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Insomnia's Children

What happens to all those characters who are never written down?

He comes first, lumbering out of the gloomy shadows. Half-asleep, I try to protest, but his fist curls around my collar and he yanks me out of bed. He is the hardened villain of my nightmares who both terrifies and fascinates me.

Right now, terrified wins. I give a feeble squeak, which I can't blame him for ignoring.

"Where's my story?" growls the nameless villain, bearded face forced into mine. "I want it."

"I'm sorry," I try to protest, "I will write it, I promise. But I am working on this now, something new, something - "

He cuts me off. "Now," he whispers, so threateningly low that I can barely hear him. He twists his hand, dragging me higher and cutting off my supply of air so that I can barely breathe.

"Oh, leave 'er alone will ya?" I have never been more pleased to see the cockney ragamuffin twins who amble onto the edge of my subconscious. "Can'tcha see she's tryin' to sleep?"

The villain drops me to the ground, baring his teeth in a wolfish grin, and I rub my throat thankfully."No harm meant, I'm sure," he grovels, drawing out the last word into two syllables.

"Yeah," continues the other twin, wiping her nose on her hand. "Anyways, our story's better than yours. We've gotta come first, isn't that right?" She gives me what she hopes is a winning smile, showing a row of filthy teeth.

"I will write you, I promise," I gabble, desperate to get some sleep, but the twins have woken the rest up now. They come flooding into my mind, an enthusiastic supermarket cashier, a sarcastic male nurse, and little Casey, who dreams of being a star.

I am torn. Sleep-deprived and desperate for some shut-eye, my body aches for a moment's rest, but my mind refuses to shut out the characters. The lines they come up with are better than anything I could write, and despite myself I search for a biro, scrabbling to note the clever comments I know I will have forgotten by the morning.

These are insomnia's children, I think, born each night from the sleep I could have had. The characters stamp, march, run, or even flutter throughout my mind as I toss and turn. During the day they hide like vampires from the sunlight, retreating into the inner-most depths of mind and refusing to come out, however much I coax them. But at night I fall victim to their play, whether they be the snarls of the black-haired villain or the titters of the twins. Night after night sleep snatches me with my pen in my hand, half-written words begging to be finished.

My mind dares me to ignore them, but in truth I am half-excited by this homeless villain who lurks in my thoughts, growling for a page. Delirium numbs me as a write, making me forget the sleepless nights as I finally give in to his cravings and spell his name out, BENJAMIN DAUNT.

The twins soon follow, Ella and Holly, adding a tickle of humour to the page. Then follow more characters, the heroes and the victims, those who realize their dreams and those who never will. At long last the printer creaks, spilling the black words onto dusty paper that builds into a fat pile, my victory.

I pick it up, straighten it out and place it on my desk.

Perhaps I'll get some sleep tonight!
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