Four-hundred-and-twenty-three. This one’s called Boris. Parents, Sylvia and Gavin Harris. Boris Harris? What an ugly name, nasty bit of consonance there. Which is why, when he was thirteen, he had his name changed to Kyle – just Kyle. He grew up to become one of the elite “head honchos” at the farm. He is now jumping over this fence because he is chasing another sheep (the son of a rival sheep) who buggered his daughter, in Boris’ own bed too. I got bored of simply counting the sheep when I hit three-hundred. Now, not only am I naming them but I’m giving them full life stories too. It is the sort of madness that routinely goes through my head when I have insomnia.
When a late night becomes Insomnia
It was Sunday. I stayed up watching a TV B-movie and it’s now twelve. This was survivable: I could get a whole eight hours of sleep. But there was something wrong. As I squirmed around trying to get comfortable, a stabbing pain kept hitting my tender areas. I got out of bed and swiped away the crumbs, cursing that one night stand, having eaten toast in my bed. With a sigh, I threw myself back on the bed only to leap back up, swearing at what ever just stabbed me in the ass. On closer inspection, the pointy object wasn’t a particularly large crumb, as I had at first suspected, but a spring sticking out of the mattress. ”Well, this isn’t going to work,” I thought, ”I can’t afford a new mattress right now”. I left my room and went to find some duct-tape and some Band-Aids.
“I know I have some somewhere!,” I shouted in frustration half an hour later as I searched the kitchen drawers. I’d found both duct-tape and Band-Aids, I just needed some scissors. Kicking my cat, Otter, out of the way, I looked under the sink, though why I’d have scissors there I couldn’t quite figure out. Cursing as I bash my head, I withdrew from the cupboard, suddenly remembering the nail scissors in the medicine cabinet. Five minutes later I was sitting on my de-clothed bed, putting antiseptic cream on the hole and preparing the Band-Aids. “No. Wait. What the fuck am I doing?” I asked myself as I burned with embarrassment. No one else saw that thankfully, but I’ll remember it. I’ll remember it the next time I’m having sex in this bed, and I’ll make a face like I want the world to end. And he’ll leave. Quickly I fixed up the bed trying to bury that memory along with all those other abuse memories from school. I hated PE…
Now I’m Not Tired Any more!
So now I’m sitting on my unmade bed and I can’t stand to think of the effort it’ll take to re-make it. Then an idea comes to me. “Lost’ll be on the internet!” I announce to nobody. I’d missed a couple of episodes recently because my old cat pissed on my computer and I only just managed to get it replaced today (I managed to replace the cat the following day). I walk over to the box containing my new computer and I start unwrapping it, savagely, like a child on Christmas morning. Within ten minutes I have the hardware out of the boxes and the cables and packaging are strewn across the floor. “Well that was fun.” I sigh as I look around at the mess. It's quarter past one now. I began to plug everything into the wall and figure out which cables go where. The number of times I hit my head on the desk, without passing out, is frankly astonishing.
Finally I roll up my chair and press the button. "*Beep* *Beep* *Beep*," it cheeps at me like a baby chick. “Aww,” I coo. “What are we going to call you, then?”. I ponder for a moment... "What about... Ben? Nah, too ordinary. Maybe Doris? Floris, Boris?" I suddenly remember the name-changing sheep from my imagination and, almost as if in protest to this, the computer roars at me with a metallic crunching noise (imagine toasters chewing tinfoil) then the monitor started screaming “ERROR! ERROR!” in panic-inducing block-writing. Seconds later it makes a noise like a mouse being trodden on before switching itself off completely.
I stand up and leave the computer area. That never happened. It didn’t. I tell myself. It’ll be fine in the morning.
I turn on my TV and prepare myself for whatever delights 2 A.M. has for me.
“Yes folks and it’s time fae Cash Call!” the maniacally camp Scottish accent blares at me. Instantly transfixed and horrified I lean forward in my seat and watch on. It’s a quiz show, I soon learn. Apparently all you have to do is call up and answer some insanely stupid question. There is a word up on the screen followed by a space and all you have to do is add another word (or a few small words) to create a “well known phrase”. The word is “Red”. Instantly I have wave upon wave of ideas: Red Army, RedRum, Red Light, Red Radish! For now I hold the phone though and decide to just watch.
“Och aye,” the ex-Big Brother contestant starts; talking to, seemingly, nobody but himself, but in reality the camera men were probably half listening. “I remember when I was a wee boy, at School there was this girl…” I snort with disdain, ‘girl’. He continues though “she was the Prettiest Girl in the school…” I kind of tuned out for a while I know he's just talking to fill in the awkward silence in between cash-callers and the story probably isn’t interesting anyway. And then he says something rather curious: “I remember I broke into her house… HELLO, CASH CALLER! What’s yurr name and where are you calling fae!?” he bellows succeeding in diverting my limited attention from the first half of the sentence.
“Oi, oi!” the caller hollers in a Manchester accent. “Yeahmyname’sFezistheanswerRedNose?” he adds all in one without pausing, probably frightened he’ll forget his answer. I have to admit it's a good answer though, and almost certain to be there.
“Let’s just see if that answer is there…” There's a dramatic pause for effect. “Oh I’m sorry, Fez, that answer is not there I’m afraid.” He says making a ghastly, insincere, disappointed face. I'm faintly perplexed by the fact that Red Nose isn’t a legitimate answer but nevertheless I watch on.
For a whole hour I watch with increasing exasperation as person after person gives a stupid answer or repeats the wrong answer that the last caller gave – I mean for god’s sake, Gwen-from-Cardiff, are you deaf and Welsh!? “Right.” I say to myself as Dorothy-from-Dover gives it her best shot (“Red cloud?”), “I’m going to show you all how it’s done.” I snatch up my phone and type in the numbers that are flashing up on the screen. It rings… *Boop Boop*… *Boop Boop*… Click.
“HELLO CASH CALLER!!!” I hear the TV and phone roar in terrifying unison, then feedback starts scratching at my ears.
“You need tae turn yurr TV off!” the presenter begs. I mute it after finding the remote. “That’s better. What’s Yurr name then caller, and where are you calling fae?”
“Er… My name's Steven…” I inform him, while watching my cat stalk its way around my computer “And I’m from London.”
“Oh, that’s where we’re broadcastin’ fae!” the presenter says with inanely childish excitement. I look out my window and from where I am I can just about see the ITV studios.
“Yeah, I know. In fact if you look out your window I’m sure we could wave to each other.” I say dryly letting the curtain fall back in place. I look at the TV; his expression really is quite something, both unsure and worried – as if I’d bother stalking him.
“Well I’m sorry, Steven, but I cannae really leave the studio at the minute. What’s yurr answer then, Steven?”
“Red…” I’d fully intended to say ‘Rum’, but I then I hear beeping noises coming from my computer desk. I turn around to see Otter jump up on the computer chair and start to type, with amazing accuracy considering she doesn't have fingers. “…Otter?” I ask her. However instead of presuming I was talking to my cat, the presenter – who I'm begging to suspect is a tiny bit retarded – decides that “Red Otter” was my answer. I try to argue, but, “unfortunately we have to accept your first answer”. I watch the TV in despair, kicking myself for not being more focused.
“YOU WIN!!!” The words leap onto the screen and a little animation of coins rain from top to bottom. I have to read the words seven or eight times. I can hardly believe it. What kind of ridiculous moron thinks "Red Otter" is any kind of phrase, let alone a common one?
Back to Reality, Sorta
Well, that was fun... unbelievably unbelievable, but fun. Now seven grand richer, I feel that I could probably sleep; except it’s now four in the morning, I’d only get four hours sleep and – though it sounds paradoxical – I’d be much tireder (is that a word?) on four hours' sleep than none, so now I have to consign myself to not sleeping. I need to do something, and after flicking through all five-hundred or so channels I conclude that television is not the thing to do. I look at my computer and remember what prompted me to say “Otter” in the first place. She's gone now though. And she was never typing. She was just hitting the keyboard randomly, probably seeing a spider or something. That is the story I’m going to stick to, because I’m not crazy.
I look around from the half finished jigsaw to the pile of dishes in the kitchen and then something catches my eye. “These walls are green,” I realise, “I hate green.” This gives me an idea. So, making my way to the storage room, I wonder if mother left any paint here from when she was decorating the bedrooms. She’d etaken it upon herself to decide what my house would look like. As a result my storeroom was a garish clash of pastel pink and baby blue, two walls each colour, as “you never know what’s going to pop out”. I probably should tell her, but, in all honesty, her ignorance amuses me. In fact she’d left most of my baby stuff here too, a cot and all sorts of toys and junk, rendering my spare room useless for renting out and almost tempting me to get a wife and settle down.
I wade through all the shit to get to the back of the room, wondering vaguely if I should burn it and say it was an accident: Can you get done for burning your own house down?
I find what I'm looking for eventually. After emptying boxes all over the floor and carelessly throwing a toy fire-truck out of the window I yell in triumph as I grab the pink and blue paint pots.
I'm not intending to paint my walls pink and blue like in the ‘nursery’, it's just I've had a great idea. Considering my Cash Call winnings, I've decided I’ll have a money motif: lots and lots of pound signs painted in pink over the offensive green. It’ll look awesome! And for a good hour or so I convince myself of how brilliant it will look provided I can translate it from head to plasterboard. However, in reality, the line of pound signs is sloping downwards and jiggle wherever I nearly fell off my perilously unsteady ladder. Additionally, the symbols are also getting bigger as I decided it was taking too long and wanted to speed things up a bit. Then, I decide that, actually, I can’t be fucked with the pound signs, and too much pink would look girly. I change to the blue colour and started painting on movie quotations and taglines. I admit, I plagiarised this idea from the cinema, but it is a good idea. I carry on in this vein for a while, sometimes stopping to watch the bit of the movie I'm quoting just to make sure I get the quote correct. Then, bored again, I start to do pink waves and occult insignias, but I quickly realise that looks crap as well. Then, I decide to do a caricature of my boss but with only pastel pink and baby blue at my disposal it looks a bit empty. Even when I draw on it in black crayon.
Now I'm done, I sit and stare at my work. The more I look at it the more it feels like a dream. A weird, disjointed dream. And then I wake up from it. Or, at least, I should have, with the alarm clock blaring away in my bedroom. I go through and turn it off. I try to convince my body that it had had a nice long sleep while I go through my morning routine. Washing paint off my body and brushing it off my teeth I wonder vaguely how much it would cost to get the paint job done professionally. As I'm leaving my house I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I look sort of like a molested scarecrow.
Going to Work on no Sleep is Terrifying
I take the bus as normal, but something happens that's slightly out of the ordinary. An old lady beats me up for my drugs. Of course, I don’t actually have any. She just presumed that - with my bedraggled appearance, dark circles under my eyes and the fact that I'm shivering on a warm day - I must be a dealer, or at least a user with some “medicinal cocaine” on him. She gets pretty violent, too... those walking sticks really should be classed as weapons. She leaves me beaten up on the pavement and makes me miss my bus.
When I finally get into work (late), I can hardly describe how I feel, mostly because I'm not really feeling anything anymore. I'm strangely outside myself.
My boss comes up to my station soon after I arrive and inquires about my lateness. And he's so nice about it too, he always is so nice. And sweet. It 's offensive.
“Oh, Steven, you look awful” he informs me .
“Yeah…” I say looking at the arm on my shoulder. I might bite it if it stays there any longer. I think. “Haven’t slept. Was mugged. Old lady.” I slur disjointedly.
“Oh my God, You were mugged!?” he says, crouching down to my level and just overflowing with pained concern.
“…What I said.” I confirm, forgetting to speak the start of the sentence.
“Are you sure you don’t want the day off? You look awful tired, maybe you should just go back to bed?” I make an attempt at saying the word “no” but fail, only managing to groan the last letter. “Sorry,” my boss replies with a ferocious gentleness. “didn’t catch that?”
“NO!!!” I shout, scaring everybody in the room. “I DON’T WANT THE DAY OFF I JUST WANT TO DO MY WORK. NOW GO BE NICE TO SOMEONE ELSE FOR FUCK’S SAKE!!!” I leave myself standing there. I'm still standing there five minutes later, unsure of what happened. I sit back down.
Time slowly becomes meaningless. I spend what feels like an eternity staring at my computer screen watching the colours melt slowly from sphere to cube to spiky ball to sphere to cube to spiky ball to sphere to cube to spiky ball to sphere… and so on, until I can’t ignore the pressure in my bladder any longer. I get up and look at the clock. It's ten to ten. Twenty minutes since I got in. “Oh that’s not fair.” I say out loud, getting looks from co-workers. Some looked worried that I may pull out a gun and start shooting. Though the idea amuses me, I don’t, I simply relieve myself into the waste basket beside my desk, because I'm feeling too lazy to go all the way to the toilets. People stare, but I barely notice. I just go back to looking at the screensaver.
And watch. With all the interest of a menopausal housewife watching a daytime talk show. I really am that mesmerised. And then someone starts shooting! I swear that’s what it is. It sounds like gunfire. Not rapid but steady. Quickly I imagine someone going from station to station putting a bullet in each person's head. But I'm wrong, despite being half way through shouting out a warning, I'm wrong. It's Sophie. Stapling some papers together. I sit there shaking for ages, probably by now looking like I'm suffering withdrawal.
Then he comes back. “Look Steven, I really don’t think you’re well” he says nicely.
“I am well.” I say defiantly.
“Are you sure? It’s just that you urinated in the wastebasket and started shouting about guns when Sophie was preparing those papers. I’m just worried.” He sounds like a nursery teacher, all condescending. I hate him. I hate him a lot.
“Yes.” I growl.
“Look, please don’t take that tone with me” he says. I just start to laugh. Something about the way he's being nice to me just makes me laugh. It's hilarious. “W-what’s funny?” he says nervously. That only makes laugh harder, and for what reason I can’t really figure out. “OK Steven, I think I’ll come back in a while and see how you’re feeling then” he says, backing away. I giggle and nod my agreement. I don’t think I’ll stop laughing unless he leaves.
I can't stop though, 'cos there's this shape on my screen that keeps melting and changing from sphere to cube to spiky ball to sphere to cube to spiky ball to sphere to cube to spiky ball to sphere… and so on getting funnier as it goes on its pointless journey from one corner to the other. I laugh so hard I cry. And then I find a paper clip. What genius thought these up? They’re so hilarious!
I go on laughing for the next few hours, finally seeing the funny side to the staple incident. “CAN YOU BELIEVE I THOUGHT YOU HAD A GUN!?” I holler across the room at Sophie who, jumpy herself at the best of times, almost topples backward out of an open window - which was probably the funniest thing I’ve seen all day. That or the screen saver. And then my face starts to hurt, which isn’t funny. And then my boss comes back again which is even less funny.
“I’ve noticed you stopped giggling” he says.
“Yes” I say slowly. There's something odd about him all of a sudden and I can’t work it out.
“Just thought I’d ask if you were willing to go home now?” and then it hits me. He's real. I'm not having an insanely lucid dream.
“Oh my god you’re real!” I shout at the revelation. “Oh, oh fuck I’m so sorry!” I'm trying to figure out if today’s actions are more or less embarrassing than trying to heal my bed last night. “I think I will go home, you know. I’m so sorry about today - I think I’ve been having a breakdown or something.”
“Hey, that’s OK Steven, we all go through rough patches. I remember when my wife and children died in that fire that was all my fault…”
“Yeah, yeah.” I say. I can only be nice to him for so long without causing myself physical pain. “Would you mind if I maybe took tomorrow off too?” I ask, planning to go home and sleep then hang myself in the morning, if I still feel up to it.
And Back to Bed
I get in. Weary, like I’ve just raced a cheetah on speed and won, I try to take off my clothes and head for my unmade bed. I'm vaguely aware of the vandalism on my living room wall as I pass it - I suppose I must have left the door unlocked and kids have got in again. I’ll check if anything was stolen later, I tell myself. Almost undressed I crash into my still unmade bed and wonder vaguely what it is that’s stabbing into my groin.