One Hundred Years of Solitude - Chapter 3

   One night about the time that Rebeca was cured of the vice of eating earth and was brought to sleep in the other children’s room, the Indian woman, who slept with them awoke by chance and heard a strange, intermittent sound in the corner. She got up in alarm, thinking that an animal had come into the room, and then she saw Rebeca in the rocker, sucking her finger and with her eyes lighted up in the darkness like those of a cat. Terrified, exhausted by her fate, Visitación recognized in those eyes the symptoms of the sickness whose threat had obliged her and her brother to exile themselves forever from an age-old kingdom where they had been prince and princess. It was the insomnia plague.
   Cataure, the Indian, was gone from the house by morning. His sister stayed because her fatalistic heart told her that the lethal sickness would follow her, no matter what, to the farthest corner of the earth. No one understood Visitación’s alarm. “If we don’t ever sleep again, so much the better,?Jos?Arcadio Buendía said in good humor. “That way we can get more out of life.?But the Indian woman explained that the most fearsome part of the sickness of insomnia was not the impossibility of sleeping, for the body did not feel any fatigue at all, but its inexorable evolution toward a more critical manifestation: a loss of memory. She meant that when the sick person became used to his state of vigil, the recollection of his childhood began to be erased from his memory, then the name and notion of things, and finally the identity of people and even the awareness of his own being, until he sank into a kind of idiocy that had no past. Jos?Arcadio Buendía, dying with laughter, thought that it was just a question of one of the many illnesses invented by the Indians?superstitions. But ?rsula, just to be safe, took the precaution of isolating Rebeca from the other children.
   After several weeks, when Visitación’s terror seemed to have died down, Jos?Arcadio Buendía found himself rolling over in bed, unable to fall asleep. ?rsula, who had also awakened, asked him what was wrong, and he answered: “I’m thinking about Prudencio Aguilar again.?They did not sleep a minute, but the following day they felt so rested that they forgot about the bad night. Aureliano commented with surprise at lunchtime that he felt very well in spite of the fact that he had spent the whole night in the laboratory gilding a brooch that he planned to give to ?rsula for her birthday. They did not become alarmed until the third day, when no one felt sleepy at bedtime and they realized that they had gone more than fifty hours without sleeping.