This is a true story. There is no exaggeration, this is exactly what happened.
I have no warning before it happens.
It’s true that I haven’t been sleeping well, and the nap on the sofa was probably a mistake. I didn’t think this would happen, this stomach-churning journey of horror.
First I wake. The middle of the night, still pitch-black outside. I’m lying on my back, the way I normally sleep.
I feel It in the room, a certain heaviness. It’s come to visit. I hear the bed creak as It sits down beside me.
It’s heavy, the bed is noticeably lower. I keep my eyes shut. If I believed in deities, now would be the time to start praying.
The pressure begins, hands making Their way up my body. To my breasts, I feel Them cup and press down on my breasts. I hear It’s heavy breath.
I begin to struggle, to free myself from the paralysis. I force my heavy eyelids open. There are shadows all around my room, unnaturally bright due to the full moon.
Where is It?
I move my body, turn slightly to the side. My breath is loud in my ears. My heart beats like a drum.
Where is It?
The shadow there, that’s a hanger on on the front of the wardrobe. The one opposite the bed, is that It? No, that’s the clothes stand. Is It crouched behind the bed? Looking in the window at me? The dark patch by the door, is that It?
My eyelids are heavy, I close them, and feel It return. Pressing me down, feeling my body. This unwelcome Visitor. This Creep. This Assailant.
Eyes open again. I force my legs to move, force my shoulders to shift. I’m so tired, so utterly tired. I want to relax into the welcoming embrace of sleep, but every time I do, It’s waiting there for me. Lurking. Haunting. I can’t see It, but I can still feel It there, just waiting for me to close my eyes again.
I shift further. I move my arms and legs, change the side I’m balanced on. I feel It stand up off the bed, hear the bed creak again, and Its malevolent presence seems to have gone.
I don’t trust It. I fumble to turn on the bedside light. My eyes hurt from the harshness.
My room is empty. There is no one in here but me. The door and windows are all closed. I hear creaks outside the door. Perhaps It’s waiting for me?
I pull out my laptop, force my exhausted brain to start reading something innocuous.
Force myself to calm down.
Force myself to stay awake until the sky begins to lighten.
The next night, I’m scared to go to bed, and to turn the light off. I turn the light back on. Someone has suggested I sprinkle rice or salt around my bed, to give It something to count, instead of bothering me. In the bright light of day, the idea seemed ridiculous. Now, it seems like a harmless thing to allay my worst fears.
I sprinkle a light amount of fine salt around my bed.
It doesn’t work.
This time It wakes me up lying down beside me, on the opposite side to the previous night. It’s in a more playful mood this night – it tugs my hair a couple of times. I think I hear a chuckle, and the bed creaks as It moves away.
The next night, I have a few drinks to help me sleep. The night after, some tablets. I couldn’t take another night of this.
Sleep paralysis. The Old Hag.
I have been assaulted by my own brain. Tricked, terrified and left feeling sick and exhausted.
I’ve had episodes since I was young, though it was only in the last fifteen years that they became as terrifying as this. They’re sporadic, and have happened in many different places. I’ve read that you’re supposed to ‘relax’ into them, and the feeling is supposed to go away. This doesn’t work. I’ve read that once you’ve woken up and moved, it won’t return. It does. I’ve read that drugs and/or alcohol are supposed to make them worse. They don’t.
The only common pattern I can find is sleep disruption, when I’ve either napped earlier in the evening or gone to bed earlier than usual.
I’ve told other people about them – sometimes I have to as the next day, I can be completely on edge and unsettled. Some insist that it must be something paranormal – a ghost, a malevolent spirit or demons. That’s what it feels like.
However, I’m a scientist. A pragmatist. No matter what tricks my brain is playing, I know that it’s just that, just tricks.
Or do I?