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  • Writer's pictureFarida Sobieh

Story for the Sleepless

“Hello,” she began.

“Hello yourself.”

And then there was silence. It did not look nearly as scary as she’d imagined, but it did not take her much guessing either. She knew, as all did. Still, she swallowed her fear and spoke politely. “I heard a lot about you.”

“All good things, I hope?”

She watched as it billowed gently into her room. It made its way past her toys, drifting shadowless through the moonlight. She watched, as it finally settled at the edge of her bed.

“Not really,” she whispered.

The curtain sighed, and she could not help but feel a bit sorry.

Weightless it sat, and she allowed it a few more seconds of solemn silence. This was far too sudden for her to be sad, and for a moment, it was almost awkward. She thought of her storybooks and decided to borrow a line. “So is this it, then?”

“I’m afraid so. Unless you would like to try your luck.”

“You… want me to?”

“I am very tired.”

She hummed in understanding, even though she hardly understood at all. Once again, she thought of her books. She had gone through enough to know where this was going. “I don’t have anything to give you. Like I don’t even have a job, yet. And I always lose games.”

“You needn’t much,” it replied. “Just tell me a story.”

“A what?” she laughed despite herself, and it laughed as well, almost apologetically. It was a soft gentle laugh, carrying the scent of rain-felled soil.

“Well, why not?” It gestured to the wall behind her. “You seem to have so many.”

“I read stories, I don’t know how to write stories.” Then, deciding context was of utmost importance, she leaned in to whisper: “I mean, I did—one time when I was a kid? Except it wasn’t a real one, but some paint fell all over it. So if I write one, it’s going to be a disaster.”

“Oh dear,” it tutted, as the little girl sat back with a grave nod. “Well then, it’s a very good thing I am only asking you to tell me a story, isn’t it? No writing or paint required.”

This was definitely fairer, she decided. Still, how strange. “Wouldn’t a grown-up tell stories better? Did you try asking one?”

“I have. I have heard many, many stories. Some long, some short…far too short.” It looked up to meet her eyes, and she tried to do so in turn. Only, there were far too many and far too few at once. It did not notice her blinking away from its stares. 

“Yes, many stories. All far too real,” it hummed to itself. “I think I should like… a lie? Something small from something small, easy to understand. Like those fed to the fire. I have always wondered…”

Its voice trailed into the dark, and the little girl looked at its starry hand. But the air around them told her better and made her feel too many things.

She did not want to die.

And she did not want to see it so sad.

Death turned, startled by a sudden touch. It was a pillow, with a much smaller hand on the other end.

She smiled.

“Would you like a bedtime story?”

Written by Farida Sobieh.

Cover illustration by Farida Sobieh.


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