I can’t recall the exact date of the following experience, but if I were to offer a guess, I’d say it was sometime in the mid-to-late ’90s. If I were to be quite honest, I’d rather not dwell too heartily on the details of that night. For a longtime atheist like myself to admit something like this, speaks generously to the imprint that night left on the small part of me back then that still feared the idea of anything “supernatural”. Nowadays, I reserve no disdain for any talk of “ghosts and goblins”. In my teens, however, ’twas a very different story. Perhaps the incident was caused by a sort of residual psychosis from the Catholic-Church-going-days of my youth. Maybe it was my unabashed tendency to watch films a youngling of few years never should have watched. Whatever the cause, it happened. That much is clear; and as part of Chuck Wendig’s Flash Non-Fiction Challenge, for your entertainment (and because All Hallows’ Eve will arrive in just a few, short weeks’ time), the details of said experience in five, four, three, two, one….
I remember it was a Friday. Back then, before the ubiquitous mobile was such a typical sight amongst the hands of folks going about their day, if you wanted to know what shenanigans would be on the agenda for that upcoming evening, you had to make a pit-stop by the house and check your landline. On this particular Friday, I made an executive decision to stay in. Whether my decision to remain sedentary for the rest of my evening was due to exhaustion or merely a byproduct of my innate anti-social behavior, I couldn’t tell you. Either way, I was looking forward to turning in early. The remaining hours were quite uneventful: a bit of reading, followed by some mindless channel-surfing, concluding with the typical pre-slumber face-washing and teeth-brushing. Once all of the standard bedtime preparations were complete, I tucked myself in, and allowed the darkness to lull me into the arms of sleep.
Several hours deep into my REM cycle, I slowly awoke from my repose; or so I believed. My eyes were open, but my body….my body was non-responsive. I couldn’t move my arms, nor my legs. I felt small glimpses of sensation in my fingertips, but those too were, for lack of a better description, dead. Everything was dead. All I could do was stare. It was as if I was coherent enough to mind my surroundings, yet this coherence was veiled and disrupted as if trying to see one’s reflection through a fog-covered mirror. The room was all but pitch-black, save for the little bit of illumination provided by the artificial light seeping through my blinds from the street outside. Night had yet to transition into day, and my digital alarm clock told me it was nearly 4am. But, something else caught my unblinking eyes: a shadow. A form tall enough to be a person, yet not completely shaped like one, standing at the corner-end of my bed, motionless and sentinel-like. I can’t explain how I knew, or maybe I didn’t, and the witching hour was playing subtle games with my perception, but I felt as if this “thing” was watching me. Not moving, or breathing – just staring; and all I could do was stare back. I felt a panic begin to rise in me, my pulse elevated a bit more by a feeling of fear. I stared until my focus became obstructed, an obstruction brought about by darkness. The light previously illuminating my field of vision was now dissipating. Everything was now fading away. Then, the room began to spin. I felt myself lifting and turning, unable to stop. I couldn’t see anything, just felt my body twisting and moving out of control, moving up and towards the ceiling. Fear took hold, completely embracing my every thought; and then, nothing. A sudden halt, and all movement was stationary again. I slowly opened my eyes. I was laying on my side, head comfortably sunken into the pillow. But the fear, the fear remained. A chill ran like an electrical current throughout my body as I lifted my head. All basic motor skills had returned. I rolled over to my left, half-expecting to see something, the panic beginning to rise again. I reached out for my lamp and turned it on. The room was empty, just as I had left it. I wiped the “sleep” from my eyes and got up. I walked to the bathroom and relieved my bladder, washing my hands afterwards and splashing cold water into my eyes. That was one hell of a dream, I told myself. Or was it? Growing up and being surrounded by folks who believed in things such as Heaven and Hell, ghosts, demons, angels, the Devil, and Jesus only assisted in validating my thoughts and exacerbating my fear. At the time, the skepticism of my present was in its infancy, so my mind had a meager and pathetic arsenal of knowledge and wisdom to counter thoughts of a supernatural variety. I trekked back to my bedroom, deciding that I was in no shape to reason with myself or reflect. It was nearly dawn after all, and I was still quite out-of-it. I laid my head down and tried my best to sleep some more, unsure whether I would succeed or not, doing my best to block any further thoughts. Though, I was mildly comforted by the slow egress of night. The lamp, however, stood on….just in case. Better to be safe than sorry.