Rob’s Sleep Messages

Contributor: David Macpherson

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Rob was this roommate I had in college who had slept hard. He'd be asleep and not wake up even when the phone was ringing, but he would get up, answer it, and have a conversation, all while still being asleep. You would be on the phone with him talking and suddenly you would realize that something wasn't quite right, the way the conversation was going was off and you would ask, "Rob are you asleep right now?" And he would say, "Yes." So you would say, "Now Rob, listen to me. Hang up the phone and go to bed." And that’s what he did. He had no memory of any of this. Not even a dream memory.

We would have him write down phone messages when he was like this. He would wake up and see a note in his own hand that said, "I was asleep when Pete called. I will call him in the afternoon." That was a nice message. We didn't do nice messages often. Sometimes he would read messages that he wrote down that said, "I'm a bad bad boy. Have to return my professor's diaper." Or "I live in the Pink Pretty Panty Pantry." Junk like that. It wasn't clever, but we thought it was. Rob would smile along, though who would really like this kind of shit being done at his expense? Really.

I didn't see him for a while, I had graduated, and we were roommates, we were never best buds. But I was visiting an ex-girlfriend in his dorm, seeing if we wanted to do something about our relationship status or just be something undisclosed when I saw him. I didn't recognize. My ex had to tell me it was Rob. "Come on, that ain't him." She just shook her head and went back into her room closing the door behind me, which kind of let me know where I stood with her.

“Rob,” I said, “How you been?” I didn’t need for him to tell me. He was thin and puffy, all at the same time. His skin looked pale, like it had trapped in the wash for fifty cycles. He hadn’t been showering often enough, that was easy to determine.

He took some time to recognize me. Then he smiled yellow teeth. “Man, you are just the kind of guy I was hoping to see. I mean, you know people. I need to know people who know people.” It was like a bad musical number but I just nodded my head.

He dragged me into his room. He didn’t have a roommate. No one wanted to be his roommate, so the second bed was vacant waiting for a brave soul to fill it. “Remember those phone messages you guys used to have me write when I was asleep? Remember that? Well I still have the notebook and still I wake up and there be more of them. But about a month ago, they changed.” He pushed aside hamburger wrappers and showed me the note book he wrote the messages in. I looked at it.

They were how I recalled them. Funny things: “Must buy new footie pajamas,” or “I’m a little tea pot short and stout.” Then in his hand was a longer message, “The time has come. There will be knives on throats. There will be stains on poor campus carpets that no one will be able to remove. They will have to cut the carpets out. The blood will come. The bodies will be deposited. You need to understand Rob. This is inevitable. This shall occur. I needed a scribe, someone to record my good works. I chose you Rob.”

“Wow,” I said. “That ain’t funny.”

Rob grabbed the notebook back. “There’s others. They get more detailed. They list dates things will happen. The dates are still in the future, but not by much now.”

“Dude, go to the police.”

“How can I do that. It might be me writing this, thinking this. I might not just be dictating it. I don’t know. I figure all I need to do is not go to sleep. That’s all I can do.”

“Rob, what can I do for? Really. You won’t do the right thing and go to the cops.”

He smiled that ugly smile. “I know you have connections. Mini-thins and coffee are not cutting it anymore. I need something stronger to keep me awake. You know people.”

“Rob, that’s not a solution.”

He just stared at me. Ugly tired eyes did not plead at me, they just observed me, clinically, dispassionately. I told him sure, I would call some people. I would get him all he needed and then I left campus.

I didn’t call anyone. I don’t know anyone. I can’t figure why he thought I did. Every day I check the campus news site to see if anything happened. Nothing yet. And that’s good I guess.

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David is a writer living in Central Massachusetts with his wife Heather and son George.
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