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Every child thinks his father is the most important man in the land, but my father truly is. He is the Afterdark Apothecary, for the sleep he sells is a panacea for all ailments of the Heart and Soul.
I rested atop the wood counter of 39 Winks when a man as restless as his eyes skittered in.
“Shanman, I haven’t got much time to spend, and I really need some sleep.”
“Mr Paterno,” my father gently replied, “I’ve sold you nearly every type of sleep we carry and none of them has taken you. I think we know the problem.”
That’s true, I thought, he’s sampled most of them. I looked up at the shelves surrounding me, rising to the ceiling, lined with all models of bottles, casks, sacks, carafes and flasks, miles of vials, vessels and receptacles brimming with potions and powders, tonics and mystic elixirs, medicines and mixtures plus spirits, good spirits all in such a variety of colors the rainbows envied us and each providing a unique sheath of sleep for those who dreamed of the subtle escape.
He’d sipped, of course, Ocean Blanket that is so deep it drowns you with warmth, sniffed Slipsdream with its shallow shadow gliding, and injected Rebel Drift which fought to keep the sleeper down regardless the intrusion that arose. Paterno had elected to try Political Slumber which worked to keep the sleeper numb and in the dark; he had learned the rules of Philosophoric where the mind becomes so sluggish it shuts down; he had thawed a pack of Arctic Sleep that lasts nearly 24-hours but, no, he did not warm to this one any more than he had the others.
Mr Paterno had tasted our menu of Loaf Loaves (from sweet and light to heavy and rich), played with Classical Sleep (major, minor, or full of rests), reached for the Land of Nod (distant, high and languid)…he had tried it all and still had received no comfort for his time.
“We must face the facts, Mr Paterno.” My father brushed some of the dust from his smock as he spoke. “None of my wares will work on you because you are not getting your sleep—it is being robbed from you by your newborn twins.”
He took his time and returned it to his pocket, I should specify, as the currency used for sleep here is Time. The more Time one can afford, the better the sleep will be. One of the cheapest sleeps on offer in the store is “Drunkard’s Dream” (or “Sailor’s Sleep”) which makes the bed a raft bobbing on a troubled sea and is a most unpleasant slumber, I am told, but purchased mainly by revelers who don’t have much time left for sleep. Then there is “Beauty Sleep” which is in short supply and hard to come by because it requires more time than most can afford. Spare time is spent on napping, and if you have enough time for a sleep of the dead, that’s a real luxury, but only if you succeed in waking in the end.
© Paul Prescott 2012
All photos were taken at the Louvre Museum, Paris. Move your cursor over the picture for the Artist’s name and name of the work.
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