Lay Me Down
When sleep is torture, life is hell.
It’s around midnight, and I’m in my room shutting down my laptop and brushing my teeth. I text my girlfriend goodnight and go to spit in the sink of my cramped bathroom; then I see my face in the mirror. Except I don’t. Do you know what I mean? It’s like when you look down at your hands—do it right now so you know what I’m talking about—you look down at your hands, and you’re not sure if they’re really your hands. What makes them yours, really? The fact that you see them move when you want them to move? Well, sometimes they move when someone else wants them to move. Maybe you’ve never noticed that before, but I have.
Anyway, I see my face-but-not-my-face in the mirror, and I pause. I look into my eyes, yes, my own eyes. It’s very romantic and turns me on. Not in a weird way, you pervert, but in a way that makes me feel restless, like I’m anxious to see what is behind those eyes, even though I already know because they’re my eyes and I’m already behind them. But why do I feel like I’m not behind them when I look at them? It’s a paradox, really, and I deal with it every night.
Anyway, I finally lose the staring contest with myself and I spit in the sink. I wash out my mouth with some water, and I go to get in bed. First, I turn off my bathroom light, then I pull back the gray sheets and black comforter of my king size bed. I really hate my bed, to be honest. I hate it for a lot of reasons. First of all, it takes up my entire damn room. You’d think most people would love a king size (and I’m not saying I don’t appreciate it), but when your room is only the size of a king size bed you tend to feel claustrophobic. I also hate my bed because it can’t make me sleepy. It’s too…I don’t know. It’s just bad. Evil almost. Laying in my own bed is like looking into my own eyes: I get anxious ‘cause I can’t wait to lay in it, but I’m already laying in it and it’s just not what I was anticipating. Another paradox. I spend time thinking about those a lot.
Anyway, I pull back the sheets and I go to turn off my bedroom light, but then I realize I didn’t turn on my little black fan. So I kneel down and plug in my fan, and turn the switch to medium speed like always. Whirrrrrrr. Ah, there we go. Music to my ears. You know, I used to listen to music to fall asleep, and it helped tremendously, but I didn’t want to become dependent on it for sleep so I stopped. I planned on going into the military and realized that I probably couldn’t blast The Beatles in the barracks. So now I’m dependent on a fan. At least it’s better than sleeping pills.
Anyway, I turn on my fan and I rise to my feet to flip off my bedroom lights. I scan my room for a moment, make sure the path to my bed is clear, and…black. Dark. Can’t see. Whatever is behind my eyes doesn’t matter now because my eyes can’t see and I can’t see my eyes. I turn in the direction of what I hope is my bed as I lift my hands out in front of me like a zombie. My eyes are open, I know, but they don’t feel open so it doesn’t matter. What I do feel, is a tiny, creepy prickling sensation on my back and neck. Now, I know you know what I’m talking about this time. Those little black fingers that feel like demons tickling your brain stem? And that spiny part of your neck? And the top of your back and shoulders? Yeah, you know. You’ve felt it. Maybe you feel it now. ‘Cause they’re always there, you know. It’s just like how they move your hands for you sometimes—they move your thoughts too. That’s what the tickling is. They’re sending their little hellish messages through your skin pores, straight into your nerves, up into your brain. Then your brain gets all tarry and corrupted and it starts to turn black like the fiends that stalk you, and you start thinking thoughts that aren’t yours and seeing things that aren’t there—or are there. It doesn’t matter either way ‘cause you see them. So, to you, they’re there.
Anyway, after frantically waving my hands around in the dark, I finally make contact with the semi-smooth cloth that makes up my sheets. I run my dry hands over their sort-of-scratchy surface and quickly climb into bed and lay down on my back. I grab my covers with some ferocity and fear, and pull them up hard to my throat. Eventually, the poisonous tickling fades, although I feel a little tingle where corruption still seeps in. Some of those demons don’t know when to stop. I don’t know if they get cocky or just extra playful, but occasionally their behavior goes way south. You know how I said they move your hands? The demons? Well, the reason you probably didn’t know before is because you’re not supposed to know at all. ‘Cause then you try to fight, and they don’t like that. They love their superiority and anonymity, they get high on the power of control. So, if you ever notice them controlling you, just let it happen; it’s easier that way.
Anyway, I lie wide awake in bed for an hour or two like always. Sometimes my eyes are shut tightly, sometimes they’re open and glazed over. It doesn’t matter whether they’re opened or closed, ‘cause I either see things on the walls and ceiling of my room, or I see things on the walls of my eyelids. So, I lay awake for a long time, my mind wandering randomly and unintentionally down different paths, much like this story. I start thinking one thought and then that thought goes off and gets lost in the darkness, carried away by who-knows-what. On of the demons maybe. And then my brain says, “Anyway,” when it reclaims the original thought, but invariably my mind always gets sidetracked like I am right now.
So, anyway…I’m laying there and I’m laying there and I’m laying there and…suddenly I’m asleep. I don’t know when I fell asleep, but then again, we never do, right? Sorry, I’ll try to stay focused, I promise. Like I promised myself tonight that I’ll finally be able to sleep through the night without taking a fear-stricken, sweaty-palmed, adrenaline-pumped leap of faith at my bathroom light switch. If I could remember the last time I slept through the night without light…well I’d be telling that story instead. Actually, I wouldn’t be telling any stories at all—I’d be asleep. Gosh, I did it again didn’t I? I got all off track. I really am sorry, I promise I try. I really do. But if I knew how to fix this, then I would. Believe me—I wanna fix it more than you do. Just picture if every single night you had to go through this: you had to suffer through this story, a constant stream of consciousness. I hate consciousness. I hate beds and sleep. But I’m so in love with sleep at the same time. You know how it is—you only want worse that which you can’t have at all. The more she evades you the more you fall in love with her, the stronger and more desperate your infatuation, your obsession, grows. A cruel cycle, probably stemming from my messed-up circadian cycle. I must have been meant to be a raccoon or something, ‘cause I swear I have an infinite burst of energy at night, and the sweet, warm, yellow sunlight sedates me into sleepiness. That just feels right to me. But, alas, society says it can’t be so. You work nine to five, not five to nine. Pity.
So, I was sleeping. I wake up. But I don’t. My eyes can see better than before, even though my room feels darker than before. That’s the key; it feels darker. You can feel them, the demons, especially when they’re under your skin, in your bones, sipping from your blood, gnawing on your brain and heart. It hurts. Torture, like I said. So, I’m laying their limp and fear-stricken. Through my vision I see blue-purple darkness cast about my room. Unfortunate that my ceilings are so high, probably fourteen of fifteen feet when the average is eight or nine, but my room is so tiny. First, I realize that my body is in sleep paralysis, a common affliction. No big deal, I say to myself, maybe I can fall back asleep easily. Not the case, ‘cause the screaming starts. I don’t know if it’s actually screaming, but my ears feel like they become giant black holes, sucking in everything in the room with blast of ice-cold air, making a whooooooosssshhhhhhhhhing sound. I can feel the fear-inducing tug on the teeny feeler hairs that cover my ears, vacuuming all that is evil into my head. The screaming accompanies the rapid, whooshing airflow like this perpetual blood-curdling roar of terror, high-frequency and rough and spiky. And black. Somehow the screaming makes me see black mixed with a deep red glint. And the screaming gets louder and louder and closer and closer, and then it feels like its between my ears, the source of the sucking. Do you know what it’s like to have a demon’s mouth inside your skull? Crying and siphoning all things horrific and evil? Well, it’s not as bad as when your back starts to arch, painfully contracting at an angle unfit for the human anatomy, twisting spine and cracking ribs; your head rears back, and you feel the muscles in your neck tightening and tying themselves in knots ‘cause at least that’s not as painful as resisting the thing that moves you; and your mouth pours open and maybe your vocal cords are shaking but you can’t tell because there’s too much banging on your eardrums already. But worst of all, so much worse than the involuntary contractions which I could at least argue are my own reactions to fear—so much worse is when your arm moves, slowly and deliberately, at something else’s volition besides yours; when your hand grips the sheets you curl so desperately into; when your hand grips those sheets and peels them back from your naked body, letting the freezing, icicle-sharp air tear into your bed, scrape over your skin and stab into your pores; and the next thing you know every inch of your body is being simultaneously penetrated with that pin-pricking, fear-induced demonic tickling, and you know you don’t control yourself anymore. Some thing is inside you, commanding all parts of you. You’re a vessel, a husk, a tool, a source of valuable energy, and you’re essentially dead. ‘Cause you can’t sleep. And you stay there frozen—an abandoned ice-sculpture, a monument to the sins of devils, locked in a perpetual purgatorial state of existence. Or half-existence, I don’t know…all I know is that in those moments I don’t exist wholly, at least not as a human being. I can’t tell if it’s permanent, if some demonic poison lingers in my veins, or if some shard of a devil is embedded in my bones. All I know is that when I look down at my hands now, I don’t see just my hands anymore. When I look into my own eyes I can’t tell what’s behind them anymore. What is behind my eyes?
Any…way, finally the screaming ceases, the contractions release, my jaw can close again, and I spend another night sweating and shivering in my bedsheets, a sliver of bathroom light cutting through my face. I suffer there all night, afraid to fall back asleep lest those hellish fiends rape my limp and open body once more. That’s what it is. It’s rape. Rape of the body, the mind, and the soul. Such deep penetration punctures holes in my black and sickly heart, saps energy from my muscles and sucks the marrow from my bones, corrodes my brain matter and violates the substance of my soul. Darkness, darkness, darkness…let me sleep just once.