A trauma surgeon discovers that an alertness drug taken by nearly all American adults – including her and her family – has irreversible side effects that will gradually destroy the sanity of all its long-term users by making them unable to sleep.
Anne’s twins Steve and Paula enjoy their high school lives courtesy of the extra time and rest Xypnon gives them. Once a geeky outcast, Steve used his extra hours to become an athlete and now dates Debbie, the daughter of Anne’s boss Christine. Alt-girl Paula secretly dates Steve’s rival on the football team. Since Anne’s husband Bert doesn’t take Xypnon (he doesn’t believe people should take psychoactive drugs except to treat illness), he works 9 to 5, and so while he’s asleep in the evenings and Anne is at work, the twins have lots of time to themselves.
Anne and Bert both discover problems with Xypnon. Bert gets a call from the police about a patient who has killed her three children after going without sleep for weeks. The common denominator between her and the murderous big rig driver and cop is that all of them were in early trials of Xypnon ten years previously. So was Christine – and she starts to behave bizarrely toward Anne. Anne confronts Dr. Zucker and demands he recall the drug.
Bert and Anne tell the twins the whole family must stop taking Xypnon. Although Steve tries, he soon restarts (Paula never stopped.) Then Steve gets a 3 A.M. call from Debbie: Christine has gone crazy. Steve rushes past his parents to Debbie’s house, Bert gets a rifle and follows him, and Anne chases after her son and husband. Steve runs into Debbie’s house, past the dead body of Debbie’s father, and upstairs to Debbie’s room. She’s terrified but unhurt – but Christine steps into the room and aims a pistol at Steve. From downstairs, Anne hears two gunshots.
Bert has killed Christine to save Steve and Debbie, and in Season One, the Marquettes take Debbie in. The Marquettes find that the FDA won’t order a recall of Xypnon for fear of what would happen to the economy if people suddenly stopped working 16-hour days. Melson contacts Anne and Bert and tells them anyone who’s used Xypnon for over five years has irreversible brain damage that will make them sleepless regardless of whether they stop taking it. Anne and Bert realize that nearly all adults (including Anne) have a ticking time bomb in their heads. They know panic will sweep the country when the truth gets out, so they seek shelter with Anne’s Dad in his retirement community in Sedona, Arizona.
In subsequent seasons, the number of sleepless overwhelms the ability of the unaffected to control them, much less care for them. As the Marquettes fight to survive, they will encounter groups both friendly and hostile in their journey. For example, the fundamentalist Goddard Baptist Church treat Xypnon users as demon-possessed, while the self-proclaimed Vigilants are sleepless but remain lucid – and convinced they are the natural rulers of this new world. People of Steve and Paula’s generation and those of Anne’s father’s generation mostly avoid using the drug long enough to go sleepless; other groups of non-users become hostile fanatics, and some of the sleepless retain their faculties and see themselves as the new rulers of the world.
When Anne herself becomes sleepless, her family will struggle to preserve her sanity. They will ultimately have to work with Melson – and even Zucker – to find a cure and save the sleepless.
Fear The Walking Dead
Stuart’s award-winning short scripts Autonomy, He Knows and Over Coffee have been produced, and he wrote and directed the short Memento Mori (which screened at the San Antonio Film Festival). He adapted the short story The Last Earth Girl into a feature screenplay and it has been produced by independent filmmaker Jim Weter.