Does anyone get any sleep anymore?

I fall in step behind a guy who talks loud and clear in his sleep every night. He gives speeches on animal rights when he enters REM sleep, right before the sun starts to seep through the dust that covers the window. When I tried to ask him how he could believe in animal equality while getting off to the sound of snapping spinal cords in half the animals waiting to be purchased in Connecticut, he grabbed me by the chin and flung me to the floor.

My cellmate follows me out our door. He coughs the whole way to the yard, and I try not to turn around and smack him. They’re wet coughs, pre-hack, and he’s spent half the nights we’ve been bunking together spitting mucus on the floor.

I’ve given up trying to get any sleep when it’s dark outside. Sometimes I hope for a mid-afternoon total eclipse, so I can take a nap in the black air. It’s different, sleeping in the light. You never feel like it really happened. It’s like you shut your eyes for a second, and when you opened them again, the people around you had walked away to grab something from a shelf, but they’ll be right back. Even if you’d been asleep for five hours. You wake up with the sun stabbing your eyes and you can’t help but feel like you were only out for a couple of minutes, and now it’s back to the day, back to duties and regiments and slimy floors.

Maybe someday the sun’ll burn out and we’ll be left with dark afternoons and dark mornings and dark evenings and we can get some real sleep over here every once in a while.

Published at Goon and Darling Do Flash Fiction on June 21, 2012.

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