This concept arose from my own experience of sleep-talking. What would happen if you could have a conversation with a sleep talker? And what if you fell in love with this ‘other person’? How could you be together?
One night Emily was woken up by Brian’s sleep talking. It was nothing unusual – they had laughed about Brian’s nocturnal habit before, but this time it was different. Emily thought he was talking to her, but when she spoke with him his voice was slurred and with a curious inflection like… like he was somebody else. It was brief, and he said ‘I love you’, then back to unresponsive sleep. She mentioned it the next day – it was very sweet! – and they laughed and hugged. ‘Never realised I was so romantic!’ chortled Brian.
The next night the same thing happened, but this time they… started to have a conversation. It was thrilling for Emily. Though it was obviously Brian talking with her, it… wasn’t him. The way of talking, the confidence, even – god help her – the sense of humour was different. And good. They talked into the early morning, and she was sad when he had to go… back to sleep. She lay awake the rest of the night. The next day she was so exhausted and confused. Brian was concerned, asked if she was ill, but when he tried to comfort her she involuntarily flinched away. He did not ask anymore, but gave her some space. She mumbled something about ‘time of the month’, but could not help but feel she had somehow been unfaithful. And how good it felt.
This carried on, night after night. Emily yearning for Brian to fall asleep so she could carry on her secret trysts. She feigned a cold and stayed home from work. When Brian expressed an interest on making love, she initally declined, then agreed. Anything to hasten his falling asleep. That night, Emily made love to Brian again while he ‘slept’. It was the most amazing night of passion she had ever experienced. She cried herself to sleep afterwards with his arms around her.
The next night came the unthinkable – Sleeping Brian confessed his undying love for Emily, and she returned the sentiment. They discussed how they could stay together, and the idea rose up, unbidden, like a serpent: If only Brian could be placed in a permanent comatose state.
The next day, Emily and Brian fought, over little things and misunderstandings. Secrets that could not be spoken, shoulders turned, looks of hurt silence. When Brian turned to leave, Emily put out a hand to restrain him. ‘Please, don’t go’ she whispered, tears in her eyes. Misunderstanding, Brian turned back and embraced her. He made love to her again, but she was a shell, full of dreadful purpose. In the early hours, Emily turned to Brian and whispered, ‘Are you ready?’ The simple answer came back ‘Yes, love.’ Emily quietly, softly and tenderly smothered Brian with her own pillow. He twitched a little, spasmodically, but his limbs seemed leaden and heavy under their own weight, as if another was assisting Emily in her dark endeavour.
When he stopped moving, and after the pre-agreed time, she removed the pillow. She leant close, and could hear the faintest breathing from his lips. Emily murmured, ‘Did it work? Are you there?’
There was nothing but silence. There was never another word from Brian or his alter ego. But he did laugh, once, cruel and hard, before abandoning Emily to her fate.