Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Short Story: Too Terrified to Go to Sleep - The Fear of Night Terrors by Lily Verlaine

Artist: John Henry Fuseli 

Jason struggled to open his eyes as the oppressive pressure on his chest became overbearing, he could sense a presence in the room and felt a great weight pushing down on him as he struggled to catch his breath. As his eyes opened slightly he saw the shadowy figure above him in the dimly lit bedroom. It was a female presence and he began to panic as he realised he that he could not move. No matter how hard he willed his body to move, nothing happened. What was happening to him and why? As the moments ticked by, his fear grew. Finally his arms and legs responded and he sat up, finding himself alone in the room and shaken by this frightening visitation. He found it difficult to fall back to sleep and wondered what had happened. Had he somehow been violated? Off and on during the next day he shuddered as he thought back on the unearthly presence he had encountered in his bed room. He had experienced what is known as a Night Terror or sleep paralysis, and has been encounted throughout out the centuries

Jason’s experience, surprisingly, is not as unusual or far fetched as you might think, and is certainly not the most dramatic report of what is sometimes referred to as an incubus attack. Or in his case it may be more appropriate to call it a succubus attack as that is the term used to denote the demonic female presence. This kind of experience is not restricted to the Western world alone and is commonly reported around the globe, but in different forms, in England and America it has commonly been known as the Old Hag, frightening and overwhelmingly realistic, these experiences are another example of a specific kind of sleep paralysis. She sits or “rides” the chest of the victims, rendering them immobile. They can be hypnopompic (occurring while awakening) or hypnagogic (occurring while falling asleep) and are associated with frightening imagery or hallucinations. The original definition of sleep paralysis was first used by Samuel Johnson in his A Dictionary Of The English Language as ‘nightmare’, a term that evolved into the definition we use today. Such sleep paralysis was widely considered the work of demons or to be more specific incubi which were thought to sit on the chests of sleepers. In Old English the name for these beings was mare which explains the mare part in nightmare.

The idea of the incubus attack is based in the medieval lore of the nocturnal demonic visitation. In one version of this lore, the demon is able to take on both male and female human shape and potentially impregnate a woman. The word incubus is derived from Late Latin There are references to incubus as far back as the Sumerian period .Incubi were thought to be demons who had sexual relations with women, sometimes producing a child by the woman. Succubi, by contrast, were demons thought to have intercourse with men.

Debate about the demons began early in the Christian tradition. There were too many attacks by incubi to deny them. It became generally accepted that incubi and succubi were the same demon, able to switch between male and female forms. A succubus would be able to sleep with a man and collect his sperm, and then transform into an incubus and use that seed on women. Even though sperm and egg came from humans originally, the spirits’ offspring were often thought of as supernatural. Perhaps in some cases during the dark ages and medieval period it became a good way for a wife to explain away a pregnancy that had occurred whilst her husband was away fighting in one of the many wars of those troubled times! Accounts of sleep paralysis can be found in Persian medical texts dating back to the 10th century. It was believed to be caused by demons or spiritual possession until the 19th century, when it was termed “sleep palsy” and eventually “sleep paralysis” in medical texts.

Night Terrors of course can take other forms, here a few that people claim to have encountered,

…..“I’ve never had any visual encounters but when it happened the first time I was laying on my left side and started to feel that pressure on my chest. When I realized I was paralyzed and started panicking, something whispered in my ear “Just coming in to say goodnight.” That’s when I felt like something was pushing me towards the edge of my bed. Terrifying shit.

I saw a cat sized shadow creature at the base of my bed and it slowly crawled up on to my sheets and finally up to my chest. I felt uncomfortable.

Another time I saw a shadow-man walking around my room, disappearing behind my open door. This was the scariest one I’ve had so far”.

“……I have a few different “sleep paralysis demons” and one sort of “sleep paralysis guardian angel”. The demon ones are the usual shadowy figure standing over me or by my bedroom door. The worst one was while I was lying on my side with my back to the door and it felt like someone got into bed behind me. Under the covers and put their arm round my waist. Then it felt like they were cuddling into me and I could feel breath on my neck. It felt like they cuddled me for about half an hour. All this time I’m trying not to show that I’m panicking because it feels like I’m getting cuddled by a skeleton with claws. It was only about the second, maybe third time I’d had sleep paralysis, so I nearly had a heart attack when this thing feels like its moving in closer to kiss me behind the ear. Worst of all it whispered “Not yet. You’re not ready yet. I’ll come back when you are.” To me it sounded disappointed and excited. It felt like it was silently telling me it meant that it was coming back when I was about to die. Scared the fucking shit out of me!…..!”

.“….Before I learned to cope with it I’ve seen quite a few awful things. Horror films don’t really do anything for me anymore because I’ve already seen the most terrifying things I already could. Here’s a few things I remember off the top of my head:

A little girl in the corner of my room staring at me. Then, without notice, she shrieks and runs up and starts choking me.

A large dark figure, kind of a human silhouette, emerging from the foot of my bed and staring down at me.

Something banging and scraping on my bedroom door. I keep it locked at night because I have had ones where it opens by itself. EDIT: No, the door isn’t open when I wake up. It only opens in the dream.

My bedroom door opening by itself followed by dark figures coming into my room.

The earliest one I can remember is with my mother in the room and she’s sitting on my bed, her face morphs into a demon like thing.

Many others.

The worst thing is when you try to fight or call for help. Your voice doesn’t work and your body will not respond. You just feel helpless. Ugh, I need to stop trying to remember these things. I’m getting chills….. ”

 “…I have experienced sleep paralysis literally hundreds of times. To me, it’s usually a slick, black alien-type creature about four feet tall, although I have seen a grim-reaper type figure as well. I don’t tend to get auditory hallucination, so keeping my eyes closed pretty well negates the entire experience (except for the actual feeling of paralysis…..”

“….I’ve gotten mine so frequently that I don’t even freak out about it anymore. It’s still scary, but not nearly as much as it used to be. The first few hallucinations were awful:

A little creature eating something on my floor. I blink. Now he’s right next to my face chewing on something and whispers “Remember me?”

An old lady standing over my head and whispers “Darling…” I told my mom about that one and she asked if I thought it was my late grandma? No. It was evil.

The hallucinations are always evil. Even if I can’t see anything, there is an overwhelming presence in the room and it is always evil. I can’t move. I’m stuck. The evil is pulling on me deeper and deeper. I can’t cry for help. I can only breath heavily as fast as I can. Hoping someone will hear me breathing so loud and will come shake me out of it. I try and move a finger. Come on finger! Why won’t you just move?! It’s going to get me!…”

“.. My first and only time I seen someone transform was from dream to reality. I was dreaming, it was this pleasant dream of a person you like very much, a crush. Then I realized I was dreaming, so it turned into a lucid dream. And all of a sudden I open my eyes, and the face aged like in Indiana Jones movie when he drinks from the wrong grail, it also turned dark, and from lush, vivid environment around her, it turned black, dark it was my room in darkness, and above me this aged old face of woman, similar to the picture op showed. And at the top of it I couldn’t move, I felt pressure on my chest, and it was aging before me..”.

“…Mine are a lot more evil than that and usually not on my body. My last experience was a demon in the corner of my room (behind me where I couldn’t see) speaking some sort of gibberish.

Other times it’s things walking toward me totally Jacob’s Ladder style as in they move toward almost hyper speed but very slow and their legs don’t match their movements. A lot of the time if it isn’t a demon, it’s someone I know, but they’re possessed. Often laughing at me….”.

“….One night as I was trying to fall asleep, my arm fell through the bed. Obviously my physical arm was still laying on the bed. Usually when this happens I just pick my arm up, but this time I got curious. How long would it last? So I started waiving my arm around, and my shoulder slipped through. This was new, and exiting. I moved my fingers around, swung my arm around some more, and got bold….”

I consciously attempted to push my head through the bed. It worked. But, what I saw was nothing. I don’t mean I couldn’t see, but it was as if something was in fact nothing in this place. I must sound totally bonkers right now.

I could feel, though, that there was something. Farther away. My fear being exactly zero at this point, and my curiosity impossible to control, I threw caution to the wind, and tried to reach out as far as I could for whatever it was I could feel out there.

Big mistake. My leg slipped. The rest of my torso slipped. My other arm slipped, and my hips started to fall in. At the very last moment, when my left leg was all that was attached, and it was about to go, I realized somehow that what I was reaching for was NOT a thing I wanted to interact with. There was fear. Of an intensity equal to my rage during sleep paralysis. Fear like I’ve never experienced. At this point I tried to pull back but there was nothing I could do. I tried to swing my leg back up to smash into my body, but it was stretched down. like being pulled into a void. My other knee slipped, nothing but my foot ankle down and part of my left hip holding me up at this point.

I was pretty sure I was about to be gone. Whatever that means.

Just at that last second, something reached in, grabbed my shoulder and yanked me back up. Like it was nothing. I can’t really explain this properly either. The hand felt solid. Powerful. Like I was in it’s natural habitat. It pulled me back up with all the difficulty of lifting a cotton ball. I slammed back into my body with a feeling of finality. As if to say, “No fucking way I’m letting you fall into THAT………”.

“……Hear the back door being forced open. Laying on the couch. Can’t stir myself. Hear hurried footsteps crossing the linoleum in the kitchen, then the hardwood in the dining, getting closer to where I am in the living room. Can’t move, can’t even yell out. Manage to regain consciousness at the last possible moment before I likely suffocate (sleep apnea). Happens 50-70 percent of the time I pass out drunk on the couch. 100% if on my back.

I know some day I’m going to die like that. Not from an actual intruder but dreaming of my end and then realizing it while suffocating. The nightmares I have due to sleep apnea have made me nuts….”

“…..It happens to me when I’m overtired, usually when I’m taking a nap. It always depends on the dream I’m having- I’ll “wake up” unable to move but with an intense pressure on my body that almost feels good but scary because I can’t control what’s going on. Whatever I was dreaming about will be projected into my room, so for example: my mother talking to me, one time a little black child (that one was creepy), usually just different people or “demons” as you call them. I’ll snap out of it and fall back to sleep, then it will happen again for a few seconds, and finally after a few times I will completely wake up in a panic….”

“……There’s a gigantic Egyptian scarab looking over me and telling me it can’t wait to taste my rotted flesh. It will then go on to describe all the ways it would eat me ( think like forrest gump and shrimp) and then it turns into several hundred/thousand smaller versions of scarabs and buzz away into the cracks in the walls. The buzzing is very loud…….”

“…..Never realized this is what I had experienced until I started looking around here. Worst experience I had was with a devil like creature. Red and black with huge teeth that sat on me. It felt like it was suffocating me. It just kept pushing on my chest and I was terrified. I couldn’t move or scream. What made it really bad was after I got up my husband woke up startled and told me something had been pressing on his chest trying to kill him…..”

“……….I had a friend who insisted her bed was haunted because she woke up being pinned to the bed by someone invisible and the bed was shaking. She’s been sleeping on the sofa for years.
I could not convince her that she was dreaming. Articles on the subject didn’t help. I think she would rather believe in the supernatural than in something so mundane as a sleep paralysis………”

.The singer Florence Welch also claimed to be visited by night terrors, “ I suffer hallucinations about demons sitting on my chest,” she is quoted as saying by a British newspaper!

But fear not there is a perfectly logic explanation, according to sleep therapists, so you can all sleep soundly in your beds, pardon the pun, the causes of Night Terrors are reported to be as follows. .

Sleep deprivation.

Imbalanced diet.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Bipolar disorder

General Anxiety Disorder.

Stress full lifestyle

Nocturnal Asthma.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD

There could also be a tendency for the condition to run in families.

But who knows the true cause, a thought you can ponder over tonight as you’re drifting off to the land of slumber, sleep tight!

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