He comes in the morning when the clock strikes 1:00.
I’m struggling to hold on to my sister hanging from a cliff. I don’t know how we’re in the midst of an Armageddon, running for our lives and fighting off demons. Like quicksand, the ground beneath us is pulling us towards the earth’s core. Each step feels so heavy it pulls our feet down as we try to outrun them. Every time we stop, the ground below us starts falling like the earth was hungry for a million years and now it’s ready to swallow us whole so we keep running. Sometimes it feels like my joints have given up, and I’m only running because I think I am. I feel every little pain; I can feel the small scraps of stones bouncing up and hitting me as I run past it; there are broken glasses, nails and sharp edged pebbles that poke through my worn out sneakers and into my feet. I can feel all the open wounds. I can feel them throbbing. I can feel the blood soaking through my socks.
And then suddenly, like nothing happened, everything comes to a halt. Eerie stillness envelops us, as my breath finally starts to normalize. I turn to look at my sister but I can’t see her. Frantically, I’m crying out her name and looking around only to realize that we’re almost at the peak of the hill. There’s nothing but dust that covers the valleys around us. I hear my name but it sounds like it’s coming from underneath the ground. I place my ear to the ground and slither my way towards the sound. Finally, I’m at the edge of the cliff and she’s there, hanging by a branch. Almost involuntarily, I fling my arm towards her, desperately trying to reach her. I got a hold of her right hand but I can feel my body getting hot; it starts from my head- it starts to feel like it’s going to explode from pressure, then my ears get warmer. I can feel the sweat beginning to gather near my temples, my palms are also getting sweaty. I can feel her slowly slipping through my fingers. I can feel the sweat from my brows, gathering at the tip of my nose, leaving my body and falling. I’m watching it free fall, trying if I can see it reach the bottom, listening for a splatter. I don’t hear it reach the bottom. My heart is pounding right out of my chest. I’m barely holding on with my feet buried in the gravel.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE DIE IN OUR DREAMS?
Before I could wander off into that thought; in a flash, mustering inhuman-like strength, I yank her whole body up and we lay panting and gasping for air. That’s something admirable about dreams. Anything is possible; nothing is impossible. We just burst out laughing for a good few seconds. This feels weirdly wholesome. Like clockwork, it’s 1:00 AM in the real world but I have no way of knowing this because I’ve been told you can’t tell time in a dream. It’s got something to do with our left and right hemispheres; like how one works without the other.
The brain is perpetually in a complicated relationship; sometimes it prefers to work alone and sometimes it’s a needy friend who constantly craves for attention from the other side. I say this because I’ve read that when one part of our brain tries to sleep more quickly than the other, we are jolted awake. Talk about petty!
Right on cue, my body also responds with a jolt. And suddenly I realize that I can’t move.
Oh no. Not this again!
It’s midsummer and I hardly have a blanket on me but it feels like boulders and boulders of rocks atop me. I’m screaming for help but nothing escapes my mouth other than frail breaths. My jaws are so heavy. The pain is excruciating.
10 years ago, at a campfire, my friend told me to “always move your toes” when you feel like you’re trapped or you can’t move or talk in your sleep. And I’ve remembered that even after all these years because I’ve had to use that more often than I would like to admit. I don’t quite understand the logic to it but I don’t think she did either. It’s just one of those things you say and it passes on from one to the next.
The gut wrenching moment comes when I realize that this is happening in real time. I’m awake and aware of what is happening to my body. I can feel the stiffness in my bones. My breaths: short and stunted. I can feel the room- I can feel the breeze from the open window beside my bed, I can hear the rattling of the ceiling fan above me and I can feel his presence at the edge of my bed. So quiet, so tall, he hovers over my bed. I wonder why he isn’t doing anything. I’m anticipating an attack. Isn’t that always the case? The action in itself isn’t nearly as horrific as the anticipating thought.
“It’s always darkest before the storm” because I guess, at least we see lightning in the storm.
My eyes are shut. I don’t know if I’m trying to keep them shut or if I am unable to open them. The darkness somehow, is so comforting. I could turn on my bedside lamp but the horror of seeing something in the light paralyzes me. My limbs are rigid. I can’t move my body, not the slightest bit; not even to touch my Bible that I keep under my pillow. And I’m thinking of all the ways that I can find comfort if I just reached under my pillow. It’s not that far away- if I just turn, if I just shrug my shoulder a little, if I just move my head towards it, if I just…
There’s just something about being bested by your own subconscious that breaks you as a human being.
I don’t want to give up but as I’m struggling, he’s smirking at my feeble attempts, hushing me, drying my tears. He climbs onto the bed, lies down beside me and holds me. My back is turned to him and he lifts his head, his lips pressed to my ear, and whispers, “never sleep again.” I feel a gush of wind enter my ear like someone tried to blow dry it. Suddenly I can open my eyes. I’m in a fetal position, in a pool of my own sweat. The curtains are dancing with the rhythm of the breeze and I reach under my pillow.