Please note: this story is in progress.
My therapist has advised me to keep a dream journal. Every morning when I wake up or when my sleep is disturbed, I am to make a record of what I saw in as much detail as I can muster. She thinks that writing down my experiences will help in some way, as if being able to recall my night terrors in more vivid detail will be of any benefit to my mental state. Still, after the sleep study showed no abnormalities, I find myself left with few options. Whatever is happening to me is psychological – emotional – not medical.
She recognizes that I am distracted, agitated, clearly rendered irritable by the disruptions to my sleep schedule. Scarcely a night goes by that I am not visited by that shadowy figure. I understand the mechanisms of sleep paralysis, the reasoning behind it. The body enters a state of relaxation during deep sleep in which the muscles become paralyzed, the intention being to keep the unconscious sleeper from moving around and potentially injuring themselves during dreams. The issue arises, however, when the mechanisms designed to render that person unconscious malfunction. The result is a person who is fully aware, yet unable to control their body, the fear and panic of which often precipitates terrifying hallucinations.
This is not merely a nightmare, but a melding of imagination and reality, where the fear-wracked brain projects images into one’s real surroundings that seem as concrete and as tangible as the very bed they lie upon. It is during these episodes that I am visited, and no cold, calculating logic can spare me from the terror of those moments.
The hallucinations are always easy to recollect upon waking, but they grow hazier throughout the day. Still, the visitor’s form is burned into my memory, even if the finer details of its activities escape me. It always appears in the same place, occupying one corner of my bedroom. The longer I stare at that point, the more the shadows seem to coalesce, as though the darkness itself is forming an inky figure that bears a vague resemblance to a person. A case of pareidolia, perhaps, where the mind seeks familiar shapes and faces where there are none.
What the pareidolia does not explain is the oppressive presence – the palpable hunger that this visitor emanates. Lacking any discernible features that have stuck in my memory, it is this aura that stays with me, that characterizes this entity’s personality and intent. It wants something from me. It has a burning need, the satiation of which I fear might come at some terrible cost to myself. It watches me as a predator watches its prey, and I cannot shake the feeling that it is biding its time – waiting for some undisclosed opening that will allow it to make its move.
While I recognize that none of this can be real and that whatever is happening to me must have some psychological explanation, that does not change the fact that going to bed has become such a source of anxiety for me that it has begun to impact my job performance.
I hope that this helps…
It happened again tonight, almost as if on cue. I regained my faculties only minutes ago, and I record this journal entry after having taken a little time to calm myself and to collect my thoughts before putting them to paper.
As has happened during each visit, I was woken from a dead sleep to find that I was no longer alone in my bedroom. It was no sound that roused me but rather that oppressive aura once again descending over the bed, settling about my chest like a tangible weight. I felt as though I was being plunged deep, deep beneath the ocean, the pressure of all the water above me gradually increasing until simply drawing breath became a feat of athleticism. I couldn’t move so much as a finger – my body was still fast asleep – but my mind was racing.
The corner was once again occupied by a void – an absence of light that only grew more defined the longer I watched. While I knew that it could not hurt me, being the figment of my imagination that it logically must be, that same primordial fear came over me as I felt unseen eyes turn in my direction. Like a caveman feeling his hair stand on end while a tiger watches him from the limits of his campfire’s glow, I knew that I was being observed, as if some long-forgotten survival instinct had been triggered in me.
That same instinct commanded me to either fight or flee, but I cannot put words to the frustration and helplessness that my paralysis instilled in me. It was akin to suffocating – to being unable to fulfill one of my body’s most basic drives. All I could do was lie there in forced silence, watching it as it watched me in turn.
My torture ended as abruptly as it had begun, and the moment that I regained the ability to move, the shadow was gone like a puff of smoke carried away by the breeze. I was once again alone in my bedroom, the oppressive aura lifted, as though nothing had happened at all.
I am not insane. I understand that what I am experiencing has no basis in reality, but I cannot stress how real it feels while it’s happening.
Dream, nightmare, these words do not do the experience justice. When I dream, I often dream of places and people from my childhood, half-remembered and warped by time. The forgotten details are hastily filled in with stand-ins that do not fit. Faces and geometry change, warping and shifting, never really allowing themselves to be clearly defined as though doing so will immediately reveal them to be falsehoods. As soon as I am awake, there is no ambiguity about the nature of those dreams – it is impossible to mistake them for reality. These experiences are different. They are vivid, powerful hallucinations, and I feel wholly awake during them. I do not feel as though my cognitive functions are impaired or as though I am unable to reason.
Carla, when you read this, please reconsider your approach. Trying to reinforce the idea that this is all a dream is not helping me. No matter how many times you repeat yourself, the problem isn’t that I can’t distinguish reality from fantasy. In fact, the opposite is true. That divide is all too clear to me.
Last night, I had an uneventful dream about cycling along a street that I used to frequent during my childhood. I was riding my bicycle, but no matter how fast I pedaled, I never seemed to reach the end of the road. I remember it terminating in a kind of cul-de-sac, but in this imagined reality, it was infinite.
I do not think the dream was noteworthy, but you requested that I record everything to the best of my abilities.
It happened again. I’ve been self-administering melatonin in the hope that it would keep me asleep (it’s over-the-counter stuff, so don’t freak out) but it hasn’t had any effect. As I write this, I am still drenched in cold sweat, and my heart hasn’t stopped racing. I will try to articulate myself to the best of my abilities while the experience is still fresh in my mind.
Just like the previous times, I was woken by the feeling of a presence sharing the room with me, a crushing weight settling over my bed like a lead blanket. I tried to wiggle my fingertips – to turn my head – but it was futile. The only control I had was over my eyes. No matter how many times it happens, something prevents me from becoming accustomed to the feeling. I never grow used to it in a way that might lessen the fear that it instills in me.
Again, the shadowy figure manifested in the corner of the room, but something was different this time. I have never before managed to pick out any real detail. It’s usually a formless shape that vaguely resembles a figure, almost like the silhouette of a coat rack or a lamp being mistaken for that of a person. Tonight, I felt a very real sense of its size, of its mass. Its head was brushing the ceiling of my bedroom, which is at the very least seven feet off the floor. I struggle to find a way to convey what I saw, but what was once intangible shadow has now become more solid, as though it has more of a physical presence. There was no translucency to it anymore – I couldn’t see the wall behind it. It was now occupying the same physical space as me. I could sense it. Far from being lanky, it had a frame that matched its height, and I can’t shake the impression that there was something feminine about its shape.
How you’re probably salivating at the prospect of performing an unflattering Freudian analysis of my condition, Carla, but I assure you that I have no reason to fear or mistrust women. I don’t think I’ve ever had a relationship that ended very badly, and I don’t recall any sadistic beatings by female authority figures as an impressionable child. Let’s just strike that one off the list and spare us both the trouble, shall we?
The entity – for lack of a better word – moved for the first time tonight. I know that you think I’m crazy, Carla, but it took a step. I’m still rattled, still trying to rein in my panic, but I need to get this down before the memories start to fade.
It didn’t float, it didn’t merely appear somewhere else, it walked like a person would. You remember my last entry – what we talked about during our appointment yesterday – how I told you that it appeared to grow more solid and tangible? I swear that I could see muscle moving beneath skin as black as pitch, like a person who had been drenched in crude oil, its flesh quivering as it shifted its weight. Shadows seemed to trail from its body, like a figure made of ink moving through water. My floorboards creaked, for God’s sake. How can I explain that without adding auditory hallucinations to my long list of ailments?
I’m certain that it’s a woman now. Something about the gait gives it away – how its hips swing while it walks. Tonight’s encounter was brief. Something in me snapped at the sight of movement, and I was able to claw my way out of my paralysis before it made it very far across the room. The fact that it was trying still fills me with dread. What if it succeeds in reaching my bed? What happens then?
Whatever’s happening to me is escalating, and neither therapy nor medication is doing anything to make it better. I’m beginning to wonder if thinking about it so much and trying to recall these encounters in detail is making things worse. What if I just tried to forget?
I usually wouldn’t describe myself as a superstitious person, but today’s date is apt. I’m writing this some time after tonight’s encounter, and while I realize that I might be misremembering some of the details as a result, I needed some time to collect myself. I can’t sleep in that room again. Not tonight.