Monica rolled out of bed and groaned.
It was 3am. Pitch black. Dead quiet outside, as she schlepped, for the fourth time that night, to the toilet, which was across the hall and kitchen.
Her bladder was playing funny buggers but it was no laughing matter at all. She wasn’t a man with an enlarged prostate, so what was the deal with that? Was she getting kidney cancer? Probably.
And she just could not stay asleep. Every night, she’d sleep for the first three hours then toss and turn, wide awake, until morning.
She’d tried all the usual tricks. Have a glass of milk (cue more toilet trips), toss and turn (no joy), lie stock still (she just got bored), or listen to terrible overnight radio (why did they always play some god-awful 1950s drama serial just as she woke up? Or some talkback caller droning on about his psoriasis?).
As for TV, forgeddaboutit. She’d rather go out and mow the lawn than tolerate those Fat Blaster machine advertorials or re-runs of Bewitched.
She tried reading a book. That, at least, was fairly pleasant, but gnawing away in her head was the through that, every hour, two hours, then three, was hacking into her total sleep hours.
In short, she couldn’t win, short of taking drugs.
She wasn’t yet that desperate, but she had a feeling it was any day now.
She’d end up a hopelessly addicted hag, sitting with a hat and a sign on Swanston street, peddling for money to score.
With that happy thought, Monica entered the kitchen door and made her usual glance around to check for serial killers. Or ghosts. Or a serial killer’s ghost. She chuckled.
And screamed loudly enough to wake the dead, and backed against the kitchen bench. Sitting on a kitchen chair, his legs crossed on the table, was what looked like a giant smurf.
Bare blue chest and face, and white cap and trousers. This one had a black moustache, black eyes and a three day growth.
Monica was frozen, backed against the bench, metres away from him, while one arm groped behind her back for her mobile phone.
Damn! She’d left it on the bedside table – her latest offering to the sleep Gods was to look up obscure historical figures on Wikipedia in the hope she’d bore herself to sleep.
“There’s my purse – take it,” she croaked. “What else do you want? My laptop. It’s old, but it works. A-a-and there’s a jar with a few coins in the pantry. Here. Take the car keys. Car’s out in the car port.”
OK, she was being a bit generous, but she was panicking, her heart was galloping. She just wanted this freak out of here.
He just peered at her with his little beady black eyes, as though she’d been speaking Swahili. He grinned, and promptly yawned.
“Who are you? And why are you dressed as a Smurf?” she said, a little impertinently. But grumpiness was a known side-effect of insomnia.
The Smurf spoke in a high pitched whine, sounding like a jockey. “I’m not a Smurf,” he said, frowning. “I’m a dwarf. I’m Sleepy.”
“Yeah and I’m the Queen of England. Now I don’t know what drugs you’re on, or what riches you think I might have but I can assure you there’s nothing to steal, apart from what I’ve told you about.
“So would you please get out of my house?”
“No,’’ squeaked Sleepy. “I’m on a mission.”
Monica pinched her hip, hard, to check whether she was dreaming. “Owww” she heard herself say.
“I am prepared to cure you of insomnia,” said Sleepy. “I can get you eight hours’ sleep a night.”
He lifted an eyebrow. “And in return, I want….”
She gasped in horror.
“Ahhh, naaah, no,” said Sleepy. “Look, I know I’m attractive, I hate to disappoint you, but sorry love. I’m gay.”
“Then what?” she said. “What do you want.”
“In return,” he said, “I want your soul, your first born and I’ll give you blocked ears once a year.”
Monica rubbed her eyes. She really didn’t have to think about it for long.
“I’ll take it,” she said.
Sleepy looked stunned. “You what?”
“I’ll take it. Insomnia’s a bitch. I’d do anything to end it. Anything!!!”
“Well, uh, Ohhh K then!”
Sleepy sat up and magically a large sheet of paper, written in illegible ink script appeared from behind his back. He handed her a giant feathered fountain pen.
She didn’t have her glasses, but she gathered it was mostly in the vein of “and according to the party of the first part, I hereby declare that heretofore…”
She signed on the dotted line.
Sleepy disappeared in a puff of blue smoke.
Monica proceeded to the toilet. Look, weirder things had happened while she’d been wide awake at stupid o’clock.
She went back to bed, switched off the light, and the iPhone, and slept the sleep of the dead, for the first time in five years.
Stuff the consequences. Here was sleep, sweet sleep.