Simon stared out of the window of his conservatory wondering what time it was. He had lost count of the days he had been sleeping on the sofa. Was it weeks? Even months? Time had lost all meaning with the lack of sleep occurring so often, it was like he never slept. He had never planned for it to be this long but the alternative was too unbearable to think about. It seemed to start on his twelfth birthday where his hearing seemed to improve dramatically overnight, well more like during the night.
That night he went to bed at 10.30pm as usual, said good night to his Mum and Dad and then went off to his bedroom to chat to his mates on BratsApp for half an hour before falling asleep. However, on this night, and every night since, he would follow the same routine, his eyes would become heavy, he’d drift off to sleep and then his ears would pick up the frequency to a new radio station SNORE FM.
It was a lovely new radio station where instead of playing the latest snoozy bangers to send you off to sleep, it would play all his parents snoring, all the time. In normal circumstances he could put a pillow over his head or cheese in his ears and it would be fine, but not in this case. His hearing had become so sensitive that he could hear his parents snoring through the walls. Sitting in bed trying to sleep he started to make a list of what his parents snoring sounded like, here are the top five:
- Like a pneumatic drill walking through a town made of metal with cars falling from the sky and exploding.
- Like infinite blackboards and infinite fingers being scratched down them. Or infinite whiteboards and infinite pens with the squeaky marker.
- The most annoying kids from school - who talk too loudly or consistently talk - are given loud speakers and a microphone each and all stand at the end of Simon’s bed talking rubbish to each other for hours.
- If his bed was in the flight path of Heathrow and every plane decided to fly a few metres over his head one after another all night.
- As if his bed was in a war zone and several tanks rolled over his face whilst firing explosive shells at the enemy.
After a full two weeks of no sleep and becoming more and more irritated he gave up and took himself downstairs to the other end of the house and setup his duvet and pillow on the comfy sofa.
This sofa was the current sleeping place for the family dog, Annie. She was a Parson’s Jack Russell who loved each and every person, animal and thing in the world. Her hair was shaggy with patches of black and white with a brown peak leading to her black wet nose. Annie’s tail wagged so much you would think she could use it as a drone propellor and take flight. Even though she was four years old, her personality was that of a puppy, full of life, cheeky, playful and friendly to everyone except squirrels and foxes. Simon wasn’t sure if Annie would ever kill a squirrel but the way she would chase them up a tree it certainly seemed possible. In a perfect doggy world Annie would be able to climb trees as well and leap around terrorising the squirrel community.
Seeing Simon arrive with his duvet, Annie let out a small “Ruff!” and her tail kicked into overdrive. Not only had her favourite person in the whole world come down early but he’d brought bedding. They both curled up on the squishy sofa and Simon, somewhat relieved to discover he could not hear the snoring anymore, drifted back to sleep.
At 3am he woke up suddenly, so much so Annie also shot up staring at him with her dazed doggy face and droopy eyes. She walked down the length of his body and sat on his chest with her head a few centimetres from his face, tail slowly wagging from left to right like a furry metronome. Simon stared back at Annie, after a 30 second stare-off she licked his chin and then drifted back to sleep.
He was not so lucky, despite only having had about three hours sleep Simon was wide awake. Not in a ”Oh too much on my mind!” kind of way, this was more like being fully wide awake after having slept all night.
For the first few nights this occurred he tried to watch some TV quietly or surf the web or some impulse buying he would probably regret in the morning. But he quickly got bored and with no sign of going back to sleep his mind wandered.
After 12 years of good sleep, Simon was wracking his brains to understand why this was suddenly happening. By the sound coming from his parents' bedroom they certainly weren't suffering from the same problem, mainly because their snoring was causing permanent hearing loss.
Out of nowhere he remembered his Grandpa Abe had issues sleeping, which Simon assumed was to do with old age, and he would go for an early morning walk. Simon's entire body, despite feeling recharged and ready to go, was not onboard with this idea. He needed something to drive him on, an incentive of some sort. That incentive was currently letting out little doggy snorts as it snoozed on Simon's tummy. Simon smiled at Annie’s cuteness and quietly whispered the magic words, “Walkies?”
The first time Simon decided to walk Annie at night he made sure he brought down some clothes for when he woke up at 3am so he didn’t accidentally wake up the snore monsters from his parents bedroom. A grey hoodie, jeans, black trainers and some gloves along with some underwear seemed like a sound choice for the chilly weather conditions. He had his mobile just in case, he needed a torch and Annie’s lead and harness had a reflective strip on it.
Over the first few weeks Simon and Annie’s walks were fairly uneventful. They would lock the back door, open the gate and quietly lower the latch on the gate back into position. Coming out of the Close by walking down the side alley, Simon and Annie crossed the silent main road and began to walk down the long road leading to the park. The silence surrounding them combined with the shadows and darkness was overpowering to begin with but over time Simon realised that there was very little to be scared of. Most of the town was asleep so other than the milkmen and a few cars, he and his little dog owned Fogbury and this was all his estate.
Initially Simon and Annie stuck to the main roads but on week three they chose the back paths and walkways and never looked back. They were able to get all the way to the local park two miles away by only crossing two roads if they went down the several miles long walkway from Fogbury to Parksmeer.
It was scarier initially as huge trees surrounded these long paths, reducing the amount of light and what Simon could see at that time of night/day. This also meant Annie got more things to sniff and woof at quietly including cats, foxes and her favourite, squirrels. She could also do her number ones and twos without anyone witnessing it. Simon tried to pick as many of them up as possible but at that time of night, he also side footed many of Annie’s poos into the long grass.
Even after four years there was not much trust between Simon and Annie when it came to being off the lead. Annie was a terrier and those instincts meant even though she was super friendly, she was also very unpredictable. Throw in the pitch black night and Simon purchased a new glow in the dark lead which was slightly longer so he could wrap it around his hands and let it go long when they were in a field and Annie could have a little run around. She would run round and round Simon hoping he would get dizzy and drop the lead but thus far he’s not fallen for it. That didn’t stop Annie from trying every single time.
On this latest night walk Simon woke up at 3am on the dot as usual, throwing off the duvet and Annie jumping off the sofa with her tail already in a wagging frenzy. Within ten minutes Simon threw on his clothes, fitted Annie with her harness, grabbed his phone, keys and poo bags and was out the back door, gate and out of the Close heading towards the park.
Beginning to walk down the walkway something felt off to Simon, he didn’t know why but his senses didn’t feel right or at least they felt different to how they had been on previous mornings. Even Annie’s ears were up a lot more as if she heard things she had not heard before. The first mile was still uneventful and peaceful with only the swaying of the trees and light winds keeping them company. It wasn’t until they arrived at the straight path leading to the lit underpass did the night change dramatically.
Simon saw the out of focus lights and shadows of the underpass several hundred metres in the distance. His over sensitive hearing was picking up lots of sounds all around but as they walked slowly in the darkness towards the underpass he began to hear sounds associated with a number of blurry figures standing in the light. Only 150 metres away from the action Simon heard something that made him stop dead in his tracks and pulled Annie off the path and into the bushes at the side of the walkway.
The trees situated either side of the sunken pathway hid Simon and Annie from view. Squinting at the shadowy figures Simon could just about make out five people standing next to each other. Three of them were slightly larger in size and were surrounding two people who were having a conversation. Pointing his left ear down the path towards the underpass he tried to make out parts of the conversation.
“I don’t know what you mean!” said one of the men in this heated debate.
“You will not jeopardise this operation now we are so close!” said the other smaller man in the centre of this huddle.
Simon froze, he knew he needed to take himself and Annie and walk away from this drama, back down the walkway, through the alley ways, into his Close, through the back gate, locking the door and pretend he never got out of his sofa bed. But he also knew any movement might give away their position. Simon eventually decided to stay where they were and wait for these dodgy figures to walk out of the underpass before heading home, as they were more likely to head in the direction of the park anyway.
Annie however couldn’t care less, she sat next to Simon wondering why they had stopped walking. She had sniffed her surroundings enough now and wanted to walk on to new trees and new smells. Her hearing was good too but to her the sounds of the mysterious figures in the underpass was just noise. What she was acutely aware of, just as Simon had decided to stay where he was and wait for the group to disappear towards the park, was a rustle in the bushes on the opposite side of the path. The smell hit her nose and she immediately knew it was a juicy squirrel scrabbling for nuts on the ground.
Simon continued to look towards the underpass and saw the argument had stopped but the three larger men were now holding one of the men having the argument as he continued to try and wriggle out of their grip. Holding this man firmly, the other person involved in the heated debate approached him with a stare that made clear what was going to happen next. This was not going to end well. Little did Simon know that he was also included in that thought when Annie locked eyes with the squirrel and let out a huge “Woof!”