Night Terrors

Oh my God! There’s something in my room!

I can hear it moving about. A barely there, slow swishing movement. I can sense it’s dark, heavy presence weighing down the air in my bedroom, even with my eyes closed.

My heart speeds up, pounding faster in my chest.

The empty side of my bed dips down. I feel the mattress bend. I sense it leaning over me, watching me. I should scream, I want to let out a primal shriek – but nothing comes out of my mouth.

I manage to slit my eyes open. Shit, shit, shit! It knows that I’m awake. Obsidian eyes study me. Head slightly tilted, it watches the staccato breathes of air release from my nostrils, the rhythm mirroring the terrorized tattoo of my heartbeat. I fascinate it.

What does it want?

What will it do next?

Oh God, please don’t touch me.

My heart wants to leap out of my throat. I know I should run but I’m frozen, literally paralyzed by fear.

I can feel it’s hot breath on my face. Smell the evil in it’s exhale. Why can’t I move? Why is this happening?

And then it’s gone.

The room, once again quiet. The air, once again still.

I finally get the courage to open my eyes wide. I blink them into focus, adjust my pupils to the darkness, but there is nothing to see. No sign that anything was ever in my room. I’m drenched in sweat and fear.

What the hell just happened? Was something really in my room? More important, is it going to come back?

How can I go back to sleep now?

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Have you ever had an experience like this, awoken to such paralyzing terror in the dark wee hours of night, an experience that leaves you hyped with adrenaline and shaking with immense fear?

I wish this on no one, and yet I will never forget the absolute helplessness I experienced or the complete terror that took over my body.

Was that thing real? Had an evil entity somehow gotten into my room while I was asleep, vulnerable and unable to defend myself? Do dark spirits really exist or could there be another explanation for what I experienced?

Science calls it sleep paralysis. It is a state where your mind has come out of REM sleep but your body has not quite yet done so. Your mind is active and cognizant, it may even be still on the edge of a dream, but your body is still unable to function as it remains in deep sleep. While in this liminal state between wake and sleep, your body feels frozen and you may not be able to speak or even open your eyes because your motor skills are not functioning yet but your mind, being half in dream state and half in consciousness, can cause you a real fright.

Why would terror be involved? When we are in this state we can be open to shady memories, our subconscious has easier access to our deepest fears and in such a vulnerable state, they may be released giving sleep paralysis the perfect opportunity to force us to face the demons in our soul?

But what if there really is a spirit world where unspeakable evils lurk but our waking, conscious life easily blocks it out as we go about our daily lives? Could suffering from sleep paralysis be a perfect opportunity for that evil to slip between the two worlds and enter into ours?

Ancient folklore warns us that the veil between these two worlds is at its thinnest this coming week and the easiest time for spirits to cross over and walk amongst us. This is the origins of why we dress up on Oct. 31st, or Halloween, so that we can fool the real ghosts and goblins that have slipped over and avoid demon possession. A spirit needs a host body after all if it is to remain in this world.

But how do you protect yourself at night when you think you are safely tucked into your personal sanctuary of warm woolen blankets and fluffy feather pillows? Can you fool the spirits then?

Let’s be practical here for a moment. There are no such thing as ghosts and goblins. Science has a perfectly logical explanation, backed up by an arm full of studies for the phenomenon known as sleep paralysis (night terrors to you and me). Why should we even be having this conversation. Scientist know everything – right?

So tonight, as the spirit and real worlds merge closer together in anticipation of Halloween and you prepare for slumber, don’t give it another thought. Just think about that soft warm bed. Think about those fluffy pillows. Nothing can harm you while you sleep. The dark shadows in the corner of your room are just that, dark shadows. That swishing movement that flutters across your face as you turn over is just the forced air from the furnace. And that uneasy feeling that you are not alone in your room, well…..?

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