside a thicket of discarded and broken pikes, guisarmes, glaives, halberds, and fauchards, and my windows were blocked from the inside by a complex array of disassembled ballistas, catapults, and trebuchets.
I slept in the street. At some point I woke up to water dripping and someone had parked a small siege tower on top of me; rain was running down its guts and onto my nose. I crawled out from underneath it and hurried over to Earl, who was still the only one of my acquisitions to have a name.
Earl was many things inside, but, against all odds, one of those things was ‘dry.’ It would’ve sunk in seconds if there’d been a body of water large enough to hold it within twelve hundred miles, but the bridge’s roof was intact. Mostly. I poked at bits and pieces of who-knew-what and pulled dead levers. There was a moth-eaten hat under the desk, which I did not put on.
At some point it was dawn, but with the rain, who could tell? I sat in my ship and watched the water rise up, bubbling and babbling and eating up all the broken airplanes and burnt-out Humvees and shell-shredded Jeeps and who-knew-whats. There were skeletons down there – warhorses? Some of them could be elephants. They smiled at me from under the rippling downpour. It was strange to see biological decay, next to all that rust.
There was a gurgle. One of the phones on the bridge was trying to say something. I picked it up and shook it.
“Thanks you’re a pal you’re a pal and a half take it now the stuff’s still good as new, go on it’s yours, you’re like a part of the family you’re a good customer. Listen, I’ve got to go, right? I’ve got to go right now. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do be a sport see ya.”
Deeper under the deck, something else went click. The waters had risen and the engines were moaning their way to unlife. We were off the street and floating on our own wreckage.
I looked through the bridge window as Earl started to move, wondering where we were headed, but all I could see was haze.

Storytime: Night Night.

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2016

It was a hard, grinding, ruthlessly uncompassionate sort of Monday. Long, too – the kind where minutes take hours and hours take days and the afternoon becomes something unspeakable. By the time she got home, Joan wanted three things in basically this order:
-a drink
-another drink and some food
-bed and also one more drink
and after some amount of effort, she succeeded at all of them. Plus a few extra drinks.
She lay back in her bed and listened to the snow fuss itself into drifts outside her window, felt the gentle hum of Dan failing to snore at her elbow, sank just a little deeper into her bedding and let herself slip away into staring wide-eyed at the ceiling for four hours while every single muscle in her body wound itself tighter than a can of tuna.
It was not the best time she’d ever had.

The next day was twice as long as the first. She lurched from place to place, missed half her breakfast aimed at her mouth, and spoke half in English and half in her own private language and mostly in sentence fragments, some of which were inside her head and the rest which weren’t. She drove to work backwards both ways and sped through the stop signs; she turned on her computer with her face and typed with her wrists; she brought a jar of pickles for lunch and ate the butter in the fridge by mistake.
“I’m awfully sorry,” she told her co-workers and boss and everyone. “I seem to have lost four hours of sleep.”
Unfortunately, all that came out was “Mmsneeery. Isheedeehuurrr. Beep.” Which was not the most informative thing in the world and made everyone a bit jumpier than usual – if possible – and prone to hitting the coffee pot.
Joan stared at the ceiling again that night, her and every other person she’d come in contact with that day. And so it spread.

By Thursday it was obvious there was a real problem. Half the town was on edge and dozing on the move; sliding through traffic lights and mumbling to themselves. Workers did no work. Junkies missed veins. Firemen put out fires by slumping over on top of them, stifling the blaze with their numbed mass. It was not much fun for anybody, particularly Joan, who went to work at the wrong building that day four times running until she gave up and spent six hours changing oil and testing emissions instead of filing budgets.
“This would never have happened if I hadn’t lost four hours,” she told Dan that night. Or something like that.
“Mmm-hmm,” he yawned at her. “Good night, honey.”

Friday, the brink of the weekend, and a national emergency was declared. The entire province was paralyzed and it was in danger of seeping past its borders – the snowploughs wouldn’t run; the policemen wouldn’t patrol; the legislature wouldn’t convene; the cashiers wouldn’t ask you to tap, chip, or swipe. All anyone could do was wander around in a daze and accidentally do the wrong jobs until someone told them to stop, or at least mumbled “uitt ooin thaathing. Goowai.”
“We believe this event began with a single, small shortfall of restfulness,” announced the prime minister. “A handful of lost hours, at least. Either that or we’re all the targets of some kind of super-villainous plot, but let’s be realistic here.”
And then the prime minister blinked.
“Hey, where’s parliament?”
The woman behind the till dragged herself upright with force of will and fingers of iron. There was a customer to be served, even if they’d just spent the last twenty minutes giving some kind of bleary-eyed speech to the kid’s menu.
“C’n takyerordurrrr,” she managed.
The prime minister thought about this, gave up, ordered something, left without paying, and drove into a lamp-post. Like everyone else.
Joan tried stronger coffee. Then she tried eating coffee. Neither helped.

On Saturday morning, a man yawned in Cairo. By evening his exhaustion was in Paris, Melbourne, Nome, Cape Town, Beijing, and a million other places whose inhabitants were too tired to remember their names. Chaos reigned in the streets, in the cities, in the fields and in the forests. Spontaneous mass nappings broke out; governments were sleepily overthrown as they dozed in office; entire industries ground to a halt as the machinery of the globe was turned down so its operators could futilely attempt to get some shut-eye.
Joan stayed up until 5 AM watching reruns of a remake of a prequel series to a show she’d never liked. It did not help.

Sometime Sunday, the global sleep-shortage crossed the species barrier in several places. Nobody was awake enough to make specific notes about where or what or who, but by the evening everything from aardvarks to microbes and on to zebras was nodding off. Flowers waited in agony as bees aimlessly bumped against their stems; falcons zoned out while diving and pancaked into the dirt; giant pandas wandered off to look for coffee mid-mating attempt. In the worst of it, the gut flora of three point eight billion humans forgot the difference between the stomach and the small intestine, with extremely unpleasant results.
Joan counted sheep, cows, pigs, cats, dogs, and the strange flashing lights and humming noises she could smell whenever she shut her eyes. She kept losing track and starting over at eleventeen.

Monday came again, but there was nobody to remember its name. The sun rose on a sleepless, aimless, exhausted world with no memory, no energy, and no point.
Joan would’ve resented it, if she’d had the fortitude. Instead she had her breakfast of coffee and used tea bags, walked into the wall eight times, wandered down the street, and for the first time in seven days remembered she’d forgotten her keys on her bedside table and went back for them.
The bedroom was dark, quiet, and peaceful, with only Dan’s breathing to mar the thick warmth of the air. Joan groped her way to the right side of the bed after four tries, found her keys on the eleventh try, and had nearly found the door again when she realized something important and actually managed to not forget it.
She shook her husband awake.
“Dan,” said Joan, with great effort.
“Yeah, honey?”
“Hwwr you. Sleeping.”
He blinked in that self-satisfied sleepy way of someone who’s had a really long rest. “Well, I don’t quite know, sugar. I’ve been really lazy this week – called in sick for all of it, actually. Nobody’s called, so I’m sure it’s alright.”
Joan tried to line up her thoughts, failed, and commited herself to blurting the first question that popped into her mouth, which was “Wheeennyouget seepy?”
Dan’s brow half-furrowed, muscles too relaxed to manage more. “Hmmm. Well corn syrup, I think it was last Monday. I was a little tired in the afternoon, so I took a nap, and then-”
Dan was a fairly large man and Joan was a fairly small woman, so her hands didn’t quite fit around his neck, but she was powered by pure tension and muscles that hadn’t unclenched in a week and he was soft and limp. She hoisted him clear above her head before either of them knew it.
“Woah there aspartame,” said Dan, “let’s just calm –” but by then he was in mid-air and the window muffled his mouth something fierce as he ploughed through it.

The window was open and the cold wind poured in, tinkling the broken glass on the floor. The sun was bright and harsh and there was the smell of something burning down the block.
But the sleep that Joan seized on that half-made bed was the very best in all the world at that moment, and she was so grateful for it that she almost didn’t mind having to rebuild global society afterwards.
Besides, it only took a few months. She had loads of energy after all that.