Wednesday, August 19, 2009

To Sleep Perchance to Dream

The machine bleeps, a sharp note accompanied by a gentle vibration of my cot. A soft hiss echoes through my ears as the cover of lifts up, letting in a breeze of fresh, cool air. The chance is all I need. Eyes snapping awake my body practically leaps out of the cot, grasping the handlebars along the side of the sleep chamber. Cycle two, time for my regular exercise.

My apartment is bare, a small black room about five hundred feet underground, with air supplied through the public ventilation systems. Still, it beat heck out of the stale, recycled air inside the sleep chamber. No broadcaster, no net chip, nothing save for a small box and a few exercise tools. I couldn’t afford to have distractions, especially given my recent medical condition.

My body performs the routine with mechanical efficiency, twenty crunches followed by a series of simple aerobatics to get the blood flowing. It feels good to be able to move my body after hours of being cramped in the machine. That done I sit myself down at the corner of the room, where a dusty-old typewriter waits.

The keyboard punches out the text on an old plastic card, a relic of past times. Of course, if my superiors found out about this they’d confiscate the machine…I had only manage to acquire it under the pretense of doing “finger exercises”. Now where was I? There was this poem...

Fifteen minutes of exercises, followed by five minutes of quick scans and general questions to ensure my brain was still healthy. That done, I reach over to the tiny cabinet in the corner of my apartment, removing from within a small bottle and a tiny, tiny syringe.

When I first purchased the drug the doctor had warned me that the side effects could be dangerous for me in the long run. But I couldn’t help it. Too many things were at stake here.

See, I’m what they call a professional Sleeper. Twenty years ago me and a bunch of other guys currently holed up in this underground complex failed the General Productivity Test. From what I hear it was designed to evaluate an individual’s capacity for creativity, self-motivation and work-efficiency. Those who passed well, who knows what they do up there? Building new machines like the sleep chamber perhaps? Not my place to wonder. Still, whatever they do, it requires a lot of work. So much work that well, many of them don’t have time to sleep. And that’s where we, the bottom layer of the GPT come in.

I don’t know how the RES helmet works, or how they transmit the signals and such. Something about synchronized brain patterns and computers, tech-talk like that. Nine hours of me snoozing away in the chambers is automatically translated into nine hours of rest for them. Ding! Instant sleep.

The job isn’t without its perks of course. Regular pay, my own apartment, food and drink fed directly you’re your bloodstream…the only danger lies in a single word: Insomnia, the dreaded disease all members of my profession feared. If the higher-ups found out, if they knew I had trouble sleeping…

I press the syringe and wince as the ice-cold drug flows into my bloodstream. Already, my head feels heavy, my movements sluggish. I leave the plastic card on the floor, with all the other plastic cards I made over the years. The sleep chamber feels all comfy and cozy, warmed to my exact body temperature. Soft music plays as I drift closer and closer to oblivion, an old tune that I heard long, long ago…in another cot with all the other babies, under the same gentle light in the same hospital ward…

And though my eyes are closed my sleep is empty of dreams, while those above chase after theirs underneath the sunlit sky.

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