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It all started when I was about 8 or 9 years old. Actually, I guess it may have been earlier, but that’s around the first memory I have of it. See, I have had sleep paralysis as long as I can remember, although it is rare now that I am an adult. Most people that I’ve told about this have assumed I’m just scared of the dark, or have bad nightmares, but that’s not it, although I am and I do, ha-ha.
I have always had very vivid dreams. When I was dreaming, I was there, I could see, smell, hear, and feel. I was also a very adept lucid dreamer, having the choice to affect my dreams at will. That didn’t work on nightmares though and I often had nightmares before these episodes, horribly vivid nightmares, almost every night. Dreams of falling, fire, death, being alone in empty space, but mostly monsters, and those were the worst. Some of them were your classic 80’s slasher film icons, Jason, Freddy, etc. (I think my mom let me watch those movies a little too young, along with reading Stephen King, but she is still my hero.) Those usually involved running and hiding while being in a strange place, usually creepy abandoned buildings or out in the woods. The monsters that didn’t come from movies were way worse though. Dreams come from your subconscious supposedly, so I guess somehow my mind created them, although as a child it seemed like they were from the depths of Hell. Twisted, grotesque things; sometimes vaguely resembling a human form, with missing limbs or too many, hideous faces with skin missing or eyes hanging out of sockets; some were not human at all however, giant creatures with wings and razor-sharp claws and teeth, black shadows with red eyes that would just stand in the corner and watch me while I went about mundane tasks, like homework or watching TV. Sometimes I would wake up before they got me, not always. People say you’re not supposed to die in dreams, but I have many, many times. I have fallen and hit the ground, I’ve burned up in fire, been stabbed and sliced; I’ve even had a dream where I was at a funeral that turned out to be mine, I didn’t go back to sleep that night.
Well, I’m not really scared of the dark, per se, or even scared of the nightmares, I am afraid of waking up in the dark. Let me explain what a typical night was for me when I was younger and maybe you can start to understand.
I would fall asleep in my bedroom with the TV on, mostly for light, sound would be just loud enough to make out what they were saying; sometimes I would fall asleep on the couch with the light and sound coming from my parents room before I had a TV in my own room. Then the dream would start. The worst one ever, which I had often (I don’t know how rare recurring dreams are, but I feel I got more than my fair share) would start with me waking up in my own bed. I would be viewing as though from my own eyes, rather than 3rd person as a lot of dreams were. I would look over at my alarm clock and it would say 3:33 AM, always, then the fear would start, I knew what was coming, but powerless to prevent it. I would slowly place my feet on the floor, and stand up while stretching and yawning. I’d start to head for the bathroom (not sure how I know the bathroom was my destination, as I never made it there), and I would trip on something. I crash on the floor, hitting my nightstand causing my alarm clock to fall on my head, and bounce to the floor. So I’m lying there cursing myself and looking under my bed. There is nothing there, and I mean nothing, the meager light in my room should penetrate at least a few inches into the darkness, but it’s like a wall of black shadow, an empty void. And I freeze with fear. Suddenly two small blue orbs of fire appear, directly eye level with me, the eyes of some unknown being staring into my soul. Its breath was the worst part; I would see it and smell it at the same time. I only know it was breathing because it came out in a fog, like when you are outside in winter, only it wasn’t cold in my room, and the breath upon my face was cold enough to chill me to the bone; and the stench, ugh! It was as though someone took dead animal carcasses and dirty diapers and lit them on fire with a thousand matches, like sulphur, burnt hair and shit. My mind would be screaming “RUN! HIDE!” but my body is frozen. I am hyper aware, I can feel every muscle in my body tense up in preparation but nothing happens. Then it grabs me, I see nothing, no limbs of any sort, but I am being dragged under the bed. Then I am in total blackness, I can feel its disgusting breath on my neck and hear my heartbeat, but my sense of sight has totally abandoned me. I don’t feel arms around me specifically, but I am being held there, it feels like someone has wrapped a blanket made of flesh around me, but it is stronger than I am and holds me completely still. Then I feel its tongue slowly lick from my neck to my ear, as though tasting my fear.
In a voice I can only describe as broken glass soaking in blood, gravelly and grating, but wet, it whispers. “What do you like about playing under the bed?” That’s when I snap out of it. I struggle and fight, swinging my elbows and kicking my legs hard as I can, eventually loosening the creatures grip, and I would wake up.
Here’s where the real fun begins. I would be completely frozen, sometimes to the point where I could not even open my eyes. Sometimes that would be all, just frozen for a minute or two then I would snap out of it. I’m getting a little freaked out even writing about it, the memories are that vivid as it comes out. Other times the nightmares followed me. I remember once, I was lying there frozen, trying to force my eyes to close when I heard that same thick gravelly voice say, “Come back under the bed, the games were just starting.” I couldn’t turn my head to look toward the sound, not sure I would have even if I could, but I could feel its cold breath on my ear. I guess I must’ve screamed although I don’t remember doing so, because my mom ran into the room and turned on the light. I swear I saw a shadow out of the corner of my eye melt into the floor, heading back under the bed. She checked, assured me there was nothing under the bed, I still don’t know what to believe. According to the therapists and counselors I have talked to I was experiencing “visual and auditory hallucinations common to Sleep Paralysis.” They don’t know how real it was though.
When I would wake up in bed, once able to move I would jump off my bed, making sure to stay well away from the edge, run to my parents’ bedroom, and crawl into bed with them, sadly until I was about 14. Often times though, I would not wake up in my bed as I had fallen asleep. Sometimes after that specific dream I would wake up on the floor next to my bed, which was the worst, especially if the paralysis kicked in, which was often. I’ve woken up on the couch, on the floor in my parents’ room, on the kitchen floor, in the empty bathtub, even once on the porch. On these occasions I would sometimes find scratches and cuts on my body, often small although once I had a 6 inch gouge across my ribcage (still have the scar). The therapist said this was due to sleepwalking and running into things.
My grandmother had a very different view of things. I loved my grandma; she definitely wasn’t your regular sweet old lady. My grandmother had a deep appreciation for the occult. When I told her about my dreams, she crossed herself and did that weird little evil eye hand gesture. I asked why she was freaking out.
“My dear, 3:33 is a time of evil,” she explained. “3 is a number of Satan, 3AM is the witching hour dear, when the veil between realms is thin, and reality can be warped. It was more likely that it was an actual demon trying to drag you to the underworld. You are lucky to have survived the attacks.” She also told me that I wasn’t sleepwalking as the therapist suggested, but actually in another, I guess you’d say alternate plane or dimension, or even “the underworld.” We always thought she was a little crazy, now I’m not so sure. I wish she was still alive to help my family.
Recently, my 7-year-old son has been waking up in the middle of the night (right around 3:30AM), screaming about the monster with blue fire eyes. I was holding him after one recent episode telling him it was a dream and he will be okay. He kept repeating the word NO! When I got him to calm down a little, I asked why he was saying no, He said he doesn’t want to play under the bed.