Julia hurriedly walked into the Rogers Park Parent Organization. Her busy single-parent schedule of juggling two jobs and a 16-year-old provided no extra time to keep RPPO obligations. But now her daughter was suffering.
It started last week when Rashida began her first medically induced sleep cycle. Apparently, 75 years of research and development isn’t enough to initiate the U.S. sleep program without any bugs. Twenty-four hours of high-powered REM dreaming equates to nine years of attentiveness, productivity and uninterrupted wakefulness. But what do six full days produce? Julia had to know.
“You said it was safe!” Julia blurted in a room full of RPPO members while her target sat, back turned, in the far corner.
Jorge Mendez, RPPO president, politely wrapped up his conversation and walked toward Julia as everyone else ceased gawking and went back to their idle chatter.
“Let’s bring this to another room. Shall we?”
“My daughter has been in what can only be called a coma, for nearly a week,” Julia said. “When she comes out of it, whenever that may be, will she even be herself anymore?”
“Julia, please,” he said motioning her to an adjoining meeting space. “We couldn’t have predicted this was going to happen. With billions of sleep program launches monitored and recorded, no patient has slept more than 24 hours straight in the initial launch. There’s no protocol for this, so we’re just watching her progression. Bringing her out of the cycle could have adverse reactions. Now is the time to sit and wait.”
The mother of the comatose teenager sat and watched as a bureaucrat spat endless reasons for the possibility of never getting her daughter back.
“I’m sorry, I don’t have more for you,” Mendez concluded.
Julia arrived home and was greeted by the sharp beeps of the EKG machine coming from the upstairs bedroom. An unoperated nurse’s station was piped into a monitor at the foot of Rashida’s bed. With her gaze passing over the empty chair, Julia took her seat. And for the seventh day watched Rashida’s eyes dart back and forth under her closed lids.
“About a thousand years from now, it seems the Earth will hit this comet with its thick tail”, he told her. “But we won’t be here anymore”, she answered. “Oh yes, we’ll be in the comet’s tail, as stardust”, he said.