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The Long Sleep of Harold Brown

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Harold Brown couldn’t sleep. He could never sleep. Year after year he struggled but sleep refused to come. He had tried all of the conventional treatments; soothing music, counting sheep, self-hypnosis, drugs. All proved futile. He had visited every sleep clinic and sleep researcher in the world and still he found no relief. “It’s all in your mind,” the therapists told him. “Just relax, breathe deep, think calming thoughts, and sleep will come,” but it never did. Some said Harold was a genius, the greatest engineer to ever live; his inventions had changed the world. It mattered little to Harold. All he wanted was one night of uninterrupted slumber. To slip down his head and drift off in peace like a normal man.

One night as he lay in bed tossing and turning, grumbling at his misfortune, he made a decision. “If sleep will not come by will of nature alone I will make it come.” One full year he spent researching the intricacies of sleep and its mechanisms. He learned of the patterns of the brain at rest, the state of the body when conscious thought ends, and the state when sleep steels over the mind unbidden. Finally he began to build. The machine took shape slowly. It was a ghastly thing, all wires and circuits, silicon, and metal. When complete it fit about his head like a helmet, one wire ran from the attachment point near the temporal lobe to the power source. All he had to do was put it over his head, flip the switch and sleep would occur instantly. Nothing could awaken him once the machine was engaged. The machine could be programmed to initiate sleep at any given time and grant wakefulness at any other. He input the data. Sleep at 10:00 pm awake at 9:00 am. The helmet slipped over his head and the switch was flipped. Instantly he was dreaming and then suddenly he was awake. He looked at the clock near his bed, 9:00 A.M. it read. “I’ve done it,” he thought. "I’ve mastered sleep."

A year passed and it was the greatest of his life. His prior scientific achievements paled to what he accomplished during that time. Always in the background was the machine. The machine had made it all possible, it was his greatest achievement. Every night it comforted him bringing him instantly to the world of dreams and then waking him again refreshed and alive ready to tackle the world.

Then things began to change, slowly life began to lose its color. The change was so subtle Harold dismissed it at first. “I’m just getting older,” he thought. Eventually though he could deny the changes no longer. He could no longer perceive color. Everything turned black and white. Soon even black and white began to fade. “I am going blind,” thought Harold. Even as he lost his sight other changes were occurring. He would touch an object and it seemed that the solidness of the material was gone. “I can no longer feel,” thought Harry. His hearing too was fading. Sounds lost their cohesiveness. The blaring of car horn to him sounded as a dull thud. Then, sound was gone completely. Sight was gone soon after. Then to his horror his sense of touch was completely lost.

In the room at Harry’s apartment a rat slowly chewed through the power cord of his sleep machine. One wire at a time was lost and so too was Harold Brown.

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