The bright lights of the waiting room glared off of the glossy magazine page, making Hayne curse under his breath. It was an old issue of National Geographic and this particular article was saying something about bees.
The bees weren’t buzzing right and they kept dying off.
Or they were getting sick.
The buzzing was probably just his head, the bees were on the page. That sounded right. Either way, Hayne had been reading the same paragraph for almost 30 minutes.
Hayne looked at his watch. The camera in it followed his eyes, calculated the distance, and projected the information just above the screen. 32 minutes, actually.
“Right this way, sir.”
Hayne got up, and his ears began ringing slightly. He followed the nurse down an unpleasantly white hallway and was directed into a doctor’s office. Another copy of the National Geographic was in the office, but this one had crayon drawings all over it. Hayne thought that it was a nice touch, since the dull crayon was the least glaring thing in the office.
“Alright, just a minute and Dr. Lethe will be here,” the nurse said, closing the door behind her.
Hayne looked around the office. There were numerous posters about healthy sleeping habits. One claimed that going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day could increase your IQ by 50 points. The picture showed a young man with a frizzy grey wig on in a tasteless impersonation of Einstein.
“Hello!” The doctor said, slightly too loud for Hayne’s headache, and sat down at the desk. “So what brings you to Somnolence? ”
“Well, I haven’t been sleeping well. I don’t dream. I just go to sleep, and when I wake up, it feels like 5 minutes have passed, but I’ve been asleep all night.”
“I see,” he turned and a screen lit up on his desk. “How do you know you were asleep?”
“If you were asleep, you weren’t conscious. How would you know you were sleeping?”
“I’m not sure I know how to answer that.”
Lethe wrote something down on his screen, making a slight, “hmm.”
“Tell me about your last dream.”
“Well, I’m not sure I remember the last time I had one.”
“Are you dreaming now?”
“…no.” Hayne said, really drawing out the O.
“Am I a dream?” He enunciated each word sharply. “Let me ask you this: the nurse, was she a robot or human?”
“Uh, I guess, human?”
“But you’re not certain?”
“I suppose not.”
Lethe turned to his screen again with another, “hmm.”
“One more question: how many am I holding?” He was holding his hand out, slightly cupped.
“I…are you…” Hayne opened and closed his mouth a few times as he mentally scrolled through all the words he knew to see if any of them would help.
Lethe snatched his hand back. “Very interesting. We’ll need to keep you overnight for observation. Are you free tonight?”
“Uh, sure. Tonight works fine. Do you…uh, do you have any idea what’s going on?”
“None whatsoever. The nurse will provide you with the information you need.” With that, Dr. Lethe stood, pivoted on his heel, and walked out of the room.