Authors: Dawn Cano
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Horror, #Teen & Young Adult, #30 Minutes (12-21 Pages), #Short Stories
Copyright © Dawn Cano 2016
Cover art copyright © Lewis Duncan
Publisher: Dawn Cano
The right of Dawn Cano to be identified as author of this Work has been asserted by him in accordance the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
All rights reserved.
This eBook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement or the author’s and publisher’s rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.
‘Sleep Deprived’ is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
This is for everyone who knew I could do it, even when I wasn't so sure.
Special Thanks To:
– Without you, this story wouldn't exist. Thank you for your encouragement and advice. You are the type of author I can only aspire to be.
– You answered all of my dumb questions, gave me a push when needed, and I didn't even have to bribe you to like this story. I owe you more than you know.
– The constructive feedback you gave me was invaluable. Thank you for your honesty, which helped this book be the best it can be.
Paul M. Feeney
– You are a brilliant writer, who also provided the honest feedback that I needed to hear. Thank you for all of your help. Your friendship means the world to me.
– Dude, you've got serious talent. Thank you for my awesome cover.
Frankie Yates, Christy Cano, Karen Paul, and Christina Cooper
– You ladies rock. Thanks for giving me the chance to entertain you.
The couple were twenty minutes into their meal before realising that the roast they were enjoying, was actually their baby.
I apologise. The above statement may be a little confusing to you, but let me explain, and it will all become clear.
You see, I had been caring for the Brown's baby, Claire, for almost two months when, on Sunday, my mobile rang. The caller ID told me it was Claire's mum, Katie.
“Hi, Anna? It's Katie.”
“Hello, Katie. It's nice to hear from you. How are you?”
“I'm doing well, thanks, and I'll be even better if you say 'yes.'”
“Yes to what?” I asked, already knowing the answer. She needed me to watch Claire.
“I was wondering if you wouldn't mind coming around Friday evening to watch Claire overnight? Anthony and I are celebrating our second anniversary, and were thinking of spending the night in London.”
“Oh, how lovely! Of course I'll watch Claire for you. What time do you need me to come over?”
“How does six o'clock sound?”
“Six is fine. I'll see you then.”
“Thank you so much, Anna. Bye now.”
As I ended the call, I sat down on my small brown sofa, wondering why I had agreed to watch that child again. The last time I was there, things didn't go well.
I last watched Claire the previous Thursday, and although Katie usually worked from home, last Thursday both she and Anthony had meetings to attend, so I stayed in their home for most of the day. When I'm there, I stay busy by taking care of their laundry, doing the washing up, and generally helping out wherever I'm needed, whilst Claire sleeps. Of course, when she's awake, she always receives my full attention.
That particular day saw her awake more than usual, which bothered me as I hadn't gotten much sleep the night before. Truth be told, I hadn't been sleeping well for a couple of months, and it was beginning to take its toll on me. I spent my nighttime hours sitting up in bed, on the laptop, researching the effects of sleep deprivation instead of sleeping, and the longer I went without sleep, the worse my symptoms became. Headaches, irritability, memory lapses and depression were all too familiar to me and getting worse each day. Thank fuck the more serious symptoms like hallucinations and seizures haven't started yet. Anyway, Claire is, excuse me,
a small child, weighing only around 5 kilograms at nearly five months old, so toting her around with me usually wasn't a problem. However, as tired as I was, I just didn't feel like carrying her all over the house with me.
As I puttered around the house with Claire seated firmly on my right hip, I thought I felt a tickle in my right ear. I casually brushed the feeling away, looking at the baby in the process. Claire stared back at me with an impassive look on her tiny face. Then, the feeling returned, reminding me of someone gently blowing in my ear. Again, I brushed off the sensation, choosing to ignore it rather than pursue its cause. We walked into the bathroom, when I decided it was bath time for little Claire. Baths always made her sleep better - I couldn't help but wish they had the same effect on me.
I ran the bath water, checking the temperature with my wrist. She sat on my lap as I pulled her pink shirt over her head. I stood her up and took off her nappy and slowly placed her in the warm water. As I used the soft sponge to clean her, I noticed the small diamond-shaped birthmark on the nape of her neck. I remembered, that not too long ago, I used to love to tickle that spot because it would make her laugh. Today, I just wasn't in the mood. I made quick work of her bath and got Claire out of the tub, wrapping her in a fresh towel that was hanging from the rack. We walked back to her room, and I put her in a fresh nappy and clean white t-shirt.
An hour or so passed and Claire finally began getting sleepy. I went to the kitchen and fetched a bottle from the refrigerator, heated it up under the warm tap, and placed her in the bassinet with the bottle; she fell asleep almost immediately.
Leaving the door cracked, I tiptoed out of her room trying not to wake her, and headed down the long hallway to the living room. As I passed the large mirror hanging to my right, I stopped and stared at my reflection for a long time, wondering what had happened to me. I used to be an attractive woman in my mid-forties, who looked ten years younger. My once shiny, long brown hair was stringy and dull, and my light brown eyes appeared dull and lifeless. Fine lines had turned to deep wrinkles and I had more grey hair now than ever before. Did a lack of sleep really have this effect on the body? With a deep sigh, I left my reflection behind and walked into the living room where I relaxed on the settee for a short while, enjoying the silence. It didn't take too long for my eyes to grow weary, when suddenly I heard my name in a whisper.
Groggy, I sat up and listened.
What was that?
I listened for another moment, and hearing nothing more, leaned back against the settee where my eyes closed once again.
I bolted upright and sprinted down the hall to Claire's room. She lay sleeping peacefully in her bassinet, just as I'd left her. I stood staring at her for a moment before quietly leaving the room, and in that instant, I decided that I would not give myself the opportunity to fall asleep again, despite desperately needing the rest.
I looked for things to do to keep myself awake and alert, and it wasn't long before Claire woke up. I walked into her room feeling more exhausted than ever before. As I lifted her from her bed, I heard the voice again.
“Yes,” I replied without thinking.
You need sleep. She makes too much noise for you to rest.
“No,” I said aloud.
The voice stopped. Claire started crying. I gazed at the clock, realising that it was past time for her lunch. Unnerved, I took her to the kitchen and opened a jar of pea puree. I placed her in her seat and began absent-mindedly feeding her spoonfuls of the vegetable mush, but Claire didn't want the peas and kept turning her head away from the spoon. Smearing the peas all over her face. She soon became frustrated and slapped the spoon from my hand, sending mushy peas flying around the kitchen.
It was then that I did something I never thought I was capable of; I slapped Claire across the face. She stopped crying long enough to stare at me in disbelief, before wailing louder than I've ever heard before.
“Oh my God, Claire, I'm so, so sorry.” I begged, “Please forgive me. I don't know what happened!”
I took her from the seat and held her close. Her left cheek was turning a bright shade of pink from where I had slapped her, and tears came to my eyes as I tried to get her to stop crying.
“Shh, shh, shh,” I said in a whisper. “There's a good girl.”
What the hell is wrong with me?
As Claire's cries quietened down into whimpers, the only thing I could think of, was how thankful I was that she was too young to tell her parents about what I had done. Suddenly, I no longer felt remorse, only relief. I grabbed a kitchen towel, ran it under some cool water and placed it on her face in an attempt to relieve the redness. After a few minutes, Claire stopped crying and the redness on her face had begun to subside.
I put the baby in her playpen with her toys, but she didn't want to play. The events of the early afternoon had turned her mood sour and as soon as I put her in, she began crying again.
“Only an hour to go until Mum and Dad return,” I told her as I picked her up again, feeling my anger begin to rise. “Surely we can get along until then, yeah?”
I carried her with me as I took a load of laundry from the dryer and placed the towels in the airing cupboard and the clothes in the closet. Then I worked my way to the kitchen to clean up the spilled food. Claire cried again as I placed her in her seat.
Frustrated, I spat, “What is it now? What the fuck do you want?” Claire cried harder at my outburst.
I filled her sippy cup with milk and slammed it down in front of her. She stopped crying and started drinking. After a few moments of blissful silence, I heard the front door open.
“In here, Katie,” I yelled, wiping away Claire's tears.
Katie walked in with a smile on her face. “There you are. Hi, baby!” She picked Claire up out of her seat and held her close, kissing the cheek I had slapped.
“I guess it's time for me to head off,” I told Katie. “Give me a ring when you need me again. See you next time.”
I grabbed my coat and hurried out the door before Katie could respond or started asking how our day had been. Since I only lived three blocks from the Brown's home, it didn't take me long to reach my front door, even on foot. I hurried inside, removed my coat and shoes and went to the fridge to grab a beer. Not usually in the mood for a drink, I thought it might help me sleep.
I got home at a little after seven and by the time eight o'clock rolled around, I had had two beers and could barely keep my eyes open. It was time to go to bed.
Finally, tonight I'll sleep.