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THE AWAKENING

BY OWEN OLIVER

I WOKE suddenly in a strange place—a long room with light oak carving. I was lying on soft cushions on the floor. A rug had been thrown over me, but I was dressed, There were two long rows of sleepers—men, women, and children—and a number was put at the head of each. Mine was "214,- 713, London." One or two numbers had a name underneath, but mine was not there, It was Elsie Anderson, if I remembered myself rightly; but my memories did not come readily.

My left-hand neighbor was holding my wrist. He was "184, Government, George Raynor." I remembered the name, and when I raised myself on one elbow, to take a good look at his face, I remembered him. I had met him once at an at-home, He was a nice fellow and I liked him. He had said that he hoped we should meet again.

Next I noticed a manuscript in my right hand. I pulled it out and read the title: "The History of the Years of Sleep: 1916- 1920. By George Raynor."

I gave a sharp cry. If it was 1920, I had slept for four years! I made an effort to remember what happened to me. I was going to town for a singing-lesson, and there were swarms of little green flies at Dulwich Station. They stung people, and the people whom they stung fainted. I screamed and tried to beat off the flies with my handkerchief, but they flew upon me—and that was the last thing I remembered. I must have fainted; and the faint had lasted for four years! Perhaps longer, for more years might have passed since Mr. Raynor wrote the history.

How had I come to this place? Where was it? Who were the other sleepers? Why did he put the book under my pillow? Why did he hold my hand? I guessed that it was a big hospital or building where they had put the sleepers for their security; and I thought that Mr. Raynor had brought me there because he knew me, and that he held my hand because he expected me to be frightened when I woke alone. I was frightened—so frightened that I dared not move or call. For I did not know what might have happened in all these years, and something dreadful must have come again to send Mr. Raynor to sleep.

I lay still for a long time, shivering and listening. I heard no sound but the faint breathing of the sleepers. I thought that every one but myself must be asleep. Then I heard a howling somewhere outside, the howling of wild beasts. It came nearer and nearer, till at last it was outside the window. The window seemed to be a good way above the ground, but I wasn't sure. I clung to Mr. Raynor's arm and begged him to wake, but he did not stir. He and the rest were evidently in a deep faint or stupor. I gave a scream, and then I fainted, too. The noise had gone when I recovered.

As soon as I was able to rise I got up and staggered to the door, but dared not open it. I staggered toward the windows, but dared not look out. I feared to find the world in the possession of the howling beasts, or of some unknown monsters. I went and shook Mr. Raynor again, and called in his ear, entreating him to wake, but without the slightest effect.

I sat down again on my cushions—I seemed to have been made more comfortable than any one else, and I was sure that I had to thank Mr. Raynor for that—and took up the "history"; but I was afraid to read it and learn what horrible things had come to pass—perhaps to find that I was all alone. I prayed a prayer that some one might be still waking in the world and come to me. And then I heard voices in the passage.

At first I thought they came in answer to my prayer, but, after listening for a few moments, some instinct checked the call on my lips. I went, cold with fear, and lay down hastily and covered myself and the book with the rug, and pretended to sleep. "They are enemies," I told myself. "Enemies! If they should come in——!"

They came in, and I peeped at them under my eyelashes. They were a red-faced, elderly man and a gray-haired lady, with a pale, handsome face and cold, cruel eyes. It was she whom I feared. I think I should have spoken to the man, if he had been alone, though I did not like him.

"SINCE you will see him," he said, speaking as if she had annoyed him, "there he is!" He jerked his head toward Mr. Raynor, and she knelt beside the unconscious sleeper.

"He is due to wake in three days?"

"Yes," he answered; "and the girl the day after, according to the books; but the reinoculations do not always last their full time, you know. She might happen to rouse a day sooner; two or three days even."

"Oh, she!" said the woman scornfully. "She doesn't matter. She goes to-night, with the rest of them."

"You can't dispose of them all," the man protested. "We must have some to fight the cursed wolves. It's no use shaking your head. We must, I tell you! We needn't rouse them all, but I can't get along without a few...

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