Saturday, 8 December 2012

The Night Shift

Thirty-odd years ago, my dad arrived at work in the early morning and was surprised to see the boss's chauffeur there. He had been in London and was not expected back until much later in the day. When in London, the driver stayed at a flat in St John’s Wood, and on that morning he had frantically slung his gear together, bolted from the flat, and gone high-tailing it back up the M1 in the small hours. This was because he had awoken to find a malevolent being glowering down at him, and his body flattened against the bed as if by centrifugal force. 

Many years later I found that this experience is called sleep paralysis, and it is not uncommon. It happened to me on Wednesday last, and I do hope it won't happen again. I woke to find that I was sandwiched between two bodies, indeed attached to them as though we were conjoined triplets. The one behind of course I couldn’t see, but the one in front was clearly Linda Blair from The Exorcist, in full demon make-up. I was struggling mightily but vainly to push the two bodies away, and hollering ‘insanity, insanity!’ as my panic level rose. (Odd choice of vocabulary, that: no idea what prompted it) Eventually my slamming heart beat must have brought me to full consciousness. The experience cannot have lasted more than thirty seconds, if that, but it was a fucking long thirty seconds. When I first understood that the chauffeur's experience required no supernatural explanation, I remember feeling disappointed. In the early hours of last Wednesday morning, however, I was bloody glad I’d heard of sleep paralysis, and was able to turn over and nod off again instead of leaping out of bed and abandoning the flat.  

A respondent in the Guardian article I linked to above often experiences multiple episodes of sleep paralysis a night. Not all of them are unpleasant - occasionally, he says, there's a sexual element - but it all sounds rather trying:
Common images are bearded, goblin-like demons laughing or whispering sinister speech, a faceless girl (usually covering her face with hair, moving around in bed moaning and feeling my body), hands appearing from the wall and attempting to strangle me. A hung man talking in the corner of the room, and some of the most bizarre experiences may include up to a dozen 'critter' entities (think Gremlins movie) laughing and talking about me.

I'm not sure whether he means a hanged man talking in the corner of the room, or whether that was one of the sexual episodes.


I note all my dreams but can rarely make sense of them. Every so often, as a special treat and a change from the banal stuff involving standing in front of a group of students with no idea why I’m there, there’s a Big Dream, one of those that you feel has been sent down from the Top Floor to keep you guessing. My biggest Big Dream I dreamed in the early nineties in Athens. It was extraordinarily intense and focused, in a manner entirely unlike waking life.  

I’m in bed in my flat in Astydamandos Street, Pangrati. The room begins to spin – no, it is not the room, but me; my body is rising from the bed, whirling round as it ascends, as if in water going up a plughole. I manage to focus my attention on a candlestick, and this steadies me. Now I’m bobbing against the ceiling, looking down at my sleeping other self. An OBE! Fuck! I’m dead chuffed, but then I worry: is this body exactly the same as my physical one? I check, and yep, I still have my cock. Much relieved, I decide to explore. I float downwards and pass through the bedroom floor, seeing and feeling the floorboards, the concrete and then the wallpaper on the ceiling below. 

It’s the ceiling of my parents’ living room in England. It’s night, and there is nobody here. I float through the sitting room, through the dining room, and then through the kitchen window and down into the back garden where a boy is waiting for me. I know that unlike me, this lad is permanently out of his body; in our terms, he is dead. I reach and touch the back of my head. What feels like a steel cable protrudes from my skull and connects this temporarily discarnate me to my body, asleep back in Athens. An astonishing, thrilling thought occurs to me. I ask the boy if he can take me to see Nicolas, a young man I knew and had hoped to know better, killed in a car accident a few months earlier. He agrees to do this. I take his hand, close my eyes, and then… he’s gone. I’m alone in the monochrome garden, and Nicolas is as far away as ever.  

My sister just texted me to say she had experienced sleep paralysis frequently in her late teens, but never told anyone about it. 'I was pressed against the wall or bed by what felt like a vortex'. Sod - it's in the family. I'm really not looking forward to turning in tonight. 


Candy said...

Sheesh - stunned and at a loss. Never had such dream....Hope the sleep paralysis visiteth me not. I'd be too frightened to move thereafter.

Vilges Suola said...

All explicable scientifically - not that that is much comfort at the time.

Anonymous said...

Blimey, how alarming! Can see how Alien Abduction stories and images like Fuseli's 'Nightmare' come about. Glad to say I've never had that, though I did hallucinate a chest of drawers whispering at me to self-harm on one memorable night. Lucky I don't take advice from cheap furniture. Hope you have happier night adventures in future.

Vilges Suola said...

It has only happened the once, so Im hopeful it won't happen again.

Bo said...

I get similar things all the time! Horrible.

Nik_TheGreek said...

Tha me kaneis na exo efialtes...:-/
Perastika sou?
(kai na min ksanatixei)

maria verivaki said...

i regularly feel as if i am living through an earthquake - according to artemidorus, that means that i was woken by some noise - but i never find out the noise that woke me up (it's what woke me up, so i didnt catch hearing it in my sleep)


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