Dropped Stitches In the Sleeve of Care

Kage Baker really needed her sleep. She was one of those people who actually require 8 hours per night, and wilt like a dandelion if shorted.

Kage and Kimberly were and are, respectively, prone to go into a coma before midnight. If prodded, Kage could stay up a couple more hours to work; Kimberly fades like the signal from a satellite passing below the horizon, and her corgi herds her to bed each night at 10 PM. (They even used to do this at Faire – whereupon, with no one left to play with, I would wander over to Celt Camp and listen to Steven Gillan read aloud from Heaney’s  translation of Beowulf … I wish you were within walking distance these days, Sir.)

Kage was able to do this because she didn’t ever reach that treasonous age where you suddenly discover that you body WILL NOT perform as it used to do. She was still operating on all cylinders, as it were, when her head gasket cracked and her drive train fell out. Her body spared her a lot of the tiny losses that tend to swarm over one in the late 50’s – true, it did it by slamming her with one enormous deadly problem, but she said she preferred it that way.

And it all happened so quickly – over the course of a single year, really – that Kage never reached that horrible point where you stand on the edge of the precipice of time, and realize that your wings fell off somewhere 30 years behind you. What killed her was an ambush and it outgunned her from the start. Disaster can warp us into different creatures, unrecognizable even to ourselves: Kage dodged that. She didn’t fade so much as she was honed to a thinner and sharper edge – at the last, photons were flashing as they split themselves on her cheekbones.

“I feel like hell,” she said, “And I know I’m probably going to die – but at least I don’t feel old.

I’m feeling old for both of us, I guess. My sleep cycle has been a joke since infancy – I’ve gotten up to play quietly by myself since Kimberly was in a crib, and Kage used to wander out to the living room wondering where the hell I was. These days, I seem to have achieved permanent insomnia. Not that I don’t sleep – I’d sleep all day with little effort, but then I’d just stay awake more of the night. And I’m seeing far too many dawns as it is.

I generally like being awake at night. But I find dawns unbelievably depressing. Kage regarded this as a perversion unique to me, and tried all her life to convince me I was missing the best part of the day. I can say with complete certainty, now, that she was freaking wrong.

My insomnia is a mystery. No one has ever found out what causes it. And, of course, I am still finding new ways for my health to screw me over. My heart is playing up – skipping beats, slowing down, speeding up; shortness of breath has become as common as sneezing. More so, actually, since at least I still rarely catch colds. I just completed two weeks on a cardiac monitor, which about drove me insane. I should, I know, be in grateful awe of the technology that allowed me to actually go home and about my normal business with the damn thing stuck to me – but it was such a literal and many-faceted pain! I’m absurdly sensitive to adhesives, and developing intractable itching from the thing …

At least it’s gone now. And so are the shingles. And if I turn out to need a pacemaker, that should become apparent as soon as they analyze the monitor’s findings. In the merry meantime, my insomnia has found a new way to torment me – it turns out that chronically disturbed sleep plays havoc with blood sugar … So I can be a good girl as far as diet is concerned, but if I stay awake until 5 AM, I’ll still come up with a blood sugar over 200 after fasting all night.

It is so bloody frustrating. My cardiologist – whom I judge, from his complexion and earnest air, to be a recently confirmed Eagle Scout – suggested I give up coffee. The only immediate reaction to that was that I began dozing off more in the daytime, taking longer to wake up – but by the time I tried to sleep at night, it was the same old story. I can’t even reliably just switch my daytime and nighttime around and go nocturnal. There actually are things I need to do by daylight, and all that happens is that I become a crepuscular life-form … active at dawn and dusk, awake but slow and drowsy by night, and mostly asleep by day. Rabbits can make a living like this – but not me, apparently.

And I’m desperate to write, I really am. I have ideas for at least 3 stories, and the need to work on Marswife is becoming a physical pain … for those of you who are not writers, Dear Readers, it feels like a charley-horse in your stomach, along with a generalized tic in your hands. You wander around your desk slightly hunched over and twitching: a grisly sight, I assure you. And I talk to myself while I do it, too.

Anyway, I’m re-reading Empress of Mars and the pertinent portions of Life of the World To Come, in an effort to force my way back into Kage’s frame of mind. The best part of this plan is that, even if it doesn’t work, the scenery is grand. This evening, over self-indulgent fried  rice and shrimp egg fu yung, I shall be re-joining the redoubtable Ottorino in the Shootout At the Vespucci Emporium.

The hell with sleep. Who needs sleep, when you can stay up all night with heroes?

About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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