It was the night I couldn’t fall asleep.
Writhing and squirming to the howl of the wind, I lay awake, cocooned in my bed. I turned over once again, shoving my ears against my pillow whilst the howl became a shrill shriek, as if a helicopter was poised over our house.
I need to sleep. I’m tired and uncomfortable and I can’t settle on a position… laying on my side: tried that. Laying on my front: tried that. Laying on my other side: tried that. Laying on my back: well, trying that at the moment. I will the gushes of wind to transform into a lullaby, to serenade me to sleep.
Trying to sleep is hard when you keep thinking about sleeping – you start to overthink and begin to forget what your eyes should feel like. At once I know my eyelids are pressing down too hard and I’m concentrating too much.
Only after enduring this agitation, my eyes finally begin to feel heavy and I fall asleep.
You’re at a desk in a classroom. You don’t recognise where you are or perhaps you do but you merely can’t comprehend. Around you are walls embellished with posters and signs of the academic sort but in the dream, you do not notice what they say nor even care.
You’re the only person in the room.
You let out a breath and white fog surges in front of your eyes, clarifying the cold of the room.
You sense that you are stuck to the chair you’re sitting on… though you haven’t tried standing up yet, the logic only ever found in dreams convinces you that your thesis is correct.
You start rocking back and forth on the chair. You begin by testing your nerve, trying to see how far you dare to go back as well as testing the ability of the chair legs not to snap underneath you. The movement becomes addictive. Each departure backwards is met by returning forward, ribs pierced against the desks edge. Adrenaline forces you to swing back from the desk; fear forces you to swing forward again.
Back and forth.
Back and forth.
Back and forth.
And you’re lulled you into some kind of hypnosis. The energy of the room – the colour, the shape, the cold – transforms into kinetic energy and all you’re aware of is back and forth and back and forth and back and forth until you are just going backwards. There is no momentum - this world is weightless.
Finally, the balances break and suddenly it’s just you falling backwards on the chair into absolute void.
When I jolt awake, my forehead smashes into something leaning over me.
I open my mouth, open it so wide my jaws creak but lips stay closed, stifling the scream I didn’t have any breath to let out anyway.
I close my eyes again because this isn’t real. The head was still only inches above mine; I could feel the cool silk of its hood brushing from my eyelids to my cheeks.
I open my eyes and as if sensing my observing, it tilted its head, revealing to me its grotesque face.
It wasn’t the serrated smile or the two holes where a nose should be or the drooling lips or the mould-caked skin that paralysed me - it was none of these, though any one of them might well have driven anyone to insanity. It was the eyes. I’ve seen darkness before, the kind that makes streets look like an old fashioned photographs, everything a variation of grey. Its eyes weren’t like that. This was the darkness that robs you of your best sense and replaces it with an insurmountable fear. In its eyes were the disturbing capacity for violence.
There was no sound in the house.
I order my lungs to draw in air but they ignore me. My airways collapse, tighten and squeeze. I feel my ribs heaving as if bound by ropes, straining to inflate my lungs. Dread has my stomach locked up tight, nothing getting in or out. I was jammed in some limbo of sitting up and laying down.
I realised that it hadn't been floating over me, but rather was positioned in some kind of crouch at the side of my bed, and looked as if it was ready to launch up and attack its prey.
The creature drew up and the rest of its body unfolded: I noticed it was tall, almost all the way to the ceiling, and very thin, wearing a long black cloak that covered everything except that horrific face. An ineffable hate chanted from its body - a determined fury. The moon and stars would have cowered behind the clouds.
My legs were screaming at me to run.
It began pacing my room but its eyes were still intent on mine. The movement was almost comedic, the incessant back and forth, a caricature of an evil villain. Each footstep elicited a shudder in the room, creaking the bedframe and all other objects in my room. I was the single still thing in the room.
Light was penetrating through my window, creating an elaborate shadow of the creature, a darker shorter twin who mirrored its every step and action. Shadows from the bare tree branches outside urged by the wind twisted around on the bedroom walls, resembling thin arms writhing and stretching, creating a shadow puppet performance of the dance-macabre.
There was no sound in the room, not even the sound of its pacing.
I started feeling a prickling in my right hand and gradually I became able to lift it.
The creature hesitated and took a few advancing strides, regaining its crouching position beside me. It wasn’t human though certainly not an animal. Gradually the creature leaned closer to me, closer than it had been before until I could feel its stale breath assault my cheek.
And then a whisper out of the silence:
“Just coming to say goodnight”
And with that, the creature stood up one last time.
My lungs were losing their immobility and I could finally let out one small whimper. It was met with a conceited smirk from the creature. My heart was gaining back its beat, pounding and thrashing against my ribcage.
The creature slowly, slowly slinked to my doorway.
My eyelids were the next to regain movement, followed by my neck, then my jaw, my arms, my back until I had fully broken out of my rigor mortis.
Standing in my doorway was the creature and its dark eyes were starting to expand in its head. The grew larger and larger until the grotesque darkness engulfed the figure. The creature had been sucked into the vacuum of its eyes.
The intruder had left.
I was alone.
The coolness I felt on my cheek brought me back to my senses; in the extremity of my terror I had begun to weep.
An unwelcome wail interrupted the silence. I recognised it was coming from me. A dam had been cracked open inside me, unleashing a torrent of raw sobs that wracked my body, exhaustion consuming every cell in my body. With every second I practically felt the rise of my blood pressure. The creatures cold whisper was still imprinted on my cheek.
In my grief I was left with one question as I swung my legs off the bed: what was I supposed to do now?