The first glimpse of the ceiling and shortness of breath told him everything he needed to know about the events that were about to take place. He scanned the room left to right, up and down, looking for what he knew was inevitably coming.
Two years of restless nights and it still hasn’t settled down. Not even a little. Day after day he found it all the more difficult to focus on the task at hand, let alone enjoy himself outside of his daily obligations. Work became harder and harder, demeanor took a dive and his enthusiasm, or lack thereof, was becoming noticed by friends and coworkers alike. He’d tried everything that was available to him. Melatonin and prescriptions were a no go, often intensifying the nightmares that already tainted his nights. A few sleep studies that amounted to nothing more than hefty bills from the doctors. A cup of tea with a book in bed, worth a shot right? His optimism proved a failure.
On this night his unfortunate sleep habits took a turn for the worse and evolved into something far, far worse. His eyes opened slowly. Initial confusion set in. That feeling you sometimes get when you’re completely unaware of where you are hit him. You lay down for a nap at 30 years old and next thing you know its 9am and you just missed the school bus heading for 4th grade. A thought (or reality at the moment) like that passes quickly. What was happening was new and strange. And scary.
His grogginess faded and his eyes were now open and operating regularly. Peering to the backside of his right hand, he made multiple attempts to move his fingers. Nothing. Left was the same. He shot his sight towards his toes which stuck upwards, raising his blanket at the edge of the bed. He made an attempt to wiggle his toes, to no avail. Sweat now dropping from his brow down his temples, he began to grunt. After a few of these attempts to vocalize his way out of this stupor, this paralysis, the fear set in and the grunts turned into cries. Tears now added to the area of moisture on his pillow due to the sweat that was and continued to pour of off him.
It stood in the corner. The shadow. Enough light from the street lamps outside made its way through the window that he was able to make out its shape. Tall, skinny. The hands seemed large. More claw then hand and finger. Its body made a slow turn, shoulders rotating while the head stayed exactly where it was. Taking small exaggerated steps towards the opposite corner of the room like a cartoon character sneaking around, its gaze never left him. Motionless again, it stared. With every second passing the terror rose in him. He could feel pressure pushing down on him as he remained glued to the bed. The room emitting such malevolence. Sinking into the floor, it lost its height. Shadow collapsing into shadow. Crying, groaning, and squeezing his eyes as tight as he could. Anything to get his body moving. The limited light from outside the window lit up a small part of his chest and stomach. As his breathes came faster and faster, the light on his torso grew smaller. His eyes shot up to the corner of his head. Out of his peripherals he saw the shadow rise out of the floor by the top corner of his bed. Maybe a foot away. He was screaming internally. On the cusp of hyperventilating when the claw like hand rose and moved towards his face. Its touch was sharp and cut deep along his forehead. Disgusting noises come from its mouth. Raspy, long breathes followed by the sound of it collecting its saliva that coated its mouth in the form of a long slurp. His sight went black and he jolted up in bed violently. Sun now shone in the bedroom. Walking to the mirror on his dresser across the room he bends and looks at his face. Three streaks of dry crusted blood.
Knees tucked into his chest and his hands around his shins. He rocked back and forth shooting his eyesight from the ceiling to every corner of the bedroom. Curtains drawn back fully revealed a gray, desolate sky. After enduring the hours of the day following the events of the night prior he knew that eventually his body would shut down and he’d once again suffer the torment of what awoke at night, while he himself slept. There was a stillness inside his room. Fear kept him off of his bed. Two sleepless years was painful enough. Was this a single episode? A hallucination of his exhausted mind perhaps? Or was it a new chapter in his nightly torment. Over and over again he tried to convince himself that it would end.
The gray outside became black. He stood before the bedroom window, weak at the knees. Slow tears streamed from his eyes. His loops shook and he let out a sob. He turned to sit on the edge of his bed. One swung one leg at a time up on to the bed and tucked himself in, pulling the covers up and under his chin. When you’re young you’re told that under the blankets nothing can harm you. Feeling helpless, feeling scared, more scared then he’s ever been in his life, he closed his eyes.
A low, slimy voice came from the shadow. Speaking slowly it eyed him from top to bottom. “This…this is what awaits you at night. We decide….we decide when you see, and we decide when to take you…..and we will see you….again”. That voice that held in it so much depth and evil and pain turned into a high pitch screech. It reared its head back and smothered its face with its claws momentarily muffling its scream. More rose out of the floor, out of the shadows, one at a time. The screeches gaining pitch as they grew taller. They came from the walls and the ceiling. All around him now they inched closer and closer to the bed. The screeching halted and silence enveloped the bedroom. Eyes closing slowly, realization came to him. This was his life now. A waiting game. And every morning when he woke he would accept the monotony of daily life, only to make repeat the hell that was nighttime.
Six months passed and with it came six months of looking himself in the mirror every day, running his fingers slowly across the parallel scar tissue on his forehead. Stripped now of everything that he once was. Existing during the day, only to suffer at night. A lifeless-life. Whether they were going to show up on any given night he did not know. What he did know was this…
He never wanted to sleep again.