'I dream of Birgitta' - actually a Poster by Tom Purvis for LNER, 1928
Humans hibernate; always have done, through four months of a brutal Northern Winter, November to March. But this isn't Shortsleep, the stuff of which you and I are familiar, a time of restful semi-wakedness, of easy rousing, and dreams. This is the dark stuff. The first cousin of death itself - the thick tar of deep subconscious torpor, right at the bottom of the deep well of the ultra-low metabolic state, where the the body breathes three times a minute, the pulse is down to less than fifteen, and aside from the ever-active hypothalamus, nerve synapses fire in the brain only enough to prevent irreversible brain damage.
"...We weren't best disposed towards Sleep Shamans who peddle in quack Dormeopathy. We could all understand the notion of needing someone to look after as we sleep, but that was no longer the job of the supernatural - it was our job, the Consuls. Citizens often gave Spring homage to Morpheus for delivering them from the Darkness and into the light, when in reality they should be thanking us. We watch over them diligently during the cold and the dark, but in the Spring we are gone before they wake, like the morning dew..."
Your name is Charlie Worthing and you've been co-opted into the winter consuls under Jack Logan. It's cold, it's dark, and if the loneliness and cold doesn't get you, villainy and the mythical wintervolk probably will. You're on Morphenox and you're not meant to dream. But you do, thick and heavy, and always of the same thing: Birgitta, on the beach, in the Gower. Trouble is, you're not meant to dream. And when the dreams start to come true, you begin to question just what's real, and what isn't.
Published in the UK and USA, 2018