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Ring.

Thank you for calling the Insomniacs Almanac. If you know your partys extension, you
may dial it at any time.
Please listen to the following options.
If you would like to contribute to the vent of the week, please press 1 to speak with Mary
Ackerman. This weeks theme is all that we cannot control but cannot help but try to anyway.
We would like to remind all contributors that belting solos from Les Miserables, while politely
applauded, violate our staffs right to avoid catchy, repetitive musical numbers.
If you would like to speak to someone about the Restless Rendezvous of the week,
please press 2 to speak with Taj Husain. The Restless Rendezvous will take place this Friday in
the Foxrose Hills. We will be taking a road trip to the shores of Playa Dolorosa. Seats are
limited, so pack your wetsuit and night-vision goggles and dont forget your sea sparkle nets.
If you would like to submit an art piece to the Almanacs monthly publication, please
press 3. We are happy to confirm that Katrina Rosamond is steadily recovering from her bout of
hyperbolitis. For safety measures, please limit your use of Homeric similes to a standard 0. We
would hate for Katrina to relapse.
If you would like to ask about our forecast for this week, please dial 4 to speak with Aster
Yuezheng. TRAPPIST-7 is not visible in these conditions, but hopefully the Earth will soon be
knocked off of its axis and skip along for forty light years and we will catch a glimpse of these
heavenly bodies. There is a thirty percent chance of alien abduction tonight, so please
remember to bring your umbrellas when you go out.
If you have questions about submitting an idea to our ironically named bedtime story
program, please dial 5 to speak with Isaac Espinoza. If your name is Will Bryant, please hang
up immediately and send Isaac an Edible Arrangements as an apology for your unsolicited
ghost story about severed ghost toes.
For our directory, please press 0 or remain on the line.

Beep.

Dialing: Taj Husain.

Ring.
Ring.

Ri--

Taj Husain answers. He talks faster than he thinks and has a tendency to talk as if every
sentence is a thought that had just occurred to him and he needs to share it immediately or else
something will explode. As an adult, he sounds like a charmingly--and naively--precocious child.
His high-energy optimism hides a tormented, scared young man, but he braves every night as
best as he can.
T: Goooood morning, this is Taj Husain of the Insomniacs Almanac speaking, how may I
help you get through the night?

Llewyn responds. Less angry as he was to Mary, but certainly frustrated about his lack
of sleep. But this is nothing new to the Almanac. Everyone gets out of the wrong side of the bed.

L: I cant sleep.

T: Were glad to have you. Shall I put you down for the road trip?

L: Dont. Id rather fall asleep.

T: Oh, dont we all. Well if you ever find yourself wide awake, the trip is at one in the
morning. Well carpool from the Foxrose Inn out on the edge of Havershord-upon-Mills.
Forecasts have it that the sea sparkle will be stunning this week thanks to the moon reaching a
happy medium. We may upgrade to a ten-seater van.

L: You have a readership of more than five people?

T: Ha, youre the one that Mary was talking about! The daybreaker.

L: What is that supposed to mean?

T: There are less of you than you think.

L: Youd be more of a household name if that were the case.

[Taj laughs]

T: Thats true. We like to lie low. I like to say that if youve heard of us youre having a
terrible night.

L: Ha.

T: I also like to say that if you are hearing from us were about to turn your worst night
into a delight.

L: Thats--

T: But then people assume that were a phone sex business.

L: Oh.

T: We dont exactly have the funding to sponsor that sort of branch.


L: I can imagine.

T: But whatever funding we do have is dedicated to wind up those birds on their


branches.

L: Whats your problem with birds?

T: Theyre the most disheartening creatures in town. And Im including Mrs. Georgia
Kramers tabby cat. Our readers polls have ranked them as the number one killer of morale.

L: I dont see whats the big deal.

T: Theyre the reason why nights have to end. The trumpets bringing in the end times.
Theyre also very loud. Last weeks event was packed, we sure gave those morning birds a run
for their money. Did you make it to that? Mary said she invited you.

L: How do you know if Im the same person or not?

T: She described you as a daybreaker in denial.

L: Im not in denial of anything. I have no opinion about being an insomniac to deny it.

T: Thats not what she said youd be denying. Did you get any sleep? After you talked
with her.

L: Not a lot. Some.

T: Thats good! Im glad. A wink of sleep is better than none. When rest flirts with you but
its too far out of your league. Have you got swimming goggles?

L: Not since I was seven years old.

T: Thats all right, I think Isaacs got an extra pair. One size fits all, unless youre Will
Bryant. Then it might not fit you. But you arent Will.

L: No.

T: No. Of course you wouldnt be. Id have recognized you. That was silly of me. Whats
your name?

L: Erm.
T: Its a name. You said you didnt have anything to be ashamed about being an
insomniac, right?

L: I never said it was being an insomniac that was the problem. My names Llewyn.

T: Llewyn. Thats a fun name. Llewelyn. Listen, Llewyn. Its about a forty-five minute
drive to the shores, which means thats long enough that everyone is still giddy with the
adrenaline of doing something that you only hear about in teen films, and not long enough that
their legs cramp up after sitting too long. Its my favourite restless rendezvous.

L: Thats not going to help me sleep, is it?

T: Oh, none of us know how to sleep. If we did we wouldnt be here, would we?

L: I dont think Ill ever understand your guys business model.

T: If you want real help sleeping, I recommend listening to our hold music. Its pretty
relaxing. I can put you up if youd like. Or if youve given up on sleep, Ill pack an extra Capri
Sun in the cooler.

L: Maybe I should just talk it out.

T: Oh, I can transfer you to Mary.

L: Wait, what about you?

T: Thats her department, not mine. This is the Restless Rendezvous. We arent well fit
for venting here.

L: Doesnt venting help? Thats what Mary said.

T: You remember quite a lot about us. Kinky.

L: Why did you have to say that?

T: Im just mildly impressed. Anyway, sometimes it does. But not all the time. Ibuprofen
works well with cramps and fevers but not if you have pinkeye, yeah?

L: I dont know. I assume a lot of people cant sleep because they bottle up too much in
their heads, if not most.

T: Its definitely a majority. But not everyone, or every night. And thats where the rest of
us come in. Otherwise Aster and Isaac and Katrina and I would be out of a position.
L: So what keeps you up?

[a beat]

T: Working for the Almanac, of course!

L: Bull. Youd have to be awake first.

T: What comes first, the insomniac or the almanac?

L: The insomniac. Its in your title.

T: Clever!

L: How long have you been awake?

T: Since I was sixteen. Isaac told me that if we ever hit my tenth year anniversary were
all going out for mimosas at midnight.

L: You like being an insomniac?

T: Actually its kind of draining.

L: Well, no surprise there.

T: So, Restless Rendezvous?

L: Youre not going to get any sleep if you plan on staying up all night.

T: Oh, I know that. We arent trying to sleep on a Rendezvous. Its just a nice way to give
up some control. A nice change of scenery instead of rolling around in bed until youre tangled
in your bed sheets and your own sweat. And to remember that you arent awake on your own.

L: Wait, what do you mean by control?

T: I mean it generally. Potentially. Existentially.

L: Whats on your mind when youre trying to sleep?

[A beat]

T: Im actually the subset of insomniac that doesnt have trouble falling asleep.

L: Oh?
T: Yeah. You can say Im a bit of a minority.

L: So whats your problem? You cant stay asleep?

T: You can say that. Yes.

L: At least you get some sleep.

T: True. Erm--so, would you be interested in going on the road trip?

L: I mean, you actually get some sleep. How do you get anything done if you nod off and
then come back and then nod off again?

T: I make it a point not to sleep on the job.

L: Why not? The whole point is trying to get some sleep.

T: I dont. I dont want to fall asleep.

L: Come again?

T: I mean--I dont wake up on random. Id rather stay up than try to sleep. And the
Almanac makes it worth it.

L: Let me get this straight. You can fall asleep but you just dont.

T: Our seats for the Rendezvous are filling up fast so I recommend signing up early.

L: Id die if it meant having a good nights sleep, and you are chugging Starbucks or
whatever to do what? Go on late night road trips and yell at birds?

T: Id die for one too, you know.

L: Whats that supposed to mean?

T: Im...

L: What?

T: Im scared of sleeping.

[a beat]
L: Why?

T: I get nightmares.

L: Oh.

T: Its, well, it is what it is. If you cant beat em, avoid em.

L: Since you were sixteen? What are they?

T: They wont sound like anything if I say them out loud.

L: You could try.

T: I could. Its--how would I put it? Its like Im waiting for demons to catch up with me. I
can hear them--I can feel premonition smothering me, that something was coming, and I
couldnt run away from it. Do you know that feeling?

L: I dont know.

T: You would know if you have felt it. In my last dream, I was trying to protect my sister. I
was holding her hand while tip-toeing through a decrepit, dark home that I somehow knew in my
dream was my own. I told her to stay close to me, because I just knew that something was
waiting in the shadows, that something cruel and terrible would try to hurt her. And Im trying to
go quickly, because I think to myself if we reach the attic, we will be safe. But I feel fear pressing
into me, on every side of me, like these monsters presence is going to drown me. I need to
protect my sister. But suddenly my skin is ripping apart--I look down and claws rip open my
arms and chest from the inside, as if some wicked monster hiding in my chest has outgrown my
skin and bones. I helplessly watch myself turn around and rip my sister apart. I cant squeeze
my eyes shut to try to wake up; my eyes wont even close, and I cant look away, and shes
crying out to me and I cannot look away and I cannot stop my own hands breaking her bones.
And then I wake. My heart still races and I cannot forget the images that my imagination
betrayed me with, and the next time I nod off it starts all over again.

[Beat]

L: I couldnt imagine.

T: Dont. Its no good trying.

L: I wouldnt want to sleep either.

T: I dont pin my hopes on sleep. It isnt the miracle that will hide me in its tent from my
enemies, or myself. We arent even on talking terms.
L: But you still get exhausted. And the day chases you up to the very last minute. How
the hell do you get through the night?

T: Well, theres a road trip thats coming up this week.

L: I mean your sleep. Your nightmares.

T: Oh, I dont know if theres anything I can do about those. I can try to untangle my
thoughts and process those dreams, but some thoughts are so tangled up in my mind that
tugging at it will only tighten the knot and make it worse. Waking up doesnt protect me. The
thing is that theres one thing I have in common with nightmares; we both never sleep. But Im
not going to let them come to the beach with us.

L: But that problem is still there. Going to some beach isnt going to make you sleep
better.

T: The problem will be there whether you go to the beach or the supermarket or the
doctors. But its no crime to be distracted.

L: Thats it? Youre just not going to do anything about it?

T: What can I do? It isnt like Im choosing to dream. Its yet another drop in an ocean of
thoughts and things I cannot control. I cant change the past or raise the dead or rewire my mind
with the snap of my fingers, but somehow rumination sells itself as preparation, and I think and
struggle and dream until I get splinters that chafe and bleed in my head. No, Id rather do improv
in the skate park or play Cops and Highwaymen in the sunflower fields. Theres no point in
despairing what I cannot control.

L: But youre just ignoring the problem.

T: I dont think I am. What do you want me to do?

L: I mean, dont you want to sleep?

T: I do. And I will, sometimes. I cant stay awake forever. But I need a break from being
terrified of closing my eyes. I need rest from sleeping, and to not be alone with my head.

L: And that helps?

T: It gives me more rest than you can imagine.

L: I dont think I get it. Im sorry.


T: Its okay. Its okay if you dont.

L: No, Im sorry. I never had a problem like that.

T: I wouldnt wish it on you. But its okay. I have the Almanac now. Before, when I woke
up on my own, sometimes it felt like it would be better if I never did. [hesitate] Whats your
favourite thing to do?

L: I dont know.

T: What makes you feel good when youre lost?

L: Im figuring that out as I go.

T: Then figure it out with us. Have you ever gone swimming in bioluminescence?

L: No.

T: That might just be the trick for you. What was the last fun thing you did?

L: I dont know. Hiking. Its been a long while.

T: By yourself?

L: No. With my friend.

T: Whats your favourite thing about hiking?

L: The energy on the mountain face. Feeling the moss under my fingers. My toes,
catching on a foothold I didnt think was going to be there for me. I didnt think I was going to get
over that ledge, but I did. He pulled me up. I could have gotten to the top on my own. But I let
him pull me up.

[A moment of silence]

T: I bet we can find some good climbing spots in the Foxrose Woods for next week.

L: Dont uproot your whole schedule for me.

T: Aw, dont feel so singled out. The lovely thing about new readers is new ideas, and
stories, and places. Ive always wanted to go climbing. And its better with people, isnt it?

L: It is.
T: Then its settled. Have you got climbing gear?

L: Sure.

T: Wicked. Im looking it up right now and there are a couple rocky spots towards the
west of Foxrose Woods that look suitable for mountaineering. Theres a waterfall!

L: I could have told you that.

T: Could you? Thats true, I guess youd know. I just went straight to looking it up myself.
Should we get some rope?

L: Ive got rope.

T: Strong! Please could you bring it?

L: Sure. Yeah, thats fine.

T: Cheers, mate.

L: You said that the beach trip is happening this Friday?

T: Affirmative. I can let you know how it--

L: Ill come along.

T: Really?

L: Yeah. It sounds like a lot of fun.

T: Oh, thats wicked! Ill put you down! Now well definitely rent out a ten-seater.

L: If I take up too much space--

T: No, this is perfect. Otherwise we would have had to cram someone in the trunk.
Cheers, mate.

L: Dont thank me. Hey.

T: Yeah?

L: How long will you try to forget?

[A beat. Taj laughs self-consciously]


T: Straight for the jugular.

L: For all I know you could still be a serial killer waiting to murder me in the back of his
ten-seater van.

T: Well, then, that question wont do. Serial killers are probably the most haunted people
out there.

L: Youre haunted?

T: In the same vein.

L: So am I.

T: Well, leave your butcher knives and lime and ghosts behind. Well see you Friday,
Llewyn.

You have reached the voicemail of: Taj Husain.

T: I cannot ask to be intimately known. It is more than unpacking the padlocked


compartments in the back of your head and airing out the old demons, although that is certainly
a factor. If that were the case I wish that I could just pile all of those boxes in the front yard and
hold a garage sale to get them off of my hands. But we arent a library, where the stains of our
soul is a restricted section that requires specific clearance and a parent-signed permission slip
to check out a forgotten, difficult book.
We are galaxies, a million stars that we can and cannot see. A cosmos of thoughts and
memories, a hundred solar systems comprised of our first kisses and scraped knees and knifes
in the back that no one can feel but us, and no one can feel for us. We are mountains and
stardust, our memories from twenty years ago shine brighter than stars that are twenty light
years away.
And just like the universe, only a fraction of us have ever been known. If the star
Arcturus winks, it takes thirty-six years until someone can see it. The ghosts that are our black
holes are only theories to others, who can hypothesize and fantasize and terrorize what might
happen if they saw it with their own eyes but they will never come near it. This I can never
change. These ghosts are my own; people can hear about them and theorize on them and
forget about them. They can never see them, they will never touch them. They will never know
them. They are too far away to remember them. My dreams will never scare anyone else as
badly as they scare me because they can never see whats inside, feel the tremors run down
my spine, feel my heart race when my own bones become a monster. It is mine to fear alone.
We are too intimately designed to be intimately known, and that is the careful nature of
us. We are reflected in the stars, and we look up to the heavens wondering who built that mirror
in the first place, because somehow, the Andromeda galaxy understands us so incredibly well.
And thats all entirely exhausting and daunting and lonely, and if we lean over too closely
to look into our own black holes we will be sucked in and consumed all the more quickly. It is
nature that we cannot be fully known; a magician never reveals his tricks, an artist leaves the
open ending a mystery.

The safest that I ever feel is when Im driving in the middle of the night through the hills
of the outskirts of Foxrose. There are no traffic lights or stop signs, just lulling hills and the
promise of the shores in the form of an illuminated strip between the sky and earth. There were
about five of us in a grey, 2007 Hyundai Elantra, with a missing handle on one of the side doors
and a ridiculous story in its stead. It was me, Mary, Aster, Katrina, and Isaac, and all the seats
were taken. We were so crowded in the car that the windows fogged with the warmth until I
couldnt tell when the hill would end before us, and we had to roll down the windows to pick up
some cold wind and firefly hitchhikers.
I found an AUX cord in the glove compartment and we plugged one of our phones in and
put the volume up way high. We blasted the hell out of our music, and it was like a dream,
because it was all the songs that we love and know the words to. We sang along until we were
breathless and if we had anything to say we had to shout at the top of our lungs. Theres
something about yelling that settles your stomach, whether it hurts or turns or tenses.
Screaming into your pillowcase doesnt live up to it.
I may be the only one who knows my ghosts by name. But in that car, it doesnt matter.
When Im screaming to Riptide by Vance Joy with four other people in a small car, I feel infinite.
I never thought that that would be a beautiful thing until then. I dont have a lofty explanation as
to why. I suppose black holes can sing, and there are theories that parallel universes can
intersect, and if the Andromeda galaxy can understand us. But honestly, its because in a
crowded, singing car driving seventy miles per hour towards a stretch of electric blue, Im okay.
My ghosts are terrifying forces of nature, and I still remember all the words to our favorite songs.
I can still be okay.
We rented a ten-seater this time around, and switched up our playlist. Luck would have
us, because we knew all the words to the songs on shuffle. Its true--every single one of us.
Well see you next week at the Foxrose Woods, my gypsum flowers. Until then, rest
substandardly.

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