Dream Series 1 : Fair-Trade Space

You should never sign a contract with a demon, however tempting it may be.

I lived in a 15-square-meter flat — if you could still call it that. Outside of my religiously regular eight sweet hours of sleep, I was caged in this tiny space everyday. I didn’t expect much out of it, since by no means was the world my oyster when I could hardly shut the door as I occupied the restroom. My legs had to be outside, while my body did its job in the other realm.

I was not satisfied, but I had no way out. I could not afford the rent of a bigger flat, nor could I let my privacy be invaded (that’s how it all ends up when you try your best to befriend your roommates). I wanted a space of my own, and that was the essence of dignity, at least to me.

One day as I was wandering around this dreadful flat of mine, something happened. A being came out of nowhere. He or she dressed like no man in this world, and spoke in a tongue cold as ice. But somehow I was not shocked — nothing like the actresses in horror movies — as it was quite natural for me to infer that someday miserable things would happen to me in this hopeless space.

The being — a demon for sure in retrospect — offered me a deal. He wanted me to be in an experiment, a trade-off between time and space. He offered me to exchange my sleeping hours for some extra space in my flat. The exchange rate was an hour of sleep for 5-square-meter of space. I was moved, as for so long I had been hoping to enlarge my living space. He warned me, though, that the extra space would be there for a single day each night that I sacrifice my sleep. “Not a big deal,” I thought to myself. It turned out that I was terribly mistaken.

For the first few days, I managed to sleep for an hour less every day without much trouble, as I very much enjoyed the extra 5-square-meter of space. In fact, to someone who had to stick out his legs while sitting on the toilet, this space is like a full-length swimming pool in the backyard with a deck.

Not only did I have the extra space, the demon let me freely decide where I wanted that extra space on a day to day basis.

© Alex Hogrefe

Someday I enlarged the kitchen so I could practice baking, some day I enlarged my dining room to entertain my guests. Someday I enlarged the bedroom for my rare “visitor.” Someday I enjoyed the expanded balcony that gives me a dose of “outdoor” amid this concrete jungle. The only annoying thing was that I could never commit to enlarging my bathroom.

So everyday I had to stick my legs out, just like before.

There’s no real fair-trade but only trade-offs that seem fair to the participating parties. People change constantly, with fluid minds and transient feelings. What was fair yesterday may not be so today.

Two months went by, and my body started falling apart. Headaches, stomachaches, finger-aches — you name it and I probably had it. Mind you that I had always cherished my sleep and respected my 8-hour pattern. But for that 5-square-meter of extra personal space! My dignity! I dragged my body through this extra 5-square-meter of space, when I had the energy to move. Otherwise, I stared into this empty space, and addictively enjoyed the idea of this space. It seemed as though my whole life depended on it, the 15 square meters of space that I originally had was nothing compared to this newly gained space. I could not let go. I had so little. I could not let go.

As my health deteriorated, so went my psyche. I see that I was addicted to this space which, literally, was nothing but void, nothing but emptiness. One evening as I was sitting on my toilet half-awake, legs stuck out, staring into my spacious kitchen, the demon came out of nowhere and stood only a foot in front of me. Standing tall and wide in its black cape, I could see nothing but my bare legs, and as I look up, its dreadful face…

“How’s it going?” He asked me with a smile.

“It’s bad. I don’t mean the extra space. I am feeling bad!” I replied desperately.

He shrugged, and continued, “But you continue the exchange. You are earning it, aren’t you? Your happiness. You chose it, day after day.”

“I’d like to give up. But could you…”

“No. No way,” in his freezing voice, “Don’t bother trying to make me compromise. All that I am offering, is a fair-trade.”

Silence filled the cold room for a good minute. I could feel the floor humming as the space slowly shrunk.

“Fine. I quit then.”

“Are you sure? Young man. This is your once in a life-time deal.” The demon responded, first time showing the slightest sign of concern.

“A hundred percent. Let’s break the deal. I chose to get into it, and I can choose to terminate it,” I proceeded.

@ Sara Zin

With the cessation of this no-longer-fair-trade, I immediately resumed my eight-hour sleeping pattern. But one thing was different: it was no longer that religious. I realised how fortunate I was to be able to get a full eight hours of sleep in this busy cosmopolitan. And in the wake, the 15-square-meter flat was no longer a curse but a blessing. I started enjoying the compact but intimate feeling here. Sure, self-delusion you may say. Yes, I could well have made a stupid choice to some, but in the end I chose happiness. Yes, even in my dream.

You should never sign a contract with a demon. You have a choice.


Sleeep Talking | Dream Series is a collection of short stories by unorthodox young writers, gravitating around the subject of sleep and dream.

Have a sweet dream, get some sleep: http://sleeep.io

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