Sleepless

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The following Prologue won a runner up place with the Secret Attic Short Story Competition in 2009 and was published on-line.  My intention is to expand it into a novel.  

The version directly below is the edited version, after I began a creative writing class in 2014.  The class has shown me where I go wrong, and what I should do about it!

Prologue (after editing)

Zoran stared at the ceiling in his dark room, tortured for want of sleep. Just one hour, he prayed. Lying in the darkness, he fought his demons one by one, his mind racing. Thoughts whirred round the machine that was, his superiors believed, an example of perfect human intelligence. He was their shining light.

A scream startled him. He began sweating, contemplating his own death. Would it be fast and heroic? Would it be slow? Perhaps torture. He held his breath. After what seemed like an eternity he gasped and, panting, drew the covers up around him. It took longer for Them to die… He dismissed the thought.

Images formed in front of him. He saw himself jump out a plane, the parachute failing to open. He squirmed from the vision. Such a terrifying end.

Another thought occurred. He wasn’t a popular man. He had many enemies. One day one of them would put poison in his tea. He saw himself in agony, frothing and writhing. He felt sick. His mind was like an unstoppable train in the middle of the night.

What if everyone believed he was dead, and buried him alive? He pulled the covers over his head. He imagined what it would be like trapped inside a coffin in the cold, indifferent earth, his bloody fingernails scraping to get out. No one to hear his cries for mercy.

Why did he torture himself? Perhaps he would just die of age. Insignificant. Forgotten. Lying a long time in his own filth before finally succumbing.

The rest of the world turned a blind eye, but they all knew. How could they not? Reassuring evidence that he was in the right job, doing the right thing for humanity. The end justified the means.

But these sleepless nights. Insanity and fear torturing him beyond anything he had endured on the battlefield. He had accepted this post because it was safe, secure, away from danger. No more having to witness the sight of broken and bloody comrades, limbs torn from lifeless bodies.

No. He was safe. Far from his own death. He was the right man for the job, dedicated to his country and the war. They needed him to run this facility. Get the prisoners to talk, they said. His superiors knew he had a gift for it, the wits and perception to understand his enemy. He would reach the truth. He always did.

Another scream, “Please! Please let me sleep. I can’t stand it!

Please. Please let me sleep,” Zoran echoed, whispering his secret into the dark abyss. If only he could. He, this example of brilliant intellect, ought to know a way. The sun would be up soon. His terror would fade with the light.

 

Prologue:

Zoran stared at the ceiling in his dark room.  Just one hour, he prayed.  He was a tortured man.  Lying there in the darkness, he fought with his demons one by one, his mind racing.  Thoughts whirred round the machine that was, he believed, a brilliant mind.

A scream startled him.  He began sweating, pondering his own death.   Would it be fast and heroic, or would it be slow?  He held his breath.  Eventually, after what seemed like an eternity, he stopped.  Gasping and panting, he drew the covers up around him.  It took longer for Them to die…  He dismissed the thought as soon as it appeared.

Images began to form in his mind.  Perhaps one day he would be jumping out of a plane and the parachute wouldn’t open.  He squirmed from the very thought of such a terrifying experience.  Another thought occurred.  He wasn’t necessarily a popular man.  He had many enemies in his line of work.  Maybe one day one of them would put poison in his tea.  He would be gasping and vomiting blood in agony.  He felt sick at the thought.  His mind was like an unstoppable train in the middle of the night.  What if everyone thought he was dead but, in fact, they buried him alive?  Zoran pulled the covers over his head and imagined what it would be like to be trapped inside a coffin in the cold, indifferent earth.  It was a horrifying image.  Bloody fingernails scraping to get out.  No one to hear his cries for mercy.

He turned his thoughts to the rest of the world.  They turned a blind eye, but Zoran knew they were all in on it.  How could they not be?  Evidence, he reassured himself, that he was in the right job doing the right thing for all of humanity.  The end justified the means.

But these sleepless nights.  This insomnia.  The insanity and fear it brought with it, tortured him beyond anything he had ever had to endure on the battlefield.  He had taken this job because it was safe, secure, away from danger.  He was immune to the sight of broken and bloody soldiers, lying there, limbs torn from their lifeless bodies.  He was immune to it all.  Now he was safe and far away from his own death.  He was the right man for the job.  Dedicated to his country and the war.  They had needed a man to be in charge of this facility.  Get the prisoners to talk.  Yes, Zoran had a brilliant mind and a brilliant plan.  Sleep deprivation.

Another pitiful cry startled him, “Please!  Please let me sleep.  I can’t stand this!”

    “Please.  Please let me sleep.” Zoran echoed, whispering the secret of his brilliant plan into the dark abyss.  A brilliant mind.  A brilliant plan.  Zoran had only to use his brilliance for good instead of evil and the whole world would sleep better.

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