Did you ever lay in bed when you were a kid, and it would be late at night so your whole room was dark, and you just couldn't bring yourself to open your eyes because you didn't want to see the darkness? And when you finally did, you felt shaky and wanted to cover yourself with your blanket and just wish morning would come?
I'm sure we've all felt that feeling. I know I have, until a few years ago, when I "passed into adulthood" and turned thirteen. I think it was more of a self-denial thing; I'm a teenager now, I can't be scared of the dark, blah blah. I guess I feel even more stupid now, considering that I'm freaking sixteen years old and still sometimes get this feeling. But last night it was different.
I was laying in my nice double bed, that bitter aftertaste of eating way too much ice cream in my mouth. I had just been binge-watching one of my favorite tv shows, so it was fairly late--probably sometime around 1 in the morning. I got in bed and turned off the lamp on my bedstand, settling down into the covers and closing my eyes. The only light was coming through my window from the street lamp outside my house; it always glowed so brightly and kind of annoyed me at times, considering I really enjoyed having a completely dark room and for some reason I didn't have curtains on my window. I don't know why, I guess my parents never got around to buying me any. Unfortunately the bedsheet I had pinned up with thumbtacks wasn't doing anything to block out the light, so it took me about an hour to get sleepy.
My covers were just getting cozy and warm and my eyes were just starting to drift shut when I suddenly felt a spike of energy in my chest, like when you realize that a test was due that night that you completely forgot about or when you hear a sudden loud noise. This time it was almost like that weird I-feel-like-I'm-suddenly-falling sensation, only without the falling part and just the... fear. Slowly my eyes opened.
Out from under my covers I could see the shadows the lamp post outside was casting on the wall; a couple of tree branches, swaying comfortingly, the leaves making that nice crinkling noise that synced with their gentle mesmerizing movements on the wall. The bedsheet-curtain fluttered from the warm air coming from the vent below it, adding to the ambiance. It was that unsettling beauty that made your heart jump and comforted you all at once. I watched it for a few seconds, inexplicably unmotivated to close my eyes.
However, my bodily functions won over my strange mentality and my eyes began to close again, and I began to drift off once more. I could still see the shadow of the tree branches on the wall in my mind, imagining their peaceful swaying, when suddenly a thought jumped into my mind, unbidden. Unwanted.
What if... what if there's something in the room with me?
I don't know why I thought this. I wasn't the kind of person who was scared of monsters or the dark, at least not anymore. I guess for some reason my half-asleep brain was trying to psych me out. We all have had that feeling where we just want to terrify ourselves, like when you're staring at yourself in the mirror and suddenly make the most grotesque face you could possibly make.
Despite myself I chuckled, trying to get rid of the uneasiness from that thought. Of course I was alone! What was wrong with me? If I wanted to scare myself, I'd have to try harder.
It kept eating at me however, for a few more minutes. That thought. That terrible notion. I wanted to open my eyes, just to assure myself that I was safe, that I wouldn't see anything. But they stayed glued shut, like my subconscious kept changing its mind.
Finally my eyes fluttered open once more, greeted with the shadow of the branches on the wall. They were unchanging, just like I expected them, the leaves still rustling, my curtain fluttering from the air vent right below it. Everything was fine--why was I worried?
I closed my eyes again, and took a deep calming breath.
What if it's only there when you're asleep?
Another thought popped into my head, more sinister than the one before. I wanted to laugh again, but for some reason my ears were beginning to dread any sound at all. It was like I would only be satisfied if the world was completely silent. Like every sound was a prowling monster, was evil, was against me. The rustling of the leaves outside began to become more and more threatening, like it was pounding in my ears. I just wanted to go to sleep, I just wanted to go to asleep...
Yet it was all so ridiculous. I was freaking out over nothing. I was terrified of nothing. Everything seems more dramatic when you're tired, I told myself firmly. Just go to sleep.
My body refused to move. It didn't dare to adjust its position, or rustle the covers, or make any kind of noise at all. My breathing was even becoming more shallow, and all over nothing, I mean, what was I afraid of? Night after night I had gone to sleep and had never been scared of some mysterious being in my room, it was completely insane. I needed to get a grip.
I needed to get a grip.
Take a breath.
Open your eyes.
Slowly, I felt my eyes open, my whole body trembling. I felt cold. My hands clutched the covers, holding them in place over my head as I looked around my room. The shadows on my wall... they were gone.
It was like the light of the lamp post outside had been completely snuffed out. There was no light in my room at all, nothing coming through the curtains, nothing coming from under the crack of the door of my room. I couldn't see anything except faint outlines, even then they all looked alien and unfamiliar. They seemed to move in the darkness, though it was most likely just my eyes, but even then I couldn't be sure.
What if it's only there when it THINKS you're asleep?
I couldn't breathe. Fear crippled me. None of this made sense. Why was the light gone? Why the hell was the light gone!?
Then another thought came to my mind, except it wasn't wicked, it was a desperate clutch at a lifeline. Pretend you're asleep. It doesn't know that you know yet.
My eyes clamped shut and I forced myself to regulate my breathing, trying to feign sleep as much as possible. Shift slightly and sigh, just like something who's sleeping would. Don't sneeze, don't cough, don't even sniff. Don't swallow. Sleepers don't swallow.
I felt tears prick my eyes, I felt my whole body tense, but I forced myself to relax, to lay there like someone who was sleeping. Just breathe. Just breathe. You're scared over nothing, you're scared over nothing...
Something creaked, the sound ringing like a thousand thunderbolts cracking in my ears. It was so loud, and sudden, that I flinched.
I flinched. Sleepers don't flinch.
So I waited. I waited in the dead silence, for another creak, for something to realize that I wasn't asleep. But there was nothing there. Absolutely nothing.
I don't remember when I fell asleep, but I remember waking up the next morning feeling shaky. I reached up to rub my face with my hands as I slid out of bed, relishing the light pouring through the window that morning. I couldn't believe that I, a sixteen year old, had been so scared of a simple creak.
It was only when I began to make my bed that I noticed something on the other side of it, the side that I never slept on. The pillow on that side had a head-sized dent in it, like someone had been sleeping there. I thought, maybe I had rolled around last night and didn't know it.
But then again, I couldn't tell.
It had happened when I was asleep.