An unrelentingly cheerful Bath Spa Creative Writing graduate, and OU Astronomy student, Edward Buckton has been described variously as “chaotic”, “baffling”, and “I think we should just be friends”. He loves books of all genres and hates writing them. Rumours that he is preternatural receive no comment and an ethereal half-smile.
They call it Extreme Sleeping, and I’ve changed my mind.
“It’s a cultural thing, basically,” Mark explains as forest surrounds us. “We all used to sleep in big communes. The idea of our own shelter, that’s a modern construct. You know, sometimes I think they should spot us.”
I’d met Mark when I’d first encountered the Extreme Sleepers, so the blonde programmer and the strange community were almost synonymous. There are others, though. Enough that new messages appear in the forums close to once an hour.
Lukas, who’d slept in every home on his street. Wendy, who had spent all night in the attic of a care home. One user claims they broke into and slept inside a zoo enclosure, but we suspected they were lying.
Besides, a public place missed the point. Extreme Sleeping was never about the breaking in.
“’kay there Dale?”
We’ve been parked for a while. I blink and clamber out the car, hauling the bag Mark gave me – a rugged, tactical thing, the favourite of Mountaineering shops, bulging with pockets and mundane features – with sweaty fingers. He did that sometimes, the odd gift. More since I agreed to my first Skip.
That’s what they call them. Skip. X-kip. Extreme kip. They call it Extreme Sleeping, and I’ve changed my mind.
Mark applies mini bolt cutters to the fence. TWANG. I realise I should join him, and begin scrabbling in my bag.
“So,” he says. TWANG. “You excited?”
TWANG. My legs are weak and my heart thuds. TWANG. I shrug.
“You’ll do great, champ,” he assures me, finishing the hole. I haven’t even found my cutters. With a clap on the back, he’s gone, car trundling back to distant civilization.
Cowbell Manor is unfriendly; grand without charm, large without warmth. The elderly owners are on holiday, but Mark said that’d be best for my first time. The others had protested. After all, it’s never about the breaking in.
The thrill only hits if you know the family are there, sleeping around you. That you’ve violated their space. Entwined by the taboo.
Approaching the door, I feel for my phone.
Fuck. I check every pocket. Must be in Mark’s car. I glance back naively, but he’s long departed. No progress photos, I guess.
In the unpleasantly bourgeoisie interior of an upstairs bedroom, I set up my equipment, most provided by Mark. Easily retracted sleeping bag. Quiet food. Water bottle. At this point, I should be sending my updates, but my phone is gone, and I’m alone, and I’ve changed my mind.
Through a grotty window, I glance out at the path, stretching far away from this middle-of-nowhere place, and surprise myself with a sob. I can turn back now. Trod to the nearest city and call my parents. Leave the forum. I never have to talk to Mark again.
And my heart plunges, because there is a car outside.
I hear a creak downstairs.
‘You know, sometimes I think they should spot us.’