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The Secret of Sleep
by Alun Williams

The old man who works on the fourteenth floor had no name. I guess his mother gave him one, but that was some time ago and no one knows what it is or more importantly, what he does.

We all have our jobs, our little compartments and we all have name tags too, just so we don’t forget, all of us except for the old guy. He doesn’t seem to have an office of his own, not that we know about. We can’t ever find out where he works, except that we know it’s on the fourteenth floor. Once, we put a chalk cross on every door on the floor and wrote the names of all the staff who work there. He doesn’t work in any of them but every morning he arrives, disappears down the corridor and reappears when it’s time for lunch.

Harvey Goldblum Junior followed him one time. Harvey came back and said that the old guy, we called him Arthur, went to the third bench on the Bethesda Terrace, folded his jacket and lay down and slept for thirty four minutes before returning to his non-existent office and his non-existent job. After that each of us took turns to follow him. Arthur follows exactly the same routine every lunch break and seems to sleep through the noise of the city for exactly thirty four minutes. When it was my turn to follow him, I watched him fall asleep and wished that I too could sleep as easily and as well as he did. He seems to reach a peak of total calm. I hate him for that.

No one at the office wants to confront him. Administration thinks it’s the responsibility of human resources, who in turn believe it’s payroll’s responsibility. Payroll say security are the ones who should handle it, but they fell that without any evidence to back up any action, they might be sued. In the end they’ve sent a memo to all departments asking for a list of all employees’ names and security id numbers. They think that by eliminating names to numbers they can find out who the mysterious old guy is. What they’ve found however is sixteen members of staff who aren’t supposed to work there and in the storm that followed everyone forgot about  Arthur.

No one has ever found out the truth. Arthur continues to come in every day and carries on taking a thirty four minute nap on his lunch break. We’ve decided to let him continue. Confrontation is not one of the main attributes of a data processor’s functions and one day we think that if we live long enough and beat the boredom, we could all sleep like Arthur.