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Sleepy Sickness

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The American 1920's were conflicted times. There was good, there was bad. There are many accounts of the "Roaring Twenties," of course, and just as many tales as to how awful prohibition was. After all, no time period doesn't have both awful and wonderful things going on.

But we're not here to talk about the entirety of the twenties. This is going to be a story about an odd occurrence, but nonetheless a small one. Just a footnote in the vast beast of history known as the 1920's.

This footnote was something called sleepy sickness.

Scientifically known as Encephalitis lethargica, sleepy sickness was an oddity. However, it was also very, very simple. Patients diagnosed with it would suffer from all sorts of symptoms. Fever. Headache. Lethargy. But what was really interesting about it were the more severe cases.

In these special happenings, a patient would go to sleep. And not wake up. It was, essentially, a disease that could cause comas.

Of course, the patient wasn't dead. Simply sleeping. A few of the people who contracted it even testified that they could sometimes hear things going on around them. A one Harriet Gullman (I'm using an alias here, as requested by Mrs. Gullman in my interview with her.) said that she could hear "my own parents, and a doctor. There were... three different occasions. The first, my parents were severely confused. This is understandable. I would've been too. The doctor, having already seen many cases like this, explained the situation. My parents were confident I would wake up sometime soon."

"The second lapse of hearing I had was at yet another doctor's visit. Just a check up. My parents sounded... tired. They had been expecting it to blow over quickly. They still carried hope for me, although less than before."

"The third time... I heard... oh, I'm sorry. I heard... my own parents s-schedueling my funeral..."

The interview ended shortly after that.

Thankfully, Mrs. Gullman did wake up in time to not be buried alive. She passed only a few years ago, after this interview had taken place. Her life had been mostly prosperous. Routine, even. It's a little unsettling to know that a few months of your life were stolen from you, sure. But nothing too bad to dwell on.

The same cannot be said for everyone who contracted sleepy sickness.

I'm going to throw out a disclaimer here; the better part of this story is based on recorded fact. However, everything after this paragraph... may be a little less professional. Along with, of course, satistics and records, there are portions of it based more off urban legend. It's impossible to identify how much truth rings in these, but I'm going to be publishing it nonetheless.

As I was saying, some people were actually affected more permanently. One such instance was Alexandra Fillmore (again, an alias). However, she's better known to residents of her hometown (the location or name of which I shall not disclose) as Smiley.

220px-Encephalitis-livre

Sleepy sickness had plagued her for four months before she awoke. She reemerged seemingly the same; a cheerful redhead blooming with optimism.

However, things began to go awry when young Alexandra found that she couldn't sleep.

Try as she might, she simply couldn't give herself back up to the Sandman. Not after an entire four months of endless unconsciousness. And so, in the little hours of the morning while the rest of her family was asleep, Alexandra would hole herself up in the bathroom.

And reemerge with one less tooth.

That's right. She would take her own teeth out.

She would spend her restless hours scraping and tugging, eroding her fingernails away against the rough bone. By the time she was done and had actually pulled it from her mouth, it would be hardly recognizable as a tooth. They would be small, bloody masses of bone. Something you'd expect to find at a murder scene. But she didn't get caught, for a while. Before her parents rose from their beds, she would go back into her room and conceal the disgusting fragment of her body into a drawer.

This would happen every two or three nights.

Of course, eventually someone took notice to the dwindling amount of teeth she had. Her father, concerned, asked her what happened. Had someone hit her? Had she fallen?

But Alex would just shake her head and smile, which now had a few gaps. "They fell out," she answered. Her father wasn't completely satisfied. What father would be? But for now he decided he'd let it slide.

It went on like this, for awhile. Eventually the subject would cause Alex to grow angry, yelling at her parents and storming up to her room. She never acted like this before. As I said earlier, she was generally happy and very hard to upset. Her parents decided that if she didn't get better on her own soon, they would need to seek treatment for her.

They hesitated long enough for her to only have eight teeth left. So, her parents barged into her room and demanded to know what was going on.

Alexandra confessed everything to her mother. The poor woman experienced every detail of Alexandra's self-harm, every twist of her fingers as her nails raked along her gums. Her father, having heard that Alexandra apparently had kept her own teeth in a drawer somewhere, rifled through Alex's various cabinets.

He found... God, excuse me. He found two necklaces made of Alexandra's own teeth.

The young girl was admitted into a hospital for both physical and psychological treatment. After therapy from experts, she managed to break the grotesque habit for a few weeks. But one night, after what was supposed to be a normal checkup, Alex's nurse hurdled herself out of the room, screaming. A doctor approached her, asking what was wrong. The nurse, after a few minutes, stuttered out a response.

Other staff that had gone into the room in the meantime confirmed her story.

Alexandra had been holding her own eye in her hand.

Imagine that. Just... take a second. Walking into a room only to see a fucking insane, masochistic teenager that had just ripped her own eye out of its socket. Imagine the blood seeping from the now vacant hole as she just smiles at you. Imagine the blood from her eye rolling over her lips and into her mouth, because she hardly has any teeth to hold it out.

And she swallows, then smiles again. The only thing she had to say for herself was, "It fell out."

Eventually, Alex's other eye "fell out" too.

But she wasn't holding it. It sat on a what was once a restrained surgical bed in Alex's room.

She'd become incredibly irritable and aggressive after her first eye had come out, so the doctors had decided to try and gather evidence of what exactly was wrong from her brain. The leather straps meant to hold her down during the surgery had been shredded, the eye left as the only evidence of where she'd gone. There was no trail to follow.

The story became quite popular in the area, especially after the necklaces made of teeth went mysteriously missing from Alex's house. She was deemed Smiley. A fitting name, as it couldn't quite be said that she was human anymore. Her mind... Sleepy sickness had done something to it.

In the area she lived in, there are numerous stories of kids wandering out at night. Sometimes they would see smiles peeking out at them from the brush, off in the distance. The teeth gleamed, but no eyes joined them. Eventually the smile would leave, accompanied by the faint sound of rattling bones.

We can't exactly say if those stories are true, though. Nobody exactly knows the wherabouts of Alexandra Fillmore. By this time, she'd presumably be dead, but new stories about the entity known as Smiley still crop up.

Additionally, there have been a few cases of sleepy sickness in recent years.

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