Harold Blight was a sleepwalker.
As surely as every day he would wake up at 6:45 sharp, eat a bowl of oatmeal with cinnamon on top, and dress in a crisply clean suit and tie, every night he would fall into a deep sleep at 9:45 sharp, get out of bed twenty minutes later, and unlock the back door to wander the darkness.
If anyone at the high school where Harold taught eleventh grade chemistry had heard of his nighttime ramblings, they would have been astonished. Who would ever have guessed that the perfectly combed Mr. Blight had a sleeping explorer inside?
To be fair, Harold Blight was only vaguely aware of it himself. He often thought that he did not awake as rested as he ought from his nine hours of sleep, and once or twice he had been startled to awareness by some noise and found himself in his back yard. So far, though, he had always been able to silence the whispering voice in his head suggesting that his life was not what it appeared.
It was only the aliens, then, who witnessed the extent of Harold’s adventures.
At first, watching him was only a matter of staving off boredom. Studying the patterns of homo sapiens was fascinating by day, but at night most of them just lay around for hours and even the twenty-somethings that passed the night in bars or the teenagers that sneaked out their windows engaged in the most predictably boring behaviors. Harold Blight’s nighttime journeys were the most interesting show in town.
Sleepwalking Harold was a daredevil. He liked to balance himself on fences and walk the length of them with his arms stretched out. He liked to climb tall trees and then leap from one to another. He liked to plunge into the nearby lake and see how long he could hold his breath.
Sleepwalking Harold was an artist. Three times he used his bare hands as the mud to paint a still life on the side of the Henderson’s shed. Once he used his old-fashioned push mower to cut an empty field into a picture of the president’s face. And nearly every night he found sleeping birds and poked them awake so he could harmonize with their songs.
The aliens never knew what the crazy man would get up to next.
It was the night he painted his face to look like a bird and then stood in the middle of the street playing chicken with the cars that they were first tempted to interfere. Unlike fences, cars were deadly, and if anything happened to Harold Blight, the aliens would be back to drinking way too much zorlag at night to stay to awake.
Direct interference was forbidden, of course. You didn’t ruin centuries of scientific study just because you thought zorlag was ruining your health. But introducing a subtle change in the landscape would not alter history, or at least not enough to draw the attention of their supervisors.
That’s when Harold’s bedroom got a third door. The first door led to the hallway, of course, and the second to his neatly organized closet. The third door led to an alternate dimension, where Sleepwalking Harold could explore distant universes in relative safety.
Sleepwalking Harold ran with herds of Paloxis on the wide open plains of Benarfa Faloomp, and Harold Blight wondered why his pajamas were covered with feathers. He exchanged his down pillows for cotton.
Sleepwalking Harold climbed the endless stair of the tower of Harnak Ratha, and Harold Blight had sore feet for a week. He went out and bought new Naturalizers.
Sleepwalking Harold flew through the rainbow tinted atmosphere of Haroliris, and Harold Blight couldn’t stop smiling for days. On a whim he brought home a dreamcatcher from the street fair and then hid it in his closet when his friends came for game night.
Sleepwalking Harold went through the third door every night while the aliens placed bets on his next burst of impulse, and Harold Blight went off to teach every day while the aliens took notes on his extraordinary denial.
Hypothesis were formed, controlled experiments conducted. A very well-received academic paper was published. A prestigious award was handed out. Roasted Paloxi from Benarfa Faloomp was served at the reception after.
Harold Blight woke up at 6:45 sharp, shook the sand from his hair, ate a bowl of oatmeal with cinnamon sprinkled on top, and, being careful of his sunburned neck, dressed in a crisply clean suit and tie.
He sang Beach Boys songs all the way to work and looked forward to 9:45 and another good night’s sleep.