Shortly after moving to Century Courts Apartments, banker Marc Taylor finds himself unable to sleep. At first, he quite enjoys the additional time his chronic insomnia gives him. But as the weeks wear on, Marc craves nothing more than sleep. However, neither his doctor nor his therapist are able to help him. Even worse, his bizarre nocturnal habits are alarming the neighbours. And in those long sleepless nights, Marc gradually begins to suspect that his new neighbours are hatching a nefarious plan to get rid of him.
Paranoia is a well known consequence of chronic insomnia. But that Marc is paranoid doesn’t necessarily mean that his neighbours aren’t really out to get him. Or does it?
Read an excerpt.
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Some background information:
- Insomnia is a novelette of 8800 words. This story is a digital premiere and has never been published previously.
- The flash of inspiration that sparked Insomnia was an online generator for faux French literary fiction covers. I played around with the generator for a while and eventually got a faux cover for a novel entitled L’insomnie des orages which I misread as L’insomnie des oranges. I really liked the (misread) title Insomnia of the Oranges and so I decided to write a story to go with the faux cover, based only on the title and cover photo, a black and white aerial shot of a skyscraper. So I started to write a story about a man who lives in a highrise apartment block and cannot sleep. Initially, I abandoned the story after a few pages, because I did not know what to do with it beyond the idea of a man who cannot sleep, though he desperately wants to. Eventually I had the idea to let the protagonist throw himself of the roof of the building in which he lives in his quest for sleep. The dubious neighbours and Marc’s increasing paranoia just crept in and turned the story into a thriller.
- The faux French literary fiction cover I got from the generator may be found here. It’s obviously not the cover I used for Insomnia, largely because I did not have the rights for the photo, though I tried to find a stock photo that was similar.
- I did try to squeeze the oranges in there somewhere, but they didn’t really fit (probably because they never belonged there in the first place) beyond Marc eating oranges and stacking them up out of boredom at one point, so I cut the oranges out and left the title only as Insomnia.
- Of course, I misread the title on the generated cover, since it’s really “orages” rather than “oranges”. “Orage” means “thunderstorm” in French and a thunderstorm indeed found its way into the story, keeping Marc awake one night.
- Old Mrs. Biggins, the gossipy neighbour, is based on the elderly lady who was our neighbour when my Dad worked in Rotterdam. She loved to gossip and always knew the dirt on everybody in the apartment block, particularly regarding offbeat sexual preferences (and that apartment block was a veritable hotbed of those). Unfortunately, she only spoke Dutch and my grasp of the language was rather rudimentary, so I always felt like I was missing something really shocking. She really did accuse a young woman of practicing bestiality, by the way.
- I actually did know someone who named her dog, a black Labrador retriever as well, after Nelson Mandela.
- Miss Young’s obsession with people showering and letting water run at night is based on an elderly acquaintance of my aunt’s who has a similar obsession.
- The cover is a photo by Columbian photographer Andrés Virviescas and depicts a highrise building, apparently a hotel, in Bogota.