Flash Fiction: Sleepectomy


It was five months since she’d had her sleep removed. An unpleasant, precise process that involved gradually scraping the need away with a scalpel. And no she never needed to sleep again.

After thirty-four years of never quite having enough time, finally all her problems would be over. She would no longer need to snap at the children when they wanted her to sit with them and watch cartoons. Her husband would never need to complain that his dinner was a ready meal, she’d be able to cook him exquisite banquets. She’d have time to take that evening class to finally learn German. She’d start pottery again. She’d take up sewing the children’s Halloween costumes. She’d write a play. Her life would never be the same again.

For a few weeks she lived in bliss, floating through the harried mums to pick up her kids at the end of the school day. Making pots and plates for birthday presents. Baking brownies in the middle of the night.

But the nights got emptier as the silence started to invade her thoughts. She would try to keep busy with useful things, but hours would pass spent only on forums, trying to connect with lives that were still busy and noisy. Trying to feel smug.

She’d fill the night up with sound, the radio, the TV. Her husband would clamber out of bed with blurry eyes and follow her around pleading with her to stop. She felt so relieved of the company that she’d keep going. And she started to get stupid. She never seemed to learn the German, just repeated the same lesson over and over. She’d find herself sitting vacantly staring into space for hours on end. Even when she felt alert and ready to do things, she couldn’t think of anything she actually wanted to do. Or why. Instead she’d repeat the same dull actions over and over, doing the washing, hanging the clothes out on the washing line even though it was the middle of the night. Taking the clothes in, still soggy and pushing them unfolded into the wrong drawers. She spent one entire evening sorting socks.

“Sorting them how?” asked her husband, his exasperation evident, although she couldn’t think why he would feel that way.

“I’m putting them into alphabetical order,” she explained.

“But they’re socks! They don’t have alphabetical order!” she patted his shoulder and started to drift away.

“Pull yourself together and do something productive!” her husband shouted.

That night as she was refolding all the clothes in her son’s chest of drawers, she paused, a bright blue Spongebob t-shirt in her hands. She began to twist it, pleased that it held the contorted shape well. She placed in back in the drawer, a little of the material rising up out of the drawer. She took another t-shirt and twisted that around the first to make a snake, escaping from the drawer. She let out a small giggle, hoping that no one heard her.

By the morning all her son’s clothes were spilling out onto the floor, as if escaping. Twisted into bizarre shapes or seated figures.

18 thoughts on “Flash Fiction: Sleepectomy

  1. You have a gift for looking at unforeseen consequences, this time of removing sleep. We’ve all wondered if we’d be more productive if we didn’t have to ‘waste’ time asleep, but our downtime, our dreams, letting our brains file and sort new information is part of how we learn and develop, and we heal more quickly when we sleep. Who knows what would happen if we could remove the need yet fail to replace the functions of sleep! I shouldn’t have been surprised to see her failure to learn the new language, and at the end she’s lost touch with reality.
    Nicely told!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! 🙂 I’ve read of a few experiments where they’ve found that a lot of our learning happens while we’re asleep, when our brains get to sort the information we’ve learnt so we have better access. So that set me thinking…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. An excellent tale which sort of works along the lines of ‘be careful what you wish for’. It also begs the question ‘would anything get done if we were immortal?’. I’m guessing not because we would fritter away the days thinking that there would always be tomorrow to knuckle down to something productive.
    I did enjoy this!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Lol putting the socks in alphabetical order..this is brilliant and reminds me that as much as I want more free time, id go bananas if I had too much.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 😀 Really glad you liked it. It’s true, I think I also need a limit on free time in order to enjoy it properly. It needs to be precious, I guess.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I like the implied metaphor of the twisted sock snakes being the physical manifestations of her thoughts, the way her mind is adjusting to working in a contorted way. Reminded me of the recent curfuffle over Roseanne Barr blaming her sleeping tablets for her racist tweeting at night…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your analyses are always brilliant, you see the depths! I hope one day you read my book that’s coming out. Sorry for the plug, but I’d love to hear how you interpret it (maybe you’d pick it to pieces!) And the Rosanne story made me sad, she was once amazing and now she’s a Trump-loving racist.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you! That wasn’t meant to be pressure for you to do that. I appreciate your list of books to read must be looong 🙂 Just that I’d enjoy the analysis.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Loved the story. I thought she was going to do more projects than a 24 hour period would allow, creating that ‘Not Enough Time In The Day’ scenario all over again. Instead, she went down the other rabbit hole and felt alone while everyone else was sleeping. Guess it’s true. We need our sleep, or we end up twisting wet clothes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sleep is good! Although you have a good point about there not being enough time because we always find ways to fill it. Glad you liked the story! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I knew this wasn’t going to end well 😥

    I do feel that sleep is needed to refresh our mind so we are ready for all the upcoming new information and tasks. Without it, the mind would be overloaded and one wouldn’t be able to focus.

    It’s not a matter of “getting rid of feeling tired” in this case, but “robbing off your mind its ability to keep you sane”.

    Well-written! Really enjoyed this 😊

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you! And yes, I think you’re totally right, sleep is a chance for the brain to reset, and start afresh on a new day. I’m glad you stopped by 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

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