Eleven-year-old Opal never sleeps.
Title: THE SLEEPERS
Genre: MG science fiction
Word Count: 33,000
Nobody eleven-year-old Opal knows sleeps. In an effort to advance productivity and technology, the Government has created a pill that keeps citizens awake twenty-four hours a day by providing the body with all the benefits of a nightly rest.
The thought of spending every day for the rest of her life following the same exact schedule makes Opal want to scream. She likes being different, and doesn’t care that her favorite purple dress gets her labeled as an outcast among her white and beige classmates; she’d rather spend time with her scientist dad anyway.
Excitement finds Opal when something strange happens. She’s flying through an unfamiliar tunnel one moment and sitting back in her house the next. Before she has a chance to talk to Dad about her distressing ordeal, he is arrested for reasons Opal can’t figure out.
Without Dad to talk to, she warily turns to older Sidney, a dark boy who has just joined her class. Although he served time for a crime that he refuses to discuss, Opal knows she can trust him after he stands up for her. Using Sidney’s knowledge and cryptic messages that Dad gives her, Opal uncovers why Dad was arrested: he has created an illegal pill that allows citizens to sleep. Even scarier, he used his children to test his pill. Unfortunately someone else has also found out about Dad’s new pill: an underground society of people who still sleep, known as The Dreamers.
The Dreamers want Dad’s research, but when Opal refuses to help they kidnap Sidney. After learning the details of his horrible crime, Opal is torn between saving Sidney or protecting her Dad’s secret from getting into the wrong hands.
“ALERT! Opal Reeves take your pill. ALERT!”
The loud computerized voice echoes off the curved white walls of the kitchen and snaps me out of my thoughts. If I don’t take my pill in thirty seconds, an alarm will go off at the Government Health Department and police droids will barge through the front door. Or so I’ve been warned.
Mom rushes by me, hardly pausing to chew me out. “Opal, why do you always have to wait until the last second? Please take your pill.”
I roll my eyes and pick up the cartridge of little blue pills off the metal counter, which must satisfy Mom, as she leaves the kitchen. I examine the label, OPAL REEVES. DORM ZERO-5. TO BE TAKEN EVERY 24 HOURS. NO EXCEPTIONS. I sigh. Fine. The pill forces its way down my throat and I feel it every inch of the way, like hands squeezing my insides.
Today’s routine is just like yesterday’s, and the day before that, with nothing to break up the pattern. For eleven years, I’ve known nothing else. Pill at noon, or else. Family Quality Time at 1pm. Solitary Leisure Time at 4. Sundown Meal; School; Personal Fitness; Midday Meal. Repeat.
The thought of doing the same exact thing every day for the rest of my life kind of makes me want to scream. When I tried to talk to Mom about it, she brushed it off, saying I was “just going through a phase.” I wonder if everyone my age goes through this “phase,” though I doubt it. All the kids at school look perfectly happy in their regimented lives. Sometimes it’s hard to tell them apart from the droids.