by Daniel Spitz, again

Day of. You’ve already donned your HyperSom suit. Your good buddy Sam, your mission control, is piped into your helmet.

“Running my final systems check now,” says Sam’s voice.

“Roger,” you say. You look around the pit and see the other HyperSom Runners and their small support teams. HyperSom tech is at a point where an amateur team can be just two or three dedicated hobbyists now. It’s just you and Sam on Team Zees. Sam codes, and you Run.

“Alright, TMS1 sleep inductor is reading fine,” says Sam. “Going to put you under and pull you out one last time. Ready?”


“In 3, 2, 1–”

a page flips in a book on a desk, but not in a way you can see or feel, defined only by the thin paper's contact with other pages and the way it flicks, like a spring

“–and you’re out. Confirm, please.”

“Aphantasic2 book pages,” you say. You notice the discontinuous jump in position and pose of the people milling about in the pit. You’ve just blinked into and out of REM3, in a little under a second. Your HyperSom suit relaxes, returning physical control of your body to you as soon as it detects your consciousness. Your helmet does to you in an instant what normal sleep takes 90 minutes to do- start a REM phase, and start dreaming.

The blink can be quite a bit more jarring when you’re Running at 90-plus mph. That’s HyperSom for you.

“Alright, that checks out, helmet systems are running fine,” continues Sam. “Moving on. Suit systems looking good. Proprioceptive system is good, locomotive volition prediction is good, muscular amplification good. Oops, forgot to arm the airbag.”

“Safety first, Sam,” you say with a chuckle.

“Roger that. Airbag is armed,” Sam responds, sheepishly. “Batteries fully juiced and flowing nice. And we are linked to the track’s monitor program. You are ready to go.”

“Roger,” you say. You feel the familiar pre-Run jitters. Elevated heart rate, anxious anticipation. You pace back and forth, hop from one foot to the other, as you wait to be called up to the starting line. Your suit stiffens and slackens, expands and contracts around your body, predicting your idle motions by reading your brain and spine. It fits you like a perfect glove.

You and Sam have been coming to this track for years now. You both know it by heart, and you’ve been steadily shaving seconds off your personal record each time. If you keep it up, Team Zees will probably qualify for the Semi Pros in a year.

The PA system blares, “Team Zees, up next. Team Zees, to the platforms.”

“That’s us. Time to go,” says Sam.

“Roger that,” you say, and you part ways. You make your way out of the pit, along the pavement, and up three flights of stairs to the starting platform. You gaze out at the track, stretching and dancing off into the distance. You look over the bleachers, and the meager crowd of spectators; mostly other amateurs and their families. But of course, the audience isn’t why you’re here.

“Alright, I’ve got your feed from the finish platform, signal’s great,” says Sam.

“Roger. Let’s make this count, Sam.”

“Roger that.”

A yellow light signals you to take your starting position.

You make your way into the painted circle in the middle of the starting platform. You crouch into a traditional runner’s starting position, legs compressed like springs, hands on the ground, head up, staring out at the open track.

Your nerves dissolve. This is what you came here to do. It’s time to Run.

You hear the starting pistol’s crack and you are in motion. A single lunge takes you several feet through the air, and then your outstretched toe touches floor. You wait for the rest of your body to catch up, and you push off with the full strength of your leg, amplified by your suit. Good start. This stride feels stable.

You’ve got three more strides before you clear the starting platform, and each one is perfect. Your suit is meticulously tuned to your gait; Sam’s code is flawless.

Out of the starting platform is a downhill slope that extends to ground level, followed by the track’s first Som-gated launch ramp. The track’s designers wanted to put a big, showy element right at the start, since that’s where half of the spectators congregate.

You land your third stride so the pad of your foot catches the downward angle of the slope, and you lean into the decline, lunging downward and forward, building speed. You thrust yourself down three stories of slope, your gait speeding up to carry as much additional speed as gravity will give you.

Just before you reach the bottom of the ramp you lean back, hard, into a standing orientation, and keep your legs moving. Your suit makes the transition easy, carrying as much velocity as it can in your blurrying stride. You race up the incline of the ramp at 80 mph under about two g’s.

You see the two Som flags on either side of the ramp’s lip. Passing between them will signal your suit to push you immediately into REM. 10 yards away, on the landing ramp are the flags that will pull you back out into consciousness.

If you make the jump, that is. Otherwise it’s an embarrassing naptime in the dirt between the ramps. Or something worse, if the airbag doesn’t deploy.

It’s three strides up the ramp, and you manage to wrap your toes around the lip to put the full leverage of your right calf behind your launch.

You extend your arms to a point over your head, a diver’s pose, so that –

you are greeted by the Uncle Face, floating through the void, grinning and sneering at you, his mustache bushy, his eyes deep black pits, and you are sharing in his silent jokes and his cautious wisdom, and his regrets

– your drag will be reduced in the air, and your trajectory will be straight, and you’re on the other side of the gap (oh, there it was; the blink), a few feet above the off-ramp.

You made it.

In the moments before you contact the landing ramp, you curl your arms and legs up, and tuck your head in, and land in a single roll, which you launch out of like a coiled spring. You’re back on your feet, picking up speed.

“So?” you prompt Sam.

“Trajectory looked great. Low angle, low air time. Great recovery on wake-up. Got a couple cheers from the bleachers for that pose.”

“How’s my time?”

“Currently matching your personal best. Leading your heat.”

“Roger that.”

“What’d you get?” Sam asks.

“Uncle Face,” you grunt, leaning hard into a right turn.

“Mm, thought so. Activations looked familiar.” Sam can see your FMRI4 readings from the finish line, and recognizes when you’re having a common dream. The Uncle Face is an old standby.

The next major element in the track is what Runners call the Lilypads. It’s a series of five unevenly scattered Som-gated platforms. As soon as you jump off of one, you’re pushed into REM, and you only wake up if you manage to land on the next one. Since the platforms are scattered around, each successive jump is in a different direction. Plus, you’ve got to maintain your speed as you go, because the last few platforms are several yards apart; even your suit can’t launch you that far from a cold start.

You’ve got the layout memorized, though.

You step onto the first platform at full speed, and lunge off to the left, big toe extended, and –

they call you The Shnoz around here, your honker is so big that your eyes, tongue, teeth and brain are enveloped by your nostrils

– it contacts lilypad two, and you coil up your left leg as it lands and spring off to the right, adding just a little spin to your –

you're laughing because you're being punished because you didn't know you weren't supposed to tell her about the yellow guy yet

– trajectory, so that as you land on pad 3 (yep, right on schedule), pad four is positioned right at your 9 o’clock, which makes it easier, after pushing off into a hard sidestep, to –

"... recognize this particular pattern of jiggling in the cells as an expression of alternating unbounded knowledge-seeking and mourning," she explains

– adjust your heading as you land (there’s the blink again, perfect) on it, and put everything you have in both your legs to make the final leap forward, over –

both of your mothers and both of your fathers and your sisters are there, in the clearing; they are RIGHT THERE, and this is THE CASE, and you see it from every angle

– five yards of naptime, and plant, perfectly, on lilypad (blink) five. And you haven’t got time to savor your perfect Lilypads traversal because you’ve got a personal record to beat today.

You bust out again down the track.

“That felt like a perfect Lilypads,” you say, prompting Sam.

“It was, it was! You matched your best Lilypads time from practice!” says Sam.

On practice days, Runner teams get individual time to try and retry each course element individually. You’ve never had a perfect Lilypads during a full Run though. That means… “Sam, are we… Are we ahead?”

“Yes yes yes! I– er, Roger that. You’re 93 millis under your personal best.”

“Roger that,” you say, ecstatic. No celebrating yet, though. You’ve got to carry this lead to the finish. You push the feeling down and focus.

The penultimate track element is referred to by Runners as the Tarzan. It’s a Som-gated rope swing that takes you around a 90-degree right turn over a gap before pulling you out of REM. If you don’t start with a good grip, your suit won’t hold on through the swing and you’ll take a nap in the dirt below. If you don’t launch with the right trajectory, the rope won’t make it around the bend and you’ll take a nap dangling like a pendulum.

Of course, you and Sam have worked this out. You’ve strategized about grip, posture, and launch trajectory.

You bound towards the Tarzan so that you’re approaching the rope just to the right of a head-on angle. On your last stride you jump in a shallow vertical arc, so that you’ll contact the rope at a high position (shortens travel distance) and with some downward velocity (all ropes are slightly elastic, and this should kick off an oscillation that accelerates you on your dismount), and cycle your forearms to begin wrapping the rope once around each wrist on contact. With the rope inches away you curl your legs up into your chest, and you’ve already told your fingers to start squeezing as hard as they can because it takes a moment for your brain’s signal to –

take one more lap around the festival grounds in the hopes that when you return, there will not be a glass bowl filled with rotten, wasp-infested corn salad by your tent, and that your ukulele will not have been placed over it to prevent them getting out, it's your goddamn ukulele, what gives anyone the right to

– travel through your spine and down the nerves in your arms to your hands, and just as quickly you’re letting go, arms wide, legs extended (blink) sticking the landing, and breaking into the final sprint.

“We still on pace, Sam?”

“Confirmed, now 97 millis ahead. Like watching a human-sized tetherball.”

“Focus, Sam,” you say, beginning to pant. “We’ve got a job to do.”

“Roger that.”

“Are you ready for touchdown? I need you, buddy.” You can feel your body beginning to approach its physical limits, right on schedule. You’ve trained yourself to wring every bit of energy out of yourself in the final part of the Run.

“Roger,” says Sam. “I’m already in position over here.”

“Roger,” you say.

You close in on the track’s final element, a single, grand, Som-gated leap over a gap to the finish platform. It’s a small target to hit from a distance of 15 yards – about one-and-a-half by two yards in dimension – not much bigger than a prostrate human.

The final element requires deft coordination between Runner and crew. There’s no second Som-gate to pull you out of REM at the finish platform, so it’s up to the crew to fulfill the Run’s completion criteria once you land. Once on the finish platform, the unconscious Runner’s suit has to be bundled in a sensor cloth. The Run is declared finished when the cloth detects enclosure of the full body, shoulders and below.

The final track element is referred to by Runners as the Beddy-bye.

Sam codes, and you Run. Sam also tucks you in.

You put everything you have left into your sprint as you approach the launch ramp for the Beddy-bye. As you close the last few yards to the ramp you can make out the finish platform in the distance, and Sam standing just beside it, arms fully extended, sensor cloth wide open and ready.

“See you on the other side, Sam,” you breathe.

“Roger that.”

You bound up the ramp and launch, simultaneously pressing your hands together and under your right cheek, tucking in your legs, and giving yourself just enough spin for a quarter turn left through the air, so you –

you have discovered a novel word embedding5 technique that correctly identifies that, hidden within the Gettysburg Address, there resides a man named Jerry


"Roger that," you say. You stand beside the bed, blanket stretched across both hands.

Your partner approaches the ramp at perfectly-measured speed and launches, twisting and curling gracefully into a sleeper's pose. They barrel through the air violently and peacefully towards you and the bed. Gone, dreaming furiously. The seconds crawl as you marvel at the sight.

As they crash into the bed, its surface deforms to dissipate the energy as efficiently as possible (thank god the airbag doesn't falsely trigger). You are instantly in motion. They landed on their side, their back to you - just as planned. You lean over them with the blanket to tuck it under the side opposite you first. Your fingers are deft and meticulous, drawing a consistent, snug edge down their side, under their curled legs and feet, and up their back.

As your hand finishes the tuck on their rear right shoulder, a bell rings, indicating the blanket has sensed a full tuck. Done. You look at the clock, and –


– land curled up and on your side, minimizing the length of the tuck line around –

“You did it!”

– (blink) your suit. “We did it?” you mutter, suddenly recognizing the finish stage, and feeling snugly bound under the sensor blanket.

“We did it!” says Sam, from behind you.

You’re overcome with mirth, relief and pride, swimming through your exhausted, spent body. It’s finished. You’re finished. Your chest heaves for breath. “What’s our new time?”

“Fifty seconds, two hundred eighty millis,” responds Sam, voice beaming with excitement.

Wow. “We’ll- we’ll shoot for sub-fifty next year,” you gasp. Your head rests comfortably on your hands. The crash pad is perfectly fit to your body’s contours. Your legs feel sore and swollen and heavy with pride. Your pulse, finally beginning to slow down, vibrates your skin in warm waves.

“Roger that. Hey, you’ve got to tell me about the dreams! Some stuff I wasn’t recognizing on the FMRI.”

“Sam,” you gasp, “I’m tired.” Your body is exhausted. Your bed is perfect and your blanket holds you down in a snug, victorious embrace.

“Roger that,” says Sam. “I think you earned a real nap, buddy.”

“Mm, please, Sam. If you don’t mind.”

“Of course. Let me put you under for thirty minutes non-REM, slow-wave6. No dreams, just rest. You just stay right there in the crash pad, and I’ll wheel you out and clear up here so the next team can move in.”

“Roger that,” you mumble. “Thanks, bud.”

“In 3, 2, 1–”


  1. (TMS) - Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation 

  2. (Aphantasia) - Lacking the inner experience of mental imagery 

  3. (REM) - Rapid Eye Movement (stage of sleep producing vivid dreams) 

  4. (FMRI) - Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging 

  5. (Word embedding) - any technique for representing words in a body of text as points or vectors within a space 

  6. (non-REM, slow-wave) - The deepest of the three phases of non-rapid eye movement sleep, involving little or no dreaming compared to REM, and associated with physical healing and memory consolidation.