Early Riser


Humans hibernate; always have done, through four months of a brutal Northern Winter, November to March. But this isn't Shortsleep, the stuff of which you and I are familiar, a time of restful semi-wakedness, of easy rousing, and dreams. This is the dark stuff. The first cousin of death itself - the thick tar of deep subconscious torpor, right at the bottom of the deep well of the ultra-low metabolic state, where the the body breathes three times a minute, the pulse is down to less than fifteen, and aside from the ever-active hypothalamus, nerve synapses fire in the brain only enough to prevent irreversible brain damage.

"...We weren't best disposed towards Sleep Shamans who peddle in quack Dormeopathy. We could all understand the notion of needing someone to look after as we sleep, but that was no longer the job of the supernatural - it was our job, the Marshalls. Citizens often gave Spring homage to the Sleep Gods for delivering them from the Darkness and into the light, when in reality they should be thanking us. We watch over them diligently during the cold and the dark, but in the Spring we are gone before they wake, like the morning dew..."

Charlie Worthing is new to the job. Straight out of the Academy he is stranded in Sector Twelve, the far flung region that is the first line of defence against Villains and the Wintervolk. It's cold, he owes a favour to a man who's gone missing, and he's having dreams, and always of the same thing: A woman, on a beach towel, under a parasol. Trouble is, he's not meant to dream. And when they start to come true, he begins to question just what' s real, and what isn't.


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