Most people are overjoyed to convey their deep affection for sleep. Most people, not me though. I hate sleep, and as long as I can remember it’s been that way, even since I was a child.
It’s not that I don’t enjoy rest and relaxation it’s just that I feel as though sleep is such a waste of time. Did you know the average person spends 1/3rd of their life between the sheets? Assuming you live to the average age of 70, that means that over 23 years of that is spent in dreamland. That’s a lot of wasted time when you think about it. Imagine how much we could accomplish and all the amazing things we could see if we didn’t need sleep.
The average amount of sleep an adult human gets per night is about 7 hours, with some minor variations between men and women. I myself rarely sleep more than 3 or 4 per night. I’ve always been the one to fall asleep last at parties and the first to awake the next morning. The way I see it, there is just so much to experience in this life. So many places to go and adventures to have. I want to do it all. I want to skydive in New Zealand, ride water buffaloes on the Serengeti, traverse the great wall of China on a Pogo stick, make snow angels in Antarctica. I want it all, every experience I can get. I mean sure, some of those goals may be only slightly exaggerated, but the sentiment of a burning desire for adventure is not. Life is a gift, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to waste even a single moment of it.
My hobbies and interests include basically everything under the sun, as you may have already surmised. Just pick a topic, I can guarantee I have an interest or opinion in it. Unfortunately, my motto of “sleep when I’m dead” very nearly became my own little self-fulfilling prophecy. I’m only human after all, but this didn’t stop me from staving off sleep as much as possible.
I guess it was only natural that my lifestyle choices eventually led me to begin using stimulant drugs to stay awake. It began innocently enough with caffeine, boatloads of it. Usually in the form of 6 or 7 Rockstar’s a day. However prolonged overuse eventually nullified it’s effects. Soon after I first got my hands on Adderall. Adderall ran it’s course, and eventually petered out, which in turn led to cocaine. Cocaine led to crack, and crack led to meth. I even experimented with bath salts and a few synthetic drugs before my friends and family started to notice. They tried to intervene but of course I offered up the typical addict excuse of denial saying that I didn’t have a problem, because in my mind I didn’t. I mean, it wasn’t like I was living on the streets and eating from trash cans. I had my own house, 2 cars and 3 jobs that I worked. I worked construction, land-scaping and a web based job called a Search Engine Analyst. I was also a bit of a handyman and would do odd jobs when I had the chance for extra cash. All these sources of income allowed me to pay for my assets and adventures, but more importantly my habit.
It took an overdose for me to finally realize what I had become. My girlfriend found me face down in a pile of my own puke after an 8-day sleepless binge. Apparently, I was rushed to the hospital where they were amazingly able to revive me. I woke up surrounded by my family and friends, not a dry eye among them. They pleaded with me to seek help, and I finally agreed with the tears beginning to flow. After a short stint in rehab I was back on my feet.
Once I left rehab, I realized I obviously wouldn’t be able to continue living the way that I previously had. One of the things they tend to emphasize in rehab programs was finding the root of your addiction causes. What it is that makes you want to do drugs and rely upon them? For me that question was easy; sleep, but solving it was an entirely different matter. I still had a strong desire to stay awake, but I refused to continue to jeopardize my health or be labeled as a drug addict anymore. Getting off the drugs was surprisingly easy, but staying off them and staying awake was a whole nother demon to conquer.
Getting used to working sober was hell. It wasn’t even the cravings that got me, it was just being exhausted all the time. It was like my body was punishing me for depriving it of full sleeps for so many years. By the time a sober month had passed, I had dropped 2 out of my 3 jobs. I just couldn’t do it anymore. I kept my job as a search engine analyst but now found that I was sleeping more than ever before.
My income of course took a brutal hit, and I soon was left with little choice but to sell my truck. My old lifestyle of working hard and playing harder had all but been decimated. No longer was I able to afford weekend getaways to Malibu, or spur of the moment ski trips to Breckenridge. This coupled with my lower income and perpetual lethargy only added more dark clouds to the negativity cyclone that brewed within my brain. I soon stopped leaving my house more and more. My once burning passion for the world around me had simmered down to a few smoldering coals. Eventually I only left my house to gather food and supplies. I focused almost exclusively on work, as it was the only thing that made sense to me anymore, and I now was struggling to keep up on the mortgage. I forgot the world around me, as I endlessly scrolled through the pages of web results.
It was around this time that an old friend of my mine reached out to me. His name was Nikolai Valarov. A brilliant guy who was an old high school friend. He and I were once very good friends, but had since sort of lost touch. It was weird when I think about it, Nikolai was a brainiac, always had been, while I was much more of a jock back then. The two of us had met in a cooking class randomly, and somehow just seemed to click.
Nikolai now held a Master’s degree in both conventional and psychiatric medicine. This guy knew human psychology like the back of his hand. I’ll admit that he was always kind’ve a strange dude, but I overlooked that because he was always an interesting conversationalist, and maybe now he could be of some help. He emailed me one night out of the blue, and we agreed to meet for coffee several days later.
I met Nikolai at a local coffee shop at the end of that week. It had been years since I had last seen him, but he still looked surprisingly similar. His square-cut glasses placed haphazardly on his 5 o’clock shadowed face. His balding head with a few tuffs of now prematurely whitening hair. Despite his attempts to clean up, he looked disheveled and messy like he had just been in a back-alley brawl. Just like the Nikolai I remember. It was clear he didn’t get out much, at least we had that in common.
I walked up and greeted him and extended my hand to shake. He took my hand with both of his and shook slowly, his eyes smiling eagerly with anticipation. We sat down and began to catch up. He asked me how I’d been and I responded honestly, saying things could be better but I was doing alright. I returned his question and he proceeded to shrug and tell me he was about the same. Then out of nowhere he delved into some random tangent about all that was wrong with healthcare in the country. Just like the Nikolai I remembered. I just smiled and nodded the whole way through his lecture interjecting with only single word responses every now and then.
After a while he inquired as to my recent departure from rehab. I was caught a bit off guard, not aware that news of my dismal harvest had been so widely strewn. I think he could tell I was uncomfortable, because he began to apologize profusely afterwards. He desperately explained that he had heard it through the grapevine. I told him it’s quite alright and proceeded to tell him that I had some problems in the past, but I had cleaned myself up and begun anew. He was hesitant, but eventually inquired as to how I was in my life now. Now seeing no reason to lie I told him the truth. I told him how lethargic and unmotivated I had been as of late, and how it seemed like all my passion for the world had just suddenly died.
Nikolai seemed genuinely concerned by the somber smile on his face. The dude could be a bit intrusive at times, but it was evident that he truly did care, even after all these years. He then asked me a question that threw me off a bit. He asked if I still subscribed to my philosophy of “sleep when I’m dead”. I chuckled a bit and told him that I was trying but it was definitely harder than it used to be. I could tell by the slightly creepy smile on his face that this was exactly what he was wanting to hear. He sat back in his chair and told me he might be able to help, if I was interested. I was skeptical, naturally, but of course curious and I inquired as to just how he would do that.
Nikolai then revealed a bit of his own personal family lore. He told me about how his father was once a scientist that worked on secret government projects for the USSR, or so he claimed. He stated that his father and his associates had attempted to make it possible for human beings to live without sleep. I scoffed at the idea, but Nikolai continued unabated. He claimed that when the USSR collapsed, his father took Nikolai, their family and all his research and fled to the United States. An action that led to the new Russian Federation branding him as a traitor.
His father continued his research in hiding, up to the point of his death. Nikolai followed in his footsteps and continued to work on the project and claimed that he had even perfected the technique. He continued that he had already run animal tests and even begun experimenting on himself. He told me that already he hadn’t slept in over a month. I wanted to doubt him but he honestly did look like he hadn’t slept in ages. His mouth had begun to speed a million miles a minute, even reaching the point in which it bordered on absolute gibberish. He began reciting codes and formulas under his breath, until the point which I finally cut him off.
“Niko, I think you need to get some sleep man.” I finally told him. He laughed upon hearing this before replying.
“Nonsense my friend! There is no need for that anymore.” Nikolai was obviously not thinking very clearly, but I ‘d be lying if I said the topic wasn’t of interest to me.
“So how do you do it?” I asked with a tinge of skepticism in my voice, but nonetheless willing to entertain his notions. The grin on his face widened upon hearing this. He enthusiastically explained to me that he had developed a way to allow the brain to rest while still being fully conscious. Apparently, he had already administered this procedure to himself and claimed he retained all motor skills and thought capacity. I was stunned upon hearing this but still not convinced. I mean, it’s not like something like that could really exist right? Going without sleep was impossible, although it is what I wanted all along.
I was still not convinced, after all this was an idea that no one in the mainstream science world would ever consider. But nevertheless, his idea had piqued my interest. He offered to do the procedure to me, but I respectfully declined. I trusted Nikolai as I had known him since grade school, yet I wasn’t about to let some mad scientist start poking around in my brain, at least not yet. We continued chatting about the implications of his discovery for a while and eventually parted ways. Before I left he gave me his business card and told me to call anytime. I thanked him for his help and headed out to my car to drive back home.
On my way back home, I continued to ponder everything Nikolai had told me. I was intrigued by his idea, but I knew there had to be a drawback. Humans, along with all living beings are programmed to require sleep. So, what would happen if that need was eliminated? Is it even possible? Sleep is every bit as vital to life as food or water. Sure, we may be able to go without it for a while but eventually it’ll catch up with us. Or maybe not. Perhaps there is a way to somehow evolve past that need.
When I got back home, I booted up my computer to log a few hours for my job. After a few hours of scanning through endless pages of web results, my mind began to wander. I started to think back to how much I loved life when I was on drugs. I didn’t necessarily miss the feeling of the drugs, only the energy they provided. Life was dull and listless without them, and I never had motivation for anything anymore. I reminisced about all the good times me and my friends used to have. When my best friend Ben and I spent 3 days trapped on a remote Oregon mountainside because his 4runner had gotten stuck. May not sound like fun to most people, but we had a blast hunting and living off the land for a bit. Or when me and my ex-girlfriend Desirae drove out to California and spent 2 straight weeks out there having a blast. Damn those were good times.
Remembering all these memories started to make the depression creep back in. I stared at the prescription anti-depressants on my desk in absolute apathy. I opened the cap and downed a double-dose of the Wellbutrin. This shit didn’t work, I knew that. Deep down I knew there was only one way I would ever be happy again. I had to figure out how to get back into my former way of life, without the drugs. Not even for my own sake, but more for those who loved me. They didn’t deserve to have to constantly worry. Again I thought of Nikolai, and his proposition, but I still wasn’t ready to fully trust him, let alone give him free reign over my cerebral cortex. So, I swallowed hard and just told myself that things would get better in time.
A few more weeks passed and I was at the end of my rope, almost literally. I had become reclusive and rarely if ever left my house anymore. I just didn’t see a reason for my existence. What good is life if you have no desire to live it? I wasn’t living, just existing. I was at a crossroads, and my only options that I could see were to find my passion, or end it all. Looking back on it now, I would’ve definitely chose the latter if given the choice again. I had exhausted all my options though and I was desperate. No doctor or psychiatrist that I saw was able to help anything. The anti-depressants didn’t do shit, and I could feel myself sliding closer to the abyss with each day that passed. I knew I had to go see Nikolai, find out what he was really up to. I knew he was my last hope. So, with much reluctance, I pulled out the card he had given me and dialed his number.
He answered in his same normal excited voice. Various clicks and audible whirring’s could be heard in the background during our conversation. He was ecstatic when I expressed my desire to come see him. He insisted that I come over immediately so that he could help, but in truth I think he was just eager for a new guinea pig. I told him I needed to finish some things up, but I’d be over in the morning. He agreed and relayed the address of his house for me.
The next morning, I hopped in my car and punched the address into my GPS. The address was about 2 hours north of me in a rural part of the state that I wasn’t exactly familiar with. I reached into my pocket and pulled out my phone.
“I guess I’m really gonna do this,” I remember thinking to myself. I texted Nikolai to let him know I was on my way. After that I put the car into drive and began the long drive.
2 hours later or so I pulled up to a rusty gate a couple miles off of the main road. The old iron gate sat in a state of disarray, and wide open to any who would enter. Heavily neglected vegetation sprouted up from either side of the road, threatening to consume the entire structure if given the chance. The area was wracked with old greying trees that swallowed up the majority of the old dirt driveway. I could just barely make out an old house about a quarter mile down the driveway past the gate. What better setting for a mad scientist?
I called Nikolai but he didn’t answer. I received a text a moment later that read, “come in, park wherever I’m in the main house.” This was starting to get a bit sketchy, but I had come too far to back out now. So I did as he instructed and drove down the driveway up to the old house. After parking my car by his garage I proceeded to get out and walk up to his old wooden front door.
I opened the front door and was greeted right away by a large chandelier hanging above me. It was ghetto rigged to shit, with various bulbs of different sizes and power cords running to it that dangled all over the place. A display which obviously emphasized practicality over fung sheui. Dozens of wires ran in a tangled mess to a slightly illuminated room down the hall in front of me. The air seemed heavier somehow then the air outside. It had a strong scent of mold and ammonia, and breathing it in irritated my lungs.
“Nikolai?” I called out into the forsaken house.
“Yes, yes I am back here.” A familiar voice responded from further down the hall. I began to walk down the hall doing my best to avoid the tangled spider web of electrical cords that engulfed the floor. Once I neared the room, an orchestra of beeps and buzzes began to grow in volume. I stepped through the doorway at the end of the hall and saw Nikolai with some strange device attached to his head. It looked like some brain control device straight out of a low-budget sci-fi flick.
“Ahh there you are, glad you could make it my friend.” Niko said, a wide grin planted on his face. I nodded and began to take in the sights of what was around me.
“So what’s all this stuff?” I asked glancing back and forth at the various monitors, screens and chalkboards which decorated the walls. Hundreds of formulas had been haphazardly scrawled upon them, some even directly on the wall itself.
“Well my friend this device is kind’ve like a helmet version of a CATSCAN. I use it to monitor the effects of sleep deprivation. It scans the brain to check for abnormalities. It can tap into the brains frequency in order to make sure the synapses are firing correctly.” He paused a moment and turned to look up at the large monitor behind him.
“So how are things looking?” I asked.
“So far everything seems normal, but….it seems my pineal gland is much more active than a normal waking persons would be. This type of glandular activity is normally only seen during REM sleep.”
“What does that mean?”
“Too early to tell, I’ll continue running tests to see if there’s any change.” He lifted his hands and removed the large contraption from his head and then turned back to me.
“So how long has it been?” I asked. He gave me a puzzled glance unsure of what I meant.
“Since you last slept.” I finished. He rolled back the sleeve on his lab coat to reveal a large device strapped to his arm. After clicking a few buttons on it he responded.
“So far, it’s been 56 days, 7 hours and…26 minutes.” He declared proudly.
“Damn, you call Guinness yet?” I asked sarcastically. He chuckled a bit before explaining that it was crucial that he keep a close eye on the exact amount of time that had passed. I could see why it was important as nothing like this had ever really been attempted before.
“What does it feel like?” I asked. Nikolai stood and glanced at a few of the monitors.
“I guess the best word would be…. normal. I feel no different than I did before I started.” He looked at me, an uncanny look of disturbance lingering deep within him.
“You feel tired? or any difference at all?” I asked.
“Of course, I feel considerably more alert and focused then when I used to sleep. It would seem that when the brain never shuts down, it never needs to reboot. A diesel engine that is kept running with fuel can last all winter, but a cold start is difficult.” I nodded, not entirely understanding the analogy in that context. He sat down in the old torn up leather chair by his computers. He folded his arms and stared intently at me.
“So, is this why you’ve come? You wish for the treatment yourself am I right?” I shrugged.
“I mean….it would be great, in a way it’s what I’ve always wanted, but there has to be a drawback. Humans just aren’t programmed to function without sleep.” Nikolai grinned wide and chuckled a bit.
“And yet here I am, you see my friend you are right. Sleep is an evolutionary adaptation to allow the brain the ability to recuperate. It stems from the need to rest a primitive brain, but we do not have primitive brains anymore. We have brains which build supercomputers, brains that allow us to explore other planets. We must evolve past the need to sleep.” I chuckled a bit.
“Well that can’t be too hard right? Undermining millions of years of evolution?” I asked. Nikolai did not seem impressed.
“Once upon a time our ancestors had need of tails to keep balance, but now… no tails. We have already evolved past the need for certain physical attributes. Vestigial hamstrings, the pancreas, male nipples. All now useless, because we have evolved past them.” Nikolai sat back, seeming to lose himself in thought.
“Still, tails and nipples are a little different than a biological need wouldn’t you say?” I furthered the issue.
“Oh of course my friend, very different indeed. That is why we must rely on compounds that the body does not normally produce.” I shot him an unsettling glance.
“What kind of compounds?”
“Well the actual name for it is 26 syllables, very hard to pronounce. I call it Insomniac, for short. You see many years ago when Russia went by her former title, my father performed similar experiments with this same compound. He used an aerosol version of it, very unstable in that state, and it had some…unintended side effects. By isolating the isotopes and converting it into a solid, it makes the substance more easily directed. I’ve been working with this compound for many years now, and it would seem I have perfected it. Instead of it now being a gas, I converted it into a pill. “
“So, it’s a drug? A very powerful one I’m guessing.” I said. Nikolai leaned back in his seat.
“In a sense, though it does not work like any other conventional drug I have heard of. It does not induce euphoria or stimulation, it levels out the brains composition. It is less of a drug, and more of a missing piece.” He leaned back and pushed a button on his computer. A large diagram with flashing blue and purple lights appeared on the monitor. Then he continued while explaining the diagram.
“Once the compound has entered a host, it will continue to replicate itself. Eventually the compound grows strong enough to control distribution of serotonin, melatonin and dopamine. It regulates these chemicals in order to trick the brain into believing it is resting. This causes no side effects as the brain does rest, just not from sleep. It allows the brain to recharge while maintaining full consciousness by slowing cognitive abilities. However, the ratio of mental capability impaired when compared to the amount of time utilized is approximately three hundred and fourteen hundred trillionths to one. That’s 314, with 11 zeroes proceeding the decimal point. An amount so infinitesimally small that we are not even able to notice it. For about 3 hours every day, the amount is increased slightly to give the brain a boosted rest. I call this state “down time”. Usually it occurs between 1 and 5 am every day. During this time the heart rate slows and blood pressure drops slightly, though consciousness is not lost. This process allows the brain to achieve the necessary rest it requires.” I nodded pretending to understand all of his technical jargon. It took a moment for what he was saying to register, but when it did I stared back, mouth agape.
“This is impossible.” I declared. Nikolai laughed and shook his head.
“And yet here I am friend, on the eve of day 57.”
“Where does it come from?” I asked, unable to think of a better question.
“Tardigrades.” He responded immediately. I gave him an unsure look, and he took the hint.
“They are a microbial species of animal with a most fascinating ability. They can curl up, and sleep for decades. Some have been monitored to last over a century, with many scientists believing they could go on for millennia if not indefinitely. By reverse engineering this ability, it is possible to achieve the opposite effect. Sleeplessness indefinitely, provided as always by the grace of mother nature.”
“Does anyone know about this? Have you published anything?” Nikolai shook his head.
“Not yet, we are still on the trials.” He reached down below the table to his right and pulled out a small cage. Carefully he lifted it, to the squeaking and unsure noises of the animal inside. It was a small white rat, curiously going about its business.
“This is Horace. He has been awake for almost six months now.” Nikolai smiled, and whispered loving sentiments towards his little furry friend. He tickled the little guy with his index finger, and his attention waned from me for a moment.
“You’re playing god.” I stated flatly, a look of stoicism on my face. Nikolai paused, and looked away from his pet and back to me. He set the cage down on the table and folded his hands in front of him.
“Everyone who works with medicine or human psychiatry plays god. God is the natural order of things. God would dictate that a child who gets cancer is doomed to die. Would it be right for us to not pursue a cure for that?” I shook my head.
“That’s not the same.” I argued.
“No, not quite, but if we are not here to learn, then what are we here for?” The question struck a chord with me. It is something I’ve often pondered, but lack the ability to coherently discuss.
“What if something goes wrong? Is there a way to stop it?” I asked.
“But of course, I synthesized an antidote, just in case. It is capable of completely reversing the process, leaving no trace of it and no harm to the host. I have already tested it and it works flawlessly, though… I do not believe I will need to use it.” Nikolai reached into the desk drawer and pulled out a small vial filled with a dubious blue liquid. He handed it to me and I studied it in my hands. That was all the convincing my dumbass needed. I had already made up my mind, and the antidote was even more of a reassurance. I had to have my old self back, life just wasn’t worth living without it. I carefully clenched my fist around the little blue vial and looked back up at Nikolai who still sat expectedly with hands folded.
“So how do we get started?”
Nikolai smiled in eager anticipation and sprang up out of his seat with surprising agility for an aging sleepless scientist. He moved past me to a table that was sitting behind us and grabbed a small box. Once these were in his hands he walked back over to me. He opened up the small metal box revealing several almost translucent pills. They were smaller than I expected, only about the size of a grain of rice.
“So here’s what you do my friend. There are 7 pills in this case. You must take one each day for 5 days. During this time, you will sleep and behave normally, although you may find the former more difficult with each day. On the 6th day, take the last 2 remaining pills at the same time. After this, you will never again need sleep.” He grinned wider than ever before. I couldn’t help but grin along with him. I was ecstatic about this and felt like all my problems had just been solved. I reached out my hand to give him the antidote but he refused.
“Keep it my friend, if anything should go wrong or you decide you do not like it then just drink the antidote and you will be completely returned to normal.” I thanked Nikolai profusely for all he had done for me and I offered to pay him but he refused. He said he was glad to be able to help out an old friend. We continued chatting for a while about the implications, and surefire Nobel peace prize he was going to someday win. We ended up talking well into the evening and before I knew it, it was 7. I again thanked Nikolai for everything and he told me that if I had any problems to call him. After that we bid each other farewell and I hit the road.
On the way back home, I took my first of the seven pills. I guess I expected to feel high or something despite Nikolai’s explanation, but I felt no different. I shrugged it off and continued my drive back home. I did have some strange dreams that night though. However, I chalked it up to my nerves getting the best of me. In hindsight, I should’ve listened to my instincts and just stopped right then and there. However, I was determined to see this through, as it was the only way I could envision myself ever being happy again. Depression can be a powerful motivator, it’ll make you do things you never thought you could. Story of my life I guess.
The next 4 days passed and everything was pretty much normal, just like Nikolai said. I took a pill a day and just continued working while feeling little difference aside from the fact that my dreams had started to become increasingly vivid. I also slept less each day, racking up 6 hours on the 1st and 2nd, 4 on the 3rd, and 3 on the 4th and 5th. On the 6th day I took the last 2 pills. Once the last 2 had been dissolving in my stomach for about an hour I started to feel something. Happiness. Oh God, how I missed that feeling. Memories came rushing back like water from a burst dam. I felt hope, for the first time in a long time. It could’ve just been a placebo effect but regardless I felt completely revitalized. I didn’t sleep that night, or the next night, or the night after that.
Before I knew it 2 weeks had gone by with no sleep. I felt amazing, better than I ever did while on drugs or at any point in my life. I began reconnecting with old friends and we had some crazy adventures together just like the old days. I was back. The next few weeks were some of the best times I’ve had in my whole life. The treatment Nikolai provided had worked better then I could’ve ever imagined. I no longer slept, and never felt tired or drowsy at all. Allow me to clarify though, I wasn’t high, wasn’t wired, just focused and happy. The down time did take a little bit of getting used to but before long it would come and go each night without me really noticing it at all. It all seemed too good to be true, that alone should’ve made me realize that it probably was. I never even thought about sleep anymore, to me it just simply no longer existed.
Approximately 2 months after my transformation was when I noticed the first strange event. It started off so innocently too. The first occurrence happened at around 2pm on a Saturday. I was posted up on my computer like usual doing some work and browsing the net. I glanced up from the monitor at one point and something in my backyard caught my eye. There standing in my backyard was…. a horse, and a beautiful one at that. I rubbed my eyes, unable to trust what I was seeing. I’m no horse expert but, she was gorgeous. Her pearly white skin seemed to glisten in the afternoon sun like the sparkling of a precious diamond. Her golden blonde mane fluttered gently in the breeze. I was awestruck at the sight. Not only because of her staggering beauty but also due to the question of how the hell a horse got into my backyard in the first place. I had a 5-foot-high fence all the way around the perimeter of the yard with no gate. As I pondered this and cautiously approached the door, she slowly lifted her head until her almond eyes met mine. She seemed to stare right through me, as if she were trying to convey something.
I felt a deep compulsion to get closer, and so I did. I got up and made my way over to my sliding glass door. Carefully I slid it open, not wanting to startle her. She didn’t even react, just kept peacefully nibbling on the grass in my yard. Gingerly I approached her. The strongest sense of déjà vu set in in that moment. I felt the most bizarre sensation that I had seen her before, but I couldn’t figure out from where. I got within a few feet of her, and my heart almost stopped when a loud calamity echoed behind me. I quickly whipped around to look at my house. Nothing looked any different, at least on the outside. I turned back towards the horse but to my shock she was gone, just completely vanished. This thoroughly unnerved me, and I began to question myself. I decided to go back into my house to look for the cause of the noise.
It didn’t take me long to realize my large bookcase in the living room had fallen over. This irritated me slightly, but also unnerved me at the possibility that someone could be in my house. I quickly went back to my desk and grabbed my .357 revolver, making sure each chamber was loaded. I began quietly creeping around my house. I checked every room, first the main floor, then upstairs and finally the basement. No sign that anyone had ever been there. This confused me even further but I ended up shrugging it off, just chalking it up to faulty stands on the bookcase. I pushed the old oak bookcase back up to its standing position and replaced the various books that had fallen from the shelf.
After all this I returned to my computer still somewhat at a loss to explain what had happened. I felt the cloudy aura of a migraine coming on so I reached into my desk drawer and pulled out some sour diesel. Weed always helped me calm down as well as did wonders for my migraines. After smoking myself a joint I lay down on my couch to relax a bit. After a couple hours of relaxation and mindless television, I was feeling much better.
Things were by and large normal for the next couple days. A few days later though, I found myself running short on food and basic sanitary supplies, and decided that a trip to the supermarket was in order.
After arriving at the local Walmart, I grabbed a basket and began scanning the various aisles for the supplies I sought. After collecting a few choice items I made my way over to the vegetable department. I reached the end of my aisle and turned towards the veggie section, but was stopped dead in my tracks. There standing about 20 feet in front of me was…my grandmother. I rubbed my eyes in disbelief in an attempt to clear my vision. Yet, still she stood there just staring at the back of a can of peas. But, this was clearly impossible, as she had passed away years ago. I cautiously approached her but she didn’t react, her wizened eyes focused on the can in her hands. I took a moment to observe her from a distance, knowing that the likely case of mistaken identity would cause quite the embarrassment for myself. It couldn’t have been her, and yet I was sure it was. She was exactly how I had last remembered her. A sweet wrinkled face with small round cut glasses, and an expression of concern but also warmth. Her greyed curly short hair, with a small bonnet on top. Even everything down to her attire: white Roots sweatpants with a light teal sweater and brown boots seemed like a uniform I had seen her wear before.
“Gra…Grandma?” I nervously asked once I was beside her. She slowly looked away from the can until her curious eyes met mine. She smiled sweetly and spoke in her loving and familiar voice.
“Let’s get you inside and warmed up.” She said in her tender caring voice. This confused the shit out of me.
“Grandma, it’s me… Michael. Do you remember me?” She didn’t respond, just continued to stare at me with that sweet expression on her face. After a few moments, she placed the can of peas into her cart and began to walk away. I was stunned and just stood there in disbelief as she continued down the aisle. I felt tears welling up in my eyes as I remembered all the wonderful memories I had with my loving grandmother. She continued slowly around the corner until she was out of sight. I followed as soon as she rounded the aisle but sure enough once I turned around the corner, she was gone. Completely vanished. I looked around but as somewhat expected saw no trace of her. I quickly finished up my shopping, feeling both paranoid and upset at this point.
On my drive home I continued to ponder what the hell was going on with me. It had now been over 2 months since I had last slept, and I thought perhaps something was very wrong. Maybe one of those unintended side effects which Nikolai had assured me would not happen. My grandmother’s words kept swirling around my head like a monsoon.
“Let’s get you inside and warmed up.” What the hell was that supposed to mean? The words seemed so familiar to me but I just couldn’t put my thumb on it. Then it dawned on me. I remembered Nikolai saying something about an overactive pineal gland when I had first arrived at his house. I know the pineal gland is linked to dreams, so could I have been somehow dreaming in real life? Is such a thing even possible? I suppose it could be something like schizophrenia or the onset of psychosis as well, but obviously neither of those options would bode well for me.
As if struck by another epiphany I suddenly remembered why those words seemed so familiar. It was around Christmas day, some 10 years ago. I was playing outside in the snow at my grandma’s house. I recalled heading inside her house after her beckoning call bid me to join them for dinner. That’s where I had heard her say those words, that’s why they seemed so familiar.
The more I thought about it, the more I began to remember the horse as well. That white horse from earlier was the horse that my childhood friend used to adore. Her name was Kayleigh, and she loved that horse who was named Angel. She spent hours bonding with Angel and training for pageants and competitions. Sadly, Kayleigh was in a tragic accident with the horse that resulted in both of them passing away. I realized that I couldn’t have been dreaming, because I was fully awake. I saw them clear as day, so could it have instead been a flashback of old memories? The more I pondered the more nervous I became, especially because all my flashbacks had been of the deceased. I did not know what that meant at the time, but I knew it couldn’t be good.
I arrived back home and shut off my car. I sat in my car for a few minutes pondering everything I had just experienced. The recent events were really starting to freak me out. I decided a call to Nikolai was long since overdo. I picked up my phone and dialed Nikolai’s number. After a few rings, Nikolai answered in a monotone voice.
“Nik, It’s Michael man, something weird has been happening, I’ve been seeing shit man I’m starting to kind’ve freak out.” He didn’t respond for a few moments but then let out an unnerving chuckle.
“Yeah… I’ve had some uh…strange happenings myself. Come by in the morning we will figure this out.” After saying this he immediately hung up. I was relieved to talk to him, but something didn’t seem right in his voice. I don’t know how to explain it, but his voice just seemed…wrong. That bizarre chuckle especially threw me off. Maybe Nikolai was even worse off than I was. He had after all been on the shit a lot longer than I had. I decided to go inside and watch some TV to try and distract myself from reality. I tried to relax, not knowing that things were about to get much worse.
After a few hours of mindless television, I checked my phone. 2:49am. I put my phone down and got up to make myself some food. I was in the middle of walking back from the kitchen, cup-n-noodles in hand when I heard a loud crash. The noise scared the hell out of me, and involuntary reaction caused a spasm to squeeze the cup. Scalding water overflowed the cup and burned my hand.
“Owww!! Fuck!!!” I yelled as I dropped the cup to the ground. It had sounded like the loud calamity came from upstairs. I quickly scurried back to my desk to grab my trusty .357. I crept back over to the stairs and stared upwards to the darkness above me. A dread stronger than anything I had ever felt before dragged my heard to the depths of my stomach. Upstairs might as well had been another planet at that point in time.
“Anyone there?” I called uselessly, with a quivering voice. Of course no response came. Slowly I stepped up the stairs, feeling my heart thundering in my chest.
The house had fallen deathly silent, and every step I took on the carpeted stairs seemed to crunch loudly as if I were stepping through leaves. I prepared for the worst, at least to the best of my ability. Everything in my mind seemed to scream at me to flee from the house as fast as possible. Fear Is a powerful motivator, but so is curiosity. In the end I suppose it was a bit of both that drove me up those stairs and towards whatever lay in the darkness.
As I reached the top of the darkened stairs my heart sunk like the titanic. I have a long straight hallway at the top of my stairs which splinters into several rooms on either side. Keep in mind that it was almost 3am at this point and almost pitch-black upstairs. There standing at the end of the hallway was a slender and mostly naked elongated figure. The only light came from the moon outside shining through the window at the end of the hallway, adding to the horrendous sight in which I bore witness.
The figure stood facing the window, having not noticed me yet or not cared. My first thought was that it was some tweaker that was way too high. He stood there twitching and fidgeting while quietly mumbling incoherently to himself. He wore a shirt that was tattered and torn to the point where it could barely be called a shirt anymore. His pants weren’t much better. Upon his pale sickly head was a few remaining clumps of hair. That’s all I could really make out in the darkness, but I could hear him breathing and wheezing heavily. Each breath he took seemed forced through rusted lungs. The twitching of his emaciated hideous form was reminiscent of writhing maggots in a festering wound.
I weighed my options for a moment, adrenaline soaring through my veins. My initial instinct was to shoot first ask questions never, then keep shooting until the wretched thing was beyond dead. But what if he was just some confused old man or someone that needed help? Even a tweaker deserves some empathy sometimes. I soon banished the thoughts however as I realized that anyone who broke into my upstairs at this hour couldn’t possibly have good intentions. No, this… person…thing meant me harm, and I could sense it.
Quickly I stepped to the bathroom on the left and flicked on the hallway lights. I pulled back the hammer on my revolver and shouted.
“Don’t you fucking move!!” I screamed at the mysterious intruder who looked even more grotesque in the artificial glow of the faux LED light. His wheezing suddenly stopped and his fidgeting ceased. He froze like a sculpture, and time seemed to come to a standstill. Suddenly it became so quiet, I could hear the blood pumping through my veins.
“Who are you?! Why are you in my house?!” I bellowed trying to sound intimidating. No response.
“Turn around… slowly.” I commanded. As soon as the words left my mouth I felt a deep sense of dread wash over me like a foreboding wave. It was as if these were the words it was waiting to hear, as it slowly complied and turned its flaccid rag doll body towards me. The way it moved was less like a human and more like a marionette driven by rubber bands. The sight of the fiend now head-on made me feel ill. It was dangerously skinny, to the point that it’s ribs had begun to poke through its sickly white skin. It’s back was hunched and contorted unnaturally, and it’s frame elongated like someone tortured on a medieval rack. Sores and cuts covered its body and face like a coat of scabs, but that wasn’t even the worst part. Upon its chest were the shredded remains of a shirt for the band Def Leppard. I recognized it immediately, because I had the exact same shirt.
“Who the fuck are you?! Answer me!!” I shouted with all my ferocity.
No response for a moment but then it’s gruesome face cracked and slithered into a vile grin.
“Hahahahahahahaha,” it laughed slowly and menacingly, a raspy sickening chuckle like someone who smoked forty packs of cigarettes a day for their entire life and somehow didn’t die. It’s raspy voice just barely seemed to escape its desecrated lips.
“You know…. who I am…. you just can’t accept it.” It then slowly lifted its half-rotted head until it met my gaze head on. I wasn’t prepared for what I saw, and I felt the bile rise in my stomach though I forced it back down. The thing’s face looked heavily abused and rotted. Parts of its lips and cheeks were gone revealing rotted jagged teeth. Its left eye looked as though it had been ripped out from it’s socket by a pair of vice grips. Its right eye was bloodshot with a purely white iris and stared unblinking at me. The sight of it’s face confirmed my worst fear. For even though it was horrendously misshapen in a way unimaginably terrible to me before, I could still recognize the face as my own.
“I am you……”, the words shook me to my core. My knees became jello beneath me and I fell to the ground unable to avert my gaze from the horrible abomination.
“You…you’re not real.” I barely managed to spew the words out of my mouth.
“Not yet…. but you are…. which means I will be soon.” It replied in its sinister raspy voice. It’s grin widened to impossible proportions for any regular human being. It then began another barrage of menacing garbled laughter.
“Fuck you.” I said while rising back to my feet. I raised my revolver again and the creature broke out into a mad dash towards me at an impossible speed. It had surprising agility and moved way to fast to be natural. I managed to fire 2 shots. Both struck the hideous thing, blowing off large chunks of flesh from it in the process. It gave no reaction of any sort, instead seeming to gain momentum. The creature slammed hard into me which sent us both tumbling backwards down the stairs and onto the hard tile below. My head smacked the hard tile at the bottom of the stairs. I don’t know if the fall knocked me out or just fuzzed my memory a bit, but all I know is the next thing I remember was me standing alone at the base of the stairs. The tile was cracked and the stairs were damaged pretty bad. There was blood all over my clothes but other than the pounding headache I had, I was alright.
That twisted fiend was nowhere in sight however. Nervously I glanced all around the house but there was no sign of that thing anywhere. I picked my gun back up and decided to make a mad dash for my bedroom. I reached the bedroom door and flung it open, slamming the door behind me and quickly barricading it with my bedroom dresser. I was in full panic mode by this point. I grabbed my Mossberg 12 gauge from under my bed and loaded up several slugs. I sat clenching it tightly against the wall opposing the door. My heart was beating so hard in my chest that it felt as though a chestburster was about to pop out of it. Suddenly a fool’s memory arose in my mind: the antidote. I began manically opening the drawers on my chest in an attempt to find it. Eventually I found what I was looking for, that little blue vial. I pulled it out the drawer and studied it for a moment. I decided I had to take it to escape this nightmare reality. Having no idea what was in it or what it would do to me I popped the cork out and downed the blue liquid. It tasted horrible, like an ammonia milkshake with cocaine flavoring. In had the consistency of oil and an odd metallic aftertaste which made me nearly hack up a lung.
I cringed as I fell back against the wall opposing the bedroom door. By this point I had calmed down a bit and began to ponder my mental state. What the hell did that Russian prick do to me? I knew I was a fool to trust him, but should’ve gone and listened to my gut. It wasn’t right for people to go without sleep, a fact that I was no longer able to escape or deny. So, for the first time in months I laid my head back, closed my eyes and attempted to sleep. I decided that if I died, or that thing came back and decided to make a meal out of me, it would be better than what I was going through. I had entered the down time of the cycle which I mentioned before, but to my horror I was completely unable to sleep. I just sat there, eyes shut for hours but unable to achieve sleep.
Hours went by, until a creeping light startled me out of my trance. It was dawn. I sprang up and jolted to my window to look through. Still no sign of that hideous thing, and since our initial clash I had not seen a single sign of it. I couldn’t even fully convince myself whether or not I had seen what I thought I did.
In a state of frenzy and desperate for answers, I decided to seize my chance and make a charge for my car. I had to get to Nikolai, he would know what to do. So, shotgun and revolver in hand I opened my bedroom door and made a swift B-line for my front door. I got there and paused to look around and see…nothing. Aside from the stairs and tile being a bit fucked up everything was normal. I was determined to get answers so I opened the front door and got into my car.
Looking back on all of this now, I’m amazed that no cops were called. It honestly never even crossed my mind to call them, but I was sure the gunshots would’ve woken the neighbors. If you’ve ever heard a 357 magnum go off in real life, then you’d know that they are not exactly discreet. Not to mention the calamity we must’ve made while tumbling down the stairs. Guess I have some pretty deep sleeping neighbors. Regardless I took the back roads to Nikolai’s house and drove like a bat out of a delirium induced psychological hell.
I was able to reach his house in just over an hour and a half. I pulled up to the rusted old gate and got out of my car to open it, surprised that it was actually able to shut in its decrepit state. After opening it I pulled out my phone and dialed Nikolai. Strait to voicemail. Figures. I got back into my car and began driving down his driveway. I decided to leave the gate open in case the need arose for me to make a mad dash away from the property.
Nikolai’s house loomed in the distance as I continued to drive down the bumpy neglected driveway. The first thing I noticed when I reached his house was his old van. It looked like it had been vandalized and abandoned to the elements for months. I pulled up behind it and noticed the slashed tires, busted out back window and worst of all bloody handprints on the back. Obviously, it was not a good sign. I grabbed my shotgun and pistol and stepped out of my car.
Nikolai’s house looked even more ruined from here. There were immediate signs of struggle apparent all over the yard. Trash was scattered everywhere and several windows on the house were broken. I slowly approached the front door and grabbed the handle.
“Click”, I opened the door as quietly as possible, and slowly pushed it back to reveal the innards within. The horrid smell of mold and rot instantly accosted my nostrils. I pushed the door fully open and revealed a squalid mess of glass and wood. The chandelier lay mangled on the ground looking as though it had been ripped out violently from the ceiling. It looked as though there had been quite the struggle. There were slash marks on the ground and walls which I can only describe as claw marks. A sight which tingled my spine with a deep sense of dread.
“Nikolai!” I called out into the dark dank house. No response came, so I stepped deeper into the house and into the hallway. I turned on my flashlight and shined it down the hall. In the back of my mind I felt a truly terrifying thought wrap it’s sticky fingers around my brain. If the thing I saw last night was truly a future representation of me, then what would have become of Nikolai? He had started his treatment months before I did after all. I felt my hands tremble as I imagined the horrible possibilities.
As I reached the end of the hallway I peered out into his lab room. The room was trashed just as bad as the rest of the house. Pieces of electrical cords laid ripped and scattered about the mangled floor. The large monitor on the wall was cracked and laid slanted to one side just barely hanging onto the wall by a thread. I looked to my left and saw words and phrases scribbled all over the walls and ceiling with a dark nefarious liquid. A lot of it didn’t make much sense, just random equations and words scrawled in Russian. However, there was but a single phrase which jumped right out at me.
“I can’t sleep.” The phrase may seem innocuous if not outright hilarious in any other context, but in that place and time, I shivered in my boots. This was my fate, and I had to escape it.
As I stared at the testament of a damaged madman I was suddenly startled by a scraping noise to the right of me. I turned my attention to the source of the noise and shown my flashlight and shotgun on the door to the left of the monitors. The door was surprisingly in almost perfect shape. I slowly crept over to the door and listened intently to what was behind it. From behind the door there was a slight scratching sound, like someone dragging nails on a hardwood floor. Someone was mumbling and giggling in a hushed tone on the other side. Against my better judgment, but led by desperation I lightly knocked on the door.
“Nikolai…?” The mumbling stopped instantly. There was a long pause and then suddenly a raspy voice spoke.
“Leeeeave…….” came the gurgling voice from behind the door.
“What the hell does that mean?! You told me to come over today. What the fuck is going on man?! I’ve been seeing some crazy shit, I’m freaking out!!” The words exploded out of me in a mix of terror and frustration, I wasn’t about to back out now, no matter how bleak the situation appeared. There was no response for several seconds, but then.
“Sleep… goood…” The raspy voice responded.
“What are you talking about man? Open the door!” I demanded.
“Hahahahaha….” it laughed that oh too familiar sinister laugh.
“It keeps them away… hahahaha.” It continued with muffled giggles and raking chuckles in between.
“Keeps what away?” I asked.
“Us… the true us. The dark primal desires within each of us…sleep keeps them at bay.” Its words sunk my stomach like a lead weight. I reached for the door handle and tried opening it but it was locked.
“Nik open the fucking door man we can figure this out. I can’t sleep anymore I need your help.” I said while growing all the more desperate. I kept jiggling the handle vigorously but to no avail.
“It is…too late….”
“What about the antidote?! you said you could reverse this!” I screamed back, desperately fumbling with the handle.
“Hahahahahaha”, the booming laugh echoed louder than ever before.
“Antidote…? There is no cure for us.” The voice seemed to shift to a lower octave in the middle of the sentence. Before I could respond the wall exploded with violent force and a large humanoid thing burst from the inside. The debris from the blast struck me hard and I recoiled back in pain. I glanced back towards the creature and gasped in horror. The monstrosity stood in the middle of the room staring at me with malicious intent. It’s skin and face looked similar to my own doppelganger from the previous night, only this was much worse. Its limbs had been stretched and elongated to unnatural proportions. It’s scrawny frame was hunched in its back, while long claws protruded from its hands and feet. It wore a torn scrap of what used to be a lab coat, undoubtedly Nikolai’s. A grin of sheer maddening glee branded on his face. It’s mouth curled and snapped into a speaking tone.
“Soon you will join us…..” it said in eager anticipation. Its gaping mouth opened wider than what I thought was possible and let out a horrendous breath. It smelled so foul that my eyes began to water furiously. I gathered myself up and cocked my shotgun then pointed it directly at the abhorrent creature’s head.
“I’ll never be one of you.” I declared as confidently as I could. I pulled the trigger and a deafening boom rang out in the old house. The creature ducked right with ungodly speed just in time to have the metal slug tear threw the top of it’s left shoulder. It charged me with blinding speed as I cocked back and let another shot explode out of the barrel. The slug flew through the beasts left side taking a large chunk of flesh and bone with it. It didn’t even flinch, and before I could fire again it was on me. It reached out its distorted clawed arm and struck me hard in the chest. The powerful blow knocked me flying across the room and I slammed hard into the graffiti covered wall. As I felt my consciousness fading, the creature approached me and knelt down. I looked up at its sinister white eyes just in time for it to utter a single bone-chilling word.
“Soon……” and with that everything went black.
I awoke awhile later to complete darkness. I pulled out my phone and the time read 9:47pm. I was soaked in what I assumed to be blood, and my chest stung like the venom of a thousand hornets. I managed to hobble to my feet while trying to ignore the immense pain in my chest. I turned my flashlight back on and scanned the room. No sign of Nikolai. Slowly I limped over to the room which Nikolai had been hiding in. I peered through the large hole in the wall and shined my light around the room.
Upon the ground were several mangled bloody corpses. Most were smaller animals but there were a few larger animals like deer as well. There was also a single headless human corpse. I wretched back and vomited from the horrendous smell. I forced myself to look back into the room once more but there was no sign of anything but death. I knew the beast could’ve killed me easily, but that isn’t what it wanted. It wanted me to join it.
I made my way over to the medicine cabinet that Nikolai kept the Insomniac pills in. Where once there were dozens of cases of little translucent pills, there were now none. Nothing but an empty cabinet. Either Nikolai had taken them all himself or he planned to distribute them to others. God only knows what he plans to do with them.
Feeling defeated and unable to do anything else, I slowly made my way back to the front door. There was a massive hole in the wall in the room to the right of the front door. I guess that Nikolai was long gone by now. I opened the front door and stepped out into the night air. The moonlight illuminated something I hadn’t yet noticed. My arms were pale and bloodied and had begun to develop the initial sores that I had seen on Nikolai. Quickly I rushed to my car and flicked on the dome light to get a better look. As I looked into the rearview mirror I nearly collapsed in shock. My eyes looked sunken heavily, and my cheeks seemed utterly pale and lifeless, like that of a cadaver. My once deep blue eyes had begun to fade into a whiter shade. The ghoul was right, I was beginning to turn.
I’m back at home now just writing down all of this as I remember it. I’ve exercised all of my options and with Nikolai’s transformation, I know it won’t be long before I am no different. But fuck that, I refuse to go out that way. I found a bottle of sleeping pills in my cabinet. Unsurprisingly, they had never even been opened. I’m gonna down them all. It is my last hope. It’ll either put me into a coma, or it’ll kill me. Anything is better than watching yourself slowly become a monster.
I’m sorry everyone, I know I should be out there looking for Nikolai to put an end to this but he could be anywhere by now. Plus, I haven’t got much time. At least this way I’ll prevent myself from hurting anyone. I do think I understand what’s happening to me now though. Sleep allows the brain to get the necessary rest it requires. If you resist sleep for long enough, you will begin to experience hallucinations. The longer you resist sleep, the harder it becomes for your brain to tell the difference between reality and fantasy. After long enough time the brain begins to go mad, and your basic animal instincts begin to take over. I believe that is what happened to Nikolai, and what is quickly happening to me. I’m such an idiot for thinking I could go without sleep, please don’t make my mistake. I don’t know what Nikolai plans to do with the rest of those pills, but it can’t be good. I’ve just taken the whole bottle of my sleeping meds. Won’t be long now, I just hope this works. To my family and friends, just know I love you all, and I hope you can forgive me if the worst should happen. Wish me luck.