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A Boy’s Quest for Sleep

Once upon a time there was a boy who could not sleep because his parents snored so loudly. This caused him a great deal of grief, and he at last sought to do something about it.

So he went to a great old wizard and asked him how he could get some sleep. And the great old wizard told him to consult with the great god Pan-Odil in an old temple in the woods. And the boy went to the old temple in the woods, and there he consulted the drowsy monks. The monks told the boy that if he wished to sleep the perfect sleep he would need to go to the Cave of Serenity.

The directions to the Cave of Serenity were written in the Great Book of Sleep, who lay for all to read on the Altar of Dreams right inside the temple. So the boy went to read the directions. But the directions had been written by sleep-deprived monks and were so incoherent, so cabalistic, so riddled with bad grammar that the boy gave up on them. But he knew that the monks never lied, and if they said there was the Cave of Serenity, then there was a Cave of Serenity.

And the boy spoke to the monks again, telling them of his troubles with the directions. And the monks said to the boy that if he could not understand the directions, his trip would be most difficult. But, there was one way he might try:

In the Bleak Mountains there lived two trolls, who owned a magic bed. The bed was magical in that it could fly, and the only thing one needed to do was to sit on the bed and say: “Bed, fly me to the moon” and off to the moon one went. The boy thought this would be a capital idea and went to see these trolls. The directions were easy enough to follow: just follow the path.

On his way he came to a hut. In the hut lived three wise guys. They greeted the boy and told him he could stay on the condition he played cards with them for the night. The boy agreed; as he was an insomniac anyway he figured that one night more or less would not hurt any. So they played cards all night, ate peanuts and drank mead until sunrise. The wise guys were saying goodbye to the boy when one of them happened to ask him where he was going. The boy answered truthfully.

The tree wise guys looked at each other as they heard where the boy was headed, and agreed to give him a little something to help him on his quest. “This is Tony’s piece,” said one of the wise guys, as he handed the boy a nickel-plated revolver. “It is magical. Anyone who fires it will never miss.” The boy thanked them for the present, and continued his quest.

In just two days he was at the foot of the mountains, and it occurred to him how big the mountains were. The seemed to stretch all the way to the stars. But they had not seemed so tall when he was back in his village. Wasting no time, the boy scaled the mountain. Up he went, for hours on end, still following the trail. And he climbed for the entire day and the entire night till sunrise, and then on he climbed still more until he heard voices in front of him.

The boy saw two trolls standing outside a cave, tossing between them an egg while singing. The boy came closer to listen, and he heard, but he could not understand the language. But it seemed to him these would be the trolls he was seeking. He thought he saw a bed in their cave and wondered if the trolls were willing to do a little business; trade the flying bed for Tony’s piece. But first, he would need to attract their attention.

The boy walked toward the trolls, and called to them. The trolls glanced at him once, but ignored him. He called louder, and the trolls just gave him an evil eye for his troubles. The boy then walked to one of them, and poked it in the back. The troll gave him a kick, and they continued to throw the egg between them while singing. The boy was now irritated, and he figured he had just one thing that would get the troll’s attention: he took the gun, aimed it at the egg, and fired.

The egg broke into a cloud of dust and rained bits over the ground, and at the same moment both of the trolls fell dead. The boy scratched his head over this strange event. He had heard in legends that trolls had an egg of life, and would die if the egg was broken, but he always thought those were fairy tales told to children to put them to sleep.

But now the trolls were dead, and regardless of how they died, he now had access to the magical bed. So the boy wasted no more time, and climbed into the bed. Then he said the magic words: “Bed, fly me to the Cave of Serenity.”

And the bed flew to the Cave of Serenity, and finally the boy could get some much-needed sleep.

Copyright © 2005 by Bewildering Stories on behalf of the author

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