A few days ago I woke up in the middle of the night totally unable to move. I’ve read about sleep paralysis before, when you wake up unable to move for a while, but I’ve never experienced anything like it. I thought about what was going on, that if this was like anything that I’ve read online, I just had to wait it out, to allow whatever chemicals my brain uses to prevent me from flailing around in the middle of the night to wear off and let me regain control of my muscles.
But then I saw it out of the corner of my vision, a shape moving on the floor, coming from the bedroom door, making its way closer to the bed. I was sleeping on my side, my arms wrapped around a pillow, my knees bent sort of into half a ball, and so I had a pretty good view of the whole room. My heart started racing, but I tried not to panic, this definitely had to be some sort of dream, I knew that I was going to snap out of it eventually, that my bedroom would be back to normal as soon as I could get up and walk around.
But the vague, formless mass was getting closer, and even though I tried to keep my eyes closed, there was a part of me that was genuinely terrified, that refused to look away despite my overwhelming urge to just close my eyes and retreat into myself. Why couldn’t I have fallen asleep on my back tonight? Sure, that would have probably been equally scary, I’ve read accounts of sleep paralysis where shadowy figures leer down at the bed from above, inching closer or even putting pressure on the chest making it feel like you can’t breathe.
But this was bad, being on my side, having this sideways field of vision. I could see everything, every shadow, the floor, the wall, the ceiling. The door. This thing had moved past the doorway and as it slithered closer, it looked like slightly more than just a dark blob. Vague features were starting to come into relief, for example, I could make out a body, it was lying on the ground, and even though I said that it was slithering, like totally on the floor, it wasn’t as smooth of a movement as it had been just a few seconds earlier. Its body didn’t seem to be propelling itself, yet it was definitely getting closer, jerking forward an inch at a time, sometimes a little faster, but not really, the whole process maddeningly slow.
A face kind of revealed itself in the darkness, but mostly featureless, smooth white skin, dark black shadows where the eyes and mouth should have been. And then it started making these sounds. It was almost like static electricity, but more organic, if that makes any sense. Guttural? Is that a better qualifier? I’m not really sure how to write out what it was that was coming from that direction, but it wasn’t really consistent, there were definitely changes in pitch and tone, almost like a weird whisper.
I was beyond scared at this point, and even though I couldn’t make out the specifics of what I was looking at, there was this one moment where I was absolutely positive that whatever I had identified as this thing’s face turned to look me in the eye. My heart rate picked up, I had never felt so helpless as I struggled to move, to pry myself free from whatever it was that kept me locked in this half-fetal position.
Could I blink? I could. I shut my eyes. I repeated to myself that while the fear was real, this all had to be an illusion, like when you wake up in the middle of the night and you’re positive you see someone standing in the room with you, it feels so real that for half a minute or so you’re actually believing it, frozen, until something clicks in your brain and you see that it’s nothing, it’s your dresser, it’s just a bunch of shapes that took a second to register in your mind as being what they were, nobody really there, nothing sinister.
But as soon as I shut my eyes, the whispering got less static-like, it was louder, it sounded like it was getting closer, faster. Whatever control I had over my mind ordered my eyes to stay shut, but some sort of perverse curiosity pried them open, the figure was still on the floor, but now it was right underneath my bed, its face maybe a foot away from my face. It was a woman, the details of here face remained still mostly featureless, but I could definitely make out that taught, white skin, the same gaping holes where the eyes and mouth were supposed to be. It was like something out of a horror movie, even worse really, like how could my mind concoct an image so otherworldly?
She lay there for half a minute or so before I started to make out distinct words emerging from the white noise. The first full sentence came through clear, and it’s stuck in my memory. She said, “Don’t you remember me? I’m coming back. I’m coming back.” And the perfect circle that was her formless black mouth started to turn upward at the sides, like a smile.
The smile slowly spread across her entire face, and her body started to inch underneath my bed. Her words finally began to subside somewhat, first back to the static, then I couldn’t hear anything at all. By the time I started to regain control of my body, first my fingers, then my arms and legs, and finally my torso, she had completely disappeared underneath. When I managed to lift myself up, to turn the light on and check if there was anything there at all, well … there wasn’t anything.
Aside from my still racing heart, and the echo of her words in my memory, my bedroom appeared exactly like it always did. My wife started to stir, I knew that I’d have to turn the lights back off or I’d wake her up completely. I held her close the rest of the night, and then night after that, unable to really fall asleep, hoping that whatever I’d experienced was just the byproduct of an overactive imagination under just the right physiological circumstances. But I can’t really get comfortable anymore, right as I’m just about to pass out from what’s become a total lack of any real sleep, I hear those words in my head as if they’re being spoken out loud, “I’m coming back. I’m coming back.”