The rows of beds extended beyond her ability to see the end in either direction, one row on the east side, one on the west.
“Have you made a selection yet?” The orderly, dressed in clean white linens, smiled that same perfect smile depicted in the advertisement.
She shook her head.
“Well, remember, east for peace, west for rest. We hope you’ll enjoy your stay.” The orderly left her.
She looked around for her purse, remembered she’d left it in the locker when she’d changed into the dark linens designed to make her sleep more comfortable. Everything about this place, from the lavender scent to the tranquil music was designed for that one purpose: comfort. How else could one sleep the contented sleep of the dead in anything less than comfort?
Still, she’d been awake far too long, ever since the incident, ever since the clouds parted, ever since she’d lost her children. The aliens did nothing overt, simply existed and watched. That was the most provocative, the watching. They did not interfere, did not direct nor correct. But the watching never stopped.
The watching made it impossible for anyone to sleep; some even died from a lack of sleep. Children were especially susceptible. Her children. After they died, it became too much for her, too much to bear the knowledge that everything she did, every thing she thought, even all she wished, became fodder for the aliens.
Would she dream of aliens? Would they watch her in her sleep and walk beside her in the world of dreams? The thought terrified her.
“Are you ready?” Another orderly, or was it the same one? She couldn’t tell.
“I’ll take an eastern bed, thank you,” she said.
“Excellent choice,” said the orderly.
“You would have said the same thing if I’d chosen the west, wouldn’t you?”
“Of course.” The orderly led her to a vacant bed, tucked her in, placed the psychic wafers on her temples that soothed her brain to mimic a REM state, and she dreamed of bright lights where she found her children, and those who would have been their children.