Once upon a time, a baby was born. He entered the world very quietly and peacefully, and then let forth with a terrifying scream.
The child grew into a man who could never get enough sleep. No matter how he tried, he would wake up earlier than he wanted, or not fall asleep soon enough, or spend hours awake in the middle of the night. Every day he would be more tired, and every night he would lose more sleep.
The problem began when he was in college. He would often stay up very late, even pulling all-nighters when class work (or social events) demanded it. But the next day he would sleep no more than normal, which was never quite enough to begin with. He could feel his internal sleep meter slipping slowly into the red, with no recovery in sight.
After college, he no longer pulled all-nighters. Instead, he had the stress of working life to keep him awake, or to awaken him in the middle of the night. Deadlines, unsolvable problems, management headaches, promotions, layoffs, and other factors of a normal career conspired to give his brain something to fester on when he wanted it unconscious instead.
Things got worse again when he had kids. Sleepless nights were had by all, but whereas his family was able to get recovery naps the next day, he continued to fall farther down the chasm of fatigue. His kids eventually grew up, and those long nights of caring for them ended, but he never got back the sleep time he’d lost during those years.
Age brought its own difficulties. As he entered his fifties, in addition to losing sleep for all of the regular reasons, his body seemed to think that less sleep, and more wandering around in the night, was reasonable. Every night he would take longer to fall asleep, waking up just an hour later to then spend half the night falling back asleep, followed by waking up too early the next morning.
Of course he tried to address the problem. He read mountains of books on the subject (mostly in the middle of the night when he couldn’t sleep). He attended sleep clinics. He saw specialists. He took various medicines, most of which succeeded in making him more tired, but none of which actually made him sleep.
On he went, through his entire life, sleeping less, waking more, and getting increasingly tired with every passing day, month, and year.
Finally, he approached the end of his life, as we all must. At first, he was afraid. Regretful. Wistful. There were so many things he had meant to do in life, but hadn’t managed to tackle. There would always be time later… until there wasn’t.
But then one day (in the middle of the night, when he couldn’t sleep), he realized: death wasn’t just the end of life. It was the beginning of sleep. It was going to be the longest nap he’d ever had. It would be one sleep from which nothing could awaken him. He wouldn’t wake up in the middle of the night. He wouldn’t wake up too early in the morning. There would be no babies to scream him awake, no work stress to worry him awake, no loud noises in the house to jolt him awake in the wee hours, no endless, pointless thoughts occupying his brain when he just wanted to rest. There would be only sleep.
Finally, he would recover all of the sleep that he had missed throughout his life. Death would be the salvation of his sleepless life.
Suddenly, he was at peace. His family remarked to each other how complacent he was, and what a good life he must have led to be so blissful as he took this final step into the universe. He was a a role model, an icon; a man to revere.
Then, one day, it happened: with a slight misfire, his heart gave out, and he slipped toward oblivion. As he felt sleep approaching, his mouth moved into the most peaceful and joyous smile his family had ever seen. They wept from his passing, and for their loss, but also for their happiness and thankfulness for his beautiful inner peace.
Thousands of miles away, at the same exact moment, a child was born. As he entered the world, there was a moment of awareness as the soul of the old man settled into this new child. The old man was surprised and disoriented at first, and then realized what was happening as the mystery of reincarnation finally dawned on him. And then he realized he would not get that endless sleep after all.
As the new parents looked on adoringly at their baby, the child who had arrived on the scene so quietly and peacefully let forth with a terrifying scream.