An Experiment That Went Badly Wrong

By |January 30th, 2011|Essays|0 Comments

The theory was fairly simple. I wanted to change my sleeping pattern. Instead of going to bed at, say, ten o’clock at night and waking up at around seven o’clock in the morning, I wanted to go to bed at seven in the evening and wake up at three or four in the morning.

It’s just an experiment. There is a rationale behind my decision to try it, namely that I thought it would improve my productivity. And there is a good chance that it could. However, as the title suggested, it went wrong.

It started well. I fell asleep pretty soon after 7pm. I certainly achieved REM sleep. I know this because I awoke from one of my savage nightmares. The countries are irrelevant and such an occasion would (I should hope) never occur. These happen to be the nations starring in my nightmare, which perhaps indicates a deep-seated xenophobic attitude towards China to which I am completely oblivious. And disagree with. It went thus.

Alice, young British child is on death row in a Chinese penitentiary. Her crime was a misinterpreted translation of a typically childish and empty threat to kill her father. She was eight when she was informed of her death sentence and she is now eleven. In the three years since her incarceration, she worked admirably and diligently in the on-site mine — much to the praise and humbled admiration from her fellow inmates and the prison staff, whose exultations won her renown, publicity and support from outside.

Such was her hard work and efficiency, Alice had every opportunity to escape her fate. The combination of her speedy work and her methodical clearing of the mines had produced an escape tunnel that she never used. The guards were aware of this and were more than hopeful she would take advantage, yet she never did. She became the epitome of diligence to her supporters. She was a good girl.

Meanwhile, tension was escalating between the British and Chinese authorities. On the one hand, the British government seeks to secure the release of Alice from her plight and bring her back home. The Chinese administration, having initially used Alice’s sentence as an empty threat to acquire fair diplomatic outcomes, were under increasing pressure to carry out the execution to save face and enforce new agreements.

Alice was not wholly unaware of the political tug-of-war taking place with her at the middle. Though she was naturally troubled that two leading nations were apparently bickering over her, she remained selfless and calm. It was as though she accepted that hers was the sacrifice that was needed to being the two countries closer.

British diplomats visited Alice regularly. But what does one say to an eleven year old child, facing her own mortality to appease the conceit of two behemoths? They would provide her with updates and messages of support from around the world.

Alas, she was informed that this would be the final time the diplomats would come. One had a message for Alice, from the prime minister. It explained that nothing further could be done. The British people were united in their support for her and that he, himself, was desperately humbled in admiration for her courage, strength and determination. Her sacrifice could never be forgotten.

She looked down slightly. A single tear rolled down her cheek. The diplomat was at a loss, not knowing how to react at first. He hugged her, apologised, and took a step back. She smiled back at him as the guards came.

There was nothing now that could be done. The two guards each took a hand and escorted her up a long flight of stone stairs. The diplomat was inconsolable, yet Alice seemed very calm. Just before they reached the doorway, the three of them stopped. She turned her head and looked back — not a tear, not a frown, not a quiver. Her face was devoid of any discernible expression, yet she looked steeled and determined. They continued up the stairs and through the door. Once out of sight, the door gently closed.

I woke up at bloody 8pm.