Flash Fiction Challenge: “Lay Down and Shut Up!”

My first submission for Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge.


This challenge involves a random cocktail name. Whatever cocktail randomly comes up, its name will be the title of the story. I got “Lay Down and Shut Up!”, consisting of Jägermeister, Hot Damn, Kahlua, and cream.  Enjoy the story!

Lay Down and Shut Up!

Toby sat naked on the side of the bed. He’d been dreading this all month. But it had to be done. He needed to sleep.

But first, he had to go through the pain.

“Are you sure we have to do this?”, he asked. “I mean, aren’t there drugs for this sort of thing now?”

“Not for this. It has to be done naturally,” Sana said. She was tall, with long, flowing hair that was dark as Kahlua. Her white dress contrasted starkly with her brown skin.

Sana rolled the machine over to the side of the bed. She plugged a cord into the wall.  The headgear and catheters sat on a tray beside the machine.

“Lay down,” she said.

Toby was reluctant. “Really, I–I need more time. Just another week,” he said. He was lying of course. Despite the meds, he was starting to hallucinate.

“Lay down and shut up!” Sana saw through his lie. He said the same thing every month, trying to delay it. But after a month, he would become a danger to society. This month he had to be brought in forcefully by a pair of compliance officers.

Toby slowly swiveled his large body and swung his feet up on the bed. He hesitated before laying down on his back. He stared up at Sana with worry in his eyes. She showed no emotion; why should she? She had a job to do, unpleasant as it was. The misery she felt had to be hidden, if she were to continue getting a paycheck.

Sana took a can of cream and with the dip of a few fingers of her gloved hand spread some on his face. She fitted the headgear over his face and head and strapped it in place. More cream, and the catheters slipped in with little effort.  The bed, room and staff were now protected from Toby’s bodily waste. Toby didn’t react to the discomfort–he was used to the procedure.

Sana stuck a few electrodes on Toby’s chest, then covered him with a blanket. He was ready. She pushed a few buttons on the machinery, and then stood and waited. The machine whirred into life, and with a frown, she pressed one more button, then stood back.

Toby’s entire body went into convulsions, and though the mask muffled his screams, Sana still had to put in her earplugs. Pulse after pulse of electric current passed through Toby’s brain. Each zap of electricity was carefully measured to match the current and voltage for the parts of the brain responsible for sleep. The pain was unbearable–Toby could never get used to this.

After a couple of minutes, the machine shut down. Toby wasn’t moving. Electrodes in the headgear indicated he was properly in REM sleep, the restful stage, which was also the dreaming stage. Toby’s sleep session was in progress.

* * *

Toby had one of his dreams about the microgravity of the world. All it took was a single, gentle bound to launch him into the air. Of course, gravity would eventually grab him and pull him back down. That was always scary, his stomach churned during the fall, and he knew landing would be painful.

But then he found flight. Instead of extreme high jumps, he seemed to be able to stay in the air. With a wave of his arms, he stayed aloft. ‘Hot damn,’ he thought, ‘I’m actually flying!’

He enjoyed the view, flying over buildings and roads. The sun was warm and bright, the wind light. He passed over a small forest, and saw a flash of light. Then something hit him in the chest. He put his hand where he had felt the impact, and noticed blood. He was shot! Shot, like a duck! In fact, maybe he was a duck, he wasn’t sure.

Toby knew he was going to lose consciousness and fall violently to the ground. He needed a controlled landing immediately. He carefully pointed his body down and swayed his arms in such a way that he was able to gently reduce altitude. He’d never flown before, so this was a slow, agonizing process.

Then the buildings below turned into book cases. As he continued to descend, he started grazing the top shelf of a large book case, knocking several books over. He tried to maneuver in front of the structures, and land on the ground.

Finally he landed and came to a stop. He checked the damage to his chest, and noticed very little blood. It seemed the bullet had only grazed him. That explained the absence of pain.

That was the last thing he remembered before waking up.

* * *

Toby opened his eyes. The headgear had already been removed from his face and head, and the catheters from his genitalia. Sana stood over him, checking his eyes and mouth. Her hair was tied in a pony tail.

“Good morning”, she said.

Toby was too groggy to respond. He tried to sit up, but a searing headache told him he should wait. “How long did I sleep?” he finally asked.

“A little over six days. You’ve improved. Out of 30 days awake you’ve averaged about 5 hours per day.”

“I gotta get home.”

“Taxi will be here in an hour,” Sana said. “Take your time getting up, drink some water slowly, get dressed. No food until you get home.”

Toby did as he was told. When the taxi arrived, he walked out the door and into the car. Except for the headache, he felt refreshed. It had been a month since he had felt this good.

Once Toby got home, he turned on the television and sat with a glass of Jägermeister. Until that headache went away, he wasn’t going to enjoy his temporary freedom, awake and alert. Still, another month, and another refreshing sleep. He felt good, except for the feeling of dread. The dread was always there. In another month, he would have to repeat the process again.


3 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Challenge: “Lay Down and Shut Up!”

  1. This has a futuristic feel, but i can see it being a real picture of the struggle to balance sleeping and awake time. I didn’t catch the insomnia point, but i can see that. I feel sorry for Toby. Enjoyed this look into his world.

    Liked by 1 person

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