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Unsleeping

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It was a common story. Driven, focused. Skipped two grades, at the top of his class at the most expensive boarding schools. Graduated early. Valedictorian in undergrad; graduated early. Top three percent Harvard med; accepted to the most prestigious neuroscience fellowship.

Surgery was easier than breathing. Montgomery could be in surgery for days straight, but laid awake every night chasing sleep.

It was nitrous the first time. He had never even had a tooth pulled, and he just wanted to know how it felt.

He just wanted some sleep.

Nitrous made his hands shake, and that was worse than death, so he tried hydromorphone. He slept like a baby, and suddenly being in the world beyond the bright lights of surgery wasn’t such a raw experience. He could just relax; he almost felt good.

He was brilliant enough that they let the drugs missing from the hospital dispensary go a lot longer than they should have. It wasn’t until he came to surgery high that they let him go. He knew better, but by then he hurt if he didn’t take it all the time.

He switched to heroin. He continued his correspondence with Dr. Moreau; they had been talking so long, and Moreau was so sympathetic, that Montgomery told him about his discharge, about how no one would take his calls.

An invitation. You’ll like the weather, Moreau said, and the work will challenge you.

He wasn’t surprised by the state of the island; he had guessed, from the vague clues in Moreau’s letters, what was going on. If anything surprised him, it was Moreau himself. Montgomery was used to the strong hand and naked genius of Moreau that was present in his letters; to see this god of men so far faded made Montgomery lose his breath. But he liked the weather, and the work was challenging. He swallowed his surprise and adjusted his dosage.

Eventually he stopped sleeping again. He added things to the cocktail; he manufactured things in the lab.

He could not sleep.

He bedded Aissa, her soft sweet skin, her lava hot mouth. The sensuous, languorous curves of her; the dark rope of her hair twisted around his wrist and pulled taut. Her tongue was rough like a cat’s, and as they lay in bed together afterwards, a purr percolated deep in her chest. The girl fell to sleep curled against him, her small hands on his chest, and Montgomery lay awake.

After Aissa tired of him, he visited some of the other females. It didn’t matter that they weren’t one hundred percent human; Montgomery did not believe in Moreau’s ridiculous crusade, but he believed in sensation. Anything that could make him feel was worth it, except stopping the drugs. That was a hell he could not bear. It had not been recreation in a long time, but maintenance.

When there was no work to be done, Montgomery walked the island. The salt-scented wind coming off the ocean, the palm trees. The lush forests, dense with tall, fragrant grasses and flowers with palm-sized petals. It was like a prehistoric world. He was not sure what, exactly, that made him.

Montgomery lay himself down in the cool soil at the roots of a tree as old as ancestors long since passed. He closed his eyes, and wished for sleep.