It wasn’t sleep.
Jill hadn’t slept in five years without the assistance of a machine, but whenever she closed her eyes, three women with straight white hair and bright silver bodysuits swayed back and forth, lipsyncing songs from Jill’s high school prom.
“It is a rare but non-terminal sleeping disorder,” her psychiatrist had said when Jill first saw the silver women. “They’ll probably go away in time.”
Three years later, they still never had. On the rare occasions that Jill hooked herself to her sleep machine, she dreamed of nothing but a giant bottle of bleach being poured onto her head. First her roots, then her split ends, then her neck, shoulders, and shoes would turn a metallic silver. If Jill removed her clothes, her breasts and thighs were silver as well.
“Polyester,” a voice would whisper again and again in her aluminum ear. “Polyester.”
She never told her psychiatrist that particular detail.
She delayed her sleep as long as long as possible. Soda. Salt. Sit-ups. She would delay the inevitable until at last her eyes refused to remain open and her mouth refused to chew another cookie and the silver women swayed back and forth, back and forth.
Okay, I will sleep, Jill would think. Three hours later, she’d finally shake enough energy into herself to strap into the machine, place the electrodes on her forehead, and sink into black and bleach.
“Polyester,” the voice would say again.
Twelve hours later, Jill would awake, lose herself, and then prepare for the next week of sleeplessness--two if she could make it.
“Any weird dreams lately?” Her psychiatrist asked again today.
Jill didn’t answer. She focused on the purple rollers in the psychiatrist’s hair and the red lips that looked more like quivering kidneys than features of romantic import.
“You sure? Nothing?”
Like she had for the last three years, Jill only shrugged.
“You must reach deep inside of your mind if I am to help you. If you cannot remember your dreams, then keep a journal by the machine and record them the moment you wake up.”
Jill shrugged again.
“What about the silver women? Do you still see them when you close your eyes?”
Jill didn’t need to close her eyes to answer. She closed them, nonetheless, and the women bobbed their barbie-doll heads and mouthed the lyrics to Heart’s “Who Will You Run To.”
“Yes, they’re still there,” Jill's voice monotone.
“Have you ever tried talking to them or singing with them?”
When the session was over, Jill again paid the fee and drove back to her apartment to sit and ward off sleepiness. She collapsed onto the couch of her living room and turned on a random television channel. A man with a perfect tan was wrapping his arms around a curvy blonde. Jill sat, unmoved.
“Jillian, you know I’ll never leave you,” the man said between long, moaning kisses.
“I never want to leave you either,” the blonde said. The couple embraced even tighter, their mouths meshing to the rhythm of the perfect waterfall behind them.
The scene then cut out.
“Do you have messes and stains you can’t get rid of?” A giant bottle of bleach rotated on the television screen.
Jill stared. The words of the commercial faded as the bleach bottle continued to slowly rotate. A silver woman stepped onto the screen, beckoned to the bleach, and moved her gray lips.
Jill stood. “Why are you on my TV screen? Who are you?”
She grabbed the remote control, pressed Power, and collapsed on the sofa, breathing deeply and closing her eyes.
“No! Stupid!” she pushed away from the metallic lipsyncers and marched to the kitchen. She opened the shimmering refrigerator door, pulled out a pan of half-eaten brownies, and froze. She very slowly closed the door and stared at the refrigerator magnet above the ice dispenser.
Dina’s Fabrics and Sewing
“Why are you everywhere?” Jill let the pan of brownies fly. Glass shattered and chocolate bits scattered across the floor. “Why is everything silver ladies and bleach and polyester? What is this?” Jill grabbed her head and leaned against the kitchen counter.
The lights flickered.
Jill straightened and turned toward the broken glass and brownies. She ripped the Dina’s magnet off of the refrigerator and flung it into the mess.
“When can I be able to be a normal human being again? When will I be able to sleep again without a machine and the stupid word repeating? Again. And again. And again.”
The kitchen lights went out.
Jill looked up. Out of the corner of her eye, a green light started to flash.
“Abort,” her psychiatrist’s voice rippled out of the sleep machine. “Put subject on file until data evaluation.”
Jill rotated slowly and stepped over the glass to reach for the telephone.
The screen was black.
A key clicked in the front door.
Katherine Garvin is an Oregon author who dabbles in fantasy and psychology. She is that redhead who walks barefoot and cloaked. Vist her website here.