It was a late October afternoon and the Gorging had begun. Ryan Johnson stared disapprovingly at his colleagues in the sales office of Havenmoor Stationery as they all stuffed their faces with cakes, crisps and doughnuts. Pete McCarthy, who was a part time personal trainer, attempted to force a chocolate cupcake into Ryan’s face.
‘Have a cake!’ exclaimed Pete.
‘I’m not hungry Pete,’ huffed Ryan.
‘Not hungry?!’ replied and incredulous Pete, shoving the cupcake into his own mouth, ‘who isn’t hungry at this time of year?’
‘Did your Mum never tell you to not talk with your mouth full?’ asked Ryan sarcastically.
‘Oh that’s right,’ said Pete as he received a sudden moment of clarity, ‘I forgot, you’re an awaker aren’t you. No wonder you’ve got a face like a mule today. It must be pretty depressing staying awake all winter while the rest of us sleep it out.’
‘We’ve got targets to meet today you know Pete,’ said Ryan, pointing at the whiteboard with the day’s projected figures on.
‘Screw that,’ said Pete, reaching for a packet of crisps. ‘Nigel’s already gone home so who cares? Besides, no one buys anything but food today. I don’t reckon there’s much point trying to sell staplers.’
‘Well then if there’s not much point, why are you all bloody here?’
Pete didn’t answer.
‘Sausages are ready!’ called Linda Yates from the makeshift barbeque that she had erected on her desk.
Ryan’s colleagues jumped excitedly from their crumb covered desks and ran over to Linda. Ryan sighed and made a discrete exit to visit the gents where he could be alone for a while.
He stared at his reflection in the mirror for a moment before he turned away, unwilling to look at his tired young face any longer. He was only twenty-six years old, but he felt more like fifty – especially on days like this. Being an awaker was a mixed blessing as far as Ryan was concerned. On one hand he got to spend over three months virtually alone – which he rather enjoyed. On the other hand, he had to watch as everyone else in the world gorged themselves on food every winter before falling into a deep sleep for several months, leaving him and the other awakers to keep everything going.
‘Bastards,’ he muttered to himself.
It was a quiet day in the surgery of Dr Howard Rutherford, the first of many he hoped. As the only awaker doctor in the Havenmoor area, it was his sole responsibility every year to treat the medicinal needs of the other awakers, plus any unforeseen medical emergencies that might crop up during the regular inspections of the sleeper zones. The previous year had been fairly uneventful – and as he peeled his afternoon banana that day, he very much hoped that this year would be the same.
Suddenly there was a knock on his office door. He didn’t have any appointments scheduled that afternoon so he was somewhat surprised at the interruption.
‘Hello?’ he called.
There was no response.
With a sense of intrigue he walked over to the door and opened it. Standing in the corridor was a small girl, maybe nine years old, with blonde hair, blue eyes, bunches and a white dress. She was carrying a large stuffed white rabbit under her arm.
‘Can I help you miss?’ asked Dr Rutherford.
The girl stared right through him with intense blue eyes.
‘No, not yet,’ she said eventually. Then she giggled and skipped off down the corridor.
‘Wait...’ called Howard – but she had already gone.
‘Must have got lost,’ he shrugged to himself. Then he wiped the sweat from his follicly challenged scalp, re-adjusted his spectacles, and sat back down to finish his banana.
Sophie Simmons decided that the best way to get away from the Gorging would be to retreat to the local Havenmoor library. Surely, she theorised, no-one would want to borrow books that day, unless they were recipe books perhaps. To her dismay however, she found a lone librarian manning the reception desk, stuffing her mouth with cream buns. The librarian looked equally dismayed to see the twenty-two year old wandering in to her library looking like she had been dragged through a hedge backwards.
‘You can’t come in here,’ warned the librarian between mouthfuls, ‘you know you’ve been banned.’
‘Screw you, fat bitch,’ profaned Sophie, throwing her wild auburn hair back aggressively. She gave the librarian the finger and then wandered over to the children’s section.
After pulling a bottle of vodka from her jacket and taking a swig, Sophie reached out and retrieved her favourite illustrated edition of Alice in Wonderland from the bookshelf. She sat down cross legged on the floor, with the book on her lap, and started to read.
‘I’m sorry, I’m going to have to ask you to leave,’ said the angry librarian, storming over to the children’s section. ‘No alcohol is allowed on the premises.’
‘Well, I’m not the one who’s about to fall asleep for three months,’ said Sophie, not looking up from her book, ‘and if I was you, I’d want to be getting to one of the sleeper zones pretty pronto. So, we’ll soon see which one of us is actually going to have to leave.’
‘Well, really!’ exclaimed the librarian in disgust. Then she lumbered off back to the reception desk and started scoffing cream buns again.
Sophie smiled to herself and took another swig of vodka. She knew she could carry on reading now until it was all over.
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