A man suffers from a bout of insomnia after a bet with his friends
After five long hours of staring at the alarm clock, two glasses of warm milk, and counting more sheep than he cared to remember, Rick Johnson gave up. He climbed out of bed and went into his living room.
“Why?” he asked himself as he sat down in his recliner and turned on the TV. “Why the hell can’t I go to sleep?”
Some man on the tube was selling the sharpest, strongest knives on the planet, guaranteed to never need sharpening. Rick could have them for just twenty-nine dollars and ninety-five cents, provided he called within the next ten minutes.
Rick looked at the clock. It was twenty minutes after three on a Thursday morning. Somehow his foggy brain managed to calculate how long he’d been awake: one hundred and forty hours, twenty minutes.
Last Friday night he made a bet with some of his buddies about who could stay up the longest. By Monday morning he declared himself the winner since they were all crashed out in his dorm room after a weekend of poker and video games. None of them could argue against the camcorder that recorded them succumbing to their own private dreamlands, and Rick ended up with a cool wad of cash.
Friday morning was the last time he woke up.
It wasn’t that he hadn’t tried to sleep. As soon as his friends had conceded the bet and left, he immediately went to bed. But that was it. He laid in bed all day waiting for the Sand Man to come, but the Sand Man was apparently out of sand because he never showed up, and by Wednesday morning Rick was starting to get worried.
The strange thing was that he wasn’t tired. Not physically, anyway. His mind was a different story. Tuesday night started with a bunch of black dots dancing around in front of his eyes, and when he went to the library on Wednesday afternoon, the walls seemed to be breathing.
But his body felt like it could run a marathon.
“Just seven minutes left,” the man on TV was saying as he sawed through a two-by-four. “How could anybody pass up on a deal like this?”
Rick looked at the clock again, then back at the TV. “I already own one of your stupid knives, and it ain’t worth a crap. What I want is some fucking sleep!”
The man on TV set the knife down on his counter. He walked up to the camera and looked directly into it. “Excuse me?” he asked.
Rick shook his head. At first he thought the man was talking to him.
But he couldn’t be. That’s just my mind playing tricks on me.
“Did I hear you say you need some sleep?” the man asked.
Rick shook his head again and rubbed his eyes. The man was still staring at him. Cool, he thought. If my mind is starting to shut down, then sleep can’t be too far away. He decided to humor his hallucination.
“Yeah, I need some sleep,” he said.
The man went back to the counter, picked up his knife, and came back to the camera.
“Well, Rick, I think I can help you,” the man said.
Rick jumped a little at the mention of his name. For just being a hallucination, this guy was pretty good.
“What are you going to do? Hypnotize me?” he asked with a chuckle.
“No, no,” the man said. “Your mind is much too far gone for that. I just want you to demonstrate to the rest of our audience that these knives are really as sharp as I claim they are.”
“And how is that going to put me to sleep?”
“You’re already asleep, Rick. You fell asleep during this commercial.”
Rick thought about that for a moment. It made sense; he had to be asleep. This was a dream! Otherwise the man on the TV couldn’t be talking to him.
“Just go into your kitchen,” the man continued, “and bring your knife back in here. Steve, bring that camera around here so we can get a shot of Rick.”
Rick watched as a man wearing headphones wheeled a camera behind the host and pointed it straight at his TV screen.
“Hurry up, Rick. We only have a few minutes.”
Rick had to laugh at that. He figured since this was a dream he must be in a very deep sleep, and he didn’t want to chance waking up by interrupting it. He went into his kitchen and brought the knife back.
“Now what?” he asked.
“We’ll start small. Show our audience how you can chop off your little finger.”
“Are you serious?”
“Go ahead, Rick. You’re dreaming, remember? You won’t feel a thing. Trust me.”
Rick made a fist with his left hand and put it down on his coffee table. He slowly extended his pinkie.
“Three minutes, Rick. Please hurry. Besides, you already owe me this for putting you to sleep.”
Rick brought the knife up over his head, hesitated, and then quickly swung it down. He was temporarily blinded by a spray of blood as the finger flew up in the air and came to rest on the rug.
But there was no pain!
The audience ‘oohed’ and ‘aahed’.
“Good job, Rick!” the man said. “Now let’s try the rest of the hand.”
Rick laid his forearm on the coffee table and repeated the process.
Again, no pain! A lot more blood, but no pain.
The audience clapped their approval.
“Alright, Rick. Now I think we’ve got just enough time for a leg, but you’ll probably have to saw through that one. I don’t think a ‘chop’ is going to do it.”
Rick sat down and started on his left leg, just above the knee. He was surprised that he couldn’t feel any pain, and he was even more surprised at how easily sleep finally came.
Because he never did finish sawing his leg off.