Having difficulty staying awake there? Trying to study for some big exam, finish some last minute assignment that you put off all weekend, and it’s now three in the morning and you are absolutely exhausted? Or perhaps you were in a similar state recently, and are looking for help on what to do. Well friend, I have just the prescription to ease your weary mind. All you need to do is win a game.
Setting up the game is relatively simple. All you need is an hourglass, a candle, and a marker. Let me make one thing specifically clear: you need an HOUR-glass, not one of those rinky-dink 30 second pieces of shit you get out of a cereal box or board game. Before playing the game, test your hourglass to make sure that it takes an hour or slightly longer to drain out all of the sand from one section to the other - having it take slightly longer will help, but too long or too short and you’ll run into complications during the game. You must also be completely alone in the room while playing.
When you are ready to play, choose any room that can be sealed, simply meaning that all doorways and windows can be closed. Any other form of time-keeping device or alarm must be taken out of the room prior, or the game will not begin. The hourglass will be your only time tracking tool, hence why having an accurate hourglass is important. Anything with an electronic display should also be removed - this includes TVs, cell phones, computer monitors, anything. Leaving them in the room during the game will put you at a massive disadvantage.
You may begin the game at 8 PM. Make sure the room is sealed, drawing the curtains to block any outside light, then draw a simplistic hourglass shape on the back of one of your hands. Make sure to remember well which hand it was, since you’ll mostly be in the dark for this game. Take the candle and light it, then turn off the lights, and sit down on the floor with the three previously mentioned objects close together, and flip the hourglass so the sand begins to fall into an empty half. The only source of light should be your candle.
Now, yell something along the lines of: “I’m not tired, and I refuse to go to sleep.” Close your eyes to the count of ten, and open them again. You won’t be entirely sure, but somewhere in the room you’ll think you can see the shadowy outline of a man. You have now begun the game, and your opponent is none other than the master of sleep himself, the Sandman. Do not provoke him, and don’t speak to him either. You’ve challenged him, and in a way insulted him about his profession, so he’s not in the best of moods to say the least.
Now comes the game. Your task is to stay awake as long as possible, to a maximum of eight hours, which will take you to 4 AM. Every hour, you must flip the hourglass to reset it and keep the game going. Each time you flip the hourglass, you may take the marker and draw a tally mark on your arm. The specifics of which arm you mark will be explained later. And don’t think you can just flip the hourglass eight times really quickly, or just draw eight lines on your arm; the hour needs to pass in order for the “magic” to work. If you fail to flip the hourglass before the very last grain of sand falls, or should you succumb to sleep, you will lose.
During this time, the Sandman will be deploying as many tricks as possible to get you to fall asleep or to give in. See, the bottom half of your hourglass, at anytime, represents his power; the more sand in it, the stronger his influence will be. Almost immediately upon starting, you’ll begin to feel drowsy. This is merely his presence - if you can’t last against this, stop playing immediately. During the first hour, he won’t do a lot. He may walk around the room, but he won’t touch you or speak to you. Even if you try to talk to the being, which is something you should really avoid doing, there will be no response.
Also, don’t move from your spot to approach him; the closer you get, the more drowsy you will become, and if you’re not near your candle, he may put it out so you can go to sleep. Do not distract yourself during this time; you may easily lose track of time, and forget to flip the hourglass on time. The Sandman can also skew your perception of how much time has passed, but he cannot affect the hourglass, so keeping your focus on that is your best chance of winning. Side note: if you try to leave the room, you will find that the doors are all locked, and the windows reveal nothing but an unyielding darkness as far as you can see.
After you pass the first hour, the Sandman may scoff, but will continue to stay in the room. Now, he will begin to pull more from his bag of tricks - he’s seen that you’re going to be a hard one to put down. The sounds of music boxes and harps may be heard, at first from a distance, but will slowly grow to a level that would be audible and comforting. Resist the urge to close your eyes and listen.
Your body will grow weary as you approach hour two or three, depending on how the Sandman is feeling that night. Around this point, he will begin speaking to you in many voices. The soft voice of a young girl, the wise cackling laugh of a grandparent, or perhaps even in the ever loving, recognizable words of your own mother. They will try to congratulate you on surviving for so long with the Sandman, for braving sleepless days and nights to win this game. Whispers of lullabies and nursery rhymes will fill your head. But you know better. Say nothing, and ignore the voices. No matter how real they may seem, don’t listen to them. Do not go to sleep.
If you managed to make it to the halfway point and now have four marks on your arm, you’ll be nothing less than exhausted, and the Sandman will be nothing less than enraged. He will begin to manipulate your environment even more, and start using new tactics to get you to sleep. Instead of trying to lull you to sleep, he will attack you. Hallucinations will occur; you’ll see horrifying images of the dead hanging from the ceiling, flashed by a spotlight of unknown origin. The room may start to close in, and then stretch out, and close in again, and stretch back out. A whisper in your ear will turn into shouting in your face from an invisible source.
Already weakened and sleep deprived, your remaining energy will be drained in bursts from his terrors. You may have sudden adrenaline rushes, sure, but the Sandman is clever. He’ll time them so that you can’t just survive to the next hour by simply being anxious. He’ll wait until your emotional state has fallen just another level lower, and then BAM! Two rotted feet, dangling in front of your face. You can scream all you want, you can beg for him to stop, but this will only use up more of your ability to function.
At the six hour mark, the hallucinations will shift between horror and comfort. While the Sandman will begin to pick your brain and find what nightmares caused you to come to a cold sweat many a night, others will coax you towards slumber, claiming that you’ve put up with enough and that you deserve your rest. A warm bed to tuck yourself into, a pillow made from the softest of furs and feathers. The harps and music boxes will start to overload your sense of hearing. In your state, you may welcome the chance to sleep, but snap out of it! Have you been watching the hourglass? Make sure his terrors aren’t distracting you. This is why you don’t talk to the Sandman, for every tiny detail about yourself you give him, he will use against you here.
This is also the part where electronic displays can become a massive problem; they will turn on, regardless of whether they are powered or not, and should you gaze upon their mystifying image for too long, your eyelids will droop, and your body will collapse onto the floor. If you had just turned the screens away, the Sandman might use some muscle and turn it back towards you, so you can get a better view.
The curtains may open to a brilliant dawn, or a clear blue sky, but the only truths in this room are your arm and the hourglass. Unless you have eight marks, this game is not over. Use any ounce of strength you have to flip that hourglass, now an immense chore from the Sandman’s influence. Scrawl a line down your arm with the marker, even if it looks like you’re taking a knife and slashing your own arm open.
During the final hour, the Sandman will begin to address you directly, asking you questions that appear to be simple. But as you are, you can’t even remember what two plus two equals. A question is the hardest thing to get out of your head, so don’t let it get in. Cover your ears, and just watch the hourglass. Keep those eyes open, don’t fall asleep! If the question gets in your head, you’ll start to think about it, adding more stress and draining you of what little mental will you have left. It might become hard to breathe, as if something is squeezing your lungs, or the air is dense and hard to take. The Sandman will also get physical, grabbing you and throwing you across the room, leaving you to crawl back to the hourglass before time is up. If you catch a glimpse of his face, it may be enough of a nightmare to haunt you and keep your eyes from shutting. There will be no distinguishable facial features, save two bloody eyes, the lids torn from the sockets, endlessly staring.
If you can’t take it anymore at any point before the eighth hour is completed, take the hourglass and break it with all your might. Both sections must be broken for the game to end. For your sake, I hope it was made of glass. Anyone who has made it to the seventh hour mark has never had the strength to successfully break it, and either carried on… or surrendered to their dreams. You will not receive a reward for ending the game this way, save the mercy of avoiding the Sandman’s wrath. If you do make it to the end of the eighth hour without falling asleep, you will not need to flip the hourglass again. Simply make the eighth mark on your arm, and close your eyes.
Though you ended the game, you cannot sleep just yet; there’s one final task remaining. All you must do is wait for the Sandman to collect the hourglass, and say: “You’re all grown-up now. Sleep when you wish…” Open your eyes, and find that the hourglass is gone and the candle put out. Now you may collapse in slumber - a twelve hour slumber, to be precise. The game puts a heavy strain on your mind and body, so recovery is necessary.
But, it’s the last sleep you’ll ever need - or, at least, to that length, because once you’ve fully recovered, you will be able to stay awake for an extra hour for each tally on your marked arm. Depending on your normal sleep schedule, this may mean you only need a small nap, maybe an hour or two at most, but for some, you’ll never have to lie down again. Sure, you will have the ability to do so if you want to, you can even still dream, but there will never be any weariness following you. Just think of how productive you can be!
But it’s not all sugar plums and gumdrops. If you mark any tallies on the arm that was NOT marked by the hourglass, you will instead require MORE sleep, one hour for each tally on the blank arm to be precise. You will require more rest to be able to even function throughout your day. Now these marks can cancel with the ones on your marked arm, but if that’s not the case, you may have just gone through all of that suffering… only to come out worse than before. And what with your delirious state throughout the game, it’s unlikely for the average individual to come out with all their tallies on the marked arm.
There are also the circumstances of losing. If you fail to flip the hourglass, then the Sandman will gain full power, and with a snap of his fingers, you will collapse to the ground. Regardless of how you fall asleep, be it by failure of the hourglass or succumbing to your own tiredness, you will also sleep for twelve hours to recover, but it will be the worst sleep you will ever have – and the Sandman will make damn sure that’s the case. The worst nightmares will flood your mind, leaving you unable to escape or wake up in a relief filled cold sweat; all you can do is endure the torture of a dream that feels like years in length.
And when you finally come to consciousness the next morning, there you will be, lying on the floor of the room, the marks still on your arm, and blood flowing from where your eyelids once rested. You said you refused to close your eyes and to go to sleep; the Sandman has simply granted that wish.
Written by RedNovaTyrant
Episode 444 - SFGT | How to Beat the Sandman (Ritual) and Berries (Watch what you eat) by Stories Fables Ghostly Tales