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She stared at her reflection in the harsh, unflattering lights of the bathroom. Her hair was lank and her eyes were dull, circled by dark shadows.

She gripped the sides of the sink and took a deep breath before leaning down to splash her face with cold water. The sensation woke her up a little, as intended, but she knew it wouldn’t last long. Like the cans of sugar-laden energy drink, cups of coffee and loud music blasting through the lab. All it could do was stave off the inevitable.

She clenched her fists, digging her nails into the palms of her hands. It was like running a race you knew you were going to lose. Good job she was born stubborn, she thought.

She turned on her heel and strode out of the bathroom, down the corridor and back to the lab. Her assistant Neil was on his feet, dancing somewhat aimlessly to the music. Their colleagues had been moved out of the way, a few lying on gurneys with blankets, the rest just wheeled out of the way on the office chairs they had fallen asleep on, their lab coats doubling for covers.

“Neil,” she shouted over the music. “Do you have the results back from the last test?”

He nodded. She had never seen somebody dance whilst looking quite so depressed and exhausted before.

“No change,” he said, gesturing towards one of the gurneys. “Although there was a promising initial spike in brain activity, it didn’t last. He’s still asleep.”

She tried not to groan. “Any news from New York?”

“Doctor Alardi is still awake, but his assistants are sleeping. He’s on his own now, don’t know how long he can hold out.” He paused, taking a deep breath. “The confirmed number of casualties just hit a billion.”

“Goddammit,” she muttered. “A billion people sleeping. We need to fix this, fast. Test the same solution on Dr Perry. If that spike is consistently produced then at least we have something to start with.”

She turned her back on him quickly. She didn’t want him to see her yawn.

© Kari Fay