Liz is making lists. Things to do before she dies (Latest entry: walk convincingly in high heels). Things that she needs to spend money on (renew car registration, yogurt, tampons). Words that sound funny after you say them repeatedly (ex. “tampons,” “smorgasbord,” “gleen”) and what they start to sound like (gleen=the word for fornication in the language of Sleestacks). The people who contribute the quotes on the sides of her Starbucks cup (Most recent: Mitch Hedberg). The wonderful things the homeless people have said to her (eg. “Thank you for being alive.” “You are beautiful. No, I mean it. Gorgeous.”) and the things that are wonderful but were said not directly to her (“I don’t need a gun. I got Jesus. Shoot THAT, motherfucker!”) Places she wants to visit (latest entry: the Maldives to swim with giant jellyfish). The number of times that Jasper says that X is “better than hot buttered sex” (42, as of 12:30 am last shift, where X = a 1972 Camaro).

Her lists this evening: Reasons Why I Will Die and My Ideal Jeopardy Categories. Currently, she has written the following, with neat little bullet points that emboss the page:
There are 48 places in the human head that require electrodes. She can sing them off in her sleep. Not sleep. Liz doesn’t talk in her sleep. This she knows, because she’s watched the video of her sleeping self. There can be no doubt that she dreams, as with all things, there is scientific proof in the form of polysomnogram. It’s impossible for the normal human brain to not dream. Liz dreams, but simply does not remember. She knows this for a fact. Working at the sleep lab, she has the luxury of complementary brain scans and she has seen proof that her parietal lobe is pristine and undamaged, a plum of an organ, so much better than her, say, liver. She has held her dreams in her hand on a black and white print out. They are bunny tracks in the snow. Liz wonders if her dream bunnies hide behind her conscious mind, if they get together during the day and talk shit about her. She senses them gathering in the edges of her peripheral vision, sparkles along the corners of her eyes like the symptom of retinal detachment. Silly rabbits.

Before there were electric lights, the Victorians slept an average of 9 to 10 hours a night, adjusting for the changes of the seasons accordingly. Researchers know this from diaries, although Liz wonders what the Victorians might have thought of their sleep disorders. Humours would need to be drained, uteruses palpated, perhaps they would employ the use of magnets to realign the senses. If she lived in the time of bustles and pessaries, Liz suspects that doctors would have thought she had a demon sitting on her chest at night, stealing her breath, or perhaps simply an acute case of the vapors.
Before entering the stage of Rapid Eye Movement, the average sleeper moves around a lot. This is when sleepwalking and sleep talking happens, but then, there’s a moment of silence that is a precursor to the dreaming. You can watch from close-circuit cameras and don’t even need to look at the machines to know that their muscle tension has gone slack, their chin droops forward like ventriloquist dummies waiting for a line. If they’re not already hooked up to a CPAP mask, they start to snore, and then blam, the delta indicators start making wavy lines, curving into a twisted mountain road pattern, the topographical map of the Oregon Trail.

She hopes for a day soon when the machines will spit out pictures instead of dreams as electric currents. Right now, they only have grey matter seismic activity. In the morning, the subjects must write journals about their night, describing in detail their dreams over breakfast bars and bowls of corn flakes. Some are vivid, with plots and subplots, supporting casts and Vonnegut-esque prose. Liz compares these to the electro-encephalograph for each sleeper. No aliens. No loves lost or hard fought. No fortune cookie slips. Just static on an unused television channel. A dream about Milton Berle and the first pet you’ve ever owned making sweet sweet love (hot buttered sex) out on top of the Stratosphere while you float beside them playing Jenga is a Category 8 earthquake that could level San Francisco.

Liz tries not to think about the dreams when she sees them on paper. Are they dreaming or aren’t they, not what. She thinks about the patients who smell like stale cigarettes or like sweat in the morning from their nocturnal hyper hydration or the occasional bed wetter or nocturnal emission (which is the reason that all of the mattresses are coated in plastic, like at a kid’s summer camp. Sometimes if the subject is a stomach sleeper, the lab techs each get an adrenaline rush thinking that someone is choking and have rushed into the pods, expecting to save a life only to discover that it’s just the snore microphone picking up the crinkle of the piss plastic.)