Six is already throwing theta waves, indicating that she’s in that hazy stage of pre-sleep. Before Liz started working in the sleep lab, she found this stage of sleep delicious, because random thoughts would pop into her head and it was as close to lucid dreaming as she had ever experienced. Whenever Liz sees theta waves, she has to focus on not unconsciously clenching her own muscles. The slightest movement, the off noise and you jolt awake, causing a minor autonomic adrenalin response. There is the constant worry that her sleeper will be too irritated by the wires glued to their scalp, the nasal airflow monitor feeling foreign and tugging against one cheek or the other. One misstep and the statistical reliability of every reading for the next several hours are called into question as an outlier. Liz hates outliers. Outliers make blips on her final report and for every one, there is an asterisk and a footnote. She prefers her charts to have lovely trending data, graceful slopes upward and down with corresponding respiration and heart rate numbers, an elegant standard deviation on her Anovas. An aesthetically pleasing histogram confirms her faith in science, that everything has an answer. Everything.
Three snores like a turkey call. His wattle flutters from the exertion of breathing like a fetal beating heart.

“He’s going to need a CPAP sleep mask if he obstructs six more times in the next ten minutes. Note it: 11:43 pm.” Jasper could never keep his eyes on his own work.

Each subject begins to murmur. Liz slips her shoes back on and faces inward to her bank of monitors. The observation of subjects does funny things in her head and sometimes she will reach to move a strand of hair out of a subject’s mouth. She usually manages to stop her hand just before it hits the glass of the monitor and right now, her fingers itch to fix Six’s pajama top that seems to be binding around her neck. Liz loves watching the subject’s public face dissolve and their real personality come out, all readable by the graphic nudity of their sleeping faces. The details of the scandals may be ambiguous, but the worried expressions, their hidden shames, all presented on a tussled billowy canvas. There is a reason that sleep clothes are called intimates. This transition, the ripping away of the public veneer was much more fascinating and exciting to Liz than a person’s wrinkled nipple or mushroom-capped penis.

The later it gets, the busier the night, the more she stares at the trails of brainwaves scrolling across her screen, she will fade into the starkness of the plain white walls until she is just a set of blue irises floating in midair. Sometimes when she goes home after a long shift and closes her eyes to fall asleep, she sees the spiking and trailing amperage of thought patterns. The human brain has a lot in common with a kitchen blender. Five hundred years ago, sleep apnea was a succubus, hovering above your prone form, or a fragment of undercooked potato.
At 5:30 am, it starts to hail. Liz looks out over the glimmer of dawn inside a popcorn popper and wonders if any of the sleepers are dreaming about flying.

Seven’s brain is waking up, making beta patterns, his conscious mind winning the fight against lemurs wearing hats who drive Chryslers and his ability to remember the language of flowers.

She unhooks his wires from the network, swings them up over his neck and ties them into a loose bow. He resembles a large, rumbled electric squid. He has another erection. She pointedly avoids making eye contact, but can tell that this time, he’s embarrassed. She instructs him to use the bathroom and that someone will be back to start detaching him from all the science. She checks in on Six, who is still deep in delta, and passes Humza on his way back from the kitchen with a granola bar and a Styrofoam cup of orange juice with a bendy straw, which means that the lab assistant hasn’t arrived yet. Liz smiles knowing that the banker would be alone for a while, left to think about what he has done.

Jasper is sitting in the lab playing Minesweeper in a small corner of one of his monitors, constantly craning his head back to the big screen to see if One or Two has started throwing some beta or alpha waves. Humza pokes his head in the door.