A burst of energy shocked my brain and jolted me awake, violently prying my eyelids apart. My eyes convulsed wildly as they scanned the room for answers. I was lying on my back, head now completely off my pillow, ankle mysteriously pierced by a sharp, hot pain. Just as I was about to fall asleep, someone had pulled my foot at the edge of the bed. But I was alone in my apartment that night.
In the farthest reach of my peripheral vision, I saw something crouched against the wall my headboard was on, about 8 feet to my right. Just enough moonlight was sneaking through the blinds on the window behind it to enable this thing to cast a shadow in front of itself. From the silhouette looming in the side of my eye, I could make out a head, spine and leg. Its lumpy head seemed to be merged with a frozen arc of vertebrae, and its leg was folded up against the side of its body as if it was in between sitting and standing. I tried to turn my head to see what it was, but I couldn’t move my head. Panicking, I tried to sit up. But I couldn’t move my body either. Overwhelmed by fear, I felt a scream building up in my throat. But I couldn’t scream; I couldn’t even open my mouth.
My breathing sped up. And as it did, I began to feel like I was suffocating. It felt as though my chest was tightly bound in heavy, prickly ropes. Through my shirt, I felt the pores on the skin over my sternum being stabbed by the coarse whiskers of whatever was compressing my torso. My rapid panting made me somewhat lightheaded, but I remained totally alert. I couldn’t raise my head to see what was squeezing my body, but I knew something had to be there. My eyes rolled down as far as they could, as if finding a way to tunnel beneath the ocular cavities of my skull to peek out. I could feel the dull ache of my optic nerves’ stretching near to the point of breaking.
Then, to my right, the thing crouched against the wall slowly stood up. As it did, its body made cracking noises like the sound of ice splitting across the top of a frozen lake. Still slightly hunched over, it steadied itself when adequately vertical and stretched out an arm. In the fragments of moonlight, I could see a disfigured hand lying limply at the end of it. Parts of flesh were missing from it, and it had a series of lacerations across the wrist that were dripping a viscous, greenish-yellow discharge down four wizened fingers. The hand creaked as all but one of the fingers curled into a sticky, pulpy fist, leaving one digit pointing directly at me. Slowly, the creature turned its head and fixed its gaze on something at the foot of my bed.
My eyes darted in that direction. By now though, they were parched and desperately thirsting for the reprieve of even a single blink – I had been too horrified even to blink involuntarily. My fear and curiosity refused to allow my eyes to close, but a burning sensation seemed to be forcing my eyelids together. Against my will, they clamped shut. Tears rushed in to alleviate the dryness, and I couldn’t see clearly upon reopening my eyes. In a cloudy halo, I could make out the outline of a towering, bulky figure with long hair standing right behind my feet. Its head leaned to the right, as if it was studying me. The scream I wanted so badly to release was still locked behind caged vocal chords.
Movement to my right caught my attention, and my eyes jumped away from the thing looming at my feet. I couldn’t see the creature that had been pointing at me anymore; the area to my right was empty. My eyes shot back to the foot of my bed. That apparition was gone too. Still unable to move or speak, and still only barely breathing, I began to cry. I couldn’t vocalize my anguish, but tears were now bonding with drops of sweat and washing my face in moistened dread.
Over the puffs of my hyperventilating, I perceived the sound of the carpet crunching under the weight of footsteps to my right. My eyes raced to the edge of my face to see who was there. I saw nothing. The steps continued. Each one was slightly louder than the last, so I was sure that whatever it was, was advancing toward my bed. My body was occupying only the left half of an ample queen-size mattress, leaving the side nearest to the approaching entity wide open.
After the sixth step, the sound of walking stopped. I continued breathing like an animal, still completely immobilized. To my immediate right, I saw my blanket rise. It was being peeled back as though someone was getting into bed with me. Then, I felt the mattress sink down beside me, and the area around me became frigid. I could hear congested breathing overpowering the sound of my own. It sounded like blades of oxygen were slicing through taut sheets of membrane with each breath, causing them to flap loudly. The thing drew nearer to me, breathing increasingly heavily.
Without warning, I could feel the back of its disgusting hand sliding down the side of my face, gliding along a trail of slime from my temple to my cheekbone, and then back toward my ear. It reeked of bacterial decay, with pockets of effervescent disease hissing as they released the fumes to prey on my nostrils. Then, I felt the creature drizzle some of whatever was leaking from its skin into my inner ear. As the fluid crawled down my ear canal, I felt the compelling instinct to flee bordering on exploding. And yet I still couldn’t move a muscle.
I heard the thing smacking its mouth with gobs of saliva, licking its lips before whispering something to me. I was too panicked to hear it clearly, but I was too focused on getting away from the thing to care. It persisted in whispering. I made no effort to comprehend it, not wanting to encourage it to linger there.
Just then, a scraping noise began on the wall above my headboard, like something was being dragged by something else a few inches at a time. I couldn’t turn my head to see it, but I could hear it growling. The thing in bed with me now had its clammy skin pressed against my side and was resting its head on my chest. I tried to jostle the thing off of my body, but I couldn’t move my arms or legs. My chest felt even heavier, and I practically gave up on breathing.
When the scraping sound had arrived as close to my pillow as possible, it stopped. Then, something I couldn’t see yanked the blanket off my bed and threw it onto the floor. One second later, the door to my room slammed shut. I noticed that I was alone in bed again. I was still unable to move or speak though, and still barely able to breathe. And I could still sense a presence immediately behind my head even though it wasn’t making a sound.
By this point, the combination of hyperventilation and fear had induced intense dizziness, and the room appeared to be spinning around me. I closed my eyes to stop the spinning, only to find that doing so worsened the sensation. When I reopened my eyes, I was instantly face to face with the creature from the wall, which I now recognized as the one originally standing at the foot of my bed.
Its head was upside down as it stood bent over, feet still planted on the wall, greasy hair strewn across my shirt. Its eyes were no more than an inch away from mine. They were deeply inset and encircled by a crusty protuberance, peering through a sinkhole. They absorbed my facial contortions with insatiable curiosity, seeming to be feeding off of my fear. Two huge, gummy lips beneath two breathing slits situated diagonally beneath its eyes flexed into a kind of smile and then froze.
Before I could blink again, the creature grabbed both sides of my head and began screaming like a siren. Its eyes each ejected needles, and it leaned into me, aiming the needles at my eyeballs. I closed my eyes tightly, horrified. The volume of the thing’s screaming, and the pressure applied in squeezing my head, continued to steadily increase as the needles broke through my skin and entered my eyes. Louder and louder, the noise overtook the room and continued to raise in pitch until it morphed into the sound of roaring static. I lay there in the dark, eyeballs collapsed and ground to mush, paralyzed while every cubic inch of the room seemed to be howling outside and inside my head.
Defeated, I turned to curl into the fetal position – and was shocked to discover that I could. I opened my eyes and sat up in bed, screaming. I was breathing heavily but no longer with any difficulty. I jumped out of bed and raced to turn the light on. With the room fully illuminated, I could see no creatures, no mucus, no scratches on the wall, no evidence that any of what I had experienced had actually transpired. The blanket was still on my bed, and the door was still open. Everything appeared to be as it had been when I went to bed that night.
This wasn’t the first time I had experienced sleep paralysis (nor was it the last), and my prior experiences had been similar to this one. It’s a horrible affliction to have, but doctors have told me that it’s nothing to be worried about. Even though the hallucinations seem very real, I’m actually in no real danger, and I know that. So, I took a minute to calm down and gather my thoughts.
I was still too rattled to turn off the light, and too creeped out to go back to bed, so I headed for the chair at the desk beside my bed. As I got closer to it though, I noticed that the right side of the mattress – the one I hadn’t been lying on – had an impression on it, as if someone had been lying there.
That was the last time I slept in that apartment.
This is a work of fiction. Incidents are the products of the author’s imagination.
To learn more about sleep paralysis, read “A Waking Nightmare: The Enigma of Sleep Paralysis” by Maria Cohut, April 20, 2018, Medical News Today. Accessed on March 30, 2019.