August 27th – Sleepwalker’s Night

If you are staying in the City and wake up tomorrow morning with dirt under your toenails, mud on the soles of your feet, grass stains on your pyjamas, then please do not be alarmed. You are perfectly safe. You just went for a walk whilst you slept, is all. It’s very common.

That is to say, it is very common tonight in particular. Roughly about 0.5% of the population will tonight be out and about, roaming the streets of Buentoille in a state of semi consciousness. This is much higher than the usual incidence of sleep walking, especially those more extreme cases which lead a person out of their home. On any other day, most sleep walking will be a short event that takes place within the home, usually by children but also occasionally by adults. In contrast, almost all the sleepwalkers who make their way into the streets tonight will be adults between the age of twenty three and thirty two.

As with normal sleepwalking, the exact causes of the event are unknown. Normal sleepwalking is thought to be caused when the natural sleep cycles of the individual become confused or disturbed during the process of waking up, meaning that the individual’s mind becomes temporarily trapped in a liminal altered sleep state, somewhere between dreams and being fully awake. This explanation makes sense in a lot of ways, but it lacks key evidence and details, so is not entirely convincing. The essential problem is that the human mind is a strange, convoluted beast that eludes understanding on many fronts. Naturally, then, there will be other, perhaps more folklorish explanations.

One of the most recent theories to become favoured by the press, which embarks upon an annual delve into sleep psychology this week (it is, after all, a subject that fascinates many) was proposed by Renne Querlan, who comes from the somewhat surprising background of a civil planner. In a paper referenced by most of the main papers this week, Querlan suggests that there is something about the shape of Buentoille, the way it guides people around through mandated pathways, that leads to the sleepwalking. The minds of those who repeat the same actions and routes over and over become trapped in a spiral which culminates in their somnambulant excursions. This would certainly explain why members of the Union of Lamplighters, who conform to specific routes each day, seem to be afflicted in higher numbers than the general population, but it lacks any real scientific basis.

For those concerned for the safety of the somnambulists tonight, please be aware that the Step Behind will be watching over them, ensuring that the common points of injury such as precipices and bridges are patrolled and safe. They are a voluntary organisation, fuelled by coffee and caffeine pills, whose primary aim is to reduce the harm caused by tonight’s dreamland festivities whilst simultaneously studying the phenomenon first hand. As such, they attempt to interact with the sleepers as little as possible, although this is not because of any safety concerns, but an attempt to reduce the extraneous variable of their presence from the studies; they will only wake a sleeper when they are in immediate danger. It is a common misconception, however, that waking a sleepwalker is dangerous to them in some way. If you awake to your loved ones trying to leave the building tonight then please carefully wake them, in a calm and gentle manner, and guide them back to bed. They will probably be very confused.

Because many thousand people keep themselves awake tonight, and because some sleepwalking folks will be prevented from sleepwalking by their friends and family, there is presumably a higher amount of potential sleepwalkers than is reflected in the statistics. This is probably a good job, as patrolling every dangerous point of the City is a huge task and occasionally injuries and even deaths do occur. The job is made easier as the night wears on, however, as the sleepwalkers all tend to converge in one place: Bastion Grubb street.

As far as anyone is aware, there is nothing particularly interesting in Bastion Grubb street that would lead to this convergence of sleepwalkers – it’s just a residential road. There are usually a few thousand who make it that far, though many more travel in the street’s direction but awake before they get there. The road is relatively central in Buentoille (it even has an outdated ‘centre of the city’ plaque somewhere along it), and the shuffling masses will pile up along its length and the surrounding streets. It can be quite a creepy spectacle if you live in that road and are awoken by the noise; most somnambulists are quiet, although a few will mumble nonsense or occasionally scream or loudly swear.

Some have suggested that something significant lies beneath them, like the tomb of a king or some kind of infernal machine, but maps have been checked, delvers have delved, and again, there is little more than an underground rail line nearby and some sewer pipes. Others have suggested that some great event happened on this spot in the past, and the psychic essence hangs there, drawing dreamers to it, its power rippling through time. Others still, the Guild of Conspiracy Theorists in particular, suggest this event is yet to happen. Sleepers have been woken, asked what they are dreaming about to test this theory, but usually the answer is ‘nothing’ as they are not actually in a state of sleep where dreams occur.

Despite this, the (possibly fabricated) answers given by a couple of sleepwalkers in an interview with Buentoilliçan Psychic magazine has been used by the Guild as ‘evidence’ that this theory of a future psychic disturbance is true, alongside fragments of speech recorded falling from the lips of sleeptalkers. In particular, the Guild focuses on references to a ‘powerful painter,’ though quite what they think that means is unclear. What is clear is that the conspiracy theorists are selectively choosing their evidence in these instances, as there are plenty of other gibberish phrases which have been spoken by the sleepwalkers, some of which even repeat more times than ‘powerful painter.’

One final theory often bandied about as if it were truth is that there is some strong magnetic force that influences the sleep cycles of the somnambulists and draws them to this point. The obvious issue with this theory is that there is absolutely no evidence of such a force, such as a solar flare, which various accurate devices would notice immediately, even amongst the chaos of radiodance. Any such force would also affect non-human animals strongly, in particular birds, who use the earth’s natural magnetic field to navigate, yet no disturbances have been noticed. The only exception to this would be the high instance of slugs and snails reported by members of the Step Behind who patrol near Grubb Street, though no conclusive study has been conducted.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of the Broken Plough
  • Pigtail Day