Sleeping Wide Awake


The unknown intrigued me as a kid – the supernatural, UFOs, anything unexplained. The real world was just too concrete. There had to be something more, something that transcended even imagination.

My cousins were like-minded. Whenever we got together for birthdays or whatever (and with such a big family, there were lots of occasions), we’d talk about this stuff endlessly.

I loved it, loved these conversations, but come the night, I would struggle getting to sleep. Talk about ghosts? Well, I was sure to see them. Hauntings? My bedroom would be unveiled as a hub of poltergeist activity just ready to emerge. Demons? They’d be coming.

I would lie there in bed, eyes closed, and sure if I opened them some face would be leering over me. This was the time I would connect to something I wanted no part of. When I finally drifted off to sleep, it was laden with nightmares.

I was susceptible this way. Talk about, read about, or watch something scary and it would stay with me. The day held no fears. Scary things don’t lurk in the daylight. But night was something different. At night, the veil fell away and every possibility existed. My interest in the topic was the invitation for these things to reach out to me. (I haven’t actually changed that much.)

But I always gravitated to it.

One time, when I was twelve, I watched a documentary that talked about sleep paralysis. It related how people would wake up, unable to move, and feeling like they couldn’t breathe. This was allegedly caused by a ghost sitting on your chest sucking the air out of their lungs.

Typically, I woke that night (or early morning), unable to move and struggling to breathe. I couldn’t see anything seated on my chest, but I could feel the weight, as well as the constriction spreading, like cracks across a pane of glass, through my torso. There was something here. There was something with me. On me.

The terror that filled me was brief but incendiary, threatening to incinerate all composure until … well, who knew what would remain?

I closed my eyes, braced myself through it, and somehow – through no design of my own – rediscovered sleep.

It was my first experience with sleep paralysis.

It has no relevance now.

But it does later.