The Alphabet Game

Every night for the past week, Monica Baumeler has been waking up between 2:30-3:30 a.m. without fail. She knows she’s not going to go back to sleep anytime soon, but that doesn’t stop her from trying.

“I’ll play the alphabet game,” she says after waking up with her latest bout of insomnia. “That used to work for me back in college.”

Starting with the letter ‘A’, Monica goes through a list of things that begin with each letter of the alphabet. Usually she’s asleep by the time she gets to ‘Z’, but tonight she has a feeling she may have to play multiple versions of the game before she’ll be able to drift off. She begins with first names.

“Anna, Anais, Audrey, Abigail, Adam, Andrew, Alexander, Anton, Austin…”

She’s still wide awake when she comes to Zoe, so she moves on to places on the map.

“Austria, Alberta, Alabama, Alaska, Atlanta, Australia, British Columbia, Belarus, Berlin, Belgrade, Brittany, Bordeaux, Boston, Brisbane, Boise, Bermuda, Belize, Cambodia, China, California, Canada, Calais, Cornwall…”

Nothing comes to mind after Zimbabwe, so she tries items of food.

“Apples, anchovies, apricots…”

That’s followed by objects around the house, types of animals, movies and television shows. Two hours later she’s still wide awake, wondering where she’s going to find the energy to get through work. She’s also wondering how long it will be before people discover the reason behind her insomnia.

It was she who failed to properly extinguish her campfire one week ago, causing the woods to catch on fire. The dry conditions and high winds saw to it that the flames spread. Within a day, one quarter of Northern Ontario had been wiped out.

“The authorities just have to check the campground’s records to know who was staying at the site where it all started,” Monica says after the movie title Zoolander fails to make her drowsy. “With any luck, they went up in smoke too. Oh my gosh, what a terrible thing for me to say.”

An hour after that, her alarm goes off. Not that there’s any reason for her to set it anymore. It will be a long time before Monica, or Northern Ontario’s animals and residents, get a solid night’s sleep.

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