The Sleeper is a short story appearing in the first volume of the Wild Cards series. It tells the story of the eponymous ace, Croyd Crenson. The story is the first true story set after the release of the Wild Card virus and tells the story of the first Wild Card Day.
Croyd Crenson is a normal ninth grader when the Wild Card virus is released over Manhattan on September 15th, 1946. Croyd was in class when he saw Jetboy's plane break up over Manhattan. He and another friend disregarded their teacher's instructions and left school for home. Along the way Croyd saw the chaos on the streets and several people dying from exposure to the virus, including a person who had turned into a tree and another who had melted into a puddle. Croyd also became increasingly sleepy. Finally arriving at home Croyd collapsed into a deep sleep.
Awaking a few weeks later Coryd discovered that he had changed into a tall man covered with fine hair. He had greater than human strength and could turn invisible. Exploring the city he discovers that martial law is in effect and that his father has died, leaving his family without any support. While out on the street, Croyd meets Bentley, a small time crook who had transformed into a dog with a human head. Bentley begins to school Coryd in the way of crime. Croyd begins to steal to support his family, committing various crimes through several incarnations.
Croyd meets with Dr. Tachyon to discuss his condition. Tachyon compares Croyd's version of the virus to malaria, which also can lie dormant and then reoccur. He tells Croyd that he becomes reinfected by the virus each time he sleeps and Croyd becomes nervous that one time he may draw a black queen while he sleeps. To combat this he begins taking amphetamines, although he tries to limit their use because of the paranoia this induces.
As he sleeps across the years his brother and sister grow up. One time Croyd awakens but discovers that his body is still changing. He awoke too early and has not yet assumed his next form. Tachyon advises him to go to sleep again in order to allow his body to complete the transformation but Croyd refuses, wanting to stay awake for his sister's wedding. As he struggles to stay awake he takes more and more amphetamines. At the ceremony Croyd finally transforms into a bat winged creature in the middle of the wedding and flies away, leaving his former life behind for good.