No, god not again. My eyes snap open, interrupting once again my not so peaceful sleep.
I know what is happening, it has happened countless times before, this one is no different. I am laying in my bed, my back is touching the soft mattress underneath me while my face can only look towards the white ceiling above me. My body is perfectly straight, like a yardstick, and I know for a fact that I didn’t sleep like that last night.
I also know that it is pointless to try to move my body, but I try anyway. It stays utterly still, like a sculptured statue made of marble. I can never move my body when she is coming, and no matter how many times this has happened, it’ll never stop making my heart pound loudly in my ears as terror is washing every inch of me. The only thing I can move is my eyes. They are roaming around like mad, searching the room, trying to see in the complete darkness that is surrounding the place. I always leave a light on before I fall asleep, a necessary habit I acquired over the years, but it’s always pitch-black when she comes.
The last thing I know is the time, without even having to look at it. 03:13 a.m. It’s the same every time, like clockwork. I can see her now, she’s standing in front of the door that I’m sure I locked before going to sleep. But that doesn’t matter, nothing stops her.
She’s slowly coming closer, giving me a chance to see her better. Her form is skinny and dark. Only her hands are visible under the black smoke that seems to be flying around her body. They are terribly creased, and her faded black ruined nails come in contrast with her pale skin.
She’s even closer now and I can see her face. The mix of gray and white locks of rough and unruly hair falls like twisted ropes around her face. Her skin is wrinkled and incredibly white. So white that it makes her look like she’s dead. Well, maybe she is. And then it’s her eyes. So wicked and black, like there’s no soul in them. Like they’re ready to devour yours whenever they want.
She’s standing above me now. I want to scream, to run, to hide but I can’t do anything. She’s placing her hands on my chest, and I suddenly feel like it’s harder to breathe. It’s like she’s sucking out all the air that’s inside me and keeping it to herself. My body hurts everywhere and I feel like I’m ready to pass out. I vaguely see her leaning over me. Her colorless mouth is next to my ear as she lets out an unnatural high-pitched scream, that sounded like someone was scratching on a blackboard.
At this very minute, I hear I faint whisper in the back of my mind struggling to replace her ear-splitting scream. It seems as if someone is mumbling something but I can’t quite understand what. It gets louder and louder. The voice starts to sounds familiar, I know that voice. Louder and louder, it sounds desperate. Louder, until it’s the only thing I can hear.
“Wake up Thanasi, Wake up!”
My eyes flew open. My body abruptly rolled on the side of the bed fighting for breath. I was shaking as a cold sweat covered my whole body. I felt a delicate touch on my trembling shoulder, and as I looked up, I saw my sister looking at me with eyes that were drowning in worry. I blinked a couple of times, slowly realizing what had just happened.
“You had that dream again.” I heard her say with a soft, almost scared tone.
I tiredly walk out of my doctor’s office. A new medication is in my hands. Something that would help me sleep better, he said. I already know that it won’t work, they never do. But I’ll give it a shot anyway, for my little sister.
Sleep paralysis is what they named it. Apparently, it happens when you’re right about to wake up or fall asleep. Your mind is awake but your body is asleep, that’s why it can’t move. It also makes you have terrific hallucinations. Or so they say.
But I know that’s not the case. I know she’s real.
It doesn’t happen when I’m about to wake up or fall asleep. It happens at the same time every night. I always look at the dusty old clock that’s hanging next to the door she appears.
It’s not some foggy memories that I can’t quite recall. I can remember everything with the slightest little detail. I remember the way the smoke that surrounds her moves and how sharp it smells like it is some kind of venom. I remember exactly how her scream sounds and how I feel when she places her hands on my chest and takes my breath. In fact, I can feel it even after I wake up. I can feel my body begging to breathe, making me scared of what can happen if someday I wake up just a second later.
But of course, they all laugh when I tell them this. Just like the way they laugh when I tell them about Mora.
There’s a myth in my home country Greece. Old people in town used to say that Mora was an evil spirit dressed as an old, horrific woman, who appeared only during the night to make people suffer while they slept. She would visit them inside their dreams, holding them down so they couldn’t move their bodies as she made terrific images appear on their minds. She would let them go with a devilish smile on her face, showing them how much she enjoyed it.
I look at the time on my old leather watch. 03:10 a.m. I’m sitting on my bed, I feel my head really heavy as it rests on the cold wall beside me, my eyes fighting to stay open. I decided something tonight. I won’t sleep until after the time she comes has passed. I haven’t slept much these days. It’s the first time she visited me four nights in a row, and the fear of her coming again tonight helps me stay awake despite how much I want to let my body be taken away by sleep.
03:12. I feel my body shiver as I suddenly realize that the room had become a lot colder. I blow warm air into my freezing hands, as I rub them up and down, hoping it would help me feel a little less cold. I can’t help but think that this is strange, the temperature dropped in the blink of an eye. Worry started overflowing my mind, as it started filling it with uneasy questions and fear of what’s to come.
As I pull the blue sheet over my cold legs, I feel a presence in the room, as if someone else is here, as if someone is watching me. I look up, and there she is. Standing in front of my wooden door. Exactly how she did in my dreams, only this time, I know it’s real. It’s not some kind of nightmare I can wake up from or some kind of sleep condition that will eventually pass. She’s right in front of me, her lifeless eyes are piercing mine.
I try to scream, to call for help, but my mouth isn’t listening to me. It stays shut, and at this moment I realize that I have no control over my own body. My heart starts pumping like crazy. Fear is flowing through every cell of my blood. My mind feels like it’s moving in slow motion as I feel as if the ground underneath me is falling and everything around me is collapsing until there’s only me and her. I need to move!
She’s walking towards me so agonizingly slow. She stops when she is close enough for me to feel her cold breath on my paralyzed face. I notice her arms steadily reaching out to touch me. I felt like I was stabbed with multiple needles at once, as her cold fingers met my chest, eventually taking all my breath. My body slowly fell to the ground numb, as the last thing I saw was a slight grin gradually forming its way to her face.