The meeting had been scheduled for 72:30:00, of course. That hour of the seven-day was notoriously treacherous for meetings. Before the legislation on Productivity Savings Time (also called the Fiat Lux of 2030) had been passed, that hour fell during a 'Wednesday,' which the pre-prods had also called 'hump day.' This had always struck Ozymandias Smith (efficiency name: Oz) as vaguely bothersome, although he wasn't sure why.
He could no longer remember how disconcerted he had been as a small boy, watching a documentary on ancient desert tribes, by the camel's hump. He could no longer remember wondering what exactly was in the hump, and suspecting that it was something similar to the python's digestive tract. He could no longer remember his profound relief at finding out that it was the camel"s built-in canteen.
He could no longer remember these things not only because he was no longer a child (and the memory of adults is notoriously fictive), but because he had, by the age of 35, had as much waking life as a pre-prod man of 70. And that is too many hours for the internal archivists to monitor, even with the biological overtime assistance of the Evigilo capsules that every post-prod man, woman, and child had implanted in their right arm for extended release.
For the better part of a decade, the Evigilo had made the pre-prod week into a single day. A twelve-hour sleep shift for all non-emergency personnel was now scheduled for 120:00:00. After 12 hours of sleep, a new day began. The work cycle was now effectively three times as efficient as the pre-prod 40-hour. Not that the 40-hour had really been the standard before the Fiat Lux in anything other than theory. In actuality, the length of the work week had been creeping up steadily since the 1980s. It was only ever a matter of time before it came to this. Especially once Evigilo was released OTC.
Everything in Oz's world ran like a Swiss chronometer. Until lately. Until now, which is 62:34:12. He had been sitting in the park on top of his office building, watching the clouds scud by on a light breeze. When he heard the muffled thump behind him, he registered it as a something, dropped. When he turned, he saw it was a someone, dropped.
Specifically, Becky Mills from 53. Administrator. Fast asleep on the ground, her hand still wrapped around a citrus bar, her tea steaming in a cup on the bench from which (presumably) she had gently folded herself into the grass.
Contemplating her dozing form, he immediately felt himself grow sleepy. It would be so easy, he thought. So easy. Just to lie down next to her. Maybe rest his head on the fanned-out folds of her beige silk skirt. Just for a little while. These were his thoughts when the aerostat wasp droned past his ear, lit on Becky Mills decolletage, and drilled her with 20 cc's of adrenaline. She levitated to her feet with a shriek, staring wildly around her, finally seeing the now-blinking aerostat.
"PUBLIC SOMNOLENCE," it announced in its silky, robotic baritone. 'CITIZEN BEM23430947."
Becky's face went the color of a milky jade, and her eyes darted from side to side. Behind her, the doors to the lift whooshed open on hydraulic wings. The Whitecoats were there. Fast. They must have a new station in the building, Oz thought. Another indication that public somnolence was fast becoming a plague. A crisis.
And in a few turns of the chrono, he would be in another sleep-inducing meeting on how to best address it. What would he say? Would he tell them of his desire to slumber in Becky Mills' beige silk lap? Would he tell them that sometimes he felt a hunger, an ache, a deep need to shrive himself in silk sheets and sleep until he finally knew what a dream was? That he knew that death had once been spoken of as a kind of sleep, and wondered if perhaps he was actually longing for death? Death, or dreaming, or oblivion. He did not know. But he feared, he feared very much, that this time he would not be able to keep his eyes open through one more presentation. And then he would find out. Then he would certainly find out.