In a worst case scenario, a human can survive up to eleven days without sleep. Alexa could manage two, before exhaustion began to settle in. She had had to travel for half of that time to get home, grateful for the kindness of strangers, and the music festival happening in her town that weekend. She was not planning on attending, but the influx of cars helped make her journey affordable – that is, free – and relatively easy. Even if she had been stuffed into the backseat beside someone who had given up on hygiene two days prior.
Alexa was not happy with her current predicament. Strange things were happening when she slept, things she wasn’t sure she could explain to anyone. She didn’t want to sleep, anymore, but her eyes were drooping shut as the kettle boiled for yet another cup of coffee.
She did not make it to the end of the boil, when she found herself jerking awake.
The problem with Alexa’s new sleeping habit was that it was random and unpredictable, and usually put her in a number of awkward scenarios. At first, she thought that she had been sleep walking, and sought advice on the subject online. But with doors locked, and no sign of leaving on a camera she had had installed in her entranceway, she began to ask more questions.
Specifically, “How am I waking up fifty miles away when my cameras don’t even show me leaving the house?” In this particular instance, however, her question to herself was, “Why can I see the Eifel Tower from the bed of this strange and not-so-alluring Frenchman?”
She sneaked out of the bedroom as quickly as she could. The man was snoring. Someone downstairs was singing poorly and Frenchly, while burning their breakfast. Alexa could not stand foreign languages, bad singing or burnt food, particularly not when she had not make a decision to visit foreign countries.
She knew the solution to her problem, and locked herself in the couple’s bathroom. Lock, in this instance, means closing the door and running the shower, in order to convince each of the other people in the house that their partner was in the room. She sat on the toilet, closed her eyes, and tried to sleep.
It took her a few minutes of trying to get comfortable, which she found was easier when she stopped thinking about the fact that she was in a stranger’s bathroom.
When she opened her eyes, she felt an enormous heat blast her from above. The heat came from the sun, which was less comforting than she thought it might have been, particularly when she found that she was sitting in hot, white sand.
She screamed, her only audience being the wide ocean that spread in every direction. It took her a few minutes to find some shelter from the sun. She wished there was some water nearby, just in case she was stranded for a long time. But this island was less like something out of a TV island survival show, and more like somewhere pirates were marooned to die horribly.
Alexa woke up in a museum. She did not know where, but she liked to look at the paintings. The building appeared to be closed, which didn’t help her with the location. It did give her a certain freedom of movement, however, which she embraced.
The island had been unpleasant. At least the museum would eventually fill with people. Maybe, she thought, a security guard would find her. Feed her. Give her some water. Maybe even arrest her, so she could try ask for help from someone who might be in a position to assist her more permanently.
In the meantime, she stared at the paintings. There was one of a park – Central Park, she realised, and then wondered whether the museum would really receive visitors – that she couldn’t take her eyes off.
It did not take long for Alexa to fall asleep looking at it, the image of it burned into her mind. She thought she might have been losing her mind when she woke up inside the painting. Except, of course, that there were other people with her, wandering through the park with expensive coffees and talking on expensive cell phones.
She knew she could probably get home from here, if she wanted to try. She did not know how long she had slept for, but she knew that she was finding herself less tired and more annoyed. Her sleeping habit was becoming something of a nuisance. People stared at her as they passed by. She escaped the scene for a library, hiding between two shelves on the floor.
She stayed there for an hour before falling asleep.
Alexa almost missed the desert island when she woke up in her mother’s house. “I didn’t hear you come in,” her mother said.
“I just popped by a minute ago,” Alexa replied. Silence. This was, as far as Alexa could tell, the most they had said to each other in three months. “I don’t call you enough,” she said. “Why don’t I call you any more?”
Her mother put her hands on her hips. “You want the list of things I thought it was about?” She didn’t wait for an answer. “A new boyfriend. An old boyfriend. A new job. Your current, terrible job. Drugs, illness, shame, regret, or my cooking.”
Alexa averted her eyes. “Illness is beginning to sound right,” she muttered. Her mother did not hear her. “I’m feeling a bit… I don’t know, unsettled at the moment.” She paused. Her mother was staring at her. “Do you think I could stay in my old room for the night? Home doesn’t feel like home.”
It did not take long for her mother to agree, to hug her, to start crying, or to suggest a hundred different ways to spend the day. Alexa did not realise that it was only early morning. So they baked. They talked about Alexa’s late father. They gossiped about the neighbours. Alexa shined a light on a few of the rumours that had gone around years ago, and which ones turned out to be right. Her mother showed her how to start knitting a scarf.
Counting it in her head, Alexa realised that she had not spent a full day with her mother – and just her mother – in more than fifteen years. She thought about that as she lay down in her old bed, last used regularly when she was getting ready to leave for college. She found a dozen years every summer not to come home.
“Alexa, sweetie, do you want breakfast?” her mother called in the morning. She had to ask twice to wake her daughter up. But, Alexa realised with a smile on her face, that she was still in her old high school bed. Breakfast sounded wonderful.