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SLEEPOVER VITAMIN ZZZ

AUTUMN 2019


VITAMIN ZZZ: Autumn 2019 SLEEPOVER Produced by SleepyHeadCENTRAL.com; edited by Tamara Sellman RPSGT CCSH. All rights reserved. Images included in this digital publication are permitted for use as described in credit captions, or are public domain, or are credited below:          Cover image: "Watercolor Feather," courtesy Dreamstime. Page header image: "Sleeping Beauty Pantomime Toy Book" (1883) courtesy OldChildrensBooks.com, image is in the public domain No part of this digital compilation may be reproduced or transmitted in any form by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher. For information permissions for reprints or excerpts, contact Tamara Sellman at sleepyheadcentral@gmail.com. For more information about SleepyHeadCENTRAL.com, please visit the website at www.sleepyheadcentral.com. The content of this publication is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. While the editor and publisher is a board-registered polysomnographic technologist and certified clinical sleep health educator, she is not a doctor and it is beyond her scope of practice to issue diagnoses or prescribe therapies. However, general content found at SleepyHeadCENTRAL.com may be useful if you are in need of general sleep health information.


VITAMIN ZZZ

A digital literary quarterly devoted to sleep

AUTUMN 2019

SLEEPOVER Edited by Tamara Sellman RPSGT CCSH

A PUBLICATION OF SLEEPYHEADCENTRAL.COM


VITAMIN ZZZ

SLEEPOVER

TABLE OF CONTENTS

About Vitamin Zzz 6 SLEEPOVER: An Introduction 7 SAUNA Carol Barrett 8 GHOST ROOM BED Kimberly L. Becker 9 ICE BED Kimberly L. Becker 9 CREEK BED Kimberly L. Becker 10

VEIL OF SLEEP K.B. Ballentine 19 PLAYING DREAM SCRABBLE WITH FRANZ KAFKA J.J. Steinfeld 21 JEAN ASKED YOU Larry Blazek 22          NOT RIGHT NIGHT Duane Herrmann 23 NOT IN MY BED Duane L. Herrmann 23

NOT ENOUGH Bill McCloud 11

IN BED WITH EDGAR ALLEN AT THE SYLVIA BEACH HOTEL Ellaraine Lockie 24

THE HORROR OF IT ALL Marion Cohen 12

ANYWHERE HOTEL Ellaraine Lockie 26

HERE IN MY BED John Dorroh 16

THE FUTURE OF SLEEP IN AMERICA Claire Bateman 28

FIFTY YEARS OF SLEEPOVERS Mary Ellen Talley 17

5:30 A.M. Claire Bateman 29

SLEEPOVER Mary Ellen Talley 18

LEGEND Courtney LeBlanc 30


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THE FLUTE MUSIC OF LAS FANTASMAS Maureen Rubin 31

NIGHT WATCHMAN Carl "Papa" Palmer 66

SLEEPLESS NEAR ANY BAY Judith Skillman 38

DREAM IN HER EYES Carl "Papa" Palmer 66

SLEEPOVER Lois Marie Harrod 39

Acknowledgments 67

OUR LAST B&B Kathleen Phillips 41 SLEEPING IN YOUR HOTEL ROOM Eileen Malone 42 I DREAM I AM DREAMING Eileen Malone 46 INSOMNIA Linda Appel 47 SLEEPED OUT Gordon Blitz 49 THE OVERNIGHT Gail Entrekin 50 TURNING DOG John Davis 53 MY LIFE WITH THE BAT CHILDREN Thaddeus Gunn 55

About SHC 68 (back cover)

VITAMIN ZZZ

Publisher SleepyHeadCENTRAL.com Editor, Production & Design Tamara Sellman RPSGT CCSH Contact Information SleepyHeadCENTRAL ATTN: Tamara Sellman 321 High School Road NE PMB 204, Ste. D-3 Bainbridge Island, WA 98110 sleepyheadcentral@gmail.com


VITAMIN ZZZ

SLEEPOVER

ABOUT VITAMIN ZZZ

Vitamin ZZZ is a digital literary quarterly dedicated to all things related to the biological process of sleep. It is intended to be read for enjoyment, but it can be seen as an instrument for sleep health advocacy, public health awareness, and patient education.

Editor Tamara Sellman RPSGT CCSH is no stranger to the world of literary publishing. A freelance writer with a degree in Journalism (specialty: magazine editing and publishing) from Columbia College Chicago ('90), she is a seasoned publishing professional with over 30 years of expertise.

First-hand experiences in publishing since 2000 include work as publisher and editor of Margin: Exploring Modern Magical Realism (2000 to 2007) and its zine edition, Periphery (2003 to 2006); publisher of the limited edition Southern Revival chapbook, which raised enough funds to replace lost books in an entire small town library following Hurricane Katrina (2006); founder of Writer's Rainbow Literary Services (2009 to 2012), where she served as creativity coach, developmental editor, online workshop teacher, blogger, and literary community leader; and project manager for Penumbra: Speculative Fiction from the Pacific Northwest (2011), among other projects. She is a widely published, award-winning poet, essayist, journalist, and fiction writer with two Pushcart Prize nominations and other accolades (see www.RhymesWithCamera.com). Her journalism credits date to the mid-1980s.

Sellman established her credential as a registered polysomnographic technologist (RPSGT) in 2013 and was one of the first in the world to become board certified in clinical sleep health education (CCSH) in 2014. She currently produces SleepyHeadCENTRAL.com, Vitamin ZZZ, the "Sleep Wire" series and "While You Were Sleeping" columns for the American Association of Sleep Technologists (AAST) blog, sleep technology training modules also for the AAST, and contract and consulting work for sleep clinics, online patient advocacy publications, and nonprofits.

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SLEEPOVER:

A CELEBRATION, OF SORTS

This eighth issue of Vitamin ZZZ marks two years of publishing creative writing in the name of sleep health advocacy. I have had the incredible good luck of working with some amazing writers and I could not be more grateful.

2020 will be a year of growth and change for me. I'm in the process of relocation and have picked up a couple of fantastic new opportunities as a consultant and capital I "influencer" (seriously, that is my title on the contract) that will allow me to expand the reach of my efforts to educate people about the critical importance of getting good sleep. As a result, Vitamin ZZZ is going to be "put to bed," as they say in the publishing vernacular.

Whether I "reawaken" this journal will depend a great deal on what happens in 2020. As many of you know, the Vitamin ZZZ production itself is a solo, pro bono venture. It would take a great deal of money, organizational energy, and personal time to bring in a working staff in order to keep its momentum in its current form. Right now, these are not resources I can tap into. I have applied for some grant money and will see how things shake out over the next year.

I wish to thank everyone who has contributed their work, ideas, suggestions, artwork, and moral support for this endeavor. This "farewell" issue is more a celebration than a goodbye. I absolutely love the process of taking an idea from thin air and turning it into something tangible, especially through collaborative means. I truly hope the experience of contributing or reading Vitamin ZZZ has been as meaningful for you as my work on this project has been for me.

For now, sweet dreams!

Tamara Sellman, editor

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SAUNA

She was Finnish, wore long braids. When I spent the night we’d strip and climb cedar steps, sweating at the top, slip a rung down when our noses started to sting. Bucket thrown over hot rocks, steam hissed, billowed like the smoke engine’s daily run along the Cowlitz. We paddled each other’s thighs and backs with bundles of limp birch, then poured icy water overhead, climbed up for more. Later, braids brushed out, her hair rippled like the river. We’d slide into bed, smothered in flannel. She’d rub Noxema on her face. By morning soaked in, but I could still smell it, creamy clean over the blue quilts.

Carol Barrett

CAROL BARRETT lives in Bend, OR, where sleep is plentiful, owing to the starry skies in summer, the muffled sounds of deer in winter. Recollections of dreams make their way into her poem—this one drawing on her childhood in Longview, WA.

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GHOST ROOM BED

The bed was heavy

Its overfill still spills and smells

and carved and dark

and goes unremarked

The white chamber pot under the bed

Kimberly L. Becker

the only witness when the ghost came and pressed the girl

ICE BED

down to the bed

The bed

so she couldn’t breathe or move

of games

The girl waited for it to be over,

of almost-but-not-quite

waited for the ghost to leave

We had to be quiet

She never breathed a word

All the other beds

to anyone, never breathed

hung like dirigibles

again, not really, not freely,

advertising loss

never relieved herself

You floated up,

of the many-chambered story

stepping mattress to mattress

The ghost room bed

sinking into different memories

was heavy and carved and dark

While below, his face

The chamber pot

was coming closer for a kiss,

under the bed

distorted, as if from under ice

still holds the never-emptied waste

In the freezer, ice cubes settled in their beds of trays continued Kimberly L. Becker

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CREEK BED

My mother

Years after that,

remembers the colors

my dog would jump up

on the wall the day

and turn and find her place

she was born

We’d both lie there in the dark

Years later I would

She would sleep while the wind

sleep in her childhood room,

knocked the old metal blinds

in her parents’ bed,

against the sill and the creek

and hear screech owls

made suggestions in the distance

whinnying at night (that my grandmother

Kimberly L. Becker

said meant death) I’d lie very still and try not to breathe until the feathered angel of death passed by

KIMBERLY L. BECKER recently moved from North Carolina to Kentucky: "If, as Shakespeare wrote, sleep knits up the raveled sleeve of care, then I confess I still have many cares. Sleep has often eluded me, but I am grateful for the wisdom that has come to me in dreams, a gift from ancestors. Sleep is necessary for both physical and spiritual repair. In sleep we are both vulnerable and powerful."

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NOT ENOUGH

You told me

You told me

you took my keys

Not enough

led me to your couch

All but one

and covered me up

Not enough

You told me

Bill McCloud

I was still there when you got up to cook breakfast   I asked you  

BILL MCCLOUD lives in Oklahoma and won't say if he's slept one off in his 71-year history, but he's aware that it can save lives and is an awesome expression of love when someone says, "I'm sorry. You're going to have to sleep here tonight."

How many lives have you saved by stealing keys and forcing people to sleep it off on your warm magic couch

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THE HORROR OF IT ALL

In very early adolescence my girlfriend Seena and I used to go see movies like The Black Sleep and The Creeping Unknown. Those two actually constituted a double “creature feature.” The night after seeing those two, I lay awake and it seemed to me that, in the dark, in some nearby bed, somebody was rising, somebody turned evil, as that guy had risen in The Creeping Unknown. He’d risen at an angle, just the top of him, bent at the hip. Only the top of him was rising. His face, of course, bore a zombie expression. I lay there trembling.

One night Seena and I followed our creature feature evening with a sleepover. We probably had a midnight snack before sleeping in her double bed. At first she talked normally but then she said “Ya know, when you fall asleep I plan to kill you.”

I did not laugh. Nor did I counter “That’s if I fall asleep first. If you fall asleep first, I plan to kill you.” Instead I shrieked “NO NO, don’t say that.”

But Seena continued. “Yeah, I plan to go into the kitchen and get a knife and stab you.” I made sure Seena fell asleep first. And then I didn’t sleep right away. In the morning, though… well, light is the absence of dark. It was the beginning of the rest of our lives.

I don’t watch horror movies any more. Just like I don’t want to know about any tortures that I don’t already know about. But a couple of nights ago… well, we’d thought it was a mere thriller. I’m okay

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"Psycho graphic." Public domain image.

continued

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with thrillers, especially Alfred Hitchcock. But this movie was more than a thriller, it was downright horror. A young, rather naïve woman named Frances falls into a friendship with an older woman named Greta, played by Isabelle Huppert. At first the friendship seems great— well, to the young woman, not to the audience—but soon Isabelle Huppert turns out to be psycho, stalker, and eventually kidnapper/murderer. But before that hard-core stuff were the parts where you see the stalking looks on Huppert’s face. Looks that say “YOU AND I KNOW, EVEN THOUGH NOBODY ELSE DOES.” Looks that also say “It’s YOUR fault.” I was shaking in my shoes.

“ANY look is a Greta look,” I thought after seeing that movie. Well, any look that’s not a smiling look, or crying look, or other ordinary classifiable look. That Greta look is a default look. A nonlook. In fact, after that movie, everything seemed scary and dangerous. Even those things that were dangerous in small ways, like sending out a book-length manuscript. Those things aren’t bloody, but they still feel violent.

How sad that existence has to be that violent. Horror movies bring that out. Like the coffee cup in Greta, the slightly-larger-than-usual mug rotating ominously in the microwave. Horror movies teach us that everything is ominous. Not to mention what’s going on in our country, and in the world. That stuff is real-world scary, violent, and ominous. After Greta. they’re more so than ever.

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So after Greta, I lay in bed with my husband. A husband I love and feel safe with. A husband I had held onto in the theater as I shook in my shoes. And I asked whether he ever has that Greta look.

He doesn’t. Never. So even after Greta I didn’t feel afraid of him. But I thought about the idea. And I thought back to Seena and that particular sleepover. “Ya know, after you fall asleep I plan to kill you.” It isn’t mathematically impossible that, after I fall asleep, Jon plans to kill me. Or will kill me without planning. After I fall asleep, he can sneak downstairs to the kitchen and grab a knife, one of his big ones like the serrated bread knife. Or he can place a pillow over my head or shoot me with a stun gun and then do whatever he pleases.

In the morning, though… well, again, light is the absence of dark. I reminded myself of that. I reminded myself that day is the opposite of night. I reminded myself that light, morning light, is the beginning of the rest of our lives.

Marion Cohen

MARION COHEN lives in Philadelphia, PA. "The last family bed night was the night of 9-11-01; Devin, then aged 15, and I sat on his bed, his very own in his very own room, and watched the news coverage on TV. After we'd had enough of that news, Devin said 'Mom, can you stay here with me for the night?' ...we just fell asleep right then and there, doing the necessary nesting."

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HERE IN MY BED

Here in my bed, alone, there are no great expectations, just me and Moby Dick, pillows galore, cable if needed, a fat tabby cat, laptop, and a robust Colombian. Here in my bed, sunken in a private ecstasy, I live like a king. No, I am the King. I can do what I want for as long as I like, and no one can tell me what to do, or how to do it or when. Free to create or destroy, to manipulate, to confiscate, annihilate, stimulate, oomulate, vibrate, or postulate. This brave new world was available to me all these years, but I was blinded by other more laborintensive sciences. This is truly a lazy man’s art. If the bedroom is my castle—and it is—and I am the king, then why oh why should I feel the need to ever go outside?

John Dorroh

JOHN DORROH lives in Highland, IL. "My sleep patterns change quickly, and I don't know why. When I do sleep, I usually entertain myself with dreams that are so graphic that it's like being at the movie theatre. I love sleep. It's my best lover."

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FIFTY YEARS OF SLEEPOVERS

Guess one can call fifty years of marriage the same as fifty years of sleepovers. Not that we stay up talking till all hours or schedule nightly hot sexual trysts— often way too much on our to-do lists or we’re more likely to need a neck rub for the one not knowing how in the heck said pain began, but a steaming washcloth and some smooth stroking pressure help a lot. No corner on romance, sometimes we cleave,

MARY ELLEN TALLEY resides in Seattle. "Reading and writing interfere with my sleep. In all honesty, finding interesting posts on social media and putzing around also interfere. I am more worried about sleep deprivation of parents, although I know my daughter's fourth child will eventually age out of his frustrating sleep habits. Sadly, I do not remember my dreams, so I bake cookies instead and mail them to my son."

when serotonin and gratitude meet up at midnight and one of us rouses the other with pheromones still working. Our conundrums remain our connection when he sleeps hot and I’m still sleeping cold not a perfect sleepover these long years, but by now it’s short-sheeted as habit. Mary Ellen Talley

continued

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SLEEPOVER

Why the attraction of a slumber party just to avoid sleeping? My teen grandson returns home at noon and before he heads to bed tells of watching five horror movies in a row at a friend’s birthday. There’s weekend homework but he can’t do it now. My ten-year old granddaughter returns home                      with her stuffed bear wearing glasses just like hers and announces she and her friends didn’t fall asleep until 2:00 a.m. and that the mother kept coming in and rolling her eyes at the constant chattering.   The five-year old requests another sleepover at our house where there’s extra time for backrubs and she can demand endless stories. We know the two-year old will pitch a fit if he’s torn away for an overnight, although his mother dreams of it.

Mary Ellen Talley

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VEIL OF SLEEP

Rain peppers the roof, pocks my thoughts with shadow, with loss. Before the fire I warm my feet, gaze across the greening lawn. Spring again, soon. Hickory branches etch skeleton silhouettes in gray skies, leaves still a coppery carpet to shuffle on days that beckon us with fingers of sun. Not today. Today beads of water cling to the windows, transparent tracks chasing across the pane. Deck lacquered with ice, I dare not

K.B. BALLENTINE lives in Chattanooga. "Though I often dream, unless I write them down as soon as I wake up, they are instantly gone. As a writer I tend to daydream a lot and get into kind of a dazed state waiting for the Muse to join me; I am lucky she often does. Sometimes snatches of my night dreaming come back during my day dreaming, and I am able to piece together a poem that becomes its own dream."

breach the bounds of these walls. You there, I here— but we nod to each other in dreams. An aura of hope envelopes sleep—you smiling, arms open. I will meet you tonight. K.B. Ballentine

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"Dream Tiles." Image courtesy Pexels.

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PLAYING DREAM SCRABBLE

WITH FRANZ KAFKA

In the slumber realm of strange dreams I’d say this one was off the surreal chart: I was playing Scrabble with Franz Kafka but with our hands tied

J. J. STEINFELD lives in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada. "As a writer of fiction, poetry, and drama, I find sleep/ dreams/dreaming significant aspects of and contributors to the creative process, whether as literary devices, metaphorically, or as important ingredients to the stimulation of imagination and creativity."

behind our backs moving the sinister little tiles by teleportation or whatever that dream magic is called. I’ve never seen a seven-letter word with no vowels and two Qs but I didn’t challenge Kafka, not me, and I won’t tell you the final score I’m too mortified, too crestfallen better to write a wakeful story no one will believe even someone who knows a seven-letter word with no vowels and two Qs. J.J. Steinfeld

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JEAN ASKED YOU

to spend the night

are covered with dishes

in the house from which

you ask Jean if she

her friend is moving

has washed every

to discourage burglary

dish in the house

before their second load

she replies yes

the front room is bare a large made bed

Larry Blazek

is still in the bedroom you set your makeshift overnight bag upon the floor a bathrobe wrapped around a change of clothes awakening at midnight you discover that the garage door has been left open closing it you return to bed

LARRY BLAZEK lives in East Orleans, IN. "I sleep at odd times; sleeping when everyone else is awake; awake when others are sleeping. Most of my work is taken more or less directly from my dreams; I keep a pad of paper near wherever I am sleeping to jot down notes on them. I also sleep in several places, some of them outside."

later you drowsily note Jean fussing about you soon awaken to the sound of dishes rattling the table and the counter

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NOT RIGHT NIGHT

The light’s not right, nor noises too. This fish bowl’s not my own. Where are the lights in their right places? Where are the sounds my ears are tuned too? Where is the canary that sings in the night? Where is my sight? I can’t go home. This is my home, or so they say. I didn’t want to come, but I couldn’t stay, said the numberless they. Not even my blanket or bed, how can I rest my head? How long must I lie missing the world go by? When can I truly leave? And go finally home? I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know. No one knows when I can go. When I can go. When can I go? Duane L. Herrmann

NOT IN MY BED

It wasn’t my bed

DUANE L. HERRMANN lives on the rolling prairie of eastern Kansas. These poems reflect his personal, yet complicated, relationship with going

I couldn’t focus my head the lights weren’t right but there was no choice— finally

to bed and sleeping, or the attempts to sleep.

my body gave up,

Nightmares can still intrude. In the refuge of his

but I woke up stiff

childhood bed, he began his creative writing

and wondered:

process, years before he was able to write or

why ever I left home?

read. The stories kept his sanity, added balance to his daytime horror. There is no wonder why

Duane L. Herrmann

he now has domestic PTSD.

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IN BED WITH EDGAR ALLEN

AT THE SYLVIA BEACH HOTEL

Each room in the Sylvia Beach Hotel in Newport, Oregon, honors a famous writer. What woman would think the ending could be so exquisitely executed in the arms of Edgar Allan Poe That he could be more comforting than all those support groups books, herbs and hormones This man who understood loss, mourning and madness better than any of them Across the blood-red and black room a stuffed raven witnesses the war between acceptance and never-ending longing  for when life still bloomed and seeds flowered  A battle Lenore didn't live long enough to fight My resolve swings as polemic  as the plastic pendulum with scythe above the bed Insomnia sends me to Poe's bookshelf  Where I find a tortured prisoner  who realizes there is no choice but death before he is snatched from its immediacy

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And I am rescued with him Anxiety lifts with the moon which spotlights the bricked-over passage painted on the wall Not even the tip of Fortunato's hat  squeezed from brick before his bibliophilic fate  keeps me from falling into the abyss of sleep The circular vise of night  Hot and sweaty before the tidal wave of chills

ELLARAINE LOCKIE lives in Northern California where she has suffered from insomnia induced by menopause that chose to hang around afterwards. She also has coped for the past several years with sleep apnea caused primarily by narrow bone sturcture surrounding the nasal passage.

An awakening in a pool so red and spread that the maid will think abortion with coat hanger Instead of a harbinger for barren Or hell's fire flooded one final time Cramps, craziness, leaks and stench being what the raven meant when it said Nevermore Ellaraine Lockie

continued

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ANYWHERE HOTEL

I turn down the covers to find

But now worries from the real world

a curly blonde pubic hair on the bottom sheet

weave through this ringlet

A violation of the virginity code

Wind around my sense of solitude

contracted with the hotel

And snarl into a ball that clogs my drain of

Accommodations where we pretend

delusion

no other occupants have prefaced

Exposing images of strangers

Voyeur bed reverberations

We depend on hotel personnel

Smells of unfamiliar aftershave

to master this immaculate deception

And ghosts in mirrors with memory

To protect us from thoughts of

in this serial monogamy of one-night stands

used condoms, blood stains or other body fluids To turn the toilet into a chastity belt

Where I resign to the reality of a rented room

Free us from fear of bare bottoms in the bathtub

Where it’s midnight

Whether towels or washcloths have touched

and housekeeping has gone home I Google germs in hair

foot fungus Or if anonymous streptococcus has been sterilized

to find there are millions in one follicle But that most die in 60 seconds I pull on sweats before sliding between sheets And into the immaculate world of Morpheus Ellaraine Lockie

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"Abandoned Motel Room." Public domain image.

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THE FUTURE OF SLEEP

IN AMERICA

In the center of the city in a house with transparent walls, the twenty-four vicarious sleepers lie in perpetual slumber. Your insomnia is the one who trims their hair, clips their toenails, plumps their pillows, and turns them according to schedule.   They take their work so seriously, frowning and muttering in their plaid pajamas, under eiderdown, your insomnia feels a painful tenderness, as though they are infants, invalids, or ailing plants.   On your insomnia’s annual morning off, it goes rowing, wearing a straw hat that is almost adequate.   It dips in its oars and pulls them out again, imagining that the boat is still, and the sea moves, or perhaps the sky—or nothing moves, which would be the same as if everything moved.   In this kind of mood, your insomnia is tempted to wake the sleepers, set them free, though who would have time to care for them wandering pajama’d and frowsy-haired through the world, their house weightless now, spinning above them in the vortex of its own wind?   To release them or not, either choice seems a betrayal.   So your insomnia adjusts its hat and place its arms in the oar locks to row on in light that seeps through the sleepers’ dreams like waves of glass. Claire Bateman

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5:30 A.M.

Their sleep weights the air as it makes its slow rounds between lips and lungs. The eldest has followed his past to our bed where he indents my back with a casual knee. From my left come the muffled porcine snorts of a gnome with domed skull and wizened fingers who burrows into my side, smacking his lips for milk. Along the dimness of the wall, a motionless man guzzles dreams while he can as breath like slow steam off seamless faces mingles with the last wisps of night in this room warmer than the inside of an unhatched egg, because the clock whirs like a bomb about to explode with morning. Claire Bateman

CLAIRE BATEMAN WRITES: "My sleep is entwined with the historical sleep of my now-grown children who as babies used to curl up with me (plastic footies kicking me in the face through the night) and the languorous slumber of my calico cat. I live in sunny Greenville, South Carolina, where I unsuccessfully try to simulate Total Cave Darkness in my bedroom. Winter sleep is exquisite, steeped in silence and depth of night; summer sleep is like sips of water that keep you alive but don’t satisfy. I worry about the quality of our future sleep as the planet continues to heat up."

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LEGEND

You lie sleeping beside me, arm heavy across my body, breathing steady. A Japanese legend says if you can’t sleep it’s because you’re awake in someone else’s dream. I wonder if it’s your dream that holds me

COURTNEY LEBLANC lives and usually sleeps in Arlington, VA. "Usually I sleep well and have extremely vivid dreams—I've been murdered twice in dreams! When dealing with high levels of stress and anxiety I suffer from insomnia."

captive, if we’re together, free and happy in a way we don’t exist in the waking world. I count backwards, ease into sleep, and dream of an endless hallway with dozens of doors, each an opportunity but none contain you.

Courtney LeBlanc

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THE FLUTE MUSIC OF LAS FANTASMAS

My husband Alan and I are totally incompatible in bed. Don’t get excited. This is not a story about love-making. It’s a story about our mismatched and vastly disparate sleep routines. I’m a heavy sleeper and he barely sleeps at all, waking at the slightest sound. When the sun comes up, I’m vigorous and ready to roll. He’s sitting in the living room, nodding off and watching Morning Joe. That would be disturbing enough if we lived on the East Coast, as the program comes on at 6 a.m. there. But we live in California, so it’s three hours earlier.       As might be expected, Alan’s inability to sleep is greatly exacerbated when we are traveling. But we are both in love with adventure, so we gamely set off for places on our bucket list (which are almost everywhere without dictators, revolutions, famine, women in burkas, or Ebola). It’s almost guaranteed that some beds on our journey will be too soft and others too hard; some rooms will be noisy, and others noisier. Unlike Goldilocks, it is very rare to find a hotel or Airbnb bed that is “just right.” And Alan needs “just right” to have a chance for REM sleep. Hoping for the best, we set off for two weeks in Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. Little did we imagine what his sleepless nights had in store for him. We took a red-eye from LA to Panama City, then on to Quito. Needless to say, I curled up with my blanket and pillow and nodded off before we even left the ground. Alan can’t ever sleep on planes, so it was not surprising that he was exhausted when we landed. But as soon as we got our luggage, he sprung wide awake. At the end of the customs ramp was a man holding a sign with our names on it. It was handsome, bilingual Marco and we were psyched to get on the road. continued

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That afternoon, we toured the city, but Quito’s altitude of 9350 feet quickly exhausted us. Our trip planning research failed to reveal that at any altitude above 6000 feet, the reduced oxygen content of the blood causes uneven breathing and sleep disturbances due to the body’s lack of air. There is even a name for it—altitude insomnia. Just what Alan needed on our two-week trip. The next day, we traveled south on a highway situated between two chains of striking snowcapped Andes. After about an hour and a half we arrived in Cotopaxi, altitude 12,000 feet and the site of a famous volcano. Our destination was the Hacienda la Cienega, built in the 16th century and, before it was converted to a boutique hotel, one of the oldest colonial homes in Ecuador. Its history parallels the Spanish settlement and is highlighted by frequent stays from high-ranking government officials and visiting Enlightenment scientists studying volcanoes. All this took place inside a 32-room home constructed entirely of volcanic pumice stones. It was awesome. We never imagined we would be staying in such a beautiful two-suite, but that’s what our travel agent had arranged for us. We had a sitting room, already warmed by a roaring fire, set to ward off the mountain chill. The bedroom featured a large double bed with a mahogany frame and headrest carved with sculptural flowers. The room overlooked a fountain filled with native birds taking a drink or a dip. If Alan couldn’t sleep in this sumptuous atmosphere, I doubt he could sleep anywhere. Again, I was wrong.

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“I couldn’t sleep all night,” he announced when we awoke the next morning. “The flute music was so loud. I tried to find a way to turn it off, but I couldn’t figure out where it was coming from. It kept me awake all night. Did you hear it?” “No.” I had slept beautifully. Again. “You’re kidding. The music was so annoying and I wasn’t able to stop it. If you didn’t hear it, you must be deaf. I couldn’t quite identify the piece that played, but it could have been Christmas music. It wasn’t awful, but it was loud and totally prevented me from sleeping.” I assured him that I was not the one with the auditory problem and we headed for breakfast. Marco joined us and asked us how we had slept. Alan quickly retold the story of his all-night battle with the annoying flutes. But as soon as Marco heard the word flutes, he broke into hysterical laughter. “Are you in room 31?” Marco asked with a wicked smile. We looked at our keys and nodded. “That’s the room next to the family chapel. Lots of people who stay in it hear that music. But let me get someone who can explain it better.” At this point, Marco called over Juan, the hacienda manager, who also started nodding and chuckling when he heard Alan’s story.

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"Detail from Madame La Mort." Paul Gauguin, 1890-1891. Public domain image. “It seems you were visited by las fantasmas. You call them ghosts in English. They have been here as long as the hacienda has existed. Over 400 years. Many guests in your room receive similar night visits. Some also see flashing lights or have ashes disappear from their fireplaces. We even have trouble finding housekeepers who will clean that room. Many prefer to sleep outside in the garden rather than be inside with las fantasmas. “Lots of famous Ecuadorians lived and died in our hacienda since the 17th century. Important politicians, including Juan José Flores, the first President of Ecuador, and other notable government

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officers and revolutionaries stayed here. We think they enjoyed it so much they wanted to come back again.” While we dug into our omelets, which provided a bouquet of herbal perfume and eggy perfection, he continued his haunted history lesson. “But not everyone hears the flute music,” Juan continued. “Only very sensitive guests pick up las fantasmas vibrations. It is said that those with unrefined sensibilities never hear them.” This explanation gave Alan a new spin on his non-REM sleep condition. For years he has known that he can’t get his brain to calm down. He’s tried every self-help remedy from warm baths, to creating a screen-free bedroom zone, to keeping the room temperature so low that I fear a polar bear invasion. But nothing helps. He even went on a meditation retreat so he could learn to put himself into a state of relaxation and heightened awareness while blotting out the stressful world. He closed his eyes, lit incense, and om’d a lot, but nothing helped. After hearing Juan's explanation, instead of being bothered by his lack of sleep, he became proud and even boastful, claiming that his inability to get quality rest stemmed not from a brain in hyper drive, but from a finely tuned sensibility that makes him feel, see and hear more than most mortals. He is now the self-proclaimed king of sensitivity and empathy. I, on the other hand, remained the hard-hearted heathen who had actually slept through the 6.7 magnitude Northridge earthquake that erupted in 1994. continued

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As we began the day’s itinerary, Alan kept insisting that the haunting was still with him. He says he can still hear the music if he closes his eyes and concentrates. After breakfast, Marco had made arrangements for us to go horseback riding in the Cloud Forest behind another hacienda, owned by Cesar Restrepo and his gracious family. We climbed thousands of feet on horseback to ride along a scenic mountain train. As our horses trotted up the mountain, Alan took out his video camera and began shooting my excellent equestrian form (just kidding, I was hanging on for dear life). All of a sudden, we heard a loud rumbling noise and saw smoke come from a mountain just across a narrow valley from our trail. Alan turned the video camera toward Mount Tungurahua and we soon had a video of a major volcanic eruption, so powerful that it was on the evening news when we got home to California.    “I feel like we were in Disneyland and the daily volcanic show, arranged for visitors just began,” I said.  “This is not a Disneyland gimmick, Alan explained. “I think it’s las fantasmas making sure I know they are still with me,” Alan insisted. I’m not a very superstitious person, but las fantasmas and volcanic eruptions at the exact moment we were videotaping Mount Tungurahua was a bit too much to ignore. Something very

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strange touched Alan during the night and whatever it was seems to have stayed with him throughout our subsequent travels. Whatever happened at the hacienda seems to have encircled Alan with a unique connection to las fantasmas who keep playing the flutes of Ecuador wherever we go. He claims they bring good weather and good fortune. They do not, however bring good sleep. He’s still working on that. Maureen Rubin

MAUREEN RUBIN lives in Los Angeles. She is a heavy sleeper who slept through the 6.7 magnitude Northridge earthquake, living in a mixed marriage with someone who wakes if a single cricket chirps. Yet, they are very compatible and have traveled the world together for 42 years. Their disparate sleeping styles have led to some interesting adventures, highlighted by his relationship with some night visitors that she never met.

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SLEEPLESS NEAR ANY BAY

My bed is a boat ushered by the ferryman into regions of compulsion. Here I float and sink, worry over memories,

JUDITH SKILLMAN lives in Newcastle, WA. She has had primary insomnia since the age of eleven. Her relationship to sleep and her body is troubled by comorbidities including stenosis, chronic pain, fibromyalgia, major back surgery, etc. Nonetheless she tries to carry on.

count my children. Here pain becomes stations of the cross fixed in my spine   by a well-intentioned surgeon who didn’t realize: once a cripple, always a cripple.   My bed is a yacht purchased too late, after the street became an ocean.

Judith Skillman

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SLEEPOVER

The good Bishop Peder Winstrup

hop, buckwheat, black bindweed,

who died in 1679, was exhumed

fat-hen, mouse-ear chickweed, corn spurry,

when the Swedes decided to move

charlock mustard, sour cherry, flax,

his crypt. His skin and hair, his

common box, small-leaved lime, dill,

lace and velvet were almost perfectly

carrot, common bugloss, hyssop,

preserved. He was resting

lavender, lemon balm, henbane,

on a pillow of hops and his coffin

black nightshade, danewort, southernwood,

was filled with 35 or so plants

absinthium, pot marigold, cornflower,

with names like a liturgy:

common sowthistle, dwarf everlast, sedges,

juniper, hazel hemp

oat, barley rye, foxtails, grasses.

"Dried hops garlands." Public domain image.

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He died at 74.

Did he spend the night

Also in the coffin at his feet,

calling boys, asking if

a human fetus, probably a stillborn baby.

their refrigerator was running? Better go catch it.

This was a sleepover—

Asking if they had Prince Albert in a can?

not the Resurrection.

Better let him out.

My mother also knew a sleepover was

Lois Marie Harrod

sleep, over, that I returned the next morning grumpy and mean after giggling away the night, so she rarely allowed sleepovers— and certainly not at our house.

I am awake. I am alive.

You can still buy pillows stuffed with hops made by the monks at the Monastery of Christ in the Desert. Think of the implications. Christ out in that wilderness, sleepless.

LOIS MARIE HARROD does most of her sleeping not too far from the Delaware River and not too far from the vegetable stand where she buys here eggplants, which belonging to the nightshade family, can always be counted on to weird her dreams.

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OUR LAST B&B

I think I’ll stay the night, I say Good idea, he answers, so I make up a bed, of white blankets, cocooning myself in an accommodating chair. Don’t know who recommended this place. It’s the oddest B&B we ever found.   Not as bad as Dublin, he replies with a soft laugh.

KATHLEEN PHILLIPS lives in Milwaukee, WI. Her husband, Jim, died three years ago. The memory of his time in the hospital and sudden death has not faded. She can still picture the time and place. She writes: "After several years, I moved to a one bedroom apartment, just the right size to live in and write. I find that the past and present blend comfortably in most of my poems. I look out the window and watch the seasons pass… that's how I write about the future."

And so we start, making a list   of places we stayed, roads we traveled:  all the sleet storms, steep stairs,  ghostly turret rooms and cozy inns with turf fires we could remember   until he is quiet, asleep on the high pillows making breath come easier,   his heartbeat lighting the room. Kathleen Phillips

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SLEEPING IN YOUR HOTEL ROOM

Before inspecting your hotel room, venture out, locking the door behind you. A woman traveling alone, running away from rayon or towards silk, needs to use caution. Find the ice machine and fill your ice bucket. Upon your return, close the door firmly and secure the chain. After powering it down, place your cell phone in the drawer under the landline phone and your plastic card-key in the Bible. Stash your purse under the pillows. Reverse the bedspread inside-out, top to bottom, underside up. You don’t need anyone to spell out for you what the conflicted, convicted, conscripted people do on the top of seldom-cleaned bedspreads. Just use your imagination.

Only partially unpack. Hang up what needs hanging, fold what goes in cabinet drawers, taking care with delicate, womanly things. Search all other drawers. Make sure stationery, pen, and notepaper are available, within sight. If not, phone the front desk and ask for them.

Find the remote, turn on the television to check the local news, then the national. See what the outside world feeds to you, what is shoved in your face to keep you current. Plug in your laptop, check for internet connection, double-check appointments, scan e-mails. Ignore the work-related ones. Don’t respond to the personal ones, if there are any. Shut the computer down, unplug it. Put it under the bed. It’s bedtime. There will be no more communications tonight.

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"Traveling Woman." Public domain image. Flip lights on and off then back on. Readjust thermostat, open and close door to mini bar, microwave, and private safe in back of closet. See if framed prints are nailed to walls. They are. Check anyway, especially the walls for peepholes and/or two-way mirrors. While at it, examine high corners for closed circuit cameras. Pull curtains back and forth, then shut, making sure they shut all the way.

Bring an empty cosmetic bag to the bathroom. Gather up little bottle of shampoo, cream rinse, lotion, mouthwash, tiny bar of soap, put them all into your cosmetic bag to place later into your

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own carry-on. You can always phone housekeeping for replacements as well as for extra pillows, another blanket, extra towels, washcloths.

Make sure the end of toilet paper has been folded into a little V, if not, fold it yourself. After you pee, watch and make sure the toilet flushes as it should. Twist bath and shower knobs to ensure they easily adjust to proper temperature.

Rewash the drinking glasses. Sterilize them in hottest water, everyone knows housekeeping doesn’t.  Rinse them in cold then carry two to the table where there are six airplane sample-size gin bottles you have lined up next to the ice bucket. Use one drinking glass to scoop ice into another. Pour over it two servings of gin. Listen for the crack and groan, before you add the mix of Mountain Dew, creating a cocktail others refer to as Hell Hooch or Goodnight Antifreeze. Drink deeply and slowly, as if it is one-hundred-ten-proof mescal.

Toast the mirrored reflection of yourself that is neither comforted nor made lonelier by settling in. Do not cry. Do. Not. Cry. If you start you will never stop. Rest assured your space is now your home away from home, taken, completely occupied, and fully claimed.

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Keep drinking until drowsy and the invisible flag that indicates your ladyship is presently in residence raises over the invisible turret. Do not cry even then.

Eileen Malone

EILEEN MALONE lives in the coastal fog at the edge of the San Francisco Bay Area. She is founder/director of the Soul-Making Keats Literary Competition, an active member of NAMI and Caminar, a firm believer in the importance of a good night's sleep, and an explorer of dreams.

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I DREAM I AM DREAMING

I enter the soft charcoal darkness of sleep that settles the way infants fall asleep returning to the time before they had bodies as my dream rises from darkness of sleep to plunge into the warm black silence that settles just before the dream, and I enter that infinitely empty blackness or whatever color eternity is said to be as a dream inside a dream sometimes knows it is dreaming, I try to merrily row my boat on a starless wild bend of a stream of dreams that finish themselves, forget themselves, die early, get reborn as dreams of me trying to run away from danger but am paralyzed, naked in public, lost, have forgotten my lines, my name, where I parked the car   have already dreamed all the dreams I am going to get and am running out of new dreams, am pulled from sleep like a bucket from a dark well heavy with the wish to fall back and finish all those incomplete adventures   on my way to the vast stillness and pulsing silence where all dreams end in meaningless whirlpools, I pass through dark spaces and prowling gaps which are oxygen-starved transitions between dream sequences of which there are never any   and there are times when I dream about all the dreams allotted to me along with the whole of eternity to dream them, I get so tired thinking about all of this, I fall asleep in my dream. Eileen Malone

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INSOMNIA

A Pantoum

Sleep does not come to me tonight;    I lie awake in dark content.           Above, stars glow with fainter light,               As I consider what you meant. I lie awake in dark content,      Nestled in your warmth so dear.

LINDA KNOWLTON APPEL lives in Portland OR. "I have slept soundly most of my life, although I can no longer depend on that. However, I do not dread mild insomnia. I welcome the commentary dreams make on my life, both waking and subconscious. And they provide amusement and raw material when I cannot sleep."

        As I consider what you meant,                Your soft deep breaths flutter in my ear. Nestled in your warmth so dear,      My mind floats wide and free.           Your soft deep breaths flutter in my ear                And words begin to play with me. Above, star glow with fainter light,      My mind floats wide and free,           And poems begin to form in me.                Sleep will not come to me tonight.

Linda Knowlton Appel

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"Wood Knothole Eye." Image courtesy PxHere.

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SLEEPED OUT

Negative Sleep Apnea No leg movements 6.6 average sleep hours Efficiency 89.7% Time spent asleep on mattress Comforted results except 2.2% deep sleep 0% REM No dreams Deep sleep escapes me

GORDON BLITZ lives in West Hollywood, CA. "I have a love-hate relationship with sleep as I grow older. I long for a refreshing reboot after a seven-hour slumber. My Irritable Bowel Syndrome and chronic Prostatitis interrupt my sleep patterns. Using mindful meditation to remove the aches and pains that disturb my shut eye is rarely effective. The elimination of dreams is frustrating. But I remain hopeful that I will be cursed with a magical sleep."

Brain doesn’t reboot Light sleeper Dissolving fantasy Meditative trances Miraged thoughts Hallucinating memories Losing reveries Destiny filled with aspirations Nightmares scared Frequent delusions Fated visions Gordon Blitz

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THE OVERNIGHT

Say you were called in the morning by a mom whose voice is high with panic, letting you know the girls have come to her to say your daughter will not wake up. In spite of all your careful instruction last night, they have eaten breakfast and played and let her sleep and sleep, falling deeper and deeper into her body’s empty blood, and bones and brain.  Say you ran to your car and drove at speed down Bodie Ridge Road, your whole being yearning toward her. And when you arrived and the kids met you at the door, pulled you to your daughter where she lay in her reindeer sleeping bag, her long arms twitching small animal noises bubbling from her mouth, this girl with her dreamy doe eyes, who drifts into and out of days on an aimless excursion taken up by the beauty of every leaf and who has yet to fasten her silver spirit to a forward-moving engine, would you weep?

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Would you step back in shock and look away? Wait for someone who knew what to do to appear, an EMT, a specialist, your mother? No, you would not. You would step forward and pull her up into your arms. You would rub the fudge you found in the fridge into her gums, lift her, half carry her to the car. Waiting there, would you croon her name, rock her, sing her baby songs, caress the lank hair back from her empty face?   Driving home, would you pull onto the verge so that she could moan and retch in the grass, and when she climbed out of the car, woozy as a drunk, and headed blindly out into the field would you run, pull her around, guide her back, slide her down into the car again?   Would you carry her into the house, lay her on the bed, whisper softly to her about how

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too much insulin was given, and too much slip ‘n slide with the girls drove her sugar down and down until her blood and bones and brain cried out for something and now she would be all right, and now you were there?

And later, after her lost-looking eyes, the mysteries of the words chew, cracker, table, the nausea, vomiting, the stepping into the shower beside her to help her remember how to wash her hair, would you sit in the front seat of your best friend’s car clutch your bottled water and sob? Say after slipping into her room every night to stick her fingers, check her blood sugar, you lay awake for hours refiguring her carb-to-insulin ratios. In the mornings, watching her laugh, would you recalculate the value of every hour?

Gail Entrekin

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GAIL ENTREKIN lives in Orinda, CA. "For many years after my daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, my connection with sleep became confused. I was afraid to fall into a deep sleep for fear that she would have a low blood sugar or a high blood sugar, and I would not be able to help. But she is 31 now, has the newest insulin pump and CGM (Continual Glucose Monitor) and manages beautifully. I sleep like a top.


VITAMIN ZZZ

SLEEPOVER

TURNING DOG

This marriage with sleep got mangled, quilts and covers shambled like brambles. My body blasted back and forth like a ping pong ball. Dog on the floor breathed evenly with fluted notes, chased a dream of beaches, fluttered then eased into a wheeze. How I wanted that wheeze: please, a wheeze and dreams with intrigue—a taste of sleep, that wine that ages gracefully, un-wrinkles the face. How do I curl like a dog, sniff sleep, capture it in my whiskers, swallow, wake, do my down-dog, howl a happy howl, ready to lick the day? John Davis

John Davis lives on an island in Puget Sound in the state of Washington. For a night of sleep, he would give up dancing, the stream in his yard, a ripe plum (maybe not), and perfect massages that would bring peace to dictators. He would paint his fingernails a candiedkingdom red for a ten hour snooze and wake with blushing eyelids that mimic a sunset.

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SLEEPOVER "Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep." (1896) Public domain image.

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MY LIFE WITH THE BAT CHILDREN

“We can't stop here, this is bat country!”―Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas I narrowly avoided a head-on collision with a semi as I was coming over Snoqualmie Pass from The Gorge. I’d been working Lollapalooza. Never mind that when I looked in the rearview mirror it wasn’t there, or that in retrospect it was actually a giant hovercraft. I preserved the rented van I was driving and that was all that mattered to me.

Hours previous I was standing in the production office screaming a lie at the Production Fuckup What’s His Face that was supposed to pay me. I told him there was a van rented in the name of MCA Concerts (it wasn’t) and it was in a field over there (it was, as I showed him, stabbing my finger at it) and it was going to be on fucking fire if I didn’t get my fucking money and no I will put my name on the fucking list and wait for a fucking check and no I will not fucking calm down. He started peeling twenties out of the petty cash box and kept throwing them them at me until I went away. Then I got in the van, headed back over the pass toward Seattle, and almost got hit by the semi. Hovercraft. Whatever. And then there were a lot of frogs in the air. I figured I better pull over and lay down. I’d get charged another day for the van, and that would eat my whole nut from working all the way through Lollapalooza. But at least I wouldn't have the frogs in the way.

That time, I had been awake—without drugs—for three days. continued

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I’ve had sleep problems since I was little. Never been very good at sleeping. My wife’s a champ. Used to fall asleep at parties. Slept so hard in plain view that it looked like she died in an upright position right on our host’s couch. I envy her.

It’s not that I sit up all night, trying hard to go to sleep. No. I lay down. I go to sleep—or seem to. Then crazy shit happens. Crazy shit with foot-long names. Hypnogogic hallucinations. Hypnopompic hallucinations. Somnambulism. Sleep paralysis.

Last week I got another one added to the list: parasomnias.

I’ve had a string of professions that are known for impinging on sleep cycles: Late night DJ. Advertising copywriter. Night shift orderly. Cocaine addict.

Speaking of that last one, I once called the cops because I was convinced that there were little men in black wetsuits under my house. I told the cops that they were jacking it up and they were going to steal it. Thankfully, they didn’t believe me.

That time, I had been awake—with drugs—for four days.

You probably think that I don’t practice very good “sleep hygiene.” You probably think I drink coffee all night. You probably think I’m all rheumy-eyed like that guy from Fight Club. None of

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that. My eyes are clear. I don’t even drink soda pop. That coke thing was in my 20s. I got over it.

I’ve given up beer until these other things work themselves out, these parasomnias.

I’ve done three sleep studies. They tape about eighty wires to you from head to foot and put a cannula in your nose. They hook all that stuff up to a box that looks like you could swipe a credit card through it and make you carry it with you. Then they tell you to climb into bed with all that gear and go to sleep. Sure, no problem.

Turns out I wake up forty to eighty times an hour. This is news to me because all I know is that I’ve been asleep. Granted, it was shitty sleep because I was sleeping in the same bed as the Transatlantic Cable and an ATM. But it was sleep as far as I knew.

Not so, they say. They tell me I never achieved REM sleep. Ever.

Does this mean I haven’t actually slept in fifty years? I ask them.

Maybe not, the sleep technician says.

Sleep deprivation can mirror schizophrenia, like so: You come home and go to bed. You go to sleep.

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Your wife comes home late and unloads her bags. You get out of bed and come talk to her, but you’re a different person. You’re not the guy she’s been married to for eighteen years. You’re an asshole. You’re some guy who’s spitting some paranoiac poison about how much his brother hates him. You’re some guy who’s talking nonsense syllables about blowing his brains out. You don’t even have the same mannerisms as her husband. She leaves you in the living room, pounding away on the screen of your phone.

You wake up in the morning and find a bunch of hateful text messages that were sent to your brother. You find a string of bizarre rants posted to your Facebook wall.

You don’t hate your brother, and you sure as hell don’t want to kill yourself. But you don’t remember any of it. You have a stomach full of needles and ice.

At that point I figured I better tell my wife about the Bat Children. There’s a nugget of fear deep inside me that I’ve harbored since childhood. It tells me that neither she nor anyone else is going to love a weirdo who sees stuff that’s not there and turns into a sleepwalking jerk. Better keep your mouth shut or live forever in isolation, it says. Remember what happened that one time when you told somebody, it says. I decide to roll the dice on eighteen years of marriage and tell her anyway because I want more than anything for her to stop crying. The story is worth whatever strange comfort it might give.

She already knew about my sleep problems. Well, one of them anyway. I went to the sleep studies to

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See how I could control my snoring. It’s a bane to the harmony of any couple. I’d been fitted with a CPAP, which has to be the most sexiness-reducing piece of bedroom hardware in history. A triangular mask fits over your nose and is braced by a bridge that presses against your forehead. A long hose extends from the mask and is connected to a machine that creates positive pressure in your sinuses, thus eradicating the sonorous rattle of your soft palate. You wear a chin strap à la Marley’s ghost. Altogether it makes you look like you’re a coma patient in the ICU. As a bonus, the machine itself makes a sound like an asthmatic Electrolux. This is why we sleep in separate rooms now.

She knows about the snoring already. She knows that my sleep is for shit. She doesn’t know the rest of it, though.

When I was four, I tell her, my mattress would take off at night and fly around the room while I was still awake. It was fun until it started to crush me against the ceiling. I felt like I was suffocating. I’d start screaming. My mother adhered to the sleep training rule that if her children screamed at night, she should just let them scream. Eventually they would stop. It’s true. After it happened several times, I would simply shut up and take it, no matter how much I thought death was imminent.

That crushing, suffocating catalepsy; the hell of being dead yet awake—what they blithely call sleep paralysis—persists to this day.

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When I was fifteen, my parents made me sleep on the landing outside my sister’s room. She was gone to college, but my mother thought I didn’t deserve the room and told me as much. I can’t remember what I did to earn that judgment. It wasn’t the best place to sleep, being in the midst of a traffic area and having parents who got up in the middle of the night to go downstairs.

I saw a ghost one night during the time that I slept on the landing. It scared me so bad that I spent the rest of the night in the car. The mistake I made was in telling some of my classmates on the bus while we were riding back to the school from football practice. They feigned a rapt interest, drawing as much detail out of me as they could. When we got back to the locker room, they took turns kicking me in the ass with their cleats and calling me “ghost boy.” Eventually they’d shout it at me in the hallway at school.

When the Bat Children showed up, I was about seventeen. I was, for lack of a better term or position, in foster care. I was battling anxiety so intense that it caused me to snap to a sitting position in my bed each night every twenty minutes. The night the Bat Children first came by, I woke up—or so I thought—to a tapping at the window. I went to investigate. They were clinging to the window frame, scratching and tapping on the glass as if they wanted me to let them in. Their baby doll heads were glossy black and hairless; their eyes were shiny map pins shoved too close together. Their breath steamed the pane. When I saw them, the fear gave me a head rush so intense I only assume that I passed out. I woke up in bed.

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"Bats Flying." Image courtesy pxHere.

continued

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I tell my wife that’s the most but not all of it. I confess to her that I had done some sleepwalking earlier in life, when I was about six. Walked into my parents’ dinner party. Peed on the living room carpet. I had some episodes in my twenties where I’d have phone conversations that I didn’t remember. The caller always told me later that it was me on the phone, but the jerk version of me. And I confess to her that I’d seen the Bat Children again, yes, even after I started using the CPAP. They came out of my closet, elbow-crawled across my bed in true bat fashion, came right up to my face and started licking me. I made some progress, though. At least I was able to tell them that I knew they weren’t real.

We have a mutual friend who is a sleep doctor. She calls him posthaste and puts me on the phone with him. I’m on the razor’s edge between embarrassing myself to a friend and doing what’s right by my wife. In liminal spaces like these, I’ve learned that it sometimes works to just say fuck it. Sometimes.

I give him the rundown. He’s cool, matter of fact. He defines parasomnia for me, defines somnambulism for me: You’re roused from sleep but you don’t wake up although you’re ambulatory. Hypnagogic hallucinations, like the Bat Children, are the ones you have as you’re falling asleep. You’re essentially dreaming with your eyes open. Hypnopompic hallucinations, like the ghost on the landing, are the ones that you have when you’re waking up. It all happens because your REM cycles are supremely fucked up. Or perhaps because, like me, you never enter REM sleep at all.

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I ask him what all this comes from. He says stress can cause it. Anxiety. When it happens in children, sometimes it’s the result of abuse.

Are you under stress? he asks. I give him the laundry list: I have no work, my wife is unemployed; my parents, who are more or less homeless, recently had strokes. My mortgages, car payment, and credit cards are all at the redline. My best friend is having a lung removed and I don’t have the funds to be with him during the surgery. My son is unemployed and I can’t even spot him gas money to get to a job interview. Plus, I’m a writer, so I collect rejections the same way kids collect Pokémon and store them all in my heart.

You’re stressed, he says. Did you have anything to drink the night before this happened? Yes, I say, but not enough to be drunk. I know this for a fact. I was up at that pee-scented schwitzbox, that Tim’s Tavern place, watching my brother’s gig. The keg blew on my favorite tap after two and a half beers and I was loath to have them pour me any of their other substandard swill.

Here’s how it goes, he says. Beer is a sedative up to a point. Then when it wears off, it’s a stimulant. Your wife comes home as your beer is wearing off. She sets down her bags. The noise rouses you but only halfway, only enough to take you out of the non-REM sleep you’re in and send you careening around the house spewing bile and epithets. This isn’t unusual for sleepwalkers. They’re often confused, grumpy, and generally repellent. If you try to rouse them, they only get more repugnant.

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Only thing you can do for them, he says, is make sure they don’t fall down the stairs or walk out a window.

What’s up with all that bullshit I was talking, though? We don’t know why the brain does that, he says, but it has nothing to do with nothing. It doesn’t really reveal your innermost thoughts as some once believed. It has no meaning whatsoever.

Good. Well at least deep down inside I’m not as much of a fucker as my somniloquy (sleep talking) and somnigraphia (sleep writing) would lead one to believe.

He tells me no beer, no caffeine within nine hours of bedtime, get to bed at 9 p.m., wear my CPAP faithfully all night, see if I can get eight to nine hours of shut-eye per night. If I’m still a night-rambling shitheel after doing that for a month, then I need to take my CPAP in because it is most likely malfunctioning.

Thankfully, he didn’t ask me about the child abuse thing. I greatly appreciated that favor of omission.

My wife took it one step further. She put me on a program to get me as worn out as possible during the day by making me hike all over hell and gone. I grouse about it, but it’s a blessing. The mountains are beautiful this time of year. The alpine meadows are in bloom. I go up on

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a high ridge, get gobsmacked by the grandeur of creation, feel my smallness in the face of it, and forget my troubles if only for the day. So far, her program has worked well at getting me to fall asleep. Not so good at keeping me asleep. I still snap awake at midnight or 2AM, stay awake for an hour or two, then descend into turbulent sleep for another three hours or so.

Still, I persist. I stick with the program. I go to bed, beerless, at 9 p.m., strap on my CPAP, hear the motor start up, feel the pressure inflate my sinuses. I lay on my back like I’m supposed to and stare into the darkness of my closet door while I say my vespers. I always end it with, okay you little fuckers, now come and get me.

THADDEUS GUNN lives in Seattle. "I have had sleep apnea for most of my life and currently sleep with a CPAP. I've also dealt with sleep paralysis most of my life although in the past year or two have been successful in reducing the number of episodes from five or more a month to twice a year."

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NIGHT WATCHMAN

He checks his sleeping child, now a woman, moves closer, listens, watches her breathe. Watches her breathe, as if she knows,  opens her eyes, asks Is that you, Dad? Is that you, Dad?  “Yes, you’re dreaming,” his sleeping child, now a woman. Now a woman, always his little girl, he checks his sleeping child.

CARL "PAPA" PALMER lives in University Place, WA. "I'm retired from the military, retired from the FAA, now just plain retired without cellphone, wristwatch, alarm clock or Facebook friend. Between naps I volunteer at the local Franciscan Hospice House in the sleepy part of town in our bedroom community. I sleep well all through the night and most of the morning; however, in the afternoon, I just toss and turn."

Carl "Papa" Palmer

DREAM IN HER EYES

she keeps her eyes closed touches her way to the bathroom not turning on the light flushes washes her hands feels her way back to bed keeping safe the dream in her eyes

Carl "Papa" Palmer

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

"5:30 a.m." (p29) by Claire Bateman was first published in the Nashville edition of Cumberland Poetry Review in 1987. "Anywhere Hotel" (p26) by Ellaraine Lockie was first published in Ibbetson Street #41 in June 2017. “In Bed with Edgar Allen at the Sylvia Beach Hotel” (p24) by Ellaraine Lockie was first published in the Oregon Writers Colony Colonygram (date unknown). "Legend" (p30) by Courtney LeBlanc was first published in Bone & Ink Press in February 2018. An earlier version of "My Life with the Bat Children" (p55) by Thaddeus Gunn was first published in The Tavern Lantern in August 2014. An earlier version of "The Overnight" (p50) first appeared in Change (Will Do You Good) by Gail Entrekin (Poetic Matrix Press) in April 2005. "Playing Dream Scrabble with Franz Kafka" (p21) by J.J. Steinfeld was first published by The Rapid Eye in Fall 2013. "Veil of Sleep" (p19) first appeared in The Light Tears Loose by K.B. Ballentine (Blue Light Press) in July 2019.

All previously published materials reprinted by permission of the authors.

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THE SLEEPYHEADCENTRAL MISSION

“The SleepyHeadCENTRAL mission is to develop an accessible, accurate, and user-friendly online clearinghouse of sleep news and information. This effort is designed to help educate healthcare consumers on the vital importance of sleep in overall optimal health. My aim as Curator is to give healthcare consumers clear and empowering options to actively address their sleep problems.”                                                                                                     —Tamara Sellman RPSGT CCSH

The VITAMIN ZZZ mission

While many learn best about sleep problems through their own research and frank discussion with medical professionals, others may be better served by learning about sleep problems through the creative expressions of those who live with them. Vitamin ZZZ exists to illustrate, through this literary vehicle, how sleep problems truly affect our lives.

—Tamara Sellman, Editor

TO LEARN MORE: www.sleepyheadcentral.com

Profile for SleepyHeadCENTRAL.com

Vitamin ZZZ [Autumn 2019]: "SLEEPOVER"  

There's a reason why we mostly find the greatest comfort in sleeping in our own beds. SLEEPOVER explores the adventures of sleeping "abroad,...

Vitamin ZZZ [Autumn 2019]: "SLEEPOVER"  

There's a reason why we mostly find the greatest comfort in sleeping in our own beds. SLEEPOVER explores the adventures of sleeping "abroad,...