Have you ever been afraid? Of course you have. Everyone has had those moments. Be it legitimate fear or simply anxiety, we have all been scared. Scared of failing, scared of the dark, scared of life in general. It’s natural. And it’s almost therapeutic to realize how natural it is.

What happened to me is something I can’t explain with the word “fear”. I could of course give it that label. I could shrug and throw around the word as if it explains everything. But in this case, it really doesn’t explain too much.

I was lying in bed. It was late at night and I couldn’t sleep. The “why” of that last sentence doesn’t matter. It was just one of those nights, you know? I had been trying for almost two hours to fall asleep, but my brain just wouldn’t slow down. I had been reduced to staring blankly at the wall next to my bed.

What do you do when you can’t sleep? Personally, I like to shut my eyes, slow my breathing, and pretend. If you pretend to be asleep long enough, you might just fall asleep for real. That’s my reasoning anyway. So that’s what I did. I shut my eyes, slowed my breathing, and tried my best to feel that I was asleep.

I was lying in bed like this for about five minutes. Eyes shut, breathing slowed. I might have been starting to drift off. But at the same time, I didn’t really believe it was working. I thought maybe a glass of warm milk would do me better than just lying in bed. So I opened my eyes.

Tried to open my eyes anyway. I couldn’t. I don’t mean they wouldn’t open or anything like that. I was fully capable of opening my eyes and I would have. But I couldn’t.

There was this feeling—this deep, primal, gut feeling—that if I opened my eyes, something bad would happen. I couldn’t hear anything. I couldn’t sense anyone in my room. I was sure I was alone. Yet I couldn’t bring myself to open my eyes. I kept them clamped shut as if my life depended on it.

The feeling lasted for several minutes. Maybe an hour. I just lay there in bed, my heart pumping as I listened to the silence in my room. I wanted to open my eyes. To prove nothing was there. To prove I was being silly. But every time the thought crossed my mind, that fear reared up so strongly I almost passed out.

Finally, the fear passed. Suddenly I felt confident. So I opened my eyes. And, just as I had thought before, there was nothing there. The room was as empty as it had been before. My bedroom door and windows were still closed. There were no mysterious bloody footprints on the floor or anything like that.

That was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me. Never again have I felt that sense of fear. Not in bed, not anywhere. You see, that wasn’t just fear. It was pure unadulterated terror. Comparable to the feeling you’d get in a nightmare, but far stronger. I’m at a loss to explain it. If you haven’t felt it yourself, I’m afraid you’re never going to understand.

Every time I remember that terrifying moment, one question comes to mind: If I had opened my eyes, what would have happened? Well, call me a pussy if you want, but I don’t want to know. I’m sure a lot of you do, but I personally have no desire to find out.