In the end everyone has to sleep right? I mean as I lay here tossing and turning in my bed. I can only wish at this point that the pills, that my doctor prescribed, would have some effect for once. I have taken them for a month now and nothing has changed for me. A doctor once told me to put a tick tock clock near my bed. He said the ticking noise would help to lull me to sleep. It ended up nearly driving me into insanity. Its endless ticking pierced the darkness like tiny little knives stabbing my brain one tick at a time. I can’t help but feel like the darkness is one big tomb with no air and no noise. I placed a rotating fan at the end of my bed and that seems to cut through that sinking feeling that my room has no air or worse, that I am slowly being buried alive. I tried Light Therapy and I have to admit, it was strange. I stared at a bright light for thirty minutes and that was supposed to help with the melatonin in my brain. Maybe I’m just hard headed because it didn’t work; all it did for me was make me see tiny white squares in the dark till they faded away. Then I started to think that maybe my problem was all in my head, so I called a psychiatrist. At first my shrink and I just talked about the past but I just couldn’t seem to find anything that would make me afraid of the dark or not want to sleep. He even tried to hypnotize me but needless to say, it didn’t work and I am no longer a patient of his. My mother used to say I was a tormented soul and that is why I could not sleep. There may be some truth to that but just like insomnia; there is no magic pill to cure that either. As a child my mother used to bring me warm milk and read to me a story until I fell asleep. I smiled to myself as I rolled back my covers and sat up in the dark. I decided that I should try my mother’s old tried and true method, warm milk. It couldn’t hurt anything, I have tried everything else.
As I swung my legs out of bed I realized how terrible I felt. I was sweaty and hot from all the tossing around I had done under my covers. I groped around into the dark and found the lamp and turned on the switch. I found my hair tie and I pulled my hair up into a messy bun on my head, I then headed to the kitchen. I bumped my way through the dark living room and I somehow managed to find the kitchen and the light switch. I pulled open the refrigerator door and welcomed the cool breeze that washed over my hot skin. I looked through the refrigerators contents and I soon realized that I was out of milk. I racked my brain trying to remember all the stores that stayed open late. I hate convenient store shopping; the past two attempts was a failure. The first time I tried it I realized the milk had went bad when I tried to pour myself a glass of milk and a chunk of white milk flopped out of the carton instead of creamy milk. The second time the milk tasted like plastic, so I swore off convenient stores for good. I suddenly thought of Sunny Mart. Last year they announced their plans of staying open twenty four hours a day, seven day a week. It’s worth a shot. After heading up stairs to my room and changing my clothes, I headed out the door. I felt so odd walking out side at three in the morning. Maybe this is how people come up with those vampire stories. I thought to myself, quickly wishing that I hadn’t. I quickened my step to my car and jumped in and locked all my car doors as fast as I could. I looked all around me and nothing was a foot. I laughed at myself and started up the car. I backed out of my drive way and headed for Sunny Mart. The high way was so empty. I didn’t pass one car on the way down there, not even a police car. That made me feel so uncomfortable but I kept driving out of desperation for warm milk and some sleep. I turned into Sunny Mart and I was surprised to see so many cars parked here. I actually thought I wouldn’t have a hard time finding a spot to park but found the contrary. I managed to squeeze into a vacant spot and climbed out of my car and headed inside. The store was amazingly bright and active. A smiling old woman cheerfully welcomed me in and handed me a brochure of today’s sales. I took one and quietly moved further into the store. If I had not just checked my watch I would have believed it was the middle of the day instead of almost four in the morning. I walked around and noticed a woman shopping for clothes, people weighing produce and even a man shopping for a fishing pole. There were countless people standing in line waiting to have their goods rung up at the register. I felt like I was in a strange world where time stood still and it was always day time here.
I shook off the creepy feeling and walked to the dairy aisle where they kept the milk. I searched for my brand and headed for the cash register. As I walked I noticed that they had a massive book aisle so I decided to grab something to read, after all I needed all the help I could get. Something inside told me not to linger but I had nothing to read at home and I was desperate for something to make me sleepy. I looked over the endless selection of books. I saw one about vampires and I thought about the car ordeal and decided to pass. Then I spotted a nice romance novel, now that was my area. As I read the back of the book I noticed a young woman staring at me with a smile.
“I’ve read that one and trust me it’s not that great.” She said with a smile.
“Thanks I’ll take that into consideration.” I said as I secretly hoped she would go away.
“I have read just about everything here. I can’t sleep and this is the only store that seems to be open all the time.” She said as she adjusted her shopping basket on her arm and then pushed back her fire red hair from her shoulders. “Now this one… is a great one. It’s about a mountain man who finds gold and the love of his life. The way the author describes the mountains really helped me to relax.” She said with a sigh. She handed me the book and I looked it over and put it back.
“No thanks, I think I will stick with this one thanks.” I said as I tried to give her the hint as I turned my back slightly as if to say go away.
“You must be new to the late night shopping experience. This store is awesome. They love us insomniacs.” She said with a laugh. “One night I walked around and tasted the pastries out of the box without paying for them and I played on their game systems in the toy aisle all night long and they never kicked me out.”
“Why would they do that?” I said feeling a bit confused.
“If they kicked people out like me, who couldn’t sleep. How would their store stay alive? Try it! You would have so much fun!”
“No thanks. You have insomnia?”
“Oh yeah, since I was really young. I have tried everything and nothing works. When I came here one night when I couldn’t sleep I found that I just felt better you know what I mean?”
“I guess… I don’t know.” I said feeling weird again by this girl’s presence.
I strolled away from the strange girl and I decided to walk around the store. It couldn’t hurt after all, I still don’t feel sleepy. Actually I feel more awake than I did before I left the house. As I headed to the clothing aisle I felt the strange girl behind me. I turned around and she was so close we could have kissed. I backed up a step.
“Oops I’m sorry; I just realized I didn’t catch your name. I’m Angel.” She said as she extended her hand. I took it reluctantly.
“Ooh! Like Romeo and Juliette? How romantic no wonder you read those books.”
“Um look I really don’t want to be rude but I prefer to shop alone. You understand right?”
“Oh I get it you’re like most of us on our first night here… antisocial.” She said with an understanding smile.
“Yeah I guess. I just like to shop by myself so if you don’t mind.” I said as I tried to walk away again. Angel just laughed.
“You’re just like Tommy over there.” She said as she pointed to the man I had spotted earlier shopping for fishing poles. “At first he was anti social too but he came around. He sure is a fighter.” She said as she studied Tommy from a distance. “And look at Mrs. Andrews she cussed and screamed until she finally accepted her fate. Oh gosh… and over there by the swim suits, that’s Dee Dee she is still ignoring us.” Dee Dee looked up at us and crossed her arms and scowled at us. I started to have a sinking feeling in my gut.
“What are you trying to say Angel? You talk as if we are stuck here!” I said a little nervous.
“Well you are!” She said matter of fact.
“Look I have had just about enough of you. If you don’t leave me alone I will get a manager or I’ll call the cops.”
“Cell phones don’t work in here and if you noticed there are no managers on the floor.” She smiled but this time with a hint of fear. “Look the sooner you accept it the better it will be on you.”
“You’re full of crap!” I said as I reached into my purse and fished out my cell phone. Just as she said no signal. I started to walk around the store to look for a manager and Angel skipped merrily behind me like a child. I turned to look at her. “Leave me alone!” I walked faster with more purpose to find someone and just as Angel had said there was no manager on the floor. I turned around to confront her again but she was gone. I decided enough was enough and I headed to the register with my book and my milk. I stood in line behind an old man and as I waited I kept looking over my shoulder hoping Angel wasn’t there waiting to ambush me. The old man gathered up his items and moved aside for me. He walked away but he didn’t walk out of the store, instead he walked over to a bench and sat down. I shook that off and decide he must be waiting for someone. The check out lady was smiling at me and thanked me for shopping at Sunny Mart as she scanned my items. She loaded the items into the bag and handed them to me. I looked at the total and it said amount owed, zero. I looked at her with confusion.
“How much miss?”
“Your money is no good here Juliette.” She said with a smile as she put my bag into my hand.
“What are you talking about? Am I on some hidden comedy show?” I said as I looked around for guys with cameras just waiting to jump out at me.
“I don’t understand?” The check out lady said.
“I can’t just take this without paying.”
“You belong here Juliette. Please take it.” She said with a panicked smile.
At that moment the intercom came on.
“Welcome Juliette to Sunny Mart! Where it’s always a sunny shopping experience. Feel free to take in the sights of the store. From our exciting toy department to our fabulous women’s wear! Relax in our camping section where you can catch a nap on our hammocks or on one of our roll up sleeping bags!” The male voice said in his best game show accent.
“Who are you?” I said as I looked around trying to find the source of the voice.
“I am the answer to your insomnia!”
“Oh yeah and what answer do you have?” I yelled up at the ceiling.
“Never ending night! Here you will never worry about going to sleep because well… here you will never sleep!” The game show voice echoed through the store ending in laughter. I looked around and noticed that all the shoppers were looking at me and for the first time I could see the dark circles under their eyes. Their clothes hung from their skeletal frames and they all looked pale as if their skin had never tasted the sun. They looked to me as if they were desperate for me to rescue them. I felt my bag slip from my hands and when the milk hit the floor the plastic broke open splashing milk all over my legs waking me from my panic.
“Oops! Clean up on checkout line five!” Said the voice over the microphone; all the while laughing insanely.
I slipped and fell through the spilled milk but somehow found my way back up on my feet as I ran towards the front door. The once smiling old woman who greeted me before stood in front of the door as if to block me. I figured it was do or die so I ran at her like a line backer. I slammed into her small frame as hard as I could. I felt her bones in her ribs crunch as we fell to the floor. I scrambled up to my feet as she grabbed her sides and writhed in pain. The automatic doors didn’t open when I stepped in front of the sensor.
“Come on Juliette! You know you can’t leave. What is out there waiting for you; an empty house with and empty bed? Maybe your empty life is waiting for you! You’re with people who understand you now. Come Juliette; come be a part of my wonder land!” His voice started to become deeper with each word he spoke losing the game show façade. “Come to me Juliette. You will never worry about sleep again. You can take control of your weakness. You can let go of the worry caused by no sleep. The headaches you get from not getting your eight hours.” His voice became soft and he began to whisper. “Juliette let go come to me and let go.”
I reached down and pinched my arm to snap myself out of his hypnotic voice and I screamed “No!” I turned to the door and started to kick the glass but every time it broke it would amend its self. I searched for a release latch that usually comes on automatic doors. Of course this hell hole doesn’t have one. I found the crease where the doors usually would open and I put my fingers in the crack and started to push with my fingers. It started to give so I pushed harder and harder. It opened just wide enough to slide my body through. I looked over my shoulder and the skeletal people slowly started to make their way toward me. They looked like zombies slowly walking toward their prey. I slid my body between the doors. The doors pushed on my stomach and I could barely breathe.
“If you give in… I’ll open the doors Juliette. Do you agree?” Said the mysterious voice on the intercom as the doors pushed in harder. I could hear rushing in my ears as I started to pass out. I nodded my head yes with what energy I had left and the doors flung open. I crumpled to the floor. As I started to catch my breath and I tried to pull myself to my feet but instead I felt myself being pulled back into the store. The doors slammed shut behind me. The little old lady that greets customers was back on her feet smiling as if nothing had happened. She helped me up to my feet and she handed me a brochure. “Welcome to Sunny Mart.” She said with a sweet smile shinning through her gaunt face. I looked around and everyone had returned to shopping as if nothing had happened. Tommy was over at the fishing and camping section looking as if he would actually go camping some day. Dee Dee was eyeing bathing suits as if she was looking for a swim suit for the summer vacation of a life time. Angel was skipping around like a little girl around the store with a shopping basket on her arm full of free items. The little old lady handed me a shopping cart and I took it miserably. I don’t know what kind of hell I have stepped into but I know that my insomnia, that once made me a prisoner in my own home, has now made me a prisoner of the Sunny Mart. Maybe this was some kind of hell for the tormented souls my mother used to talk about. What will happen to us all? Will we ever sleep again? I mean… in the end everyone has to sleep… right?