Sleep

It was four minutes past midnight in the dark city of Midgar. Deep within the Shinra Electric Company building, a child stirred in his sleep. He wasn't sleeping in a bed, nor was he sleeping in a bedroom. He was sleeping in a laboratory. To be specific, he was sleeping in a laboratory which fell under the jurisdiction of none other than Professor Hojo, Shinra's Head of the Science Department, resident mad scientist, and weirdo with a God Complex.

One would wonder what such a child was doing sleeping in a laboratory. Wouldn't it be more appropriate for a child to be sleeping in a bedroom? And surely a bed would be more comfortable than the coffin-like chamber within which said child was currently tossing and turning. A thin barrier of shatterproof plastic separated the child from the rest of the nocturnal world, and only air could pass through the numerous, slit-like vents at the sides of his sleeping chamber.

What made the situation stranger was the fact that the boy slept in only a pair of what looked like surgical scrubs, with numerous electrodes, wires, and tubes connected to his torso. A bank of computer monitors stood on one side of the boy's 'bed', keeping an electronic, vigilant eye on his vital signs, and some other mysterious signs as well. On the other side of the 'bed' were several large canisters, ominously unlabeled. Fine, plastic tubes connected these canisters to the boy, whose chest was stuck with several drip-needles. Some of the canisters sent a greenish liquid into the boy, and his skin glowed a sickly shade of lime-green where the drip entered his body.

But, as of this moment, the little boy was not concerned about his sleeping arrangements. He was tossing and turning in a frenzy, more worried about the monsters chasing him compared to the minor issue of his claustrophobic 'bed'.

The nightmares were coming more often and frequently as of late. He would be in a dark place, where a green glow would be approaching him. It was then that they would come. Hideous monsters from beyond his youthful imagination's capability to create. He would run, and they would pursue him relentlessly. Sometimes, a claw or three would take a swipe at the air behind him, as he ran for his dear life. On the rare occasion, one of those things would actually make physical contact with him, and he would wake up in a cold sweat, gasping for air, and slamming his head into the clear cover of his sleeping tube.

Tonight was one such night, and he woke up screaming in terror, drenched in perspiration. As usual, he was alone in the darkened laboratory, with only several specimens in various cages and containment chambers being there to accompany him. Most of these 'companions' of his were dead, their glassy eyes staring out of their formaldehyde-saturated chambers without actually seeing anything. The ones in the cages were sad creatures, barely-clinging on to life.

No one ever said Hojo was gentle or caring with his specimens.

The boy shivered in his chamber, and slowly fell back into slumbering bliss. It was only minutes, however, before he once again awoke, shrieking in fear.

xxx

A Shinra executive, known to many as the 'Master of All-Nighters', sat shuffling several reports at his desk, finally settling on one to read. A mug of coffee which had gone cold several hours ago sat dangerously-close to the edge of his desk, where a single push could make it fall to the floor. Several minutes passed, and the executive rubbed his eyes blearily, and leaned back in his chair, stretching. Feeling his vertebrae popping into position gave him a temporary moment of relief, as he pondered the latest of the reports he had been reading.

As his mind sank into a Zen-like state of thinking, a shrill scream broke through the nighttime silence like a train's whistle, startling him out of his thoughts. His feet slammed into his desk as he tried to straighten out his body, stand, and run at the same time. His long-forgotten coffee mug fell to the floor, shattering upon contact with the cement. A pool of coffee formed, soaking into the executive's rubber shoes.

"What in the?!" he cursed, getting up from behind his desk. Who else was in the building at this time of the night? To his knowledge, only he was pulling an all-nighter tonight (as he usually did, several times a month), and no one, especially a lady (who could scream like that?) was in the building.

Before he could decide on whether or not he should investigate the source of the noise, a piercing shriek was heard. Cocking his head to the side, he noticed that the noise seemed to be coming from the laboratory. Deciding to investigate the disturbance, he pulled a small handgun out of his pocket, and left his office.

xxx

The boy lay sobbing softly in the cruel confines of the tube he slept in. The second time he had fallen asleep, the monsters had been waiting for him in the land of nightmares, and had swarmed all over him, falling over themselves in their bloodthirsty frenzy. He had awoken with a shriek, and tried to curl up into a ball. The needles in his torso had prevented him from doing so, however, and he had to force himself to lie on his back, and console himself by sobbing into the darkness.

Out of the blue, a faint glimmer of light appeared at the corner of his vision. Too tired and cowed to care, he tried to close his eyes, only to see the shadows of several dream-dwellers appearing. He forced his eyes open, and saw the a face outside his tube, its features obscured by his tears and the partial-darkness of the laboratory.

The face's owner released the tube's locking mechanism, and opened the obscenity's cover. Reaching for the boy, the figure spoke in rasping, yet soothing tones.

"There, there," the figure said, patting him on the back, "It's just a bad dream. You're safe here."

Th figure continued to pacify the scared child, and the boy calmed down eventually, and slowly grew drowsy once more. As the figure lay him down in the tube, and re-sealed the tube, the boy decided to see who it was that had comforted him, and so he turned to look at the figure's retreating back.

In the faint light outside the laboratory, he saw a hunch-backed shadow behind the laboratory's closing door.

END