This short story is an exploration of what might be a sequel to my book, The Kiss of Night. If you’re interested, you can find it here.
EYES WIDE OPEN
Rudy’s Never Closes is what the sign read, which is pretty much stating the obvious for pretty much every shop and restaurant in the country these days. When you don’t sleep, you end up either doing crap all the time, like picking up strange women, or trespassing, or beating up any geeks you come across. The other alternative is to drink, or smoke, do drugs, or read or watch TV, which leads to boredom, which leads to stuff like picking up strange women, and the other stuff that I listed earlier.
One of the safer activities is to visit all-night diners, taste the local cuisine, and then compare notes. That’s what all the gramps and grannies do—the ones who are still around, that is. Me, I eat when I’m hungry. No more than five times a day. None of this obsessive eating that so many have latched on since we woke up. Eating is for energy, for keeping meat on my bones. That’s the critical issue in my line of work. Energy. Meat. Bones.
I’m a bounty hunter. Have been for quite a while since long before The Wake Up Call. I used to work out of Dallas, specializing in bringing in deadbeat dads and critters who were short on luck and long on reward money. I didn’t get rich, but it was a living. I’ve never been the type to look too far off.
Then came the Great Sleep. Caught me off guard while I was visiting a cat house in Waco. Next thing I know, six weeks has gone by, and I am waking up with a full beard and a soft spoken Limey is telling me to take it easy and will you please drink some of this Gatorade? Funny, suffering from a national epidemic, and not even knowing about it until after you are pronounced cured.
After the Great Sleep came The Wake Up Call. If you remember, there was a honeymoon period while everyone was happy to be alive. After that for a long time, no one wanted to even think about going back to sleep. It was a while before it occurred to me and everyone else that sleep isn’t that bad of a thing, and, oh yeah, now I can’t sleep at all.
The world watched on and first they celebrated that a cure had been found for The Great Sleep. Then they did what one might expect: rather than opening their doors, they slammed them and nailed them shut. Poor Limeys who came to the States to help out got stuck in the States. Some wore Hazmat suits, but you can’t eat or crap in a Hazmat suit, so that gets old quick. Within a few days, they’d joined the rest of us. It was take the medicine and stay awake forever, or not take the medicine and take a good, long nap. No middle ground, which, of course, sucks.
So once again the good old United States of Us was alone in the universe. Europe waited to see what happened, then they pretty much forgot us. England too. Guess they just got tired of messing with us.
Things got pretty crazy real fast. Suicides, that’s to be expected. Then came the rioting and looting. And the bombings. Finally the cool thing to do was to find celebrities and shoot them in a public place. And then anybody who happened to be in a public place. That got Washington’s attention. The government had to do something pretty quick, or we were going to make Somalia look like paradise.
And so they decided what they needed was a scapegoat. They couldn’t point out the guy from Nicaragua, Elizondo Lopez, who started the sleeping sickness; he’d died early on. And sleeping wasn’t the problem anymore. Now it was a matter of not being able to sleep. And so they had to find someone to pin the cure on.
There were two people that the CDC were able to identify; the guys whose DNA was used to make the cure. Their names were Dr. Dale Grady and his bastard son, Matthew Suggs. Grady was easy to find. Guess he was feeling a little bit guilty about how everything turned out and surrendered himself to the FBI the day after they discovered that the vaccine had backfired. Lot of good it did him. He lasted a total of 45 minutes before someone pulled a pistol on the courthouse steps and shot him dead.
Suggs should have been easy to find too. He was in England when they started giving out the vaccine. When everything seemed to be over, he came back to the U.S. and got a ticker tape parade in New York City. And right after that he disappeared. Someone must have found him and got word to him that he was in danger.
With Grady gone, Suggs became Public Enemy #1. The Feds put out a $2 million bounty on him, which is where I come in. I know I have a lot of competition; some of those hottest to nail him aren’t even interested in the bounty. But that’s my job. I don’t care if Suggs did the dirty or not. My job is simply to bring him in.
That’s where Rudy’s Never Closes comes in. I got a line that Suggs had an uncle in Albuquerque who was a short-order cook by the name of Rudy Suggs. The mom’s out of the picture, so Matthew’s next likely place to turn is going to be his next relative in line.
I don’t plan on hurting him; after all, the kid’s only 19. But I do intend to collect that $2 million bounty.
Who knows. Maybe it will be enough to bribe my way out of this godforsaken country to somewhere civilized, like Siberia.
Wish me luck.