The demon's next to my bed again.
He's standing in the corner, watching me. I don't know much about him. All I know is that he's heavy. He sits on my chest when he appears and drags me down until I can't move. I try my hardest to lift my hand, desperate to slap the strange creature away, but I can't. I'm trapped on my back, forced to stare at the creature leaning over me, suffocating me with his mere presence.
I've seen him three times. The first time was on Monday when I'd settled down to sleep with a nice warm cup of hot chocolate to soothe my whirring brain. I'd meditated a little on my brother's advice. He'd told me meditation soothed his anxieties, and I'd taken his recommendation on board. It hadn't relaxed my stress so far, but it was better than nothing, and I'd thanked my brother for trying to help.
I must have successfully meditated because I fell asleep fast that day. I'm not a good sleeper; I toss and turn and have to take the covers off and adjust the temperature all the time. That Monday, though, I had been very comfortable. So comfortable that I'd fallen asleep as soon as I fell into bed, despite the awful day I'd had at work. Mrs Johnson had threatened to fire me if I kept going off-script at her meetings. Fortunately, I had connections within my family that made my job as an accountant almost guaranteed for the near future, and I knew she couldn't sack me without complaints.
I'd fallen asleep easily that Monday, relaxed enough that my dreams had started tame. I was at a beach in Cornwall that I'd visited in my childhood, swimming in the beautiful cerulean waves. It was pleasant and welcome after the stressful day I'd had. The waves were like gentle hugs against my skin; warm and comforting and inviting. People were surrounding me, laughing and splashing around in the sea. Suddenly, the white clouds had turned grey, and the blue sky had transformed to solid black. The crowd had faded, and the noises dimmed until there was complete silence. It was just me, head bobbing above the surface as the waves grew stormier and lightning flashed down inches away from my face. I had tried to scream, but I couldn't make a sound. I just watched, unable to move, and that's when I had woken up.
When I'd woken up, I was shivering. It was as if I'd been swimming in the actual sea, which was impossible from my dreary flat in central London. Goosebumps were covering my skin, but it wasn't cold, and I'd found myself frozen. There was no sound in my bedroom apart from my shallow breathing. Still, I'd known deep within my heart that something else was in the room with me.
That was my first encounter with the demon. I’d had a similar experience not two days later. I'd sat immobile as the demon had come nearer, his pointed red fingers inching ever closer towards my exposed neck. In the dim light, I could see the scarlet skin of the creature, the bumps on his bald head, his jagged teeth. The demon had come so close it had felt like he was laughing against my cheek. His warm breath had pricked my skin like a wasp’s sharp sting. I'd wanted to run away, but I was incapable. Asleep, alone, and defenceless.
The demon was closer tonight.
I'd sensed him before I'd fallen asleep, knew he was planning on visiting this evening. My heart had been pounding in my chest. I was so scared that tonight was to be the night I met my death from the hands of a creature that I couldn't fight. I'd refused to sleep out of sheer terror. I'd tried my hardest to stay awake, drinking black coffee and eating an entire bag of Haribo to avoid crashing. Exhaustion had still gotten the better of me, and I'd fallen asleep on my back in my bedroom.
There was no nightmare this time. Just blackness, only disrupted when I felt the demon's aura suffocating me within my bedroom. My eyes felt like they were open, and I could see my room. There sat the chair in the corner with my dirty clothes waiting for the laundry. There was the untidy desk, with all my unopened mail, and a polished photo in the middle. There stood the imposing wardrobe, taking up most of my room, with the left door slightly ajar. It was all ruined by a horrific red glint, a reflection from the demon's flesh that marred the entire room, tainting my beloved bedroom.
The demon was smothering me with his lopsided body, which seemed to get larger. He enveloped the room until I could no longer see the dirty clothes or wooden wardrobe. His pointed fingers were around my neck. I could feel his flesh boiling my skin as he came closer until he was the only thing in my vision. I tried to breathe in my panic, tried to remember the meditation rules my brother had taught me. Breathe in for four, hold the breath for seven, exhale for eight, but I couldn't. Instead, I choked, unable to catch my breath. I tried again to move my limbs, to flail, to scream, but I couldn't make a sound.
The demon smiled at me, a wide grin revealing his jagged yellow teeth and the three spiked tongues in his mouth. He was horrific to look at. I didn't want this creature to be the last thing I saw before death, so I tried my hardest to turn my head and stare at the framed photograph on my desk. It was a picture of my mother in her early twenties, smiling at my father playing the piano in a bar on the day they met. I wanted my last memory to be of my parents, happy and in love and optimistic.
My brain felt fuzzy, and I couldn't even fathom doing the breathing exercises any longer. I felt like I was screaming, shouting at the top of my lungs, but no one heard me. I let the demon choke me, strangling me until everything went faint. The scarlet bedroom around me faded, and then I opened my eyes.
I could see a soft pink light coming through my curtains and the birds chirping. It was early and peaceful, and so very normal that I found the strength within me to breathe. I let out a choked cry as I felt the air fill my lungs and started my meditation exercises. In for four, hold for seven, out for eight. I raised my hand and smiled as I realised that I was no longer dreaming. I was free, awake, and safe from the demon that haunts my sleep.