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Sleeping it Off

by Jubbly 

Posted: 19 March 2014
Word Count: 499
Summary: My attempt at the 501 technology challenge. This is a slightly shorter version of the original.

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Content Warning
This piece and/or subsequent comments may contain strong language.

Jake Uttershott opened his eyes and tentatively glanced about the room. The bright whiteness of the walls startled him as if he had glanced skyward at midday and caught the sun’s glare head on. Apart from stiffness in the legs and a slight cramp in his left arm, Jake felt the same as he had on the day he went to sleep. He blinked several times in quick succession and tried to lift his head so he could take a good sweep of the room but this move proved difficult.
‘Don’t move Jakey, don’t want to cause any problems that G-Tube is due for a deep clean and your Decubitus Ulcers are in a bit of a state.‘
‘Get the fuck out of my face!’ screeched Jake but it came out as one long sigh with very little word definition and only caused the nurse to chuckle.

Jake just wanted to leap from his prostrate position and kick the devil out of the little git. How dare he address Jake Uttershott in this manner?The smouldering fury that lived within that was supposed to subside began to revive. Jake clenched his fist and in his world punched the mattress with an iron will.
‘Now doctor will be here soon’ continued the nurse,’ but before he arrives would Jakey like to know the date?’ The nurse tapped away at the screen beside Jake’s bed and scanned the details for news.

‘Well today is April, 28th, 2070. ‘

Jake’s pupils darted from left to right unable to maintain a position in his eye. 2070! Then it all started to come back to him as they said it would. He had laughed when first sentenced, as if, what sort of punishment is that, not possible but now apparently it was.

Back in 2020 Jake Uttershott had been convicted for killing a bank teller in an armed robbery; he was one of the first to be sentenced under the new Coma Prison Law. When he was sent he had been a strong young man of 29 with his life before him. 
The nurse approached him with a mirror.

Jakey stared at his reflection, gone was the young man full of hope and anger and in his place was the ragged phizog of a 79 year old pensioner, only Coma Prisoners weren’t entitled to a pension.  

This hospital or Coma Prison as it was more commonly known held thirty thousand prisoners, sentenced from anything between five years to life and life now means 75 years. They are taken from the dock and straight to theatre where they are put into a medically induced coma for the duration of their sentence.

The dream analysis business is booming and many reformed prisoners have written novels based on their dreams which have been turned into blockbuster movies and produced collectible merchandising. 
Perhaps this new legislation can best be summed up by 20th century writer Virginia Woolf - “Sleep, that deplorable curtailment of the joy of life.”

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Comments by other Members

TassieDevil at 19:27 on 19 March 2014  Report this post


Hello Jubbly.

An interesting take on how technology might change our lives, for the better or for the worse. In this case it's both, depending on your viewpoint. I liked the change on length of sentence for life imprisonment in this futuristic world.

the ragged phizog of a 79 year old pensioner, only Coma Prisoners weren’t entitled to a pension.  


I must confess that I haven't heard the term 'phizog' since the sixties in Australia but accept that this slang term might be around in the future and indeed in some parts of UK even now..

I did like the smugness of the nurse and the mention of his ulcers as he becomes aware of the truth.

One thing I was unsure of was your mention of the boost to furniture business. Everyone - alive and well or in a coma would still have a bed. If anything I would think that the coma patients would need less furniture as they would only require the bed.

Nevertheless, an interesting vision of the future.




It looks as though present day technology (or old-fashioned gremlins) have inserted blank quote marks at the beginning of my posting. Apologies.

fiona_j at 21:49 on 20 March 2014  Report this post

In interesting alternative. Not exactly cruel, but then it could be seen as so. Afterall, even after a small time you will wake to a heavily emaciated body.

I too liked the attitude of the nurse, very cocky. He probably wasn't even live when the crime was committed!

The jump from Jake's perspective to the explanation of the prison and it's affect on the world was a little jarring. I think not helped by it going from past tense in the talking to present tense in the final section. I think the explanation is useful but would think about how to present it slightly differently.


Jubbly at 13:54 on 21 March 2014  Report this post
Thanks all, Alan I agree about the furniture line and have now removed it. This was orignally 1800 words so I think the edit may have worked against it.

Cornelia at 11:29 on 22 March 2014  Report this post
I enjoyed this very much but was a bit fazed, as fiona was, by the change in pov and tense at the end. I wonder if it could be fixed by using italics to distinguish between 'show' and 'tell'. It's what I do sometimes - as if quoting a media source.

Nevertheless, inventive as well as an amusing commentarty on social mores of the present day -i.e. lack of pensions for the poorer comatisees. . I wondered if his eye architecture had changed, too, as his pupils seemed to wander on their own account


BryanW at 20:10 on 22 March 2014  Report this post
Clever idea - well developed. Given 'induced comas' are already established, development for criminal punishment needn't be that far-fetched.
Jakey's despairing realisation of his impotence - the horror of his  humiliation - is key to the emotional power of this story - and I think the patronising nurse and slowness in his physical responses - his frustration and his confusion are shown well. Our ambivalence - the reader's feelings about justice and human rights spring from this.b
But I feel the final explanation and the Virginia Wolf quote somehow reduce the impact of that horror - his realisation might have been better as an ending to the story as Sheila, I think, is pointing to. Perhaps your explanation might have been post-scripted in some way as she suggests.
Your ideas will stick in my mind, however.


euclid at 21:48 on 22 March 2014  Report this post
I liked this idea.

I bet your 1800 word version is even better :)


LMJT at 09:22 on 23 March 2014  Report this post
Hi Julie,

I loved the concept behind this. It's pretty chilling.

i think the pace is great and the dialogue is good, but for some reason the nurse saying 'Jakey' jarred with me. I know he's winding Jake up, but it didn't seem something one man would say to another.

only other not is that the sentence beginning 'The smouldering fury....' Took a few times for me to understand.


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