“You do know I do need to sleep, right?” he asked, peering up at her. With her hair forming a halo around her face, Gertrude looked like some mixture of angel and a trickster god—her countenance round and full of mischief.
“Oh, I don’t know—sleep might not matter all that much, actually. Did you ever try not sleeping?”
“Yes,” Henry said, moving a bit. Gertrude, despite several features of her being larger and rounder than some of the girls from his college classes, did not weigh all that much. Which was fortunate, as she was sitting on his stomach, pushing on his organs.
“I have, actually,” Henry added, still squirming. “I used to take advanced calculus classes.”
“Oh, so you are an educated person then? Well, I’m here to tell you that you do not need sleep—not now, not ever.”
Henry peered at the digital display on his bedside table. The harsh blue numerals glimmered; the number on it obscenely long. She shifted around on him, moving her hands onto his chest for balance.
Henry thought this was like a cat on a computer keyboard. He racked his brain for something else to say, but the tiredness grew in his head.
“I do need to…” he began, before yawning hard.
Gertrud leaned in close, filling his nostrils with the faint smell of pine she always had. “No, you don’t.”
She reached out a manicured finger and pressed it to his forehead. “You do not need to dream ever again. You have had enough of that, don’t you think?”
Gertrud changed in Henry’s vision, blurring and then re-focusing, and going in strange directions. Her hair took on a life of its own, undulating in wind and water not present, and flowing up toward the ceiling.
“Am I…am I dreaming?” Henry asked, “Is that what you are telling me?”
“I am telling you that you don’t need to anymore.”
Her eyes contained a stunning blue, a flowing cerulean. An endless pool that, at the bottom, despite it having no bottom, sat an infinite floor of cut glass peppered with dark chunks and golden flecks.
Her same nail from his forehead drifted to his eye, and she touched the edge of his tear duct. A single spurt of water sprang free and dribbled down. Henry could not stop beholding those eyes of hers.
Henry had one question he had to ask. “What will I do then, if not dream?”
Gertrude widened her eyes, and lifted her arms up, spreading them wide and touching the world, enveloping it, it seemed, in her boundless embrace. In the flow of her energy, she was clearly not human. Henry was sure of this. He was the lover of a god; how else could you explain it?
What else was there to think?
No pupils, no white—only the blue stayed in her skull. “You soar,” she said.
The bed enveloped him, pulling him down, toward something cool and clean and crisp. A burbling water source, unseen, sent the wind of an ocean over his face and chest, and she traveled down with him, riding him into the pit of something new.
“Do you really need to sleep, when all of waking life is glorious? Do you really need to dream when the world is better than a fantasy?”
Gertrud smiled at him.
Henry did not have an answer, but knew he would find out one—and it would be something he would never forget.