September Prompt: The Awakening
I really want to write a longer story based on this world. I am doing my best to keep my prompt responses under 1,500 words. But, anyway, I think the world I have created here would be fun to explore, so maybe I will write something a little longer! I hope y’all enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Today is the Awakening.
I adjust my white robes—they don’t fit properly, but I notice that most people are fidgeting with their own. Gathered around me are all kinds of people. Some distant relatives of the people who sleep, others family friends of those who passed on before the Awakening, and some look old enough to have possibly even known the individuals who sleep. I work in the facility, and I am tasked with being there for Isabella, no last name, who has no one left to greet her. That happens sometimes. Not everyone falls asleep and has loved ones to find them. According to Isabella’s records, it took a month for her to be found.
It should not take anyone that long to be found these days — in ten days specifically — when the Sleeping occurs, thanks to GPS and smartphones. But I am getting ahead of myself.
“When do we go into their rooms?” A woman named Regina according to the name tag affixed to her own ill-fitting white robes asks.
I realize she is asking me. Everyone keeps asking me questions, and I suppose it is fair. They all know I work at the facility, that I have been tasked with keeping their loved ones or loved ones of dead loved ones alive.
Not that it is hard keeping the Sleeping Ones alive. It isn’t like they can put themselves into any danger just lying there. But all these people in this room, they all seem to think I know things about their people. Like what their personalities really are like, even though I don’t. All I know of these people is their sleeping patterns, that some snore really loudly and others drool so much we have to swap out their pillows more frequently.
I have never been to an Awakening before, though. And any information that I have these people have in packets they were supposed to study before coming. Still, I plant my customer service smile on my face.
“In about ten minutes,” I say, with a quick glance to the clock ticking in the room’s corner. My voice is higher-pitched than normal, a voice that I can only use when I am in the mode.
“Oh,” the woman says, and I find myself feeling guilty. She is nervous, I think. And I understand that too, because so am I. I have never met Isabella before—not really. Sure, I know her sleeping patterns. I know as much as her records tell us, which isn’t too much. Not much was known about Isabella. None of her neighbors at the time knew anything about her, or where she had come from. There were whispers of gentlemen (and some women too) callers coming late at night, but nothing concrete.
What am I supposed to say to this woman? Who fell asleep a hundred years ago? I suppose I will figure it out in less than ten minutes.
This isn’t the first time that I have been in Isabella’s room. Her body is still connected to all the wires that monitor her. The dull beep, beep, beep of machinery that tells all of us she is doing okay. She looks peaceful, the same as when she fell asleep, because that is one of the stranger things about those who fall asleep. They don’t age. Their bodies don’t decay. They seem immune to illness while they sleep, though we still give them vaccines for when they return to the world.
Return to the world. Even that phrasing is odd to me.
They do not know the world anymore. Technology, it has advanced so much. Telephones and cars were relatively new when she fell asleep. I don’t think television existed and I wonder how you are supposed to explain computers and the internet to them. Oh, I know in that packet I studied, there were guided conversations. Suggestions of how I could breach the topic of all that has changed with Isabella, but none of it sounded natural to me, and why should she trust me? She doesn’t know me.
I know her, though. I know how her face looks when she dreams. I can’t see what she is dreaming, but her monitors pick up on it. If the dream is pleasant, she has a tiny smile on her face. If the dream is unpleasant, she doesn’t frown. Her lips just fall into a neutral expression, but if you look close enough around her closed eyes, you can notice crinkles that aren’t normally there. She doesn’t talk in her sleep — some do—but she sighs occasionally.
I have studied her file too. Even if there isn’t much in it. Her’s isn’t the only file I studied, and her sleep isn’t the only one, either. I have worked in this facility for years. I interned here in college, and once I graduated, they offered me a job. My bosses like my insight, apparently. They like how I treat the Sleepers. My curiosity, they say, is at an appropriate level.
I can’t really imagine working anywhere else, and I am going to be sad to see all these Sleepers leave. But I know, in ten days’ time, I will have new Sleepers to look over.
I am seated in my favorite chair in Isabella’s room. It came from her house and has withstood the test of time. We try to do that when we can, place items from the Sleeper’s lives, around their room. Usually people have albums and pictures, but not Isabella. All she has is this chair, and the dresser in the corner filled with knickknacks and clothing.
The beeping on the monitor changes and I find my eyes daring towards Isabella. She sits up and stares with a confused expression at all the wires connected on her. Then her eyes land on me.
“I fell asleep, didn’t I?” she asks, her voice sounding rough from lack of use, but at least she still has a voice.
“You did,” I say, suddenly forgetting everything that I am supposed to be saying to this woman. All the words of comfort and reassurance. At least she doesn’t seem like she wants to rip any of the wires out. She seems calm, and maybe a little too calm, but I will take it.
Isabella’s eyes land on me, in her chair, and then drift away towards the rest of the room. Taking in the small television in the corner, the dresser that was in the room she was found in, and all the monitors that monitor her health.
“Things look mighty different,” she says, and I notice a hint of an accent.
“I’ll bet,” I say, and I know that I should say other things. Asking how she is doing. Checking on her vitals and things like that. But she seems so calm, and not at all confused. I suppose by the time she fell asleep, we humans knew the routine. It had been happening for so long. I still think it would be a shock to fall asleep and then wake up a century later, but… not everyone is like me, I suppose.
“Can I get something to eat?” Isabella asks.
The question makes me laugh.
“Technically, we aren’t supposed to let you eat right away.” I point out.
“I have had nothing to eat in a hundred years. It hardly seems fair to make me wait even longer.”
There’s a glint of amusement in Isabella’s eyes as she says this. I think I probably have five or ten minutes before she really puts up a fuss about food. I also decide that I like her, and maybe this won’t be so bad. Reintroducing her to the world.