So, in an effort to FORCE myself to be more active on this blog, I’ve decided to put more of my original fiction (with some of my usual depressing posts thrown in) up. I will be taking an episodical approach, splitting my stories into pieces. Some stories will be longer than other, so if you read something you like or don’t like, feel free to let me know about it! (Oh, and, forgive the formatting, I’ll try to figure out how to make these things cleaner going forward)
With that being said, here is Episode 1 of “Season 1”, starting with my original novelette, “SOMNUS“:
“It” started when I was 14 years old.
I’d say “it’s” been going around twelve years strong now. But before I go any further, let me make this clear: I’m not writing this to you as some self-absorbed attempt at pity or sympathy. I’m writing this because this is the most important day of my life and I want to tell someone, anyone, how I came to be here, in this moment, where nothing else matters.
I just want someone to know.
My name is Charlie Zombo, and I have Narcolepsy.
“Oh God…please…p-please…don’t stop.”
I’m 27 years old, and this was the 7th time in my life that I was trying to have sex. Marlene was truly into it, as any good (good? I mean great) partner should be, and all I could do was struggle to keep her happy for as long as I could before “it” struck. The last time we tried, nearly four months ago, I had an attack the second she got on top of me. I was out for eight minutes. EIGHT. MINUTES. How do you expect your girlfriend to stay wet when you keep falling asleep on her?
She had always been on birth-control pills but we decided to switch back to condoms in the attempt to make it feel less…less good, I guess. It worked to a degree. It took me longer to come and longer to have an attack. And that’s the whole thing with narcolepsy. Its cataplexic attacks are triggered by any heightened or increased emotional exertion. Imagine fucking the girl of your dreams, and the second you start letting the animal in you take over, your entire body suddenly locks up like a shitty transmission. Next thing you know, you’re dreaming of the entire cast of “Alice in Wonderland” crawling around your bedroom walls.
“Yes, God, Charlie, don’t stop!”
I promise I’ll try not to, I thought to myself.
It was the most I’d lasted without a cataplexic episode in a long time, and I was aiming to finish both of us off, but as long as she got hers, I’d be satisfied. I’d prepared for it too. Took my pills, had a half-hour nap before she came over. I thought I was good.
Then I felt my neck tighten.
No…no no no. Not again.
I tried going faster, letting my head droop onto her clavicle. I didn’t need my stupid head. Strands of her black hair got stuck on my sweaty forehead as I urged my failing body forward. I grabbed the corners of my mattress for support and the second I moved my arms, they stiffened up and became limp. I let out a grunt and I felt Marlene’s soft brown body shift. She probably knew what was happening.
All of that happened within the span of two seconds. My feet are always the last to go.
I awoke later on. Alone.
I sat up feeling tired as ever and looked around my dark room. It still smelled like her, so I knew I couldn’t have been out for more than twenty minutes, but she was gone. My room, just my giant bed and the small desk near it, seemed emptier than usual. Then I noticed I was wearing clothes. She must have dressed me while I was asleep. She had turned on the air conditioner, too. I grabbed my phone and saw the text she had written me before she left:
When you decide to wake up- I went to my mom’s house.
Call you later.
I didn’t blame her. We’d been together for almost three years, and for the first two-and-a-half, things were practically perfect. She knew that a relationship with someone like me wasn’t going to be easy, but she was down for the ride. We had first met in Barnes & Noble, when I let her buy the last copy of a sequel I had been waiting over four years to be released. I told her that she had to text me to let me know if it was good or not, and we just hit it off from there.
But she had become distant over the past year, which is funny considering I was supposed to be the distant one. I’d trained myself not to react so strongly to things, to remain hollow and to keep my emotions in-check in order to keep “it” at bay. Sometimes talking to me was like talking to a wall. But I listened. I’d learned to listen real good. Yeah, I didn’t blame her. Three years putting up with someone like me was long enough for anyone, let alone a 24-year old aspiring fashion designer who was, by trade, supposed to be the liveliest, most outgoing person possible. She signed up to be my girlfriend; a lover, a friend. Not my nurse.
I checked my watch. 9:30pm. Shit, late again. I got up off my bed and grabbed the bottle of pills that was on my desk and swallowed one while I put my shoes on and grabbed by gym bag. Eddy Josh is gonna kill me, I thought. I ran downstairs and started up the car, hoping I hadn’t forgotten my handwraps again.
“You forgot your freaking handwraps again?! I’m running out of fresh ones, you idiot!”
I shrugged as Eddy Josh scowled. “What can I say? You know I have a condition.”
“Oh, don’t give me that shit, go jump some rope you useless bastard,” he said before going to check the lockers. I smirked and grabbed the nearest jump rope, making sure the right song was playing on my iPod before I started. The huge gym was almost empty; the rainy night outside must have scared away all but the most hardcore of us: the high-school kid who didn’t really know how to throw a punch yet, the hulk in the corner mauling the heavy bag like it had cheated on him, and me.
I had been boxing since I was 13 years old. Before my pop died he stuck me in training because he thought something was wrong with me. 13 years old and still had baby fat, “We gotta get you rock-solid, boy!” I hated it at first, but once my narcolepsy kicked in, boxing was one of the only things I could count on to make me feel normal. The doctors had suggested frequent, daily exercising, so it all worked out.
I met Eddy Josh when I was 17, when I had lost all that baby fat and looked like I could realistically fuck someone up. His real name is actually Herbert Edmund Josilowsky, but don’t tell anyone I said that. He hates his name and back then didn’t know whether he wanted to change it to Edward or Joshua, so he just goes by Eddy Josh.
“Dude, aren’t you a little old to be worrying about changing your name?” I had asked him a few years ago.
“You just focus on your business and leave me to mine, Charles ‘I Sleep During Porn’ Zombo,” he had replied.
But, at 46 years old, as much as I mess with him, he was my father for the second half of my life. He was the one who realized I was actually good (good? I mean great) at boxing, and who convinced me to go pro. “You’ll be amazing, and what a story!” he would say. “‘First Narcoleptic Boxer!’ You’ll sell out! And with your skills, you could be the next ‘Sugar’ Ray Robinson!”
I was hesitant at first. Boxing for exercise was one thing, but going pro? An actual professional boxer with Narcolepsy? But Eddy Josh saw in me what I guess I was too young to see in myself. He did his research, and just kept egging me on, “It’s possible, you pussy, I’m tellin’ you, it’s possible!” It’s just so hard to diagnose narcolepsy, not unless you yourself go to a doctor and explain your symptoms in detail. And because we kept it a secret, Eddy Josh was able to get my boxing license because otherwise, c’mon, no self-respecting physician would ever clear a narcoleptic to fight for a living. But we were able to stay under the radar for a really long time.
I knew I was good enough though. My 73-0 amateur record said that much, but maybe not as good as an all-time great like “Sugar”. Maybe if there had been a “Sleepy” Ray Robinson somewhere. That sounds more like me.
“Alright, stop that hopping around, c’mon, I found a pair you surprisingly haven’t used,” Eddy Josh said, stepping on my rope and nearly causing me to trip over myself. I gave him a shove before sitting on a bench and holding my hands out. I noticed how crooked my fingers were as he proceeded to wrap them up. They were twitching slightly too. I always wondered why. “You might have the girliest hands ever owned by a top contender in the history of boxing.”
“And you might be the first coach who was mysteriously murdered before a training session,” I said, grinning. Eddy Josh glared and smirked at the same time, as only he could.
“So, how’re things? How’s the sweetie?”
“Ehh. Same old. I think she’s getting sick of me.”
“You know why.” We stood silent for awhile, and all I could hear was the round-buzzer in the gym, signaling a period of rest.
“Gettin’ a lot of attacks lately?”
“Nah, just the usual. But the more it happens when I’m with her, the more it takes a toll, I guess,” I replied, wondering if I was just trying to make myself feel better.
“Well…well don’t spaz out on me now, but I’ve got some big news,” he said, slapping my knuckles with his palm, making sure the wraps were on correctly. He always did that, warn me before telling me something surprising or potentially sleep-attack-inducing. He was the only one who did that.
I smiled and eyed him suspiciously. “What is it?”
“I got you a fight.”
Those words always seemed to haunt me. I remember Google-ing myself when I was 21, hearing all the hype that surrounded ME, the undefeated star from Queens, New York who was rising up the ranks of the Super-Middleweight class like a shooting star, and feeling like I was the greatest thing since cheesecake. And then, I had lost my first big fight. And my second one. And my third one. A 37-3 professional record is nothing to sneer at, but the articles began to change, especially after that second loss, when I had crashed like submerged cement in the middle of the ring. It had been the start of the 9th round and a single punch hadn’t been thrown yet. That’s when the buzz started. Former boxers talking about my unbridled potential turned to neurologists discussing why “it” would never let me be a champion, that I was chasing a pipe dream. That I could handle small fights but would never measure up for the big ones. Eddy Josh had always wanted to sue them for saying that I’d never make it to the big-time, but that was one argument I could never back up, because they were completely right.
All three of those losses were mega-fights, name-making fights, and somewhere in all three of them, I’d had a cataplexic episode. I soon became known as the kid from Queens who had a spark when he started but just couldn’t quite “pass over the hump” because of a “tragic condition”. The Association tried to get me to quit, but Eddy Josh pulled all the strings he could, and after signing countless waivers, clearing a bunch of faceless rich men from having to worry about my life, I was free to do what I wanted. Free to pursue a glory that normally shouldn’t be available to someone like me.
“A big fight?” I asked him, knowing the answer. He held my unwrapped hand for a moment.
“Yeah Charlie. You know you’re still rated number 5 in the country. Somehow, and don’t ask me why, but the promotion wants you to fight the number 1. Guy named Amir Vholosiv from the Ukraine. He’s the WBA champ.”
I’d heard about Vholosiv. Didn’t have any true technical skill, but he loved making the 168lb-weight limit only to arrive weighing, like, 190 the day of the fight. And I knew Eddy Josh was lying about not knowing how the fight came to be. Everyone wanted to watch the Narcoleptic Fighter. It’s my opponents who never wanted to fight me, and why would they? If they beat me, their wins would always have an asterisk next to them. If they lost, their reps would be forever tarnished by taking a loss to the sleepiest boxer in the world.
“So if I win…I win the title?” I couldn’t stop staring at my hands.
“Well, not the undisputed title, but one of the alphabet belts. It’d be your first belt, son. $300,000 to the winner. Loser gets $87,000 and 2% of the Pay-Per-View earnings.”
I thought about it for a second. I didn’t care about the money. That 37-3 record had gotten me a nice little pad near Clearwater Beach and I was living comfortably, so that was the least of my worries. But I’d be lying to you if I said I wasn’t reluctant to take it. Embarrassing myself in front of the world, letting “it” beat me instead of my opponent again.
But I wanted to be great. I wanted people to know. Wouldn’t you?
“Take the fight,” I said to Eddy Josh, squeezing my hands to check the tightness of the wraps. “I’m ready.”
“Uh, no you’re not,” he growled, and I knew he was happy to hear my answer just from his sudden change back into angry-trainer-man. “We’re gonna have a tough, 3-month training camp, and we’re gonna make sure that this time you leave that ring the winner! Now, 15 minutes, combo intervals, on my whistle.” I bowed to him, smirking, and turned towards the giant, wall-sized mirror that everyone used to shadowbox. Eddy Josh blew his whistle and I started, glaring at my reflection. When I was younger I used to love shadowboxing because that was when I could still enjoy my own vanity. I wondered why my hair couldn’t decide whether it was blonde or brown, or why, no matter how much I shaved, I always seemed to have some facial hair. How my ape-like arms and torso were in total contrast with my stubby lower body, and yet I still stood nearly six feet tall.
But that stopped after awhile.
Every time Eddy Josh blew his whistle I was supposed to switch to a different punch combination, a different stance, and I complied almost by instinct. I stared at my reflection like an old nemesis, because I didn’t see what Eddy Josh saw.
I saw myself sprawled out on the ground, my limbs in awkward positions, eyes fluttering, completely asleep.
“Lookin’ good, Z!”
Natalie’s reflection appeared in the mirror. She was standing behind me with her arms crossed, looking amused.
“I know, I know, from behind I must look so luscious,” I said. She giggled and came over, giving me a pound and rubbing Eddy Josh’s bald head. Her thick reddish hair was tied up in a failed attempt at a ponytail, and there was a thin gleam of sweat right in the center of her clavicle.
“How’re you doing, oldness?” she asked him.
“Fine, but you need to get that fat ass of yours away from here while I train my fighter AND WHO TOLD YOU COULD STOP?!” he yelled in my direction before blowing the whistle like his life depended on it. I chuckled and kept on going with my shadowboxing.
“Oh shut up,” she said. “You wish your wife had an ass like mine.” She turned on her heel flamboyantly before winking in my direction, mouthing the words “text me” and walking away.
“She’s goddamn right about that, bless her soul,” Eddy Josh muttered, taking off his glasses and staring at the backs of her pale, muscular legs as she pranced away. I laughed and turned to say something but he blew his whistle at me again.
I’d known Natalie since I first moved to Florida. She was one of my only friends when I was making the transition from big, bustling city to swampland. We had hit it off immediately; her parents lived in New York and she was the first female boxer I had ever met who somehow managed to still have feminine-looking hands, and I was fascinated by it.
I had to hit her up and tell her what happened with Marlene. Perhaps, like she usually did, she would have some words of wisdom that would leave Socrates himself scratching his head.