Fiction & Poetry

Counting Sheep, or The Obituary of Scott Freeman

By Kupono Liu

Scott Freeman was an average, traditional fellow. He was five foot seven and married to his wife Lola. She was a housewife who Scott always prevented from working. He was a bed manufacturer on an assembly line. The family had three children—triplets, age fifteen. They lived in a small flat adjacent to a corner drugstore.

One catch. In my description of Scott, I failed to include his median salary. Based on the above, you might think he reels in an unremarkable $25,000. In another time you might have been right, but in this future, I’m afraid you would be wrong. Every day he is paid in five sleep cycles, which works out to seven and a half hours of sleep per day. This works out to be one and a half hours of sleep per sleep cycle earned. And, of course, being a parent in this future entails the same responsibilities as it did in the past—sacrifice. Scott and all the other working parents have to split their daily sleep cycles.

Yes. At this point in time, companies have commoditized sleep as viable currency. They have found a way around paying their workers in dollars. They figured that workers only use money for multimillion-dollar luxury homes. What is a home fundamentally built for? Sleep. When people are tired from a hard day’s work, they just want to sleep. So companies caught on and cut out the middleman, which was called money at the time. Workers used money to finance their sleeping spots. Companies thought they would save everyone the trouble by directly giving people what they really want—sleep.

Now back to Scott. At that time, he had to split five sleep cycles among himself, Lola, and their three children: Duermo, Duerma, and Duermita. Being a parent, Scott made sure his teens got the majority of the sleep. On average, he left himself about one-third of a sleep cycle every night—a mere nap of half an hour. He couldn’t sleep naturally even if he wanted to because he didn’t have enough sleep cycles. But he took up two more jobs to occupy himself during the night while his children and wife were sleeping.

He took up one job as an assembly worker in a pillow manufacturing plant. The other job was a blanket tester in a blanket manufacturing plant. Both the pillow plant and the blanket tester job paid three sleep cycles each. These side jobs paid less since the products were complementary to mattresses—the main product of society. With his three jobs, he now earned a total of eleven sleep cycles a day. While a little bit better, this was still not enough for a growing family, as everyone needs five sleep cycles a night to function normally. To provide for his family, this meant more jobs for Scott. More jobs for Scott meant less time with his family.

The day poor Duermita collapsed in the school cafeteria line due to a lack of sleep, Scott realized he hadn’t been working hard enough. So Scott picked up another job as a therapeutic sleep mask maker, which paid five sleep cycles a day. Sleep masks helped those who could afford to sleep but were haunted by nightmares of the past. With a sleep mask, people could sleep stress-free and experience the sweet dreams that they couldn’t afford if they were awake. That’s why wages were so generous.

Scott realized that if he worked all four jobs he had a chance of providing for his family. With the four jobs, Scott now had a total salary of sixteen sleep cycles a day (or 24 hours of earned sleep). The triplets and Lola could scrape by with four sleep cycles each (or six hours of sleep each). To get this salary, all Scott had to do was not sleep. He just had to continue working hard for sleep cycles all day. One day on the job, Scott closed his eyes and couldn’t remember the last time he had slept. He had not slept for one whole month. Lola called him at work and told him to sleep and spend his cycles, but he said in his usual way, “Feeling fine my love. Don’t worry yourself.”

 

On Christmas morning, Scott Freeman was found in bed, his head resting softly on a pillow, face blinded by a sleep mask, his body wrapped in a blanket. He did not move for hours. Lola and the triplets wondered how he could rest if he didn’t have the sleep cycles to pay for it.

Lola kissed poor Scott on the lips. She noticed that his lips were lifeless and cold. After a month without sleep, Scott had died of exhaustion.

He had lived the greatest irony that life could offer. He had devoted his life to earn enough sleep cycles to make his family happy, which he felt would consequently make him happy. However, he had worked so hard to accumulate sleep that he in fact lacked the free time to actually sleep. When Scott lived, he was a man of humble means who never saw his family. But when he died, Scott was indeed a rich man, with eternal sleep, watching his family from above.

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