Waking up in the middle of the night is always terrible. The house is always too quiet and the room is always too dark, even with the little blue light from your filter flickering against the hardwood floors and the yellow painted wall. If you stare too much at them, they will look like they’re moving, and you hate that, even though you know they aren’t actually moving. Remember that week leading up to your midterms, the nights you stayed up through just to fill your head with everything involving those stupid ancient civilizations and all those convoluted math formulas, and all that other high school bullshit that wouldn’t mean a damn thing, even when you finally arrived in college? Fuck, remember those nights you spent on that one essay you had to mail to your professor? Those were all nightmares. Shadows moving, giggles that seemed to come from the darkness in your closet, that chill that was enough to freeze your blood—ugh, don’t ever do that again. Please, please try to be a good student next semester. Procrastination is just not worth it.
(Of course, even you know that’s going to be a futile wish anyway—)
This night is different, something you quickly realize when you attempt to turn your head. It doesn’t move.
Believe it or not, panic is not the first reaction you feel. It’s just your bones acting strange. That’s uncommon, but it definitely isn’t new. (Your jaw tends to lock when you open it too wide—something that worries your parents and dentist.) Everything’s perfectly, perfectly fine. Just try to turn your head again.
It doesn’t work.
Being paralyzed is an…interesting experience, you realize. The first thing that is felt is your neck, how the joints are locked in place, refusing to move, even when you attempt to move your head. It’s almost as if some force is holding your cheek to the pillow, not exactly digging their claws (Why claws?) into your skin, but still applying a pressure that is difficult to fight. Then you try to move your other limbs, such as your arms, but they don’t move either. Your entire body is frozen in place, held down by that same, unyielding pressure.
That’s about the time you realize how hard your heart is pounding, how difficult it is to breathe properly. You’re not even sure if you’ve started to cry or not. You can’t feel really feel anything except your frozen bones. After a few more minutes of this—including the routine of attempts to move and just lying still—you start to become desperate.
Being a young woman on the cusp of twenty, it is obviously embarrassing and immature to be crying out for your parents. You haven’t done that ever since you were four years old and still having nightmares of your dolls coming to life and killing you for reasons you don’t even know yourself. (Chucky is a little bastard who should just die and burn in hell, along with his dumbass franchise. Enough said.) The difference between now and then, however, is that what’s happening now isn’t a nightmare, and it most certainly isn’t something you came up with inside your head.
So you open your mouth, already preparing to yell out for your parents, maybe even your younger siblings, anyone—
And there’s nothing.
What comes out of your mouth isn’t really a sound. You can’t even close your mouth and try to prepare yourself for another yell. It’s almost as if you’re choking, but it’s not, because you’re still breathing, you’re still alive, but you can’t move, God, this feels so wrong and no one knows what’s happening, and Fuck, why is this happening?
There’s a sound that comes from the other side of the room, and your eyes immediately dart to the source. There are two problems, however. One: the headboard is blocking your view of the other side, which is a problem because you can’t sit up and look over. Two: you realize just how dark the room is, how easy it would be for someone to sneak up here and kill you (and your sister), especially since you’re in such a vulnerable state.
What if you’re dying right now?
Another sound from across the room—this time sounding very much like laughter.
Someone else is in the room.
When you open your eyes, it’s a sunny morning that is neither too cold nor too hot—an unorthodox morning in Winter. The digital clock on your sister’s dresser tells you that it’s nine o’clock, still early enough for you to prepare for that one-forty class you feel neutral about. You take a deep breath and sit up to stretch your arms above your head. The bones creak, the muscles loosen up, and you feel refreshed.
When you lay back down—just to doze, a little—the memory of last night comes back. Something sickening and terrible tasting causes your stomach to clench, even though you know you should feel relieved. You curl into a near fetal position and take deep, calming breaths, actually feeling relieved that you can feel your limbs, that you can move again, and that there really wasn’t anyone else in the room. The laughter you heard was from your teenage sister, with whom you’ve been sharing the room ever since you were eleven. She’s always either laughing in her sleep, or during her secret, late night phone calls to her “friend”. You shouldn’t have been so scared. Last night was probably just another nightmare. Everything’s fine now.